RPS Group and the building information modelling revolution
15 September 2014
Author: Mark Costello, director of technical services – RPS
Building information modelling (BIM) is a collaborative way of working, which places a digital model in the epicentre of the construction process. It comprises multiple interoperable software platforms of key project elements. It is both a process and a deliverable and has altered the entire way in which a project can be procured, delivered and constructed.
The RPS ‘BIM Revolution’ is the product of collaboration between industry (RPS) and education (Galway Mayo Institute of Technology [GMIT]). RPS employs over 500 staff in Ireland. In recent years, the company has been operating in an extremely competitive marketplace and a rapidly changing industry.
RPS recognised the need for a significant step change in its approach to learning and training. A key driver was market requirements (British Cabinet, 2011), which specified the requirement for collaborative working through the BIM platform, and fully collaborative 3D BIM by 2016. Furthermore, numerous publications in articles and journals, together with PAC 1192-2 and similar requirements from European governments, have recognised BIM as a significant paradigm shift within the construction industry to a full life-cycle approach.
RPS has used BIM software for visualisations and pilot BIM projects since 2007 (‘Early BIM’). Based on increasing market demands in 2011, we committed to developing skills and expertise in BIM. A major challenge was that there was no flexible BIM training programme available to the industry to facilitate the upskilling of personnel. Coupled with this was limited investment in technology and CPD initiatives during the recession. As BIM had the potential to alter the entire project implementation structure, it was also perceived by many to be too great a change.
We therefore developed and implemented a strategic plan to tackle these issues and ensure we developed internal BIM capabilities to elevate RPS into a market-leading position. Our strategy was to integrate BIM into the design of projects, regardless of whether it was an employer’s requirement, and this allowed us to further develop skills on live projects.
The main catalyst for progress was the RPS BIM Working Group set up in 2012, the appointment of a technical services director with responsibility for BIM and the establishment of strong relationships with GMIT and National University of Galway Ireland in 2012/2013. Staff were also encouraged to identify specific training needs through our internal performance appraisals process. This identified the requirement for training in the area of BIM and the need to upskill staff to Level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications.
RPS worked in collaboration with GMIT to develop a new Level 8 programme in BIM, which would be flexible enough to enable existing staff learn BIM in specifically designed and relevant modules to support existing and future project work.
RPS began delivery to a group of technicians and engineers on a pilot basis in September 2013 in partnership with GMIT. The diploma entails three 10 credit modules delivered four hours per week for three 12 week semesters, and a 30-credit thesis project. RPS has provided training in specialist design software to support BIM processes. This Higher Diploma in Engineering in BIM was formally approved and accredited in May 2014. In total, we are training over 60 existing staff and new recruits across our business.
Our engineers and technicians were enthusiastic from the outset and participated in this innovative BIM programme outside of normal working hours.
This strategic shift through CPD has transformed our BIM capabilities and led to the recruitment of an additional 60 staff in the last year to work on projects being delivered in a BIM environment. The BIM transformation facilitates the entry of RPS into international professional services, where BIM competence is soon to be a mandatory requirement.
This has resulted in new major highways, water and gas project wins in Scotland, England and Europe with a fee value of over €9 million and the development of new alliances. A major innovation is that we have evolved BIM from its traditional application to buildings (NDFA School Bundles – see main featured image) to multidisciplinary applications for infrastructural projects (M8 Motorway Improvements Scheme; Scotland – image 2).
Mark Costello is director of technical services with RPS and has overall responsibility for BIM for the company in Ireland. He has over 20 years’ experience of large infrastructural projects and is currently project director for an innovative BIM approach on the M8 Motorway Improvements Scheme in Scotland, with project partners Ferrovial Agromam/AMEY. Costello is chair of the internal BIM working group in RPS and has given numerous presentations in Ireland and the UK on the evolution of BIM. He manages the recruitment of new graduates with appropriate BIM skills and the roll out of BIM training to RPS staff.
CPD Employer of the Year Award 2014
The 2014 search for the CPD-accredited employer that uses formal learning and development to best effect is coming to a close. The aim is to recognise and reward engineering-led organisations which demonstrate best practices in the use of continuing professional development (CPD) to adapt to steps-changes in their operating environments.
The CPD Employer of the Year Awards is the premium award for employers of professional engineers and technicians. Now in its eleventh year, the Awards aim to recognise successful accomplishment of an organisation’s strategic vision through the use of suitable CPD initiatives. This year’s finalists presented their entries to an audience of CPD-accredited employer organisations on Wednesday, 1 October, in Clyde Road. Winners will be announced at the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards in the Four Seasons Hotel, Ballsbridge, on Friday, 7 November 2014.
In announcing these awards, Engineers Ireland was saluting organisations that have pioneered new approaches, new processes and new practices. These achievements are of national standing, of sectoral significance and they have sustained and protected thousands of jobs, if you take the totality of what our finalists have achieved.
A stellar selection of entries has been whittled down to just five – the very best of the best. The 2014 finalists comprise:
- RPS Group Ltd;
- GE Healthcare Ireland;
- DePuy Synthes Cork;
- Roughan and O’Donovan Consulting Engineers; and
- Zimmer Orthopedics Manufacturing Limited.