How to use BIM to upgrade the world’s ports

  • Articles
  • May 24,23
Building information modeling (BIM) is an invaluable tool for optimising port operations and maintenance as well as traffic flow, construction costs, safety and sustainability, says Emily Newton.
How to use BIM to upgrade the world’s ports

Building information modeling (BIM) is an increasingly popular type of architectural design and planning software. It can innovate design construction, port operations and maintenance through innovative simulation and modeling tools. Architects and design teams use BIM to transform ports all over the world, increasing efficiency, traffic management, sustainability and more. 

Minimise port development costs
Ports are a particularly complicated type of infrastructure, which means planning, developing and constructing them can be very expensive. BIM is a great tool for managing and minimizing costs in numerous ways. More efficient planning and budgeting for new ports reduce the risk of expensive reworks during the construction process and builds trust with investors. 

For example, a large team designing a port might assign certain people to design specific areas. On paper, everything seems to work together. However, when construction is underway, the architects and contractors might realize that sections of the port design “clash” with one another. Clashes result in errors, wasted construction materials and schedule setbacks due to rework demands. 

BIM allows everyone on the project team to collaborate on shared digital design files so everyone always has the most up-to-date design. BIM platforms also show designers when clashing occurs so they can correct the issue before construction begins. Additionally, the high level of detail and visibility BIM offers allows the design team to create more accurate, precise budget estimates. 

Along with the lower risk of errors and rework, BIM can build trust and confidence with stakeholders by minimizing unplanned expenses. In fact, studies show that 40% of industry professionals found BIM had a “very significant impact” on project cost estimate accuracy. BIM has also been found to be more accurate at estimating costs compared to CAD alone. 

Optimise for efficiency with port modeling
Efficiency is critical for the ports of tomorrow. The EPA has identified congestion as one of the top challenges facing ports today, highlighting an issue at the heart of the supply chain crisis. Most ports were simply not designed to handle the sheer volume of traffic encountered during the peaks of the supply chain crisis, such as mid-2020. 

Moving forward, ports must be designed to efficiently manage high levels of traffic. BIM can provide the port modeling features to optimize designs for efficient traffic flow. Much like a digital twin, BIM allows designers to simulate features of the port operations and maintenance. This feature helps with HVAC and energy efficiency in addition to traffic flow. 

Designers can use port modeling in BIM to test out new ideas in a risk-free environment. If simulations show that a certain design isn’t working, it costs nothing to tweak it or try something new. Port architects no longer need to wait until project completion to get a fleshed-out idea of how their designs perform. BIM allows them to maximize traffic flow optimization from the start. 

Design for sustainable port operations and maintenance
Sustainability is no longer a niche concern. Everyone from consumers to investors is interested in reducing their carbon footprint today. Infrastructure plays an important role in supporting sustainability initiatives and BIM can help make ports better for the environment. 

BIM allows architects to simulate the local environment surrounding their port so they can identify potential negative side effects of construction or the design. For instance, a port’s employee parking lot might be laid out in a way that increases the risk of flooding in a nearby nature park. BIM can help architects adjust their design to avoid this harmful side effect of their new port. 

Similarly, BIM is a great tool for predicting and optimizing ports’ energy efficiency. It can even be used to optimize HVAC layout and performance. Architects can view predicted performance metrics and tweak their designs in a simulated environment to achieve higher energy efficiency. BIM can even simplify the integration of renewable energy sources, such as rooftop solar panels installed on port buildings. 

Simplified space management
Offshore traffic around ports isn’t the only cause of congestion. Container management plays a major role in how efficiently a port is able to operate. BIM can help port designers integrate container management into their designs and traffic flow systems. 

Physical space is a premium for ports these days, so effective space management is critical. Port designs must move the highest volume of containers safely possible into the smallest footprint on port property. BIM simulation and port modeling tools make it easy to test out different configurations for berthing, loading and unloading. It can also be used to simulate the traffic flow of containers once they are on land. 

BIM doesn’t just make on-land port space more efficient. It can also improve safety. For example, some BIM programs feature light modeling tools, which simulate lighting levels throughout the day. This can help port planners ensure their facility is safely well-lit for employees working around the clock. 

Additionally, BIM can aid in optimizing the use and layout of road space on port property. Truck traffic jams are a big issue for many ports today. With the help of port modeling tools, architects can simulate road traffic in and around their property to streamline it as much as possible. 

Port modeling with BIM
BIM is an invaluable tool for optimising port operations and maintenance as well as traffic flow, construction costs, safety and sustainability. Port modeling allows design teams to experiment with different configurations, layouts and ideas to make new ports as efficient as possible. With BIM, the ports of tomorrow can maximise the value of every square foot and handle high traffic in a safer, quicker and cleaner manner. 

About the author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily.

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