Can a process that includes the word ‘building’ in the three-letter acronym apply to the construction of roads, bridges, and rail? While BIM (building information modeling) has been more widely used on buildings in recent years, the processes and technologies can also be used in the construction of highway infrastructure.

In recent months the infrastructure segment of the industry has seen development of new products and software for BIM, as well as large transportation projects using technology associated with the process. Take for example, the design and construction of the Harbour Way Port Talbot project in Wales, which includes rail and roadwork to connect the M4 into Port Talbot and the docks.

In particular, the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) team is using technology before construction even begins in order to eliminate risk and uncertainties as the project unfolds. The stakeholders are additionally using BIM to generate and manage the data during the construction of the project, which is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013.

The team includes design firm Arup, www.arup.com, London, England, and engineering and construction firm Costain, www.costain.com, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

The companies use the software to analyze geometry, spatial relationships and geographic information, and quantities and properties of construction components. In addition, the team uses sensor measurement and control signals to further analyze operation and maintenance of infrastructure.

While the technology allows the team to view a model of the project from any angle, the real value of the software is the improved communication across the entire project team.

Charlie Sleep, project chief engineer, Costain, says while BIM adds value compared to two dimensional drawings, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential applications of BIM. The technology can be used in a number of other ways to provide value to the team and the client. For example, contractors can attach other information to elements of the design model—extending the model beyond just design and into construction.

According to Costain, while BIM is still relatively new in highway projects, this is beginning to change due to tighter government legislation surrounding funding of projects. Dan Griffith, project manager, Arup, adds, “By 2016 all publicly funded projects will have to be BIM compliant and it will feature heavily in procurement marking.”

The teams that embrace the technology now, and demonstrate how it will work on a project, will be one step ahead of the competition. In the coming years, infrastructure projects will need to embrace BIM in order to meet tight deadlines and budget requirements on federally funded projects.