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Advances in BIM-GIS integration, geotechnical, geophysical, asset condition investigation and point cloud capture has aided engineers to build digital twins for improved workflows and deeper insights.

BIM and GIS integration has empowered AEC firms and project owners to focus not only on what to design and build but also understand where and why. In this special interview, John Benstead – BIM and Data Services at Australian engineering firm Manager Norman Disney & Young – answers questions from the user community on how his team used this technology to develop a digital twin of Sydney’s iconic Circular Quay – capturing the features of this historical landmark for the first time in its 174-year history.

Before you read the blog, watch John’s Ozri presentation and live Q&A recording on-demand.

Q. How do you manage the various data formats across geotechnical BIM and GIS?

A. On this project and the Snowy Hydro as well, we deal with a number of different data formats such as model-based or tabular-based information. We put a workflow together for each of the different data formats – where they originate from, the format we’re receiving them in, what the path is and what is required to deliver them initially into Revit for modelling and then into ArcGIS.

It’s a bit of a mix and match of those different applications. We get different data formats – like geo-tech information, leapfrog data, Civil 3D, as well as Revit and BASE AutoCAD formats – and put together a workflow to manage the data so we can publish it efficiently.

Q. Does ArcGIS Workflow Manager help with that?

A. We were able to manage this project basically all inside of Revit. A lot of the workflows are managed at that level, so a big part of our task was actually the modelling and incorporating the required data and information into the models.

We found a very easy part of the integration with Esri was that we could push the models direct from Revit with all of the data and the data links intact without any other tools or workflows required.

Q. How did you manage the project schedule around Sydney’s Vivid festival? Did GIS help with that?

A. It would have been an ideal opportunity for us to be engaged earlier in the project so we could have used a toolset for that. There are definite benefits with stakeholder engagement at that planning stage on projects we’re involved in now in being able to manage the schedule around other events that are going on in that area.

Vivid was a challenge for us but from a site works point of view, we needed to be off-site at the beginning of the festival and then wait for it to finish before we could be on-site again. From a planning point of view, we could have taken advantage of the Esri platform.

When you’re involved in such a busy piece of infrastructure like Circular Quay, there’s so much going on. We’re now using the ArcGIS platforms – when we’re engaged earlier – to realise the benefits and manage the project.

Q. How did Norman Disney & Young approach the requirements associated with heritage buildings?

A. There were a number of heritage items around the site and from our point of view it was about making sure that we captured those initially. In our early and ongoing discussions with the client, it was apparent we needed to capture them in a significant level of detail. Whereas we could perhaps deliver what we term an LOD 200 – a sort of approximate geometry – on some of the other data that was captured.

When it came to the heritage details – such as the hand railing and the plaques in the paving – we had to capture those accurately and take photographs so that we had a good record to link back into the model. There was a method of delivering all this data to see and identify the heritage elements and also click through links to get more information about them.

Q. When the designs update, how do you know when to import new BIM updates into the model?

A. For the Circular Quay project, we were capturing as-built conditions, so there was no change in the design process. We didn’t bring BIM data from ProjectWise – we used BIM 360 for our model-based working environment. It was a case of capturing the models – whether or not we’re creating them from scan data, or production of the models. Once they’re validated, there was no further change and we published the models into ArcGIS.

We are exploring the use of automation capabilities of BIM 360 on other projects. We’re involved in the design and publication of models for some future projects – that’s where we will use the automation or semi-automation of approving and publishing into ArcGIS (typically overnight).

Q. Are there some other examples outside of the Circular Quay project where you’ve used GIS and BIM integration?

A. Yes, absolutely – there’s been quite a change in the last couple of years that we’re being engaged earlier in the piece, particularly on major projects. We’re currently involved in the Snowy Hydro 2.0 – it’s a large infrastructure project covering a wide area. We’re working with geographic, GIS and geo-tech data, so the delivery platform for that project will be an ArcGIS platform. All of the design modelling is being done in Revit, Civil 3D and a whole myriad of different applications, so being able to bring that together on one platform – an Esri platform – is a real bonus for that project.

