The Irish construction industry is on the precipice of a digital revolution, where work processes will become streamlined and productivity increases beyond all measure. In the face of such change, JJ Rhatigan & Company (JJR) have committed to lead the way as one of the driving forces of BIM in Ireland.
A company known for its hallmarks of Sustainable Design, Innovation, Quality and Construction Elegance, JJR are a natural fit to forge a new path in Irish construction history. While construction companies in the UK have been increasing their BIM activity in preparation for the upcoming mandate in 2016, companies in Ireland have had no such regulation to work to.
However, recognising the value BIM would bring to both its business and clients, JJ Rhatigan & Company proactively decided to invest in the tools, becoming the first Irish owned contractor to invest in an Autodesk BIM 360 Enterprise License. It has also purchased an additional 16 Topcon DS205i Robotic Total Stations to enable the setting out of the 3D model in the field. Irish building magazine sat down with Michelle Fahey, BIM Implementation Manager and Sean O’Dwyer, BIM Manager, at JJ Rhatigan & Company to discuss the company’s journey so far, and what the future holds.
The Journey Towards BIM
JJ Rhatigan & Company is one of Ireland’s leading building contractors, with offices in Galway, Dublin, Cork, Sligo and London. Founded in 1952, the company has established itself amongst the top contractors, delivering high quality, sustainable construction projects across a range of sectors, with a vast portfolio which spans from traditional building contracts, new builds, fit out and renovations, to the design and build of large scale landmark developments.
JJ Rhatigan & Company embarked on its BIM Journey in 2013, making a strategic decision to transition to a fully collaborative BIM environment. An extremely proactive company, JJR is always interested in new methods of innovation technology and keen to stay ahead of the curve. ‘We turned to BIM to give our teams the technology and processes to enable them to work more efficiently with greater control over project information,’ Michelle explained.
JJR began the process by up-skilling staff and exploring different BIM software packages and methods for the benefit of the company and its clients.
BIM Technology – Commitment to Invest
JJ Rhatigan & Company chose to use Autodesk Revit as the software to put BIM into motion. This was quickly followed by the introduction of Autodesk Navisworks to help boost coordination and clash detection. The decision was easy, says Michelle. ‘We found that the Autodesk Suite met all our needs due to its ease of use and its collaboration methods. Our staff members are very experienced in AutoCAD so the interface and functionality of Revit were very familiar to them.’
The company invested in Network Revit licences and made them available to all within the company when required. Unlimited Navisworks Manage Licences are available to all within the company as part of the BIM 360 Enterprise Licence agreement. The company upgraded all the necessary hardware to suit these software applications. According to Michelle, the benefits of BIM were instant: ‘Revit and Navisworks greatly improved collaboration for the entire project team and delivered time savings. The benefits were obvious early in the adoption – reducing time spent on quantifying, scheduling and the comfort the visuals gave to the client.’
Investment in Autodesk BIM 360 Enterprise Licence
In order to achieve full integration and collaboration, investment in the BIM 360 Enterprise Licence was essential. Staying true to its commitment to lead the way in BIM, JJ Rhatigan & Company were the first Irish company to have made such an investment. The cloud-based software allows all project team members access to all of the BIM 360 Software applications, improving collaboration, communication with the client and speeding up the decision making process throughout the project. Whilst initially JJR used BIM 360 Software on new projects, it is now company policy to use the software across all construction projects.
Simultaneously, JJ Rhatigan & Company made a significant investment in Topcon equipment by purchasing 16 of the DS205i Robotic Total Stations. The machines synchronises with the BIM 360 Point Layout Software App on the iPad. All managerial staff are equipped with company iPads, meaning that all models and benefits of the software can be brought on site and utilised in the most practical way.
