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BIM used in infrastructure design every day

Building information modeling (BIM) is an invaluable tool in infrastructure planning. Everyone involved in the planning process, from professionals to residents along the route being designed, are satisfied with the system. Even the flying squirrels living in the forests along the Highway 6 in Kouvola might one day thank the planners, once someone comes up with an idea of how to interview them.

Photo: A BIM image of the master plan for the Highway 6 in Kouvola shows in red the areas where flying squirrels live. The yellow arc in the picture depicts their gliding path across the highway.

tiinaperttula_mikolta_200x200Tiina Perttula, Development manager, BIM, at the Finnish Transport Agency must, of course, be positively inclined towards information modelling, as one would expect of a person in her position, but it becomes quite clear that she does not miss the 2D map times. – In a traditional, static image, you cannot tell the different parts apart or interchange them. A BIM model, on the other hand, you can view any way you want, she points out when looking at the estimated gliding paths of flying squirrels in the BIM image of the master plan for the Highway 6 in Kouvola.

The development of BIM for infrastructure has made Tiina Perttula’s work much easier. Photo: Mikko Käkelä.

The master plan for the Highway 6 was drawn up by Sito and it was completed this year. Highway 6 will be upgraded into a high-quality highway from Kukonoja to Tykkimäki on a stretch of about 19 kilometers. Between Kukonoja and Suvioja, the highway will be built into a highway with a passing lane, median barrier and interchanges, and from Suvioja to Tykkimäki into a four-lane motorway. The whole stretch will also feature continuous walking and cycling connections. The master plan will be circulated for comment during this fall.

Big help in a demanding project

This summer saw the completion of another BIM project for infrastructure as well. Planner and specialist Liisa Kemppainen acted as BIM coordinator for the road plan for the southern beltway in Lahti, drawn up by Sito and Ramboll.

We told about the drafting process of the road plan for the southern beltway in Lahti in our previous customer newsletter. In the article, Director for Roads Rauno Tuominen rated the project as one of the most challenging and interesting during his career. In a difficult terrain, BIM provided invaluable help in developing a cost-effective final outcome in the process.

It was beneficial also in the communication with stakeholders and local residents. In information events for residents, it is much easier to present new solutions using BIM models than traditional maps mounted on walls.

Liisa_ja_Juuso_lev700In the photo, Liisa Kemppainen and Juuso Virtanen

Liisa Kemppainen acted as BIM coordinator when the road plan for the southern beltway in Lahti was drawn up, and Juuso Virtanen when the master plan for the Highway 6 in Kouvola was drawn up.

Pilot at a master-plan level

If the road plan for the southern beltway in Lahti offered Liisa Kemppainen a chance to refine her BIM for infrastructure working methods, the master plan for the Highway 6 in Kouvola brought planner and specialist Juuso Virtanen face to face with a real challenge. This was a pilot project carried out at a master-plan level.

– In the master-plan phase, the biggest challenge is reconciling the accuracy of planning and modelling practices, says Leading Advisor Juha Liukas, Sito’s BIM specialist.

For those expecting the quite detailed information models of the implementation phase, the models for master plan purposes appear more stripped-down in many ways. However, Tiina Perttula underscores that this a good thing: – The model drawn up for the master plan does not yet need to be that accurate. It is very useful, though. In a master-plan level information model, it is possible to, for example, illustrate the effects of road alignment on future land use solutions by placing projects to be potentially implemented far away in the future in the terrain,” Tiina Perttula points out. -This gives a good explanation for empty spots in the terrain that used to look quite odd on older maps.

Invaluable help in demonstration of plans

Demonstration is the key word, when thinking about the stakeholders, residents and decision-makers involved in infrastructure projects. Compared to earlier solutions, BIM provides unbeatable means for showing in hearing events, for example, what is being done, what it will look like and – quite rapidly too – what impacts different alternative methods might have. -Information modelling is very beneficial when seeking social acceptability for projects. This way, we can even prevent long complaint processes, Tiina Perttula says.

The decisions made in infrastructure matters may have a price tag of millions of euros. However, municipal decision-makers are seldom actual experts in the infrastructure sector. It is also important to be able to provide decision-makers with the essential information in as clear a format as possible to enable them to make decisions on the basis of correct information and often in a very tight schedule.

– Before BIM, every planner created even the 3D model in his or her own head. I strongly suspect that they were not fully comparable, says Juha Liukas with a laugh. – Even for us, experts in infrastructure, it is quite an advantage that today we are examining the same view for sure.

Vast amount of organized information

“When a resident views the flying squirrel’s path across the new road alignment, he or she does not necessarily come to think of the vast amount of information included in the BIM model, nor does he or she need to, for that matter.- For planners, road constructors and the client, on the other hand, the background information is the most essential element. And particularly the fact that it is information based on publicly available open data that can be used by anyone, Tiina Perttula emphasizes.

Information organized in a jointly agreed manner serves also the needs of infrastructure maintenance, lifecycle management and strategic planning.

Vt6_voimalaitos4_lev800The BIM for the master plan of the Highway 6 in Kouvola examined the placement of a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists near the power plant, and what would be the most sensible way of positioning the pillars in relation to the channel. The areas where the flying squirrels move have been marked with red.

Text: Dakota Lavento