The familiar sounds of a construction site is the background music to any city. However, the global Covid-19 pandemic has meant that, like many other projects across the United Kingdom, Edinburgh was quiet and still as site activities on the £1 billion Edinburgh St James project were suspended, for 12-weeks, with work on-site starting again in mid-June.
But as the city remained quiet, interestingly detailed design and manufacture of key components continued apace on this key development for Edinburgh during lockdown. Digital collaboration gave designers, engineers and contractors an opportunity to seize something good from the crisis. The approach of the project team, its decision-making processes and the adoption of the latest technology meant that the development of Edinburgh St James was uniquely placed to transition to a ‘business as usual’ approach for design development and coordination during the lockdown.
As a result of restrictions onsite, designers and engineers have been relying more heavily on digital collaboration tools, and the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has never been more necessary. Integrated digital-twin solutions are also being developed to be used end to end, from project concept to commissioning.
BDP Glasgow Studio is the lead consultant and technical architect for the design of Edinburgh St James, Nuveen Real Estate’s iconic development, and is delivering the master plan as part of the Laing O’Rourke construction team.
Chris Hughes, Architect Associate, BDP Glasgow Studio, has worked on large projects using BIM over the last eight years, during which time there has been a noticeable development in the size, scale and complexity of projects.
“BDP’s BIM working practises had been progressively refined over a series of projects gradually increasing in scale and complexity. Silverburn shopping centre phase 3 in Glasgow, completed in 2015, was the final step in refining this process and validated that a large-scale shopping experience for the 21st century could be designed and delivered using the fully integrated BIM environment.
“This focus on a collaborative working environment with all information being shared digitally was the perfect experience needed for the larger and more complex project at Edinburgh St James and ultimately led to BDP being the first architectural practice in Scotland to gain BIM level 2 certification.
“The great strides made over the last decade to refine working practices in a BIM environment are ideally suited to how we now need to work to within the socially distanced protocols,” Chris adds.
Edinburgh St James is in the final stages of detailed design. The supply chain is in place and fully engaged, and construction is underway across all areas of the development.
“The Edinburgh St James team has created a virtual simulation of the site, fusing Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) grade models, design intent models and point cloud survey data, to create a digital twin that contains as existing, as built, as fabricated and as proposed information.
“This digital twin is reviewed remotely by all parties thus allowing emerging proposals to be interrogated and tested in three dimensions before further fabrication takes place. We have clear process and guidance and are confident with the digital resilience strategies in place. The digital twin also facilitates virtual inspections, thus avoiding the need to physically visit the site. The project employs a cloud based virtual reality capturing system, like the one used in Google Maps. This allows users to interrogate the sequence of construction works.
Chris Hughes, Architect Associate, BDP Glasgow Studio
克里斯·休斯（Chris Hughes），BDP格拉斯哥工作室 建筑副总监