1 sep 16  |  Civil Engineering Surveyor

Learnings from the Jeddah Tower

By Paul Daynes

With a final projected height of 1km (3,280 feet), the Jeddah Tower i set to break all records for the World's tallest building. At nearly 200m taller than the Burj Khalifa, the Jeddah Tower has been an extraordinary undertaking for the architects, engineers and constructors (AEC) working on the project.

With over 27 AEC firms helping to design and build the Jeddah Tower, from architects and construction firms to engineers and local government, it is no wonder that the teams building this mega tower have made use of the latest digital technology to speed up construction and save costs. As well as using technologies such as building information management (BIM) to help map out and plan its construction, there has also been a need to effectively manage and handle all the data that a project of this size creates.

However, this challenge is not limited to just the Jeddah Tower. In London, for example, there are 436 buildings over 20 storeys already being planned (nearly double the number from two years ago). This could be great news for the AEC sector as each of these mega towers represents huge potential for business growth. With budgets ranging from $1.23bn for the Jeddah Tower to $2.4bn for the Shanghai Tower, there are opportunities for businesses to work on billion dollar projects. To achieve success, AEC businesses will need to carefully plan how they manage data and project information.

Sharing documents and managing email with a global work-force

Success in engineering and construction has always relied on close collaboration between situational design, construction and client teams. However, with organisations often storing information in private, local servers with no easy way to provide access to project stakeholders, collaboration can be difficult. For businesses to be successful at working on large, global construction projects employees and stakeholders will need access to information regardless of the company they work for or office they work in.

Communication is equally just as important to the success of a project like Jeddah Tower. According to recent research nearly a third of AEC firms (30%) cite that email is their primary form of internal communication, with a further 43% identifying face-to-face meetings. With both email and face-to-face meetings generating vast quantities of information, it is important to not only store this all correctly, but also have it accessible whenever it is need to be referred back to.

For instance, searching for an email that shows the specifications for a particular part of the construction framework needs to be quick and efficient. This not only helps save time but also reduce the potential for costly overruns. Efficiency-boosting product information management (PIM) tools that integrate seamlessly across existing systems and email servers can simplify the search process and ensure a project remains on time and on budget.

BIM and the data explosion

Email and document sharing are not the only areas that need to be considered before a company works on a project like the Jeddah Tower. BIM, which has been a much talked about and well understood technological asset for the AEC sector, is a vital tool for many construction projects. However, while the benefits of BIM such as reduced waste and increased efficiencies are clear for all to see, there is still the challenge of managing the data it creates.

Research conducted by Newforma in conjunction with Vanson Bourne has already shown that 70% of firms say the information explosion BIM has caused has impacted their ability to collaborate effectively. With so much information being shared and updated it can be easy for important decisions to be missed or overlooked.

Managing this data explosion is consequently important to the success of global projects such as the Jeddah Tower. Last year's KPMG global construction survey identified that 77% of projects now underperform and three quarters miss their original deadlines. One reason identified for this is a lack of availability of digital and physical resources. This lack of resources is consequently having a negative impact on the AEC industry as profit margins were found to be down to less than 3% on large scale, global projects.

With BIM and the data it creates set to increase in the coming years, working on huge projects requires careful planning of the solutions being used.

BIM on the Jeddah Tower

Before it commenced work on the Jeddah Tower, PINNACLE InfoTech Solutions approached Newforma looking for a way to manage, store and index emails, BIM models and the vast amounts of data it would create. In particular, it needed to offer assistance to its 75+ team members working in Saudi Arabia and India to provide efficient collaboration both within the team and with other providers and suppliers for the Jeddah Tower project.

With AEC firms working on the project predicting that it would take over five years to complete, with project records and information needing to be stored for years afterwards it was important to implement systems carefully.

PIM tools were used to streamline this process by collecting, storing and cataloguing plans, drawings and emails. When workers need to look up a previous plan or set of notes, a quick search of the database showed the required information instantly; allowing the organisation to work efficiently and collaboratively across its own offices and with other key stake holders.

To date, PINNACLE has exchanged over 4,038 files during its work on the Jeddah Tower. With so many vital pieces of information being transferred, across global offices, it has managed to keep all its teams closely aligned throughout the project In addition, software has been used to automatically generate projects transmittals, reducing the time this would usually take by around 90%. Using PIM software is simultaneously enabling organisations to work effectively on large global projects, and freeing staff to focus on other tasks.

Going global the right way

Historically, the AEC sector has been slow to pick-up on new technology, but this needs to change. If UK firms do not embrace the digital revolution and the benefits it can offer, they risk falling behind on the global stage and losing out on projects such as the Jeddah Tower. Technologies and digital tools are now available to enable the AEC sector to effectively manage project data and work collaboratively. From file sharing services, to email and document management, companies need to ensure they are ready for the data and email deluge that comes from working on a project as big as the Jeddah Tower. Being a success of the global stage, wilJ require a well thought out and planned document management system. The digital age is here, and it's time to embrace it.