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Learning the basics of BIM at your own pace

Sito is teaching BIM-based road design to future infrastructure professionals at Metropolia. The video training was first developed and perfected in Sito’s internal training.

“This is exactly the kind of training I would have liked to have back in the day,” says Development Manager Ilkka Tieaho, remembering his own student days. In addition to Tieaho, the course, organized in January and February, will be taught by Specialist Liisa Kemppainen and Service Manager Matti Heikkilä.

Hands-on, practical, at your own pace. These are attributes that are not often used to describe software studies, unfortunately. Typically a bored teacher will deliver a theoretical lecture on the subject in front of class in monotone, losing his or her listeners in no time. Alternatively, the teacher will demonstrate the use of the software on his or her own computer. When a student loses the thread, as is bound to happen, the teacher will start instructing him or her, interrupting the teaching. Neither method is efficient or inspiring.

Through internal training

When Sito began designing building information modeling training for its own personnel, care was taken to avoid all potential pitfalls. The company employs both design and software specialists, so there was every chance of coming up with the best possible method. The target group was sufficiently heterogeneous as well. The students included young people who already had a good grasp of IT, along with older and very experienced designers, who may not have been quite as familiar with digitalization.

The goal was to train the whole bunch in BIM, since Sito’s strategy states that, in the next few years, approximately 80 per cent of design business will be based on building information modeling.

“Our largest clients require the use of BIM, but above all the method gives us a great opportunity to enhance and harmonize our own operations and emphasize the value of expert work to the client,” Sito’s BIM expert, Senior Consultant Juha Liukas points out.

Sito views the proliferation of BIM as a big opportunity and wants to keep its hard-won position of industry pioneer.

It works

Most infrastructure projects already use BIM. Our newsletter has previously reported on projects such as the master plan for Highway 6 and the road plan for Lahti’s southern ring road. The model developed for Sito’s own departmental training has demonstrated its functionality in tests. The fourth-year course that begun at Metropolia in January is the first BIM training organized by Sito for an educational establishment.

The experiences of Sito employees were used during the development process of the training. BIM-based road design is accordingly studied as a video course. “In this way, everyone can proceed at their own pace and go back to revise earlier subject matter if required,” says Ilkka Tieaho, explaining the choice.

The method also keep studies as practical as possible. Work starts from a clean slate, with entering the base terrain data. The course then proceeds to design, implementation and maintenance, covering the entire life span of the project. This demonstrates the usefulness of BIM over the entire life cycle of a road.

Before the students are shown the pre-recorded video, they will be told what they will do during the lesson and why. “We tell them what can be achieved through modeling. It is crucial to inspire the students, since we hope that they will spread the word when they enter working life,” Liisa Kemppainen stresses.

Useful in all tasks

The course has shown how well practical studies are suited to persons with very different duties. Only one of the students has a design background; the others have worked at construction sites.

“Fourth-year students already have an extensive education in infrastructure,” Liisa Kemppainen points out. “BIM is a perspective that combines everything they have learned so far.

Indeed, many students have realized that the building information model has real benefits for their own projects and in different work environments, whatever they may be.”

According to Matti Heikkilä, the practical side of organizing the course was surprisingly straightforward. Metropolia lacks the Oracle database used by CityCad. However, you can now purchase the database from Oracle as a cloud service for a specific period. “The database is hosted on their European server, and the lag is not even noticeable to the students.”

Other applications

Sito would like to teach BIM to a larger audience. A video course has proven to be a successful vehicle for intra-organization training as well. “It could be used for the orientation of new employees and, why not, for the transfer and dissemination of best practices throughout the organization,” says Matti Heikkilä.

Gaining an understanding of BIM has proven to be very fruitful also for those Sito employees to whom the subject was completely new. “We are going beyond just using our existing knowledge and doing things in the familiar way. We are teaching a new way of thinking and new methods of doing things,” says Ilkka Tieaho.

That is bound to expand your working horizons.


Text: Dakota Lavento