Brian Cass has worked in the construction industry for the last 13 years with medium to large main contractors. Firstly, he worked as a site engineer/site manager and in the past few years as BIM Coordinator with Clancy. He has a Diploma in Civil Engineering from Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and recently received an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management and Engineering from Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).
Here Brian tells BIMIreland.ie about his BIM journey and his work at Clancy.
Please tell us why and when you became interested in BIM?
Having worked within a site environment for a number of years I gained the appreciation of the number redundancies, abortive work and waste that is inherent in the construction industry. When I went back to WIT as a mature student in the middle of the recession, I was introduced to the concept of BIM by Dr Brian Graham, Programme Leader of the BSc (Honours) in Construction Management & Engineering. I then based my studies around technology, BIM and its processes and understood there is a better way than there is currently. I have been working in a professional capacity within technology and BIM ever since.
Can you tell us about your work as a BIM Coordinator with Clancy?
Clancy are a medium-sized contractor and as such that presents many challenges in comparison to some of the bigger-sized contractors that have implemented BIM. At present, Clancy perform projects between €1 million and €15 million and typically one of the main challenges is engagement with our supply chain who may not be of ‘tier 1 status’ and as such may not have the administration set up, knowledge or skillset to use BIM. Part of my duties is acting as a link with these companies to ensure compliance to standards and process plans and overall to assist and support the numerous stakeholders involved in a project to drive BIM implementation. Personally, I have a tendency to involve myself in different roles and functions in Clancy anyway as it helps me understand the workflows and processes and how BIM may be leveraged to create an improved collaborative environment.
Please tell us about your BIM training and education courses and how they have helped you with your work?
I’m currently in the second year of a Post Graduate Diploma/Masters in BIM Management in DIT. I have attended numerous CPD courses over the years in relation to BIM. Also, Clancy are a member of CitA and I have actively attended the majority of their events since 2012, including the CitA BIM Gatherings in 2013 and 2015. One should not underestimate the power of social media either where I use Twitter and LinkedIn as my main information consumption.
Can you tell us about the main projects which Clancy have utilised BIM on?
We recently handed over a new Hybrid Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. This was an interesting project, it was of relatively low commercial value (approximately €4.5 million) but had many complex systems and aspects associated with it. We developed a workflow plan and process to integrate BIM with our Design/Build consultants and subcontractors and it was a good success overall. It recently won Construction Project of the Year at the Irish Construction Awards in competition against some very notable projects. It just highlights that BIM can be implemented on smaller projects but needs the buy-in and determination of all stakeholders involved to ensure success. We have a number of other projects where BIM is being utilised including a hospice centre and large data centre in Dublin that we are currently involved in.
In your opinion, what are the main advantages of using BIM on a construction project?
From a contractor’s point of view, it’s the digitisation of information. The software applications out there we know can directly assist productivity onsite during the physical execution of the work. By their nature construction projects require accurate information relating to assembly details, management of site quality control, checking of orders, making orders, sorting materials deliveries, marking where materials should go, recording completed work, obtaining site instructions and dealing dynamically with site identified safety issues. Basically, good project management leveraging BIM tools and workflows. Looking at it from the bigger picture the advantages are obvious and have been well stated at this point i.e. coordination, lifecycle costs, FM etc.
What are your main observations of multidisciplinary BIM projects?
It needs a plan and it should start with the client. A good starting point is PAS 1192-2. Good direction through a well thought out executed EIR and its follow-on documents like the BEP, Outline Scope of Works, and Production Delivery Matrix etc. is a must at the start. They need to be thorough documents outlining the requirements of future stakeholders’ involvement in the project. Too often this is not detailed enough or is not provided at all and the project will fail to integrate BIM to its full potential. From a contractor’s point of view, we just require clarity to price the work and by using the suite of documents associated with PAS 1192-2 it can give that transparency. Not all projects will need or want to integrate BIM to span the lifecycle of the building so if coordination is the only goal of the project that should be clearly outlined at the start. There is nothing more disruptive to projects than the goalposts being moved mid-project because the contract documents are somewhat skewed and open to interpretation.
How do you see BIM and construction IT changing the Irish Construction Industry in the next decade?
Technology is definitely the way forward and without doubt increases productivity. Information intake for projects has gone beyond the point of human management. Technologies like BIM, mobile devices and the cloud help process that information in a managed way. Fortunately, at Clancy, we have a board of directors that realise that. We were one of the first contractors in the country to embrace the cloud into our management systems in 2010. Along with BIM software, we have made a huge investment in software applications in all our departments. For example, Clancy recently invested in an advanced piece of estimating software so our estimating department can process tenders more efficiently and productively. Similarly, we have invested in a number of Robotic Total Stations over the last few years in a deal with Trimble dealership Korec. Some of these instruments that we have purchased can integrate 3D models so we have developed workflows to accommodate this. All our site teams are mobile with powerful laptops and smart devices including iPhone and iPads. We work with our sub-contractors to ensure they have access to the latest information on the cloud including viewing models on mobile applications. Similarly, our plant department has invested in tracking software using RFID barcodes to make that process more managed. All of these things were unthinkable 10 years ago where fax and desktop computers were the norm for construction companies. It’s about moving forward and not standing still.
What advice would you give to a contractor considering BIM adoption?
Just do it. You will make mistakes, that is a given. If you have a progressive board of directors they will understand that. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes and you apply your learning to the next project. Ultimately there are long-term gains. Clancy are using BIM technologies and processes for over 3 years now and we are by no means perfect at implementing it, but we understand the collaboration gains from it and are determined to leverage it as a means of partnership and providing a better service to the client.
What is your opinion on a BIM Mandate for Ireland?
I think it should be driven by a political initiative similar to other countries. But like anything it needs a good plan and strategy before implementing. We need to learn from other countries like Finland, Denmark and UK who have done it or are in the process of doing it. Some countries like Finland have seen quicker and better results than others so it’s important for our BIM and construction leaders to digest that before putting a case forward to government.
Follow Clancy on Twitter: @Clancy_Drangan
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