The BIM files @Algemene Bouw Maes
By Didier Francq, Director of Purchasing and Work Preparation at Algemene Bouw Maes
Aligning the 3D BIM plans before kick-off enables a clash-free and correct start to every construction project. That’s how Maes gets projects done accurately and on time.
Increased building complexity and tighter planning deadlines – Algemene Bouw Maes simplifies the process through 3D BIM visualisation
Based in Ghent (Belgium), Algemene Bouw Maes is a renowned, reputed, and highly active company in the general construction sector. The company works on a wide range of projects including offices, industrial buildings, healthcare institutions, hotels, and shopping centers.
With over 200 years of construction experience, they are the perfect fit for a new contribution to our ongoing blog series entitled “The BIM Files @…”. We asked Didier Francq, Director of Purchasing and Work Preparation at Algemene Bouw Maes, and Joren Brys, Work Planner/BIM at Algemene Bouw Maes, to share the company’s story of how they use BIM technology as an “efficiency instigator.” Francq believes that by using BIM the right way from the start of a project, Algemene Bouw Maes can ensure complex buildings get completed faster and more efficient than ever before.
A team approach to getting construction projects right
By taking a team approach to all they do, Maes offers a crucial advantage to its clients. We ask our clients to come to us at the earliest possible stage of the construction process. Together we define the best solutions for the client’s project and advocate for more integral cooperation between contractors, the client, and partners from the start. Working with the client, we study and choose the best techniques and materials while monitoring budgets and respecting the planned terms and quality levels. Based on our knowledge and expertise, we can also paint a clear picture of the possible consequences of maintenance, consumption, and lifespan choices. We rely on our team’s expertise and experience to streamline every project and make it fit both the budget and the client’s expectations.
And over recent years, that also comes with an increased digitilisation. Regarding technology, I would not describe Maes as a technical pioneer – we are an early adopter. If a client asks us to work with specific technology, we will comply. So, when one client inquired about BIM, we decided to check it out and see if it was relevant for our way of working. Turns out it was a smart decision.
That was five years ago. Today, as construction projects get more and more complex – and the lead times become shorter and shorter – the BIM department at Maes is going strong. We rely on the value of the visual tools in the BIM to get more efficiency out of our time and more accuracy in our projects.
Clash-free from the start with BIM technology
In every situation, you have good and bad practitioners. That is also true in the construction process. Often, the most significant challenges result from insufficient ill-informed guidance from executives, which leads to bad design models, architecture, or stability. Whatever the source, these issues usually require someone to start all over or build a new model from scratch.
We don’t want to do either. We wanted to get away from that inefficiency by ensuring the quality of the models was good from the start.
To do that, we use BIM technology. The BIM has become a critical efficiency tool that helps save costs in the long run of the project. Our project engineer, Joren Brys, also works as the BIM manager. He uses the technology to achieve our primary goal as the main contractors: coordination and clash detection before any construction begins.
BIM matches the plans of the stability engineer and the architect against one another and visualises the construction site before starting any work. This comparison allows them to make the process clash free from the start.
If there are clashes, we don’t correct them. We don’t have an internal modeler on staff, and we are not draughtsmen. Instead, we inform the involved parties of the mistakes or clashes so they can correct them. While this sometimes puts us in a difficult situation, it is up to the BIM creators – the subcontractors – to do their job correctly.
Ultimately, it is up to us to ensure the client does not incur extra costs. By adopting this BIM-powered approach, we believe engineering and architectural firms will produce better and better models, and we can build complex buildings faster than ever before.
AR –making the difference for on-site quality control
In addition to the pre-construction phase, I believe that AR 3D BIM can also have an impact on the on-site quality control. Specifically, we use AR on-site to benchmark the model against reality and report the findings to the office.
Of course, on-site use of AR is not always an easy adoption process, which is why the construction industry has been so slow to digitalise. Most people in construction work with their hands, not handheld electrotonic devices. It’s not always easy to access these devices, especially in bad weather.
But the adoption rate of AR is increasing; people are starting to warm up to the technology. It’s easy for anyone under the age of 35 to adopt new electronic processes; they play with technology as they play with games on their mobile phones. For the older generation, it is not so easy to try new tools. But when Joren delivers on-site training, we see the older users interacting with the device and acknowledging its time – and moneysaving potential.
Right now, we’re using 3D for efficient visualisation on new projects, but I also see the potential for the use of 3D in future renovation projects. For these projects, it is helpful to see the plumbing and electrical cables behind the plaster – something that a 2D plan cannot show. Because there is an archive of BIM files of all projects, it makes sense for renovators to turn back to them as original builders with access to the entire DNA of the building.
Meeting construction demands with AR tech from GenieVision
When it comes to BIM, we believe in the GenieVision AR technology. The accuracy of the technology, combined with its robust feature set, makes it a good resource for completing complex projects in a timely way.
For example, we had a project in Brussels that needed to be built meticulously. That level of precision requires us to use techniques that are as accurate as possible – there is literally no room for mistakes or deviation. With AR, that level of accuracy is possible.
Another example is a complex renovation project on which we are currently working, on which Joren can provide more details: “This project is in an urban area with neighbours close by and it includes many new construction elements. As a result, we must deploy numerous stability techniques fine-tuned to one another. In addition, different techniques and contractors need to be coordinated. Working in 3D and with AR, we have made the whole coordination as clash-free as possible.”
All of this has been possible with GenieVision. The user-friendly feature set lets you access all plans and indicate which ones you need to see and which you don’t. The technology is also very stable and reliable. Finally, the helpdesk and on-hand support are there when you need it.
In the past, ordinary, simple techniques would get construction projects completed. But today, as projects get more complex and lead times grow shorter and shorter, those techniques no longer meet the demand. Therefore, to achieve the necessary results, we believe the industry will need to evolve towards leveraging the value of visual support tools like AR technology. The user adoption rate may evolve slowly still, but at Maes we believe in a pragmatic, yet steady digitilisation continuation. And we intend to grow alongside our customers’ evolving needs.