In this extensive article, our alumnus Wiktor Rybus shares what it is like to work on a construction megaproject without any drawings. To make the things even more interesting for all BIM professionals, the project in question, Randselva Bridge, also happens to be the world’s longest bridge to be built based solely on IFC models. We now leave you in the capable hands of Wiktor for the rest of the article and remind you that on December 10, there’s also a masterclass with him, in which he will share more about the project.

When we talk about BIM, most of us focus on the design part of the project. Of course, it is the foundation of all following processes. But If we don’t go further, we would have barely understood the proper use of the digital world during the live construction execution. Only by matching the right people in the right place with the correct distribution of duties, we are ready to face some challenges with beneficial outcomes. It has been a pleasure to take a part of the milestone journey regarding the drawing-free Randselva Bridge project, especially as a way to learn and gain some practical experience.

A little about Wiktor Rybus


I have been working in Norway for a general contractor for 7 years now. During that time, I have always been interested in exploring the project life-cycle within the construction phase at partly most of each kind of duties. It has allowed me to gain an understanding of what people need and what they work with. This is important to understand others’ purposes at work and to adjust our approach to be more effective and also meaningful for further use. It is about working directly on site, with technical issues, design and commercial topics, as well as with any other project controlling stages.

BIM bridge project

Wiktor Rybus, Alumni of Master’s in Global BIM Management for infrastructure Projects

I have graduated from a technical university with a focus on Bridges and Underground structures which gave me enough knowledge to start my career within civil construction. After gaining some experience, I decided to apply for the Master’s in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects, a program that focuses on the construction phase of the project. Combining my initial background, work experience and new knowledge, I would say that I have a good understanding of the BIM methodology, that is even more about Information Management and Virtual Project Management than just pure 3D models. The model is just a tool and BIM is the knowledge of how to use it to get more effective and productive work done during the construction stage in order to get a better Return of Invest (ROI) with important required quality.

BIM is not only a 3D model


I tried to focus on Model development in terms of digital communication, but there are also areas of transferring the data straight out to the construction site. As long as we do it all for the first time, we need to match the same duration of time for planning, testing, implantation and improvement. This is quite difficult, but the pilot project challenge – Randselva Bridge – was accepted. It is not possible to make all the steps with 100% success, but for sure with 100% satisfaction it can be more achievable. I am pretty sure that, on that kind of project, every step forward is worth each minute of the work.

The contractor must coordinate and develop BIM methodology from the design phase to control the construction site milestones. BIM is not only a 3D model. BIM is more when the Contractor is capable to successfully use and analyze data from the digital interpretation of the structure.

Once the project is built in a 3D environment during the design and modeling phase, the BIM methodology must be followed by all stakeholders who have full control on time, budget and quality. My understanding of the process consists of sharing all data in a way to avoid constraints as delays or poor performance on site. It is very important to establish a system based on every metadata we have been delivered by BIM developers in order to know as much as we want about the project in a particular point of its life-cycle.

What do we speak about when we speak about a drawing-free project?


Drawing-free or drawingless project is a process to be produced based only on IFC files. It means that there is only information from the 3D model, and it’s sufficient and ready to be used on the construction site. Of course, there is a need for general 2D drawings as an overview or general information that clients require, but they are assigned only to particular objects in the model. Even if there are some discrepancies between the 2D and 3D, the true value comes always only from the Model.

That is why we should take care and control the information and properties attached to the objects. The benefits of using and communicating via live-Model keeps all the stakeholders up-to-date with data and any changes that would appear. There are significant alerts, and this process, I believe, makes the cooperation between designer and contractor better and better. And that is a significant advantage for design and building projects. The challenge of the drawingless methodology is a collaboration to be set between all people and make them work as a team. Everyone should go for the same rules and have the same goals.

I don’t think that building a drawing-free project is difficult. The key is to keep at the same time the quality of the design and the Model up to the high level. This demands a set of rules and strict monitoring of everyone on each process that we want to transfer from the physical paper world into a digital one. And it is difficult because the right workflow has to be led by a well-organized team during quite a long duration of the construction phase. High level of the Model in this case is the digital twin of the construction that does not contain any useless information.

Rules for working on drawing-free project


The rules I was talking about can have different faces. One of them could, for example, describe the progress of the Model development. How to inform everyone about clear changes in the Model without saying even one word?

We need to set a rule for data assigning to the objects. Description of the data needs to be understood and have a common use in further process. Those data can be revision numbers or MMI levels that can be filtered out in IFC viewer to check very quickly which object has been changed and which has been not yet approved to be installed.

We can focus on elements we want to procure and order according to schedule, and the BIM model gives us a perfect overview. If you set 3 factors as properties that are always correctly modeled then you can speak the same language with the other stakeholders. It is enough when you can filter among the objects the classification rules that describe the geometrical change, placement change and approval status.

I call that 3-dimensional information that can be used internally by :
– Designers and developers to control the Model creation
– Contractor to follow all changes up to date and not to feel lost within thousands of objects. It is very simple to – control and answer ourselves what happened to designed objects and the current status.
– Suppliers, client and the others to understand the rules of object revisions and not to miss any.

BIM bridge project BIM bridge project

OpenBIM as a requirement


The main issue to produce BIM on site was the possibility to use that process regarding rebars installation. Here, the Contractor strictly required a fully openBIM workflow with all information assigned to a modeled 3D reinforcement.

This advantage lets the contractor have control over the delivery of the bending list to the supplier on time and have the knowledge about any quantities earlier. And, any collisions were solved in the previous stage of work. This for sure minimizes the risk of any delay. The information take-off tool inside the software allows us to generate any classification of information we want to have. For this purpose the general contractor, supplier, and the designer must discuss the form of data included in the 3D reinforcement model. The measures are taken according to the specification, and the shape called form-code is assigned to each bar that the supplier knows how to produce. In my opinion, the possibility to generate the bending list by the general contractor itself is very helpful. We are not dependent on designer delivery which sometimes can be late or forgotten before production starts.

Close cooperation between contractor, supplier and designer for collecting and modelling the right data


As long as you know the output of the Model involvement in each part of the construction phase, then you can develop the BIM Model more and in a better way. The pilot project is always kind of learn-by-doing and I guess the second BIM project will be the one where the real return of investment will become clear. There are many rules to keep in mind and they are created very often when the BIM model is in use and the technical problems occur. In general, I propose to focus on collaboration and communication issues first that make people able to notice what is missing and collect that data for further development of the virtual construction model.

The implementation is an ongoing process and the BIM methodology would be used in a thousand different ways, but it takes time and from my experience that is very important to pay attention to basic rules step by step. I mean that even 5D implementation will never work if you couldn’t set a good foundation of team work and use of the Model.

BIM models should be developed in close cooperation with contractor, supplier and designer for collecting and modelling the right data for usable purposes in the IFC files. When I compare the first model with the actual one, there is significant difference and much more understandable divisions of data or the ways how we can explore or find the required information. The model is not about the amount of data but about smart assigning only those which are the most relevant for all the parties on the project.

Special thanks to Øystein Ulvestad, Krzysztof Wojslaw from Sweco and Tiago Vieira from Armando Rito as they are the owners and responsible for the project engine. I would rather call myself the one who is just keeping the steering wheel, but this is how we are trying to win the BIM Formula 1.

This article is written by Wiktor Rybus, the BIM/VDC Coordinator of PORR Group and alumnus of Master’s in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects. We have previously interviewed Wiktor Rybus about his role in the Randselva Bridge project as the contractor and are hosting a masterclass in December dedicated to the recently announced Best BIM Project of the Year of Tekla Structures.