BIM and the pandemic: two years on

January 24, 2020 was the date when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Europe. Just over two years on and its significance is obvious, as is the pandemic that followed and what this has meant to our daily lives. This has, of course, effected the way we work – out with a rigid office-based 9 to 5 and in with more flexible, hybrid working patterns. This is also the case with technology, where businesses have been forced to adapt to remote working.

We recall the time the pandemic first hit the UK, where two of our Hyphen offices are located. Our Winchester team were then working on a major hyperscale data centre project. However, “when the pandemic hit, it had no impact at all on our efficiency”, recalls Hyphen architectural technologist and associate, Nick Jardine. “The team was largely unaffected because of our use of building information modelling (BIM).”


What is BIM?

In short, BIM is a process, allowing you to manage information through the lifecycle of a building. BIM gives you a digital model that incorporates information for various building elements. These can include physical, cost, environmental and operational data. At Hyphen we use Autodesk Revit software as our BIM tool of choice – our ‘pen and paper’. Our building design partners use Revit so we are generally able to work on one platform without the need to convert files to other digital formats. Using a cloud-based model, the process starts with the architectural design model. We create the original design model and then collaborate with our clients and consultant partners to identify any early clashes and interrogate models prior to any physical building being constructed, avoiding costly onsite mistakes.

It is a smart and efficient way of designing and building. Creating a single source of truth allows less space for error, resulting in higher quality work which in turn is much more time and cost efficient. Historically, architects and the design team worked in relative isolation and coordinating meant that drawings needed to be overlayed two dimensionally, so clashes could easily be missed. Working on a single live model means we are all working together far more effectively.


International collaboration

As you can imagine, a single cloud-based model means that you are not limited to working within a single office. We had projects, for example, which involved collaborations with our teams in Winchester, London, Dublin, Berlin, Madrid and as far as Santiago, in Chile. We can appoint the most suitable people and resources for the project, regardless of location. The only potential barrier would be an unreliable internet connection!


BIM and Berlin

Beatriz Loyola Ausín López, BIM Specialist in our Berlin office says, “The pandemic tested our way of collaborative working with BIM in the Berlin Office. Thanks to a cloud-based model, we achieved better coordination and more versatile workflows internally and with other consultants. Amidst a climate of uncertainty, we were able to continue with the constructive development of a logistics project of around 100,000 sqm , with a digital model integrated with the structural and mechanical facilities.”


Coordinating from Madrid

Speaking of his experience on data centres in Madrid, Hyphen architect and BIM expert, Manuel López López says, “BIM coordination between architecture and facilities during the design phase helped us prevent problems in the construction of large-scale data centres, shortening construction times and costs. This cloud-based model system was maintained during the pandemic and home-working period, since BIM allowed us to adapt efficiently without the need for any major change in this workflow”


A small world

Based in our Santiago office, Senior Architect, Felipe Barrera Vega says, “It is important to highlight how productive and efficient it is to work in an immediate collaborative virtual environment. The BIM methodology makes it easier for a multicultural team, like us at Hyphen, to develop diverse and complex projects. Neither the 11,700 km that separates Santiago from London or the 4-hour time difference prevents efficient and coordinated work.”


More than a decade of BIM

Fortunately, we have been using BIM for more than a decade, using the process to deliver thousands of projects across Europe and Latin America – some over 100,000 sqm. So while the pandemic did not move us on to BIM it highlighted just how important technology that is innovative and efficient is to contemporary architecture, engineering and design.