Innovation and integration: a project of today for the jewellery manufacturing of tomorrow
INNOVATION AND RESEARCH AT OPEN PROJECT Open Project S.r.l. is an architecture and engineering company, founded in 1984 by specialists from various design and consultancy sectors in order to address more effectively the many different aspects of the construction process. Today, Open Project is a multidisciplinary firm with the ability to develop all the architectural and engineering aspects of a project, from concept design to site supervision.
To ensure that the services we offer our clients meet the highest standards, research has always been part of our modus operandi. Over the years this has created a well-established on-going relationships between Open Project and various universities, particularly the Department of Architecture at the University of Bologna; We are also the technical partner of prestigious university courses such as the Masters in Sustainable Construction Processes at the IUAV Architecture University in Venice, and the Masters in Building Information Modelling (BIM) at Sapienza University of Rome.
THE PROJECT The project was a new factory for the jewellery brand Bulgari Gioielli S.p.a. and consisted of a complex, housing the manufacturing and administrative functions in two separate buildings, each with its own strongly differentiated architectural character. The project entailed the demolition of all previously existing buildings together with reconstructing the main building, which dates from the beginning of the 19th century and being the earliest goldsmithing factory in Valenza, it is considered to have symbolic historic value. The new project extended the profile of the historic building by adding a fully glazed contemporary technological “extrusion” to house the reception and administrative functions. The manufacturing process (along with its associated service functions) takes place separately in a new block, arranged on three floors including a semi-basement. This is set back from the historic building and has a strictly rectilinear arrangement on plan to optimise the production process and reduce construction costs. It is an almost perfectly square pavilion approximately 73x70m and 11m high with a large internal courtyard of nearly 600 sq.m that gives excellent internal daylighting and ventilation whilst also guaranteeing the particularly high level of security required by this client. The production process required a building on several floors served by a series of technological elements (ducts, cable runs, and equipment) set round the perimeter, which will be continuously modified and extended. These future modifications would make it impossible to control the architectural appearance of the building (not only in the immediate present but particularly over the long term) and since our design intention was to give the client the necessary operational flexibility whilst also safeguarding the architectural quality of the complex, this led to the creation of a metal-framed architectural “skin” set approximately 6m forward of the main facade of the building. This combination of technical and architectural solutions gives people working inside the building a clear view to the outside whilst also guaranteeing the levels of privacy and security required by the manufacturing process.
THE CHALLENGE It was a very complex matter to integrate the different technical disciplines into the process of designing this building, the largest jewellery factory in Europe. It was set out on plan to optimise the manufacturing process, and this had to be coordinated with the constraints imposed by the prefabricated structural components and the forest of mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and special plant systems required for processing precious metals, whilst also taking account of the high level of security required. Furthermore, demolishing the historic building, and reconstructing it as the administration and reception, required the end result to be tightly quality-controlled, down to the smallest detail. In view of all these considerations it was clearly impossible to risk postponing coordination of the different disciplines to a future stage, when construction on site would have been too far advanced.
THE SOLUTION Open Project opted for integrated design using the most advanced BIM (Building Information Modelling) tools and identified Autodesk Building Design Suite as the most complete software package for addressing this challenge; the Revit and Navisworks applications were selected as the most appropriate for meeting the requirements of this innovative approach. Our Autodesk partner Systema provided initial training in the use of the software, and additional new staff members with proven experience were hired. The architectural modelling process was then initiated, and the data required for the definitive project (LOD 200) as an input. The significant advantages and excellent results obtained enabled the working drawings to be prepared using a federated BIM model (LOD 300), and this proved fundamental for quickly integrating the client’s requirements and optimising the management of future construction supervision.
A process revolution Integrated design with BIM requires not only the ability to use the innovative software, but also has a knock-on effect on the design process as a whole. Modelling in 3D, and attributing information sets to intelligent objects, requires the designer to address a number of questions from a completely new perspective. The continuous, unavoidable coordination of all plans, elevations, and sections means that problems have to be resolved immediately which in a traditional 2D project might risk being neglected or postponed until the design process has reached a too-advanced stage. After the initial shock of this revolution has worn off, BIM delivers a significant return on the investment. This is on the condition that the work is organised correctly and that the information is entered into the system in an orderly way, so that even individuals who were not involved in its initial development can easily extrapolate it from the virtual model.
A multidisciplinary federated model From the outset, Open Project was quick to realise that the real breakthrough in designing with BIM lies in its ability to represent all disciplines in a single integrated model. Failure to take full advantage of these coordinating capabilities would be like serving Bolognese tortellini with cream instead of in the traditional broth; whilst the tortellini might taste good, their full potential would not be exploited. For that reason, we also decided to invest in converting the work of our external collaborators who were not yet “BIM ready” into BIM. This produced a federated model that incorporated four others: architectural (LOD 350), structural steel (LOD350), structural reinforced concrete (LOD300) and building services (LOD300).