Getting the team on board – Training and Development
While BIM and model-based design were new to many of JJ Rhatigan & Company’s employees, training programs were designed to accelerate current and future adoption of BIM. JJ Rhatigan & Company developed relationships with Athlone Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology to advance in BIM. JJR approached the Department of Building & Civil Engineering in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and agreed to work together in providing up-skilling initiatives for JJR staff over the following years. This initiative took the form of accelerated training of Special Purpose Award courses in BIM for project management staff. To date, over 110 staff members have completed Revit courses and been trained in different aspects of the BIM process including software and protocols. And integration of BIM doesn’t stop there for JJ Rhatigan & Company. Michelle explains; ‘JJR has offered this course to our design teams and subcontractors and many have availed of this training. Some members of our staff have moved on from this training to the Higher Diploma in BIM at GMIT.’ Furthermore, JJR has also teamed up with GMIT to offer the final year students a chance to work on live projects for industrial experience while advancing BIM processes within the company.
Similarly, JJR partnered with Queens University as part of a knowledge transfer programme, where a Queens University employee works in the JJR office to train and develop on BIM process in exchange for industrial experience.
More recently staff in JJR have completed BRE BIM Level 2 Project Information Manager and Task Information Manager training courses.
Today JJ Rhatigan & Company uses the BIM process on all projects, whether a 3D model is present or not. The company’s current 3D BIM level 2 projects include the Galway Regional and Divisional Garda Headquarters, Teleflex International Headquarters, Castlegar Nursing Home, St. Patrick’s College Block F and 14 Primary Care Units nationwide.
Clients are starting to request BIM on projects, mostly on government projects, but all tenders now seem to have some level of BIM required. They see the benefits from the visualisation of project designs and enormous benefits for their Facilities Management process.
Case Study: Galway Garda Headquarters
JJ Rhatigan & Company is showcasing their new Autodesk BIM 360 Enterprise License agreement on the Galway Regional and Divisional Garda Headquarters. This Enterprise Licence has the capacity for unlimited storage and allows unlimited invited team members use of the BIM360 interface for the entire Project Team, including Design Teams and Sub-contractors.
In bringing BIM to this project, JJR’s BIM team prepared a site-specific BEP (BIM Execution Plan) based on the EIR (Employers Information Requirements) to explain how the BIM Process and the information modelling aspects of a project would be carried out. This BEP detailed the company’s BIM implementation strategy and the BIM outputs to be provided in the construction stage of the project.
JJ Rhatigan & Company’s BIM team, led by Sean O’Dwyer, developed, managed & co-ordinated this model using Autodesk Revit software and as the design progresses, JJRs BIM team ensures these models are kept up to date with any design changes. To coincide with this, the site team are using Autodesk BIM360 Glue to navigate and interrogate the model for co-ordination, clash detection, scheduling, estimating, setting-out, sustainability and facilities management.
JJR are using BIM 360 Glue as its cloud-based BIM coordination service for Galway Regional and Divisional Garda Headquarters Project; providing anytime, anywhere access to connected project information for all project team members. BIM 360 Glue and Field is also used on this project allowing all 3D objects to be hyperlinked to allow access to submittals, O&M’s, warranty information and shop drawings on the iPad or desktop. JJ Rhatigan & Company has found this BIM process to prove an invaluable tool in the Service Coordination stage of the project, in particular where services runs are intense and where detailed planning is required prior to installation. BIM 360 Glue is used as an iPad App on site to interrogate and coordinate the design Model, the project team can detect any clashes in the virtual environment before they occur in the physical environment, thereby avoiding any costly delays and rework. This is relayed in its desktop interface where office members that are invited onto the project can have full visibility of these issues and can comment accordingly.
BIM360 Glue enables all users to interact in a user friendly cloud collaborative environment. This interface with its “all eyes on the pot” approach ensures more items are captured reducing the amount of onsite construction issues in comparison to the conventional approach. BIM360 Glue is an invaluable addition to the JJR construction process.
JJ Rhatigan & Company are also using BIM 360 Field as their field management software that combines mobile technologies on site with cloud-based collaboration and reporting. BIM 360 Field helps to improve quality, safety, and commissioning through its QA/QC and H&S features. It will also be used for the assigning of certifications to manageable assets that were created in BIM360 Glue. This will be used in conjunction with the Cobie NBS toolkit parameters so that these will be filled out in the field. JJR is using this feature to deliver a highly detailed Asset Information Model (AIM).
