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The benefits of BIM for formwork
Digitalisation has been advancing rapidly within the construction industry as the technological landscape has changed. One of the major changes has been the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM can help construction companies control costs, collaborate, and construct more efficiently thanks to the wide range of digital tools that are available.
While BIM has been widely used for the initial design of structures, it is slowly becoming more common to use a BIM model for the downstream fabrication and construction processes due to the advantages it offers – and formwork design and planning is no exception. To support this shift, MEVA now offer BIM for formwork design.
How BIM for formwork works
After engaging MEVA’s design and planning services, MEVA’s global engineering departments receive the building model from the designer or the contractor.
The BIM requirements are already defined by the client, so our role is about ensuring co-operation and a bi-directional exchange of information – such as building models, technical information, and drawings – rather than shaping the holistic process
explains Hannes Endris, Chief Technology Officer of MEVA’s software partner, BIM².
A tangible example of this is the pour cycle formwork, the design of which is based on the process planning of the construction company, the structural requirements of the structural engineer, and also the technical solution options of the system formwork. This requires exchanging multiple files, comments, and models to create the final solution.
Using the building model as a basis, the team create their formwork models. With their programming expertise, the BIM² team has developed formwork families and related algorithms based on Autodesk Revit to easily place the formwork in the model. “Using these families ensures that all the required information – such as the wall geometry, or alphanumeric parameters like the cycle planning or fair-faced concrete requirements for walls – are included within the model, and also provides options for automating parts of the formwork design process,” continues Hannes.
Automation ensures the productivity and efficiency of the design by allowing the designer to place thousands of components with a single click-series. Alternatively, the designer can input various parameters and the software will generate the 3D model and other details. For example, the UK design team have developed their own tool for the MAC climbing system which allows the designers to quickly enter parameters such as beam sizes and have the 3D model created by the software in seconds. Once the model is created, the drawings are also automated with dimensions, labels, and legends added and the drawing layout set up with just a few clicks.
The difficult part of the formwork design is the pour cycle planning. Each pour cycle will require formwork for an amount of time before the formwork is then removed and re-used elsewhere. To get this right, the construction phasing needs to be indicated within the BIM model or agreed with the project team.
Typically, this is an iterative process which requires input from and co-operation between the structural engineers, contractor, and formwork supplier,
notes Hannes. For example, the size of the pour for that cycle and the concrete pressure need to be compared with panel sizes and strengths to find the right formwork options and layouts, based on what formwork is available. Once agreed, the model can then be adjusted to reflect the cycle plans.
As the formwork is a temporary product, the 3D formwork models created by MEVA’s designers or the BIM² team are referenced (or linked) by the designer and contractor, rather than incorporated directly into the central model. This lets anyone else in the project view the formwork design like a separate layer within the project model, without incorporating it into the model archive for long-term use. This way, the formwork model remains as a separate file and does not increase the performance and size of the original central model file whilst still providing the required information for construction. However, there can be built-in parts for some systems, such as anchor plates for climbing formwork systems. These do need to be incorporated as they constitute an integral part of the building once it is completed.
How formwork benefits from BIM
One of the major benefits of BIM is the enhanced visualisation that a 3D model provides. This is particularly useful for seeing the different disciplines and how they affect one another. Being able to see the end product in 3D brings clarity and transparency to the process, helping ensure that the design proposals will work before the construction begins on site.
Collisions between different components are easier to spot in 3D rather than trying to visualise the interaction from 2D drawings. What cannot be easily identified from a visual inspection can be picked up with the use of automated clash detection tools in the modelling software, which will identify any clashes. This early clash detection is another particularly valuable benefit of BIM and 3D modelling, preventing re-work on site and avoiding wasted time and materials as a result.
Collaboration within the project team is also much easier and simpler with BIM and 3D formwork models. For example, design information and change requests during the construction can be exchanged and updated directly through the models, as opposed to sending email instructions or noting actions in a meeting. This makes it quicker to identify and assign tasks to the relevant parties with complete clarity. “The model is either displayed in the physical planning meetings or shared and discussed on a collaborative platform. However, the enhanced visualization and simulations are really beneficial,” Hannes continues. “It can also help the on-site staff understand the design better because they can see what they are meant to be building.”
Internally, using BIM helps the formwork design team produce accurate and high-quality formwork designs efficiently. After placing the required formwork families into the model, they can quickly generate a parts list which can then be sent to the ERP system for further evaluation. Using parameters, pour cycles are analysed and simulated in 4D (time) or 5D (cost), enabling the team to make precise forecasts for both work scheduling and construction costs. Optioneering is also much quicker, as different variants of the proposed solution can be quickly and easily created and evaluated. Even material deliveries can be planned more efficiently and aligned with the construction sequencing.
Why BIM makes sense for formwork design
Although using BIM for formwork design may not be commonplace as yet, it has already had its benefits for both MEVA and their customers. For MEVA, it is a chance to support our customers with their BIM requirements, as well as differentiate our service – and with BIM becoming so integral to project delivery, BIM capability is quickly becoming expected by customers.
Beyond providing the BIM objects that more and more clients expect, adopting BIM has made working with MEVA much easier. “Our software enables designers to develop formwork proposals are much more accurate because we have planned them thoroughly in 3D, which provides both certainty and assurance for customers,” asserts Hannes. When combined with the improved collaboration that BIM enables, the construction process can progress much more fluidly and with fewer issues.
However, BIM can only be implemented successfully if everyone is aiming for the same goal – a fully optimised construction process – in order to exploit the full potential of BIM and provide added value for everyone in the project. For MEVA and BIM², this common goal approach is part of their ethos – building collaborative relationships based on partnerships. With this mindset, adopting BIM simply made sense for both companies and their customers.