At Redcage we consult with a lot of building professionals on a daily basis and are often asked, “Is BIM happening in Canada?”. The Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence is a great example of the momentum that Building Information Modeling (BIM) is gaining in Canada, enabling us to produce award-winning buildings on the global scene.
We are forging forward with the promotion and adoption of BIM in Canada. The Bergeron Centre mini-documentary is the first of many BIM built buildings in Canada that we will be recording and documenting.Let’s put Canada on the forefront of building innovation!
My name is Scott Torrance the director of landscape architecture at Scott Torrance Landscape Architect, a division of Forrec. It started in 2011-2012, ZAS Architects contacted us and right off the bat, the thing that was key to the project was that we had to work in a full BIM environment. Every consultant.
The Bergeron Centre project had a very ambitious schedule in terms of start to finish date and really no plan B to fall back on if the building wasn’t ready. As we started to work with the construction manager for the project, we realized that BIM could also be used for off-site manufacture and assembly of pieces.
The use of BIM allowed us to finalize the design at an early stage. This allowed us to also pre-fabricate a lot of crucial components and, having those components pre-fabricated, allowed us to accelerate the installation. It allowed us to hit the fast track schedule.
BIM was of immense importance on this project.
We cut back on the schedule by about two months. On a 24-month overall schedule, which is fast-tracked to begin with, that’s quite remarkable.
The first study that we did for an existing facility was our first foray. There were no building permits, no construction. It was all an analytical tool with existing buildings to figure out how we can reduce our energy, our carbon footprint, and create opportunities for expanding space for students. That was a way to illustrate to the university that there are ways to look at planning design in a forward, more integrated way.
That study, for example, which would have required somewhere between I would say, four to six different consultants, we used one. We used one that used BIM to do energy analysis, micro climate analysis, hydrology, opportunities for space, expanding space, all done under one team using BIM.
That was the real catalyst, the real eye-opener for a lot of people at the university that there are benefits to this. That’s where we started and went to the robotics pavilion.
I feel great when I see this building. I think this is a real testament to team work and collaboration.
That was really the overarching theme that prevailed in this project from the very outset and I think it’s one of the key success factors.
To be working constantly in a 3D environment where the design is becoming more and more complex all the time as you move through the design process. But to be able to build a start building and always check back in, we can then look for errors in the project and correct them.
We can see it the way it would be built if the contractor followed our drawings at that stage. We can see things popping out, conduits popping out of the ground, insulation sticking out of the ground where it shouldn’t be because the grating isn’t quite there, or surfaces not meeting each other properly.
That’s really about coordination and that’s why working in a complete BIM environment is so fantastic.
It’s a very interesting tool to bring people together because those models, as they’re developed, all need to fit together so the engineers have a model, architects have a model, and the landscape architect has model. Ultimately, they all need to morph together as one seamless model that can be used for construction and operation.
BIM is an enabler to work together to integrate ideas from everyone. It’s fluid. It’s real-time and it’s a great catalyst for collaboration like nothing else.
What we found as an interesting benefit of working in a BIM environment was the approvals process, municipal approvals. We had a meeting with City of Toronto who were reviewing all our drawings as we were attempting to get our municipal sight plan approval to build the project. This is well before building permit applications. There’s still opportunity to change things but we were up at a meeting and we just had a wire-frame version of the building and landscape open.
When we were there with all of the municipal staff, one of the urban designers at City of Toronto says, “You know this guard that you have, this glass guard, do you really need this thing?” because neither of us liked it when we saw it.
It wouldn’t have stood out if it wasn’t part of a three-dimensional model that everybody could look at. If it was a traditional set of black line drawings, which we would typically submit, it would have been a little dotted line. Nobody would have noticed it.
That change alone was almost $100,000 of savings! It didn’t help the project and it didn’t improve the appearance and it wasn’t something the owner needed. It was great that we could all see it. Things like that stand out when you’re working in this kind of environment.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but as we started to develop the design using BIM, that the architecture and the design of the building it was going to become quite complex from a geometrical perspective and from a design perspective.
