Ronan Collins is the Managing Director of InteliBuild – one of Asia’s leading BIM Consultants. He has worked for Arup in Ireland and in Asia since graduating from University College Dublin with a Civil Engineering degree in 1996.
Ronan will be the keynote speaker at the 3rd Event of the CitA Smarter Cooperative Building Series 2016.
BIMIreland.ie recently spoke to Ronan about his career, BIM, and InteliBuild.
Please tell us how you got involved in BIM and how came to work in Hong Kong?
After graduating from UCD in 1996 as a Civil Engineer, I joined Arup and started my career designing concrete and steel structures. Twenty years ago I started creating 3D models for structural analysis using nodes and elements in a DOS based platform. Fast Forward to early 2000 and we were using a 3D steel detailing package for the Irish Pavilion at the Expo in Germany. It was around then that I knew that engineers should be designing buildings in 3D.
Having earned my stripes as a graduate in Ireland, I got an opportunity to transfer to Arup in Hong Kong. My original plan was to stay here for a two-year contract and then look for another opportunity. Sixteen years on and I’m still enjoying life in Asia’s World City. Following an interesting three year stint working as an engineer on super tall office buildings, I decided to start my own business in 2003 to offer 3D modelling and 4D construction planning services to engineers and contractors.
While my BIM journey began two decades ago, the term did not become popular until 2007 and it has been spread broadly since then. I always say that “BIM” means different things to different people across the spectrum of our industry. For me, it is a powerful design tool, collaboration process and communication platform.
Could you tell us about InteliBuild and the countries which you operate in?
InteliBuild is arguably one of Asia’s leading BIM Consultants. We provide BIM Management, training, coordination services and engineering solutions for contractors and owners. I started the company in July 2003 in partnership with a fellow Irishman who was then living and working in Hong Kong as an investment banker. Over the years, we delivered projects in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, and Qatar.
In 2010, we became a subsidiary of Canam Group, one of North America’s largest steel fabricators and through a partnership with our Canadian colleagues we have participated in a few major projects in the US, most notably our current project for the NFL Falcons in Atlanta Georgia, where we are assisting in planning the steelwork erection.
Please describe the services InteliBuild offers the construction industry?
The challenge in the current market lies in leading and managing the design and construction BIM teams on a project. If you are an owner, property developer or investor, we can answer your questions, like “What is BIM used for?” or “How much does BIM cost?” We can assist you to develop a comprehensive plan for using BIM on a project and define your Employer’s Information Requirements.
Our BIM Managers develop BIM Execution Plans, BIM resource plans, define roles and responsibilities and provide continual on-the-job training across levels of a project organization. During the design phase, we provide model management services to federate designers’ models, identify coordination issues, host interface workshops and assist the consultants to get the maximum value from their BIM processes and to adhere to the EIR and BEP.
At the construction phase, our team who have many years of practical site experience, often work as part of the site team to deliver LOD 400 models, develop a construction programme in 4D, prepare coordinated MEP services, support sub-contractors to produce fabrication drawings from their LOD 400 models and extract quantities for the preparation of cost estimates.
How many BIM specialists and experts do you employ, and what are their professional backgrounds?
Our current team includes nearly 50 people. We are mainly engineers and architects with a passion for building and we have a lot of site experience. All of our technical staff have degrees or other relevant professional qualifications. In Hong Kong, the majority of our staff are Professional Members of the Hong Kong Institute of Building Information Modelling (HKIBIM). I’m also a registered with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in Singapore. We are very proud of our qualifications and we strive to train all of our staff to keep up-to-speed on the latest technology advancements, BIM standards, and project requirements.
Could you tell us about the large projects that you have worked on and the clients you have worked for?
I’ve been very fortunate in my career as the founder and leader of InteliBuild. I’ve been able to attract some brilliant people to join our team and together, we have been able to deliver some amazing projects for some very large and complex projects.
Our current projects include a new school faculty for the Hong Kong International School, a casino and retail development for MGM in Cotai, Macau, the redevelopment of the Hung Hom railway terminus in collaboration with MTR, Atkins and Leighton contractors, a government study for the use of BIM for civil engineering in partnership with Jacobs, a strategic training and on-the-job technical support for a local building services consultancy and we recently commenced a design & build contract for 10 underground MRT stations in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia as part of an Aecom, MMC, Gamuda team.
