Taking BIM to London’s West End

BIM has been the crucial actor in the delivery of the latest West End attraction at Rathbone Square, resulting in an exemplary mixed-use scheme.

Set in London’s West End in the heart of Fitzrovia, Rathbone Square is a mixed-use development comprising office space, retail outlets, and 142 elegant, prestige residential apartments all located around a new garden square – one of the first public squares to be created in Central London for more than 100 years.

The £215 million redevelopment by Great Portland Estates (GPE) began in 2011 and required an innovative construction solution. They decided applying BIM would be the way forward to minimise costs and reduce risk.

GPE have worked with BIM before – namely 240 Blackfriars – and believe in the value of 3D modelling and its collaborative digital process to improve the design, construction and operation of the asset.

BIM. Technologies were appointed Information Manager and BIM Coordinator for the project and began to educate and convince the supply chain of the benefits of BIM – bearing in mind that in 2011, BIM was not commonly used.

The process
BIM. Technologies worked with all stakeholders to develop a BIM Execution Plan (BEP) with protocols, and an Employers Information Requirements (EIR) and by the end of Stage 4, had produced over 350 models without a single issue or clash.

The EIR established the framework allowing the design team to embrace the requirements, and while it presented a challenge, it encouraged collaboration and enabled us to bring the team together.

The teams moved into a single office at GPE to develop the design. This was to become the core BIM area with large screens to help to interrogate the model, and as part of this project included high-end residential properties, quality was a critical factor.

Adam Ward, Technology Director at BIM. Technologies commented: “A digital model of the apartments allowed prototyping in advance of construction to ensure all the detail was correct and at the required standard. Allowing the team to see the rooms in a virtual environment before they were built removed risk and any opportunity for error or re-work”.

“As the project progressed, the plant room model became increasingly sophisticated, so we created a virtual reality experience which meant the design and construct team could use Oculus Rift headsets to walk through the plant room virtually. This allowed any issues to be reviewed at close hand and to check all plant was accessible before the actual construction phase”.

The result of a digital approach
The project is now complete and was delivered on time and within budget as a result of collaboration across the supply chain. Other similar schemes in London, which have not shared in the vision of BIM, have suffered massive losses and delays which this project avoided with its use of collaborative digital processes.

The overall project is an innovation in its own right. Using digital construction as the core project framework was very new at the time, and was especially rare on such a large, high-profile project in one of the major capital cities in the world. The BIM process has been the consistent supporting thread within the teams, and it is this collaboration that made the project a triumph.

James Pellatt, Head of Projects at GPE said: “I am immensely proud of what GPE and our supply chain have achieved at Rathbone Square, by integrating digital construction methods at all stages of the build has resulted in that we have a beautifully apportioned space which is an exemplar mixed used scheme, not just for London but for the global construction landscape throughout the world”.

“In a crowded development market, a project such as Rathbone Square demonstrates the sophistication of the whole project team, resulting in a highly desirable space to live and work. This is now one of four projects we are delivering with the assistance of BIM. Technologies, their expertise has a vital part in the successful completion of Rathbone Square”.

At this stage, all stakeholders appear to have made an appropriate return on the project financially, which is important for reassurance that the digital approach taken was the right one and produced outstanding results.

Equally, with a high-quality asset such as this, there are obvious benefits to the ongoing building lifecycle. The intention is that this building will last for over 200 years and remain a landmark in London.

And just as importantly, an accurate data deliverable will populate the asset and facilities management platform. To date it is too early to assess the benefit this will have long-term; however, we can say this has clearly been a driver for better engagement, and the information is of a higher quality than if not deployed this way.

In a testament to the success of this project, and in fitting with the digital processes employed, the social media giant Facebook has taken up residence of the offices and made Rathbone Square their European HQ.