Particularly the building envelope, the building facade, was one of the more complex technical aspects to resolve. Although we had used BIM on many occasions before, we hadn’t used it to the degree that we could be used from a geometric resolution side of things.
The outside of the building was mapped using LIDAR scanning and those tools were used to prefabricate large elements of the exterior.
Seeing that come together for me was very satisfying because it’s the ultimate combination of a kind of art and science.
BIM was a great tool for us to not just conceptualize the building but to realize it and rationalize it to get the best possible result and to make sure that we were creating a custom building with a kit of parts that could be used and simply manufactured and not have to be one-of-only. For example, there’s only three triangles on the facade of the building.
We have these complex surfaces, three-dimensional surfaces, walls, retaining walls, paving surfaces. All these things would have been very challenging to design in a traditional two-dimensional method.
The first element you see upon approaching the building is the facade. The facade came together in a very interesting way.
It was very demanding technically but in order to deliver this on time, on schedule, to budget and to the level of quality that was required, we actually did use some cutting-edge management techniques and tools.
I really like the form the building. People misunderstand the form of this building because when you look at it it’s almost kind of a square with rounded corners. But when you look at obliquely it looks like a kind of elliptical building. I like the fact that it looks like a scale-less building and people are not quite sure how big it is. Is it two stories? Is it four stories? I like the fact that it keeps people guessing.
I’m proud of the fact that the students have embraced it the way they have. If you go out there at any time of day you’ll see this building has a real buzz, a real livelihood to it.
“The exterior is super interesting. It catches your eye.”
“It kind of makes you feel like you’re in a more updated school you know and you’re in a new place. Sometimes when you’re in this building you don’t even realize you’re in York. You just feel like you’re in a different little place.”
“It looks very modern. A lot of York’s buildings don’t look so modern. But when I look around here, it’s very modern. It’s the kind of thing I’d expect to see if I was downtown.”
“This building is a pride of many communities. I would even extend it as far as the city of Toronto. It’s one of those great architectural buildings that is just doing things differently. We didn’t hesitate to get student buy-in and student input. We built an engineering building that’s not a block. It’s beautiful. There’s glass. It’s delicate and sturdy. So, I think it’s a pride of Toronto not just York and York’s community.”
I would say that this is the catalyst for the future management and operations of buildings at York University.
This will set the tone for all new buildings.
When all new buildings are following the same protocol, I would say in a number of years we’ll have 10% of our university (close to a million square feet of space) all planned, designed, constructed, conceived and implemented, maintained and operated in a BIM environment. That’s quite a bit.For us BIM is the way of the future.
I look back at how construction used to be done and we stumbled, and struggled without BIM. And so for me it’s hard to imagine doing projects of any degree of complexity without BIM.
BIM solves a lot of problems for us.
It requires you to put a lot of time and effort in at the front-end. But that time and effort at the front-end saves you so much time downstream and you’re resolving problems early.
In construction, if you want to find conflicts during the work, it takes a lot of time and effort to resolve those conflicts. Probably an order of magnitude greater than it does if you find them early where you can just change lines on a piece of paper.
BIM is so important to our business. I think we’re only now starting to harness the benefits.
There’s no reason why we at York University, on this campus, could not actually leapfrog many other countries around the world in this area. I think this is why a lot of folks around the country have taken note and want to know how we can help them get started.
We’re happy to share documents. We’ve learned so much from others. We’re very eager to help and share our information and our experience with others as well as a result.
Featured in this video:
Paul Stevens, Owner & Principal Architect, ZAS Architects
Marcus Gillam, President, Gillam Group
Patrick Saavedra, Director, Architectural Design, York University
Scott Torrance, Director, Scott Torrance Landscape Architect (division of Forrec)
Further articles on The Bergeron Centre:
ARUP – Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence , Toronto, Ontario – York University’s first building in its new engineering campus
Canadian Facility Management and Design (REMI Network) – Bergeron Centre a model for fully integrated BIM
Read more about Autodesk One Model (subscription-based software delivery) and how it impacts you.
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