Infrastructure engineering multinational AECOM is developing high-technology building information modelling (BIM) systems as part of the transition to digital business and service models and to meet changing client needs, says AECOM Africa Buildings and Places MD Tim Ter Haar.
The company is developing its BIM systems and solutions through its interactions with clients to meet their technical requirements, he reveals.
“We designed the BIM model for the Sydney Opera House, in Australia, to enable the World Heritage Site to continue for another 100 to 200 years,” he enthuses.
The Sydney Opera House, famous for its architecture, has many innovative features. However, these systems, such as the sacrificial anodes protecting the sea-cooling pipes from corrosion, need to be monitored and maintained.
The Sydney Opera House is cooled using seawater taken directly from the harbour. The system circulates cold water from the harbour through 35 km of pipes for use in heating and air-conditioning systems.
“The BIM model created for the opera house enables the dedicated maintenance team to perform better, be more accurate and manage the health of the World Heritage Site.”
The development of BIM technology correlates directly with AECOM’s strategy of integrated delivery of services and infrastructure projects. Better information reduces project risks, costs and scheduling delays, especially for complex infrastructure projects, explains AECOM Africa strategy and growth director Fadzai Nyamasve.
“The cost management of projects is one of the biggest challenges in Africa and worldwide, and this is addressed in the technologies we develop. However, AECOM has industry-specific research and development teams who collaborate with clients to develop, adapt and improve our technologies for industry-specific uses,” she explains.
AECOM’s focus, while in line with the demands of various commercial and industrial sectors, is on civil and structural engineering, as well as environmental tools that increasingly help to unlock value in large-scale projects.
“We also focus our technology development on healthcare, which is where BIM technology can add significant value and capabilities to improve the service delivery at healthcare facilities.”
In South Africa, AECOM’s technology development includes the steel milling industry, bulk materials and commodities handling, mining and ports, as well as the broader industrial sector. It is also producing BIM technology for the bottling, power generation and oil and gas sectors in the rest of Africa, especially East Africa, as well as liquefied natural gas in Ghana.
“We work closely with the international AECOM teams and collaborate directly with them on technical topics. In some cases, the South African team leads in the development of high-technology solutions,” adds Ter Haar.
The successful uptake of such technology by AECOM locally has even resulted in the South African team making a substantial contribution to the BIM modelling for the new Daimler-Mercedes-Benz factory in Jawor, Poland, for example.
AECOM’s technology is not limited to BIM and includes using drones for site surveying and inspections, as well as developing virtual reality (VR) capabilities to assist design, project planning and engineering.
“Not only do we have world-class engineers in South Africa, but our level of BIM knowledge and expertise is [also] world-class, for which we receive international recognition,” explains AECOM Africa Buildings and Places BIM Manager Craig Howie.
Further, AECOM Africa recently launched its own VR studio at its office in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal. The potential of VR in the construction and consulting engineering space is an important element of a fully integrated approach to project delivery, he notes.
“Importantly, high-level engineering skills in South Africa are cost competitive with similar skill sets worldwide and we are well positioned to export our talent. We, as AECOM Africa, have done this successfully for international clients and our own international teams,” concludes Ter Haar.