Q. Have you automated the process for bringing BIM data into ArcGIS Pro from ProjectWise?

A. As a company, we don’t use typically ProjectWise as our base common data (CD) environment for models. We use BIM 360 and that gives us a bonus because with the Esri/Autodesk alliance, there’s been a lot of work to enable models to be read directly from BIM 360 into ArcGIS.

We had a fairly static model environment because it’s as-built models, not a design environment – so we didn’t implement it on this particular project but we’re certainly looking at it for other projects. We’re hosting those models on BIM 360 and will be implementing the automated publication from there into Esri ArcGIS.

Q. Did you link the 3D model to ArcGIS so it can be viewed?

A. Viewing of the 3D model was one of the key requirements. More specifically we found that most of the larger infrastructure projects required the integration of BIM and GIS data. As we have developed our delivery methodologies, we have embraced the use of a range of tools to provide all project stakeholders access to and engagement with the model.

ArcGIS is the perfect platform for us to provide a customised and project-focused delivery of all models and data.

Q. What program conducts the automation piece for you?

A. BIM 360 connection is now available in the latest version of ArcGIS – so we’re looking at it as a new tool for us. We’re also exploring the ArcGIS automation tools with BIM 360 integration – it’s not something we’ve used in this project but it’s something we’ll be using in the future.

Q. How did you complete the below deck scanning?

A. This was undertaken using the same scanning hardware as surface-based scanning, but with special mounting brackets to attach the scanner to the below deck piles.

Q. Were there any limitations publishing the BIM to GIS?

A. We didn’t experience any limitations – all model geometry and data was successfully published.

Q. Did you have to work with any other design packages such as MicroStation or 12d?

A. No, not on this project but we are integrating models and data from those packages on other projects.

Q. How did you add the hyperlinks into the Revit files?

A. We did this using shared parameters.

Q. Do you use a common file type between ArcGIS (3D scene), BIM or Revit?

A. For this project we used Revit as the main authoring for publishing to ArcGIS.

Q. Did you use any specific hierarchies, naming conventions or specification standards (such as Uniclass) with your asset data?

A. While we have used a number of classification standards previously, we are currently focused on the implementation of Uniclass. Our client for this project is Transport for New South Wales and they also required the use of Uniclass on all projects.

Q. You referred to integration with asset information – does this include integration with an asset management platform such as Maximo or standalone condition reports?

A. We are currently exploring a range of asset management platforms including Maximo.

Q. Do you have any comments on using ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Portal as a visualisation tool to display extremely large model outputs?

A. ArcGIS Online is certainly an option we will continue to explore, even for large models. Whilst the Revit models for this project were not particularly large (700MB in total). The performance of the models in ArcGIS Online is extremely good.

Q. What do you see as the biggest barrier in transforming open format data for use in ArcGIS Online collaboration environments, particularly on projects that contain multiple disciplines and consultancies?

A. I do not see any significant barriers. Working with multiple delivery platforms to provide native and OpenBIM formats at varying degrees of usability continues to be a challenge. However, there are numerous tools that allow us to define suitable workflows for managing all the data formats we have come across so far.

Q. How do you store and manage the attribute information for your AIM?

A. For this project we managed the attribute information in the model. However, this is a very ‘static’ project – the data captured is current conditions and not subject to change. On other projects we are using SQL.

Q. How long did it take to capture, collate, integrate and create the asset information model?

A. The initial stage one project – which delivered the Asset Information Model via ArcGIS Online – took approximately five months from the start of site investigations works to the final delivery of the AIM and all associated reporting.

Q. Who conducted the Aboriginal and European cultural heritage assessments for the project?

I understand that these assessments were carried out by Transport for New South Wales. We were provided the model and data capture requirement details relevant to these elements throughout the Circular Quay project site area.

This is one of four Q&A blogs with keynote presenters from Ozri 2020. Read the Q&As with Esri’s Global Data Science Lead Lauren Bennett and Product Engineer Ankita Bakshi, New York State Police’s Kellen Crouse and Esri’s Global Director of Artificial Intelligence Omar Maher.

If you’d like more information on BIM-GIS integration, call 1800 870 750 or submit an enquiry.

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