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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Field BIM at the Meadowlands Stadium Project
By Susan Smith
Vela Systems has made a business out of leveraging the unique capabilities of tablet PCs for field deployment. According to Josh Kanner, vice president of marketing, the market has opened up for them. “Tablets have gotten to the point where they are powerful enough, have a long enough battery life and have a screen you can view outdoors, to make them useful for construction.”
Vela, a developer of mobile field software for the AECO (architecture, engineering, contractor and owner) industry, is all about field automation, making all field process in construction more efficient.
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By combining BIM with mobile field software and the RFID technology, AECO industry leaders can coordinate the scheduling and quality of building materials across a distributed environment, from manufacturing to delivery and installation. The solution can also extend to facilities and warranty management, beyond the design-build-construction phase.
For the Meadowlands stadium project, a $1.3 billion project with 83,000 seats, Vela has collaborated with Tekla, BIM software providers and Skanska, constructor in design-build. The end result is “field BIM” – the ability to take information from the construction job site, gathered where it’s created so you can think of the information as being gathered as it’s being generated in the field with no lag time,” explained Kanner. “Field BIM about putting real information into your BIM, to make it useful not just for design but for construction and ultimately operations. Value is created from your BIM as a result.”
Field BIM came about as do many concepts that derive from the cutting edge of technology – as a partnership where each party brings ideas to the forefront to try to solve a business problem. “In this case Skanska had a very clear business problem around wanting to track and automate the process of materials tracking,” Kanner said. “Skanska approached Vela and Tekla to develop this joint solution. Because there is quite an aggressive schedule for delivering the Meadowlands stadium, with an opening date of 2010 already promoted to the public, Vela and Tekla are charged with meeting deadlines on time and on budget."
Andy Dicky, product line manager for Tekla, said the collaboration is saving them 10 days, which translates to “over $1 million worth of savings.”
One of the oldest construction software companies, Tekla, opened its doors in 1966. The company has a very powerful database. The software allows you to focus not just on design but all the way through the fabrication process into construction. They specialize in structural elements, in particular structural steel and precast and other forms of concrete. A large amount of their work is with major steel and concrete producers.
Unlike most BIM software which focuses on the design aspect in the building information model, Tekla Structures BIM software streamlines the delivery process of design, detailing, manufacturing and construction companies. The software integrates with architectural models in various formats, and is well suited to the nature of the construction phases of project delivery. Tekla Structures can process extensive data which supports the creation of detailed 3D models to be used in every stage of design and construction.
Not surprisingly, Tekla is used to model nearly every stadium in the world, according to Kanner. “You can start with an architectural model in Tekla and go through the process all the way because of the strength of the underlying database and its ability to capture and deliver very fine resolution down to where the throughholds should be for bolts.”
Tekla users can create the architectural model or use models created in other software. In the case of Meadowlands, Thomas Eddy did some of the modeling. Some of the models were designed in Archicad, but all the structural elements reside in Tekla.
Using RFID to Track Materials
Critical to the design-build of Meadowlands is using RFID to track materials as they are coming in.
Dave Campbell, vice president of Innovation and Technology at Skanska, gave a slide presentation in which he outlined the scope of this project, which is focused on the precast concrete, all in Tekla.
"There are 2,300 pieces of precast concrete that need to come in,” explained Kanner. “The stadium is basically made of concrete built on structural steel, and they needed to coordinate the production schedule across the supply chain to make sure that they could bring the pieces of precast onsite that they needed for that particular day’s weeks erecting schedule. They didn’t really have very much storage on site there. They wanted to pick it up from the truck and set it right in the structure, but they had no room with the tight schedule. When you’re building a stadium, if you’re missing a piece while going from bottom to top, it halts constructing because you can’t slide in a piece later.”
Vela Systems materials tracking module was used for this project, which has RFID built into it. The solution includes an updated Vela Integration Adaptor for bidirectional integration of information with Tekla Structures BIM. Using a simple user interface into a Vela database directly on the screen of a tablet PC with a special pen, field personnel can enter their information. With RFID enabling the solution, a reader attached to the tablet scans information from the RFID tag and logs the information. This data is synchronized and integrated directly with the Tekla Structures BIM database.
According to the press release, the new field BIM has a vivid multi-color visual representation that allows AECO and project leaders to more easily and effectively:
- Assure accurate communications between field and off-site personnel;
- Assess construction development and compare progress to initial forecasts;
- Schedule building activities and use of work crews;
- Track materials and control inventory;
- Ensure work quality and safety standards are met;
- Generate a work history/model for future management and troubleshooting of a building;
- Create an auditable trail that can reduce legal exposure; and
- Analyze possible improvements to project delivery.
Disconnected from the Internet
Kanner pointed out that the software works disconnected from the Internet. “Almost all construction sites have cell phone, wireless dead zones, and any software that is to be used in the field in construction has to be available even if you’re underground and you have no connection to anything. That’s how we’ve built our software.”
Vela Systems Software Synchronization capability is a store process that allows you to work without being connected to the Internet. Vela tracks who is doing what as they’re working on their local tablet PC. When you come back into the connecting zone later, plug your tablet in in the trailer or use a wireless card. At that time, Vela synchronizes everyone’s information together. “It’s a ‘store then think’ architecture. If you want to share with others, just synchronize wherever you get Internet connectivity. You can plug in the wall, to the Internet, to a regular network, wireless, but you don’t need wireless or internet to continue working,” Kanner pointed out. The whole point of Vela is productivity from an occasionally connected environment.