Builders Exchange of Michigan: What are the current challenges in designing upgrades to existing infrastructure or creating new infrastructure?

Jacob Armour, P.E.: The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is focused on providing the best repairs while remaining within our current fiscal constraints. We must review varying alternatives and decide which solution will extend the service life of the road while still meeting today’s demand, as well as forecasted future demands. The location of underground MDOT and private utilities inside the right of way is a challenge that we hope to solve with building information management (BIM) as we work toward the development of the objective set forth by the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission.

BX: Why is the BIM initiative important to use in MDOT’s transportation program?

JA: The BIM initiative is important to MDOT because we see it helping to better manage our road network. We see BIM allowing for the state to continue being proactive with our repairs and proposed fixes. Currently, we capture varying data of our road assets at varying stages of their life cycles. We are working to connect the data to get a true look at the performance of each of our network assets. MDOT has led the nation with asset management for pavement and bridge. BIM will give us the ability to manage the life cycle of other assets.

BX: How do you envision BIM being utilized in horizontal construction? What specific type of projects do you think the application is most appropriate?

JA: In our current discussions at MDOT, we are not discussing BIM as a 3-D data-rich model only. We see BIM expanding when applied to infrastructure as an idea of digitally capturing data throughout an asset’s life in an integrated management system. We are working to integrate our systems to better share data, get to a single source of truth, and improve efficiency throughout the department. For a 3-D data-rich model, we are approaching this at various times of a project’s design. For the last six or more years we have been using model-centric design for our roads in a 3-D environment with some asset-level attribution. This level of modeling happens for any rehabilitation or replacement-type work throughout the state. During construction, we have a few high-impact projects where the construction staff is picking up asset information, including location, with the intent of reducing rework and errors when they work on the next phase of the project in a few years. Our intent is to implement BIM regardless of project contract type where it makes sense. We are currently working with FHWA as one of the lead states to define a national strategic roadmap for states to implement BIM for infrastructure.

BX: If BIM will add to the cost of the overall project, how will that affect the number of projects performed keep within the State of Michigan’s infrastructure budget?

JA: MDOT is currently looking at the financial impact of BIM and the overall return on investment rather than just the cost. If we find BIM allows MDOT to save money, we would then dedicate those savings to more projects. We anticipate that any increased costs would primarily be seen during the learning curve phase.

BX: Traditionally, MDOT has used Request for Projects/Request for Qualifications (RFP/RFQ) for design services. Will this change with the implementation of horizontal BIM? How will that process change?

JA: We still see a similar process to our current RFP/RFQ process with additional language specific to BIM. We already have contractors leveraging automation and machine control technologies when building our roadways. We see BIM allowing MDOT to give the contractor the design model and reduce rework when implementing their automation practices for construction. BIM should reduce risk during construction as well. We will have a better picture of the proposed condition before it is built and can proactively react to any potential project impacts before they become a problem.

BX: How will BIM add value to a contractor’s proposal? Will bids still be procured through the traditional drawings?

JA: Currently, MDOT selects contractors based on low bid. We have a partnership with our contracting industry where we collaborate on initiatives, including BIM. If and when BIM is implemented it would be because both the contracting industry and MDOT see value in it. Our intent is to be as transparent as possible with the design intent. We would work with our industry partners to look at contract documents to decide if a BIM model would improve the bid process. We have been piloting the delivery of a partial BIM model of the mainline pavement through our model delivery pilots that started in 2017.

BX: Will MDOT fully integrate with the BIM process for all projects for the design process? Will there be plans to include more design/build utilizing 3-D plans? Where does MDOT see the future of design/bid/build for all of their projects? What will be the process of preparing the contractors for these changes?

JA: If we find BIM is a benefit and it will improve the road network, MDOT would integrate it into the BIM process. MDOT is reviewing BIM at various phases through an asset’s life cycle. We design our roads with a model-centric approach in a 3-D data-rich environment and create 2-D plans for construction. We are piloting other contract deliverables to see how we can better pass design intent to construction. We intend to leverage BIM on project types that make sense. We work with our industry partners to provide training to help our contractors adapt to any new deliverables and determine an implementation plan. We are working on a phased approach to help transition construction to different deliverables.

BX: What are the results MDOT is looking for by utilizing horizontal BIM? How will this affect both the prime and sub-contractors that bid on MDOT projects?
JA: MDOT is hoping for a more transparent design that improves the construction process, is better digested with BIM, reduces interpretation on our plan sets (which reduces contractor risk), and reduces construction delays due to unmapped utilities or other unknown field conditions. The intent is to digitally build a project in a virtual world to identify any potential issues prior to actually building it in the real world. This will improve the risk and scheduling for both the prime and sub-contractors.

BX: Will the bidding process remain the same or will it change? How so?

JA: We intend for the bidding process to remain the same, but the format of bid documents may change. All changes are discussed with our industry partners prior to implementing them.

BX: Will there be a direct impact on the time it takes to complete an MDOT project when using BIM? What will that be?

JA: Currently, there is a lot of coordination with various stakeholders throughout a project’s design. We hope BIM can improve and speed up this coordination with the design intent being more transparent.

This article was originally featured in The Source.