In recent years, we have delivered a new international airport terminal in Hong Kong for Gammon Construction, part of Balfour Beatty, a huge high-speed railway terminus in Kowloon for the MTR Corporation, a commercial office building and IT facility for the Hong Kong Jockey Club and a number of other rail and airport infrastructure projects.
We’ve also been involved in the drafting of the Construction Industry Council BIM Standards for Hong Kong. These are heavily based on the PAS 1192 standards from the UK and they include some influences from China, the US, and Singapore.
Has the adoption of BIM been easy for the Hong Kong construction industry?
The short answer is No! We still have a long path ahead to improve how we all design, construct and collaborate.
What are the leading countries in BIM adoption in Asia?
I’m a very competitive individual and I’m committed to making the use of BIM “the norm”. I’d like to say my adopted hometown of Hong Kong is leading the BIM arms race but the simple truth is, no one city, state or country is better than another.
We have some very forward thinking clients and government departments in Hong Kong who are already using BIM processes. In Singapore, the BCA have made BIM mandatory and have supported the industry with training and funding. The CIDB in Malaysia is taking a similar approach to Singapore. In China, the local authorities are also mandating BIM.
Based on my travels around the region, I have seen some great case studies and some awful calamities. I’ve participated in projects that have been successful and others where we failed dramatically. We all need to learn the lessons from our peers and only by sharing, not competing, can we really improve BIM adoption.
You will present at the upcoming CitA Smarter Building Series event on May 5th. Can you tell us about the contents of your talk?
It’s going to be a call to action, a positive outlook on how a number of technology domains are colliding for the betterment of our industry, an open heart sharing of what we’ve done badly and what worked. Hopefully an entertaining start to your day!
How do you see the international construction industry changing in the next decade?
There is going to be a global scramble for talented people. One of our biggest challenges is to attract and teach the next generation of engineers, architects, and contractors. We also need to up-skill the current industry professionals and technicians through knowledge sharing and training.
I’m personally excited about the next 10 years. We are looking ahead to some amazing possibilities, innovations, and opportunities. Our old club of architects, engineers, surveyors and builders is about to get a huge wake-up call. The high-tech companies, who have substantial cash reserves, are about to crash the party and they’re up for a challenge to get a slice of our multi-trillion dollar industry.
What are the key challenges witnessed to the adoption of BIM internationally?
Staff development, training and giving people access to the latest tools and innovations are immediate constraints. The less talked about and bigger conundrums are the need to break down industry silos, move away from low-cost bidding and highly competitive tendering and start to develop long-term, collaborative, win-win scenarios.
Will BIM cross borders in terms of standardising the design / construction process?
It already has! When you boil it down to simple fundamentals, we build assets using concrete, steel, brick, aluminium and glass. The fabric of buildings and how we erect them is the same the world over. The variables are ones of scale and complexity. Our design processes and construction methods are repetitive and highly standardised.
Through my research for the CIC BIM Standards, the common patterns for data and model requirements are very obvious across all the BIM specifications, standards, and documents. The vendors sell their technology solutions globally and we are rapidly moving to full virtual cloud-based solutions where data will be crossing international boundaries.
From a practical point of view, contractors can source and purchase equipment, plant, and materials in a global market. The adoption of BIM is driving the debate for factory-based manufacturing, prefabrication and use of site robotics.
Do you have any recommendations for the Irish Construction Industry in adopting BIM?
Get Your Hands Dirty and soon. It’s not a “why” debate anymore. It’s “How”. How do I start? How do I learn? How do I win work? How do I improve what I do?
Your closest neighbours have created a global stir with their BIM initiatives, government mandates, project adoption levels, and their freely available PAS-1192 standards. They are leading the way with BuildingSmart, CIC in Hong Kong, BCA in Singapore and the authorities in China all following suit.
The Irish Government, industry federations, professional associations, banks, insurers, and developers should be demanding the use of BIM on all major projects. By committing to an inevitable future of a high-tech, data empowered industry we will get all of the firms and individuals, who are currently sitting on their BIM fences, to jump into the field of play. Everyone wins.
Ronan will be the Keynote Speaker at the upcoming 3rd Event of the CitA Smarter Cooperative Building Series 2016. For Information and Bookings, please see: http://www.cita.ie/events/3rd-event-2016/
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