We talk a lot about ‘quality’ here at Solibri. What is quality and why does it matter? How do you offer quality and how do you change the perception of quality in the construction industry? It was for this reason that we sat down and discussed such issues with Jaakko Jauhiainen, Sweco’s Business Development Director. Jaakko understands the term ‘quality’ and why it matters. In fact, Jaakko and his colleagues don’t just talk quality, they have learnt to utilize BIM, technology and quality as a foundation for creating design and business processes in the Europe’s largest engineering company. In this article, we discuss two major projects where quality thinking has made a difference. We also discuss the latest tools they employ – one being of particular interest – the Sweco CAVE.
Sweco employs approximately 14,500 people globally. They employ 2000 people in Finland alone covering all design disciplines. Sweco can offer the design and management of large scale projects like hospitals, public buildings and for example industrial, infrastructure and commercial projects. Jaakko explains their methodology: “We are able to offer turnkey services to our clients including architectural design, engineering, BIM coordination and both design and construction management in huge projects. Sweco has truly seized the advantage to offer all that is needed. We have successfully used Sweco’s design process for example in the new Kainuu hospital project in Kajaani, Northern Finland. The hospital project emphasizes how focusing on the idea of requirements, quality and an eye for the life cycle cost allows for an effective use of tax payers’ money”.
The new Kainuu hospital is interesting in several ways. Solibri Model Checker has been used throughout the BIM process to verify that the design meets the necessary project requirements. Sweco also employed the use of a CAVE (Computer Aided Virtual Environment). CAVEs are making a huge difference in how design development is done, and the design intent is communicated to all stakeholders and building owners. Solibri has recognized this need and will release a software extension to better support such environments. Jaakko explains more about project: “A lot of work was done for this hospital before a single brick was laid. We started by creating both technical and functional requirements for spaces and technical systems and define the project scope. We then designed critical and repeating spaces that support the treatment process and guarantee the successful operation of the hospital and the patient safety. We involved all the Sweco design disciplines and other stakeholders – from the nurses, maintenance staff to even taxi drivers who visit the building on a daily basis. When you know you have covered every functional and technical need in your design you go into building design. The CAVE itself is quite useless unless you know how to use it during the design. For this, Sweco has created the Sweco@Co-creation design process”.
The CAVE was used to communicate the new hospital design to its staff. It isn’t easy for the average customer to understand how a space will be utilized with a 2D drawing. However, when you use a CAVE, things are very different. The customer can walk through the space and see every element that will go into it. They can really understand how they will work in their new ‘work’ environment. The imaging in the CAVE is 1:1 scale and stereoscopic producing a true feeling of a spatial space. In Kajaani the CAVE is used extensively. For one week we hosted 130 people in the CAVE.
“This planning process and technology really works. I remember that one aspect of the hospital design was the need for 32 electrical sockets per patient place in the children’ intensive care unit. The design team didn’t believe us and called saying there must be an error in our requirements model. We arranged a tour in a hospital and showed what kind of equipment is needed. We also had another success in the intensive care unit. The space requirement stated by the staff was 25 m2 per patient. When the staff was taken to the CAVE in the very early design phase they realized that the space, and the whole ward was too big. The new design saved some 150 m2 and this in turn led to a saving of 150,000 euros in the investment cost. In addition, the smaller ward could be managed with less on-site around-the-clock personnel, saving much more during the use phase. None of this would have been possible without BIM, the Sweco Co-creation design process and the utilization of the latest technology like CAVEs” explains Jaakko.
Sweco has recently completed the construction management of their new head-quarters in Central Helsinki. They previously had 8 offices around the capital area and the decision to move was made in an effort to centralize and benefit from a modern office location and space. “Managing your own project was a case of ‘putting your money where your mouth is’. We extensively used BIM throughout the design and construction process and used the CAVE to help convince our staff of the improvements and benefits of relocating. The immersive experience of the CAVE really helped our own staff understand what we were doing. We put the emphasis of the eight-stage project on design co-ordination and I am proud to say we had a 100% clash-free building before construction”. Because the model quality was so good, BIM was used in procurement and wireless tablets replaced traditional drawings for HVAC installations on site. The team also managed to squeeze six months – required by the investor - from the original building schedule.
Sweco takes inspiration from other business areas in their process and design planning. Sweco’s methodology would be equally happy in a manufacturing or gaming company. “We have a ‘lean’ approach to our work. We do the right things at the right time. We get progressively more detailed as time moves on. BIM and quality control enable you to brake the design into sections. If you do a good job, you can freeze the design and move forward which means you save money and maintain timelines.”
Jaakko is enthusiastic about the future. He sees more CAVEs and the Solibri Model Checker being used in more projects. He sees virtual and augmented reality as really interesting developments to ‘bake’ into their processes. In short, Sweco has one eye on the future and understands that quality means meeting both the functional and technical requirements as well as contributing to sustainability. It means you plan, execute, measure, continually update your processes and learn best practices from other industries. By doing so, you can offer turnkey solutions that match the client’s needs and expectations. Sweco has only just begun to help define the future of construction. I look forward to seeing what they do with it.