How AECOM Uses BIM Model Coordination for Clash Detection, Mitigating Errors in the Field

Construction projects – regardless of size – require extensive collaboration across multidisciplinary teams to design, engineer and construct an asset. A reality in today’s projects are that large, distributed teams must coordinate work across many disciplines and datasets. In addition, the increasing complexity of construction projects makes model coordination essential to aid in clash detection and allow stakeholders to address issues prior to site mobilization. The cost of not using model coordination includes unexpected design changes and unnecessary rework, resulting in budget overruns and schedule delays.

AECOM, a global network of design, engineering, construction and management professionals, partners with clients to deliver and build high-performance buildings and infrastructure. AECOM uses BIM 360 Model Coordination for clash detection during the design and build phase across many of its projects. Why? With more than 87,000 employees across eight continents working with multiple project stakeholders, sub-consultants, joint venture teams and clients, it’s a must to ensure feedback and changes are captured instantly for the company’s complex, schedule-driven global projects to be completed successfully.

BIM Manager Dennis McNeal introduced BIM 360 Model Coordination to AECOM’s Roanoke, Virginia office in 2019. Implementing model-based coordination was driven not only by highly complex project teams, but clients increasing request for full Building Information Modeling (BIM) deliverables.

With the implementation of BIM 360 Model Coordination, AECOM reduced risk of human error during model inspections, which improved QA/QC processes. In addition, the team using BIM 360 identified and addressed the following opportunities:

Saving time through the democratization of the tool to review clashes quickly by spreading the work across teams.Reducing the number of project issues by coordinating and addressing identified areas of concern earlier in the project lifecycle.Breaking down communication silos across large, geographically dispersed teams for better project collaboration and alignment.

More Accessibility Across Teams

McNeal previously used traditional BIM coordination software that relied on a BIM or Virtual Design + Construction (VDC) specialist to coordinate on behalf of the project team. However, BIM 360 Model Coordination automated many common coordination activities, bringing more project participants into the coordination process.

“We’re seeing an interesting democratization of the tool,” says McNeal. “Rather than needing an expert in Navisworks or Revit, anyone can look at and use BIM 360 Model Coordination.”

Model Coordination is changing the way that coordination is done, moving from a specialized process needing specialized tools, to one where every project stakeholder can access the models and data, and participate in model coordination without needing special training or tools. Another great feature within the module is the automation of model aggregation and clash detection as soon as models are published to BIM 360.

“This feature allows our team to get to issues faster and dismiss a clash that is not a real issue,” says McNeal. “With clash detection, the hurdle is getting false clashes out of the way. After that, it gets easy.” The interface is also designed for ease of use so that all project team members can review and resolve clashes.

BIM 360 Model Coordination also automatically provides a clash matrix to identify where there are problems between project team participants. “We use the clash matrix — who is clashing against whom — so when you look at BIM 360 Model Coordination you see that matrix, and it covers every possible clash combination, which provides huge time-savings in identifying where the clashes originated from,” says McNeal.

By automating the clash detection process and increasing visibility of potential problems, coordination cycles are shortened, and potential problems are addressed more quickly.

Clash Detection: Early and Often

Clash detection helps reduce project errors in ongoing or completed model work before construction occurs. Clash detection identifies inconsistencies that do not show up in 2D drawings, which is where 3D BIM models provide value. When using BIM 360 Model Coordination, BIM datasets are automatically reviewed for clashes at all stages of the project, from design through preconstruction, fabrication and construction.

“Start early and check for clashes often,” McNeal advises. “It’s the best approach to foresee problems in the model.”

McNeal recounts a story from a past building project where the teams did not collaborate or coordinate until midway through the project.