This interface also manages any defects, registers, and snags in the cloud where all team members including the maintenance team / client rep, can assign any issues to JJ Rhatigan & Company and report any outstanding elements. ‘We, the contractor, can assign and manage task related issues to the relevant subcontractor disciplines that are involved on the project providing full traceability for the OPW’ Sean said.
JJ Rhatigan & Company have utilised add-ins for Autodesk Revit such as Dynamo to improve and enhance its model outputs. JJR have used Dynamo to run scripts to place placeholders in the centre of each room. These placeholders import all room data information and text so that the model navigator has ease of understanding their location while coordinating the models. Another Dynamo use by JJR on this project was the creation of the Room Data Sheets, this speeds up the process and ensures that there are no errors. JJR are using BIM to coordinate, generate and discuss the room layouts with the OPW at regular site meetings.
Health & Safety is a key priority for JJ Rhatigan & Company on the Galway Regional and Divisional Garda Headquarters, therefore, it is considered paramount for BIM to be utilised to contribute towards safe construction practices. Essential information such as the construction site set-up and traffic management plans are being modelled and represented through the BIM model with visual method statements to demonstrate key logistical challenges which are greatly benefiting the project’s health and safety agenda.
BIM 360 Point Layout is used on this project for setting out, verification and an as-built tool providing accuracy in the 3D environment where authentication of the building is relayed to the BIM 360 Glue and Revit model for handover. The company is also using the Topcon DS205i Robotic Total Stations on this project. JJR is helping Autodesk enhance software beyond its boundaries by pushing the point layout boundaries where 2D CAD files and 3D models are all visible in the interface.
JJR are coordinating all information on this project through their Document Management System, Union Square for Construction and trialling their new Common Data Environment (CDE) BIM 360 Docs.
Feedback from Subcontractors
By using BIM, JJ Rhatigan & Company can achieve a streamlined, information-rich model with little fuss. ‘We incorporate the subcontractor models into a coordinated set of construction models and perform our own interference checking before federating them with the central model’ Michelle explains.
Change in construction methods and practices can be difficult. Whilst JJ Rhatigan & Company is transitioning to a fully collaborative BIM environment, the company recognises that all subcontractors are not at this level and would not exclude any subcontractor as a result. Michelle is clear on their practice. ‘We treat all subcontractors equally. We understand that some subcontractors are naturally concerned about new methods and processes – it can be very costly for them. However, with our Enterprise License we can share BIM 360 Software with these subcontractors. We also provide in-house training and advice on a project by project basis. Because of this, we are not experiencing any resistance towards our BIM process.’
A Decade of Technological Change
And what about previous technological changes? JJR has a long-standing reputation on this front, according to Michelle. ‘JJR has always been at the forefront of technology. We invested in Union Square for Construction in 2010, a document management system which gives access to company documents and project documents from any location; this system controls versions of documents and drawings, assists collaboration of documents, and RFIs’.
With BIM360 Docs in its infancy, JJ Rhatigan & Company is trialling the software on the Galway Garda Headquarters project as the Common Data Environment (CDE) alongside Union Square for Construction. Similar to BIM360 Point Layout, JJR are pushing the software’s boundaries and improving its potential on a weekly basis. JJR have weekly workshops with Autodesk highlighting improvements aiding the advancement of the software features for the future.
An Ireland BIM Mandate
Would a BIM mandate be a good idea for Ireland? ‘I think a mandate would be very good for BIM in the Irish construction industry as it would regulate the processes and standardise the methods’ says Michelle Fahey. ‘It would focus clients on their requirements. It would help the adoption from all subcontractors and design teams.’
As a key member of the steering group that formed the CitA Western BIM Region, JJ Rhatigan & Company along with RPS and GMIT organise regular informative events to promote BIM in the Western region. With expert keynote speakers, these free events continue to prove a success drawing large numbers of attendees seeking to collaborate on their BIM journey.
JJ Rhatigan & Company is creating a digital landscape with its BIM journey. It is providing a new blueprint for the industry to follow, making for a digitalised and technologically advanced construction industry which will provide a service that maximises productivity, without ever compromising on quality.