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Massive Surrey hospital project is first step to digital future for Fraser Health

Warren Frey
Massive Surrey hospital project is first step to digital future for Fraser Health
PROVINCE OF B.C. - U.K.-based BIM Academy is working on the digital strategy for the New Surrey Hospital and Cancer Centre project in Surrey, B.C.

A U.K. consultancy is building a digital replica of a huge Surrey, B.C. hospital project as part of a push to the future for the Fraser Health Authority.

The $1.72-billion New Surrey Hospital and Care Centre is not only one of the biggest projects in the Lower Mainland but will act as a test bed to move the health authority further into an overall digital environment.

Fraser Health is working with BIM Academy, a service focused on digitalizing how assets are designed, constructed and operated. The consultancy was formed in 2011 as a partnership between Ryder Architecture and Northumbria University.

Melanie Robinson, a senior digital consultant with BIM Academy, said the Surrey hospital project is among the biggest the consultancy has tackled.

“We’ve had a couple of big projects on this scale throughout the world in Qatar, Hong Kong and Australia, but certainly this is biggest project we’ve undertaken in North America which is really exciting. To realize the use of digital in a building, the scale, it really drives home the importance of structured information and structured digital data,” Robinson said.

She added hospitals and other medical facilities are some of the most complex buildings in the world, “and being able to utilize digital processes to ultimately help the client at the end of the day manage all that information is only ever going to be a benefit.”

Of key importance, Robinson said, is making sure the digital version of the building maintains continuity with the real structure, not just before and during construction, but throughout the lifecycle of the structure.

“When you think about digital twins and keeping that digital replica up to date as well, with any hospital project as soon as you hand the keys over it’s going to change the next day for whatever reason. Defects, liability periods, but also throughout life windows, are going to be broken and door handles are going to fall off,” she said. “It’s being able to make sure that our digital replica is ultimately reflecting what’s happening in physical reality.”

Robinson said unique aspects of a hospital environment such as specialized, large equipment makes pre-planning in a digital environment a vital step in the construction process.

“If you think of MRI machines, they’ve got to get them in somehow, and the worst thing you can do is build a building where you can’t get it through the door, so ultimately you use the digital replica to test these scenarios and test that you can get your assets in or out,” she said.

“We worked on building the digital twin for the Sydney Opera House and that was of a similar ilk in the sense that maintenance equipment was of a vast scale, incredibly large. Being able to trace the path of how it gets in and out of the building was of vital importance because of how much money is attached to these pieces of equipment,” she said. “Being able to test these scenarios before a shovel hits the ground is only ever going to be a benefit to everyone involved.”

While the Surrey Hospital project is a digital first for the Fraser Health Authority, it is also intended as a first step in a digital transformation of the organization.

“Fraser Health Authority are an advanced client in terms of (the fact that) they know what they want from their information. They knew they wanted BIM processes and knew they wanted it aligned to international standards,” she said. 

“I’m a keen believer in spreading that stuff out to the to the estate and looking at your existing assets as well, being able to bring that up to a standard where it’s all speaking the same language. All your data is structured, findable and searchable and being able to pull up the boiler certificate on Building B in your wider estate,” she said.

“I think the New Surrey Hospital is going to be the pilot for that and demonstrate the benefits. We’re all talking about money all the time and looking at the return on investment,” Robinson said. 

The project has entered the procurement phase, with construction expected to begin in summer 2023 and completion estimated for 2027.

For more on this interview check out The Construction Record Podcast.

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