Blog / BIM & Construction Management

BIM and CDE in the Design and Construction of London Crossrail

London Crossrail will go down in history as Europe’s biggest infrastructure project of the hour. In February we introduced London Crossrail in our blog and resumed some of the benefits that using BIM methodology contributed to the execution of the project.     An important characteristic of London Crossrail is the fact that they are building the physical and the digital railway at the same time. A project of this magnitude can only be carried out without error thanks to CDE (a Common Data Environment) that was owned and managed by the client, and BIM methodology that allowed maximization of data and technology.

Common Data Environment

Operating within the BIM environment requires all parties to collaborate and share the information they create in a mutually accessible online space known as a common data environment or CDE. That collection of data is known as an 'information model'. The project delivery in the digital (BIM) world is considerably different from the old one where everyone had a hard copy of everything. Information models can be used to inform all stages of a built asset's lifecycle; from inception right through to operation and renewal.     London Crossrail Master's in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects Zigurat When a project is carried out following the key principles of BIM —that of information sharing, accessible data environment, data integrity, collaboration, technology, asset life-cycle management, new processes and new project culture—  the interface risks are easily avoided and the process will be more cost and time efficient.

Benefits of a CDE

The most considerable benefits of using BIM and working in a CDE are:
  • Better decision making
  • Single source of truth
  • Avoids duplication
  • Encourages collaboration
  • Reduced waste
  • Reduces time and cost in producing coordinated data
  • Consistent reliable data through design, construction and into operations.
It is calculated that in the London Crossrail project this resulted in direct cash benefit of ~£10m per year during a period of more than 7 years, in addition to £10m per year for more than 5 years in reduced admin and IT staff costs.   

Smart Railway

When building a Smart railway, it is important to have an asset information management plan, that defines the overall approach to asset information and specifies the governance approach. It should also be possible to find there the key supporting documents and links to other documents/standards (classification; AD4’s; etc). When all this data is organized and the systems tested, it can be handed over to Ops & Maintenance. The data generated by a smart station is the following:   London Crossrail Master's in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects Zigurat

General BIM Lessons Learned

Given the magnitude of the London Crossrail project, there are many valuable and unprecedented lessons that BIM professionals can draw from this experience. Such as:
  • treat data as a valuable resource (in case of Crossrail, owned by the client)
  • establish your requirements (at business and project level)
  • structure data with the end-use in mind
  • good asset breakdown structure & classification
  • use relational databases
  • become data-centric (the CDE)
It is also important to be mindful of the following:
  • Data interoperability (be prescriptive)
  • Being led by ID and software
  • People, in general, don't like change

London Crossrail in Numbers

In order to better grasp the magnitude of the project, we can look at the numbers:  
Cost £15.9 billion
e-Documents stored (so far) 3,560,834
Assets being defined (so far) 468,490
Drawings (so far) 392,758
CDE users (so far) 20,573
GIS mapping layers ~700
Main Construction contracts 60
Main Design contracts 23
Large future maintainers 2
Crossrail 1

The Legacy of London Crossrail

Crossrail has left a learning legacy like no other. The Crossrail Learning Legacy aims to share knowledge and insight, through means such as case studies and technical papers providing lessons and recommendations to help others. In their webpage, you can consult the 12 themes and topic areas that cover all the experiences related to the project.   BIM and CDE in the Design and Construction Master's in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects Zigurat  

Zigurat Global Institute of Technology