Creating personalised parametric objects Undoubtedly, one of the most complex knots to be unravelled was the creation of personalised parametric families. This project had a floor area of 15,000 sq.m and included a significant length, measured in linear metres, of walls, doors, windows, and furniture. While it is obviously possible to download ready-made Revit “families” created by the manufacturer or by other users, from online platforms like Autodesk Seek, BIMobject, BIMstore, NBS National BIM Library, these are almost never to the standard required for construction drawings and do not meet the required graphical quality, or the parameters for preparing complete schedules.
We also modified the characteristics of the intelligent objects so that the schedules could be automatically created using AGA CAD Dynamic Legend, an add-on for Revit. Unfortunately even though some manual work was still required, we undoubtedly saved many days and were able to postpone preparing the schedules in graphical form until very close to the delivery date, thereby minimising the risk of mistakes.
Improving communication and understanding the project
The availability of a 3D model that is always complete and up to date was fundamental for verifying the aesthetic effects induced by a number of design decisions, for example when assessing the visual impact of the many plant elements positioned on the roof, or the spacing of the mullions for the glazing to the internal courtyard.
A solar study with Revit enabled us to eliminate sun louvres between the building and the “architectural skin”, since it showed that these would have no effect on the solar radiation striking the windows.
Other positive advantages of using a virtual model were the ability to use it for explaining the project to the client, for quickly publishing cutaway axonometrics and perspectives, and for accelerating the construction of physical scale models and CGIs for marketing purposes.
Finally, the ability to coordinate all the activities using a federated model enabled all team members to quickly detect any problems caused by interferences, and to suggest alternative solutions.
BIM for LEED Our client, Bulgari Gioielli S.p.a., required this building to be the largest LEED-certified factory in Italy. Using BIM gave us a number of advantages when designing to attain LEED standards, as well as other potential advantages that Open Project is currently investigating as part of its on-going research, which we carry out in parallel with our more narrowly defined professional work.
The main advantage of using BIM for designing to LEED standards is the ability to create a set of specific drawings within a single reference file that can then be used to request LEED certification. Our BIM team therefore created special labels and view templates that accorded with the requirements for obtaining LEED AP credentials. The BIM model, exported into gbXML format, was also useful at the commissioning stage when used to check the Energy Analysis Model.
Automatic verification of LEED credits Thanks to research work by Giulio Drudi and Simone Viani; two students from the University of Bologna whose thesis during their Degree Course in Construction Engineering and Architecture, coordinated by the BIM Manager Giacomo Bergonzoni, a script was created in Dynamo that interacts with Revit and Excel. This algorithm automatically determined the required airflow through the outlets in each of the approximately 300 rooms in the building, ensuring compliance with the minimum requirements of UNI EN 15251 Standard. It also enabled verification of the LEED credit to be monitored throughout the design process.
BIM for the Bill of Quantities Each element in the BIM model has a “keynote” parameter that identifies it as an item in the list of prices. Thanks to the schedules/quantities within Revit, tables were created which were consistent with the model used for preparing the Bill of Quantities, and were continuously updated. To generate a 5D BIM model, we developed an optimised workflow based on Revit and its Roombook extension, arriving at PriMus by way of Google Apps for Work. This “keynote” parameter was also used to automatically describe each object consistently on all drawings, thereby eliminating misunderstandings and enabling modifications to be made instantaneously.
BIM for site supervision Following award of the tender, Open Project continued as much as possible to use the previously developed BIM model for supervising construction on site.
Particularly in relation to the short construction time; this gave significant advantages by making it possible to quickly model the effects of any variations on the quantities and costs.
Unfortunately since the prefabricated reinforced concrete structural components had to take account of the technology adopted by the manufacturer, we made use of a model developed by Valeria De Notti, a student on the BIM Masters course at Sapienza University of Rome, which was exported into Navisworks so that a so-called 4D BIM version could be developed, i.e. a time-lapse simulation showing the stages of the construction process. This was used as support for designing the site health and safety, evaluating any interferences that might arise between different teams working on site at the same time.
RESULTS This new jewellery factory was the first project in which Open Project used BIM as a method for integrated design, and was a strongly positive experience that forced us to measure ourselves against the most innovative technologies. It enabled us to raise our sights and to set objectives that look to the future of the construction sector.
We also reused BIM in later projects, again with positive outcomes. By modifying the size of each project and its programme of functions, in every case BIM proved to be the approach that delivered the best performance. Moreover, we are able to re-use much of our earlier work setting our own standards, which further increased the return on our investment.
Finally, the knowhow that this experience enabled us to acquire in the field of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) has been fundamental in the new challenge of Open Project that has set itself in the Middle Eastern market, by opening an office in Abu Dhabi, where BIM is a consolidated standard. Because BIM is a technology in continuous development, Open Project has also decided to invest in its own on-going in-house research. Some fundamentally important areas we have identified are the integration of BIM with LEED certification, and the use of BIM in refurbishment/restoration works and facilities management.