BIM methodology, technological innovation for sustainable cities.

Regulations and processes for the digital revolution.

Architect Francesco Zangara – partner Energia Calabria


This Abstract summarizes an experimental work developed by a group of professionals expert in the BIM integrated design methodology. As a summary, only a few salient points are treated, referring to the individual theses of the individual components the most detailed explanation of the work carried out.

This is part of the curricular training work within the training course of the 2nd Level University Master in BIM Manager and Sustainable Construction – Building 4.0, provided by the Civil Engineering Department of the University of Calabria for the academic year 2018-2019.

Specifically, it is configured as a pilot project for the construction of a university building used for frontal teaching and e-learning according to the BIM methodology. The project, in turn, originates from work that the Technical Division of the same University is carrying out for the design and construction of three new buildings used as classrooms equipped for cooperative and distance learning.

The University’s main objective is to open up the Calabrian Campus to the territory and encourage the adoption of innovative forms of teaching, through the construction of three new structures located in the areas pertaining to the Campus. A first building will be located near cube 28D, the second will be aligned with cube 37B while the last will be located inside the Multipurpose complex.

It is important to underline that the preliminary phase of Technical and Economic Feasibility Design (subsequently called PFTE), by the Technical Division, has been elaborated in a completely traditional way. It would be logical to think, therefore, that the subsequent phases of Final (PD) and Executive (PE) design follow the same course. Given the recent regulatory requirements (Legislative Decree no. 50/2016 art. 23 paragraph 13, Ministerial Decree no. 560/2017), which oblige Public Administrations to form and equip themselves with digitised tender procedures in a completely definitive manner, by and no later than 2025, it was the intention of the RUP, together with the Technical Division Manager, to integrate at least one of the three lots according to the BIM methodology.

This experimentation resulted in the transformation of traditional PFTE into an integrated BIM PD to be tendered in an open, non-proprietary interchange format, IFC, and the opening of a tender procedure for the integrated contract for the executive design and execution of the works. In parallel to this, it becomes of fundamental importance to draw up all the necessary documentation for the BIM design, both as regards the final pre-tender design, i.e. within the design team (group of trainees), and, above all, as regards the executive design, the latter being managed by the contractor.

Hence, therefore, the willingness of a number of trainees of the aforementioned Master to form a working group that can put into practice what they have learnt during the lessons. A group of 6 professionals is therefore created to undertake the integrated design in BIM of one of the three structures, specifically the 37A cube.

The BIM process presents itself as a complex design methodology that presupposes a coordinated development of processes and a correct disciplinary integration.

“Begin with the end in Mind”, i.e. to proceed with the objectives of the process in mind, is the winning strategy for the entire methodology. In this delicate phase of transition from traditional to digitized procedures, it is necessary to unpack the process in order to fully understand its phases.

The Informative Terms of Reference (CI) guides the design, identifies its objectives and outlines its policy lines. We are, therefore, at a turning point: in the case study, a pilot project for the transition of PA to the BIM process, there is no ante litteram CI. The project itself must become a guideline for the drafting of the general guidelines. In essence, it is a phenomenon for which the process undergoes a radical reversal: the project is no longer identifiable as a product but as the baseline of the process itself. The recourse to a systemic vision of the civil engineering of the work is a necessary and optimising tool for process management. This means, to proceed gradually, to the industrialization of the AEC sector, starting from a sharing of professional figures in the construction of a network of knowledge.

The interdisciplinary and integrated approach is the basis for a correct development of the digitised methodology. Team work, sharing and collaboration are keywords of the whole process. The above mentioned project, as described above, foresees the collaboration of multiple professional figures. Specialists, disciplinary team leaders, coordinators, CDE Managers and BIM Managers interface periodically throughout the work.

The group is, however, underestimated compared to the real needs of the

order. This means that several people, assigned to a specific task, find themselves in different roles. Specifically, the Specialists also performed the function of disciplinary Team Leader, dealing with the design of the models and the Clash Detection and Model & Code Checking procedures. The RUP and the support to the RUP, have been involved in the drafting of the Guidance Document, i.e. the Information Specifications. Finally, the CDE Manager was responsible for the management of the process specific procedures together with the management of the data sharing environment.

As previously mentioned, the process carried out works on the basis of the “Reverse BIM”. If, therefore, it is usually the Specification that guides the design, in the experimentation carried out, the modelling and management of information flows have contributed to the direction of the works. Through the accurate modelling procedures of the various disciplinary areas it has been clarified what the operational needs of the method were, these have helped in defining the processes that the information flows follow during the various phases of the design. The Clash Detection and Code Checking procedures made it possible to verify the quality of the project and the reliability of the method used. Finally, on the basis of the experiences conducted and recorded, a final document, the Information Specifications, was structured to meet the real needs of the project. A substantial tool made it possible to coordinate the work: the CDE, a data sharing environment, i.e. a BIM interoperability platform.

The training experience has led to interesting food for thought. First of all, the activities were carried out by each operator in a harmonic way, albeit at a distance, using different software, albeit with different approaches and professional inclinations. Meetings and cadenced comparisons allowed the group to set imperative milestones of the process. The Final Project, carried out using the BIM methodology, has made it possible to solve many design problems in advance of what could be hoped for with the traditional method, underlining how a careful integrated design phase helps to improve the performance of the project itself. The approach followed by the work group can be catalogued within the systems engineering processes, looking at the work as a system in which its sub-parties collaborate and coordinate, in an orderly and constant manner, optimising the quality of the entire work. From the point of view of process experimentation, it was decided to strongly apply an experimental scientific method, verifying each time the hypotheses initially formulated. The EDC tool has also guaranteed maximum transparency of the processes followed and efficiency in the exchange and management of data.

The pilot project, as such, brings with it the operational difficulty of starting the works; just as an artist who submits to the crisis of the blank sheet of paper, so the designer in his first experience, finds it very difficult to define a starting point for the project. Some information, essential to the start of the works generally understood, became known only after operational campaigns on BIM Authoring software.

The key objective of this pilot project was to ensure that the digital twin of the designed work would have the widest possible future scope. The models proposed, in fact, together with all the information included therein, will guarantee, if properly integrated over time, that they can be used for various operations, from the management of the site to the management of the building; therefore, possible facility management interventions are envisaged, depending on what the client intends to do.

However, it is important to underline that some of the problems of the supply chain, but deriving from inappropriate interdisciplinary coordination methods, also remain within the BIM processes if not diverted by the operating subjects. The level of maturity with which the various subjects involved in the processes, Public Administrations, private individuals and stakeholders, approach them, is still at an early stage, being at Level 1 – BASIC as reported by UNI 11337-1.

In this delicate phase of transition, in which we still do not have the maximum clarity on the figures involved, the procedures to follow and the regulatory obligations to which we are all subject, it would be desirable to invest resources in a careful phase of professionalizing training.

The members of the working group were able to try their hand at a new training experience, in which integrative team building phenomena assisted, supported and enriched the professional skills of each one. This is the end of a unique training cycle, in which everyone rediscovers a richer experience because it is loaded with the experiences of others.

BIM and Smart Cities