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Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) to enhance Work Packaging for Piping

One of the advantages offered by Building Information Modeling (BIM) to the engineering and construction industry is the capability to virtually plan and build a project before actual execution of work. BIM provides AWP practitioners with a completed model of final deliverables, offering visual foresight of access, laydown, crane staging, and various other construction sequencing challenges, enabling the formation of a more robust execution plan.

BIM models can be used to store information specific to the AWP process, serving as a repository of planning information in a visual format. Some ways to leverage the capabilities of a BIM model to strengthen the AWP planning process include:

  • Design the Plant Design Management System (PDMS), the spinal data pathway that connects model components with the model classification structure, to complement the AWP process. For example, through the PDMS selection tree – a dialog box available in most BIM software - one can select a particular data designator such as a triple offset valve, to isolate all model components tagged as triple offset valves. The closer the PDMS matches the project Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the more efficient it will be in isolating required information.

  • Ensure that the PDMS data structure is designed to a level of granularity that benefits the construction process. For example, piping should ideally be identified by spool number.

  • Use multiple hierarchies in the PDMS to allow users to isolate scope of work based on their required criteria. For example, piping can be identified by design area, process system, or material type among other criteria.

  • Explore the possibility of adding data pertaining to Construction Work Packages (CWP), Engineering Work Packages (EWP), and Installation Work Packages (IWP) to the PDMS structure. This activity maybe deferred to the construction phase of a project as personnel responsible for execution may not be available during the early phases of a project. Furthermore, this also permits the construction team to exercise greater control over the execution of work.

  • For brownfield projects involving the addition and tie-in of new process units, project scope and existing plant infrastructure can be identified in a BIM model using different color schemes, providing a visualization of execution challenges such as scaffolding in pipe racks and installing lines through existing pipe rack intersection towers.

  • Multi-project construction programs can be segregated into separate contractual packages by adding contract information to the PDMS. This can assist in planning initiatives at a program level.

During the construction phase the BIM model can be further exploited to support the execution of work. Some ways BIM can be used to assist in the construction phase include:

  • Model screenshots or ‘modelshots’ of specific spools and piping IWPs can be provided to pipe crews to assist in workface visualization. If feasible, a modelshot of piping illustrated on individual isometric drawings (ISO), can be inserted on printed ISOs.

  • BIM models can be used by field engineering teams to enhance their understanding of design clashes. Solutions to piping-structural clashes or valve bonnet-piping clashes, which were not identified during the design phase, can be developed using a BIM model.

  • Lift-planning for large bore piping can be better managed using a BIM model. Piping sections delivered to site as separate spools can be selected in different combinations to determine the optimum orientation and weight for a single lift. This will help in identifying weld connections that can be completed on the ground rather than on elevated platforms.

  • During the testing and turnover of piping systems, the BIM model can be used to identify the location of piping systems based on hydro-testing sequence. Piping corresponding to specific hydro-tests can be highlighted to develop model-shots that can assist field inspectors in identifying hydro-testing scope.

  • Piping systems that require additional quality control procedures such as flange bolt torquing or the insertion of flow orifices can also be identified on the model.

  • Access controlled ‘Model stations’ can be established in the field to provide crews with a visual tool to address field issues.

From a construction viewpoint, BIM also has the capability to enthuse and better involve piping crews. I have observed firsthand the palpable sense of engagement a model-shot can generate in piping foremen and superintendents. This is due to the subconscious connection one makes between lucid visuals of project scope of work and the final physical process plant. It is difficult to visualize a piping IWP using an array of orthographic and isometric drawings. In contrast, a 3D BIM model provides a completed picture of what the project should look like. In other words, BIM models enhance goal visualization. Additionally, there is a morale boost when a piping crew is provided access to cutting edge technology to understand and execute their scope of work. They feel more involved in the planning and execution process when they are trusted with such information.

The functions identified in this article were fulfilled by alternate tools before the emergence of BIM – so why use BIM? BIM provides construction crews with an intelligent method to identify and isolate issues prior to their manifestation in the field. For instance, let us consider a change in piping specification that necessitates the removal and replacement of a thousand valves. Using an information rich BIM model, one can isolate all valves associated with the affected piping specification and then go about developing IWPs to remove and replace the valves.

This information can be extracted from the model in a spreadsheet format to establish links with other external databases. In a matter of minutes, IWPs can be created by project area, or any other criteria, ready for field execution.

Try to imagine what this process would look like prior to the emergence of BIM? Painstakingly long to say the least.

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About the author

An active member of the AWP Institute, Adrian Saldanha is a Project Engineer with PCL Industrial Construction Co. (PICCo) based out of Houston, Texas. PICCo, which is a part of the PCL group, is an industrial contractor that specializes in oil, gas, chemical, and power construction. He is a Project Management Professional and a licensed Professional Engineer with experience in project management, project engineering, project controls, work packaging, Building Information Modeling (BIM), permitting, and construction claims. His project experience includes chemical plants, refineries, power plants, air quality control systems, heavy civil infrastructure, and commercial construction in India, Oman, and the United States. Adrian has presented on the applications of BIM, and construction claims using the measured mile approach in the United States and internationally. He obtained his B.S in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology Karnataka in India and his M.S in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. His master’s degree focused on Construction Engineering and Project Management during which he worked as a graduate researcher investigating construction materials and testing.

Adrian’s professional interests include the promotion of BIM for project execution and the study of the impact of morale on productivity. Outside work, he likes to read books on human behavior and fiction, and explore nature trails.

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