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Contractors and students team up inside George Brown’s BIM lab

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Toronto’s George Brown College is collaborating with the construction industry to advance the adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology.

The college, which offers a BIM Management postgraduate program for students, now operates a state-of-the-art BIM lab at its Casa Loma campus.

Thought to be the first of its kind at a Canadian post-secondary institution, the facility is a platform for educating students and the construction industry alike about the BIM process.

The facility trains students in virtual building design practices and promotes industry innovation through applied research projects.

"We want to partner with contractors," says Clint Kissoon, chair of the Angelo DelZotto School of Construction Management, part of the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies.

"We want to help them see the value of this technology. Certainly, the messaging that we are sending out to industry is that we are open for business."

The lab opened in early October 2013.

The immersive simulation space enables students, faculty members and business partners to create digital 3-D models of buildings and view them on a large display screen.

The facility can be used for all aspects of virtual design and construction. Companies can also partner with the college to complete BIM projects.

"BIM allows us to be more precise in how we design, build and maintain buildings, which means projects can be done more efficiently," says Pietro Ferrari, professor and program co-ordinator in the School of Architectural Studies, who helped implement the lab.

Already, the lab has been used by companies for a variety of design and construction initiatives.

One such company is Tucker HiRise Construction Inc., a Toronto-based builder of high-density, mixed-use developments.

It partnered with the college’s BIM lab on two Toronto projects — the Monde condo development on the waterfront and the One Bloor East condo project in midtown.

Mehrdad Tavakkolian, managing director of the company’s TLogic virtual design and construction division, says his firm was impressed with the quality of the models that were produced.

On the One Bloor East project for example, college faculty and students worked to produce a model for the mechanical components in the mechanical penthouse.

For its part, TLogic provided the base architectural and structural models.

In the case of the Monde development, the college produced BIM models for certain elements — the mechanical penthouse for example — while Tucker HiRise staff created others.

Tavakkolian says the BIM models are being used extensively during construction of both projects.

Tucker HiRise uses virtual construction and design to forecast and resolve issues before they occur onsite.

Another Toronto-area contractor that has benefitted from the college’s BIM expertise and resources is Gillam Group.

The company teamed up with the college after being tasked with a tricky renovation of the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

This involved converting a single, 1,800-seat theatre into two theatres while working around unmapped ducts, pipes and wires.

Faced with the challenge, Gillam project manager and George Brown graduate Benjamin Valliquette turned to his alma mater for support.

Students and staff from the BIM Management program conducted a scan of the existing building and used BIM to create a digital model.

Then, the project’s architects, structural engineers and construction professionals tested potential designs in the BIM lab.

Since opening the lab, George Brown has also collaborated on BIM projects with Bird Construction, Tridel and the engineering consulting firm Entuitive, among others.

Kissoon believes the college has a critical role to play in encouraging small and medium-sized construction companies to adopt BIM technology given the requisite investment in hardware, software and training.

"What we are finding is that the main beneficiary is the contractor," he says. "Those who have adopted this technology are saving quite a bit of money as a result of being able to virtually build before getting into unknown situations and having to spend time and money fixing design problems that they would normally encounter when they get a set of drawings."

Establishment of the BIM lab was supported with $500,000 in funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

The college has also received grants from various organizations to fund BIM workshops and training sessions for industry personnel as well as other endeavours.

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