On Track For Digital Transformation in the Smart Cities of the Future

Dubai Roads and Transport Authority made a commitment to building information modelling that led to transforming the whole organisation – and its supply chain.

On Track For Transformation

As one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, Dubai aspires to provide high-quality infrastructure and Technology Trends In Smart Cities. The role of Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in this aspiration is to enhance the city’s public transport networks and improve roads to make travel safer and

RTA owns and manages all Dubai’s roads and transport infrastructure: an asset base worth more than US$30 billion. Through a range of infrastructure projects all over Dubai, it is interconnected with nearly every other government entity in the city. Delivering the required quality demands effective asset information management.

Five years ago, whenever RTA or any other government entity wanted to make a change to the city’s infrastructure, the time and effort consumed was tremendous. Even a small change to road furniture assets required engineers from RTA and many other governmental entities to spend weeks combing through as-built drawings to determine the best and safest solution.

In 2015, RTA’s asset management department assessed the organisation’s asset data and recognised that building information modelling (BIM) could play a key part in realising Dubai’s infrastructure aspirations. Implementing a BIM strategy would enable RTA to move away from inefficient paper-based processes and fragmented project teams, towards a seamless flow of structured data between collaborators, all of whom are incentivised to deliver whole-lifecycle value.

RTA recognised that BIM is at the centre of a major shift in the transport infrastructure sector. Using efficient processes is transforming how asset information is captured, produced and managed. The organisation set its sights on BIM level 2 maturity, as defined by the British Standards Institution (BSI), which involves fully integrating BIM into all processes. This involved two major challenges:

— Interoperability and information sharing, both within RTA and among supply chain partners

— Data and documentation management, covering all relevant engineering, cost, phasing and geospatial information for legacy, current and future RTA projects

Since 2015, RTA has been working to a five-year strategic implementation plan designed to address these challenges and deliver the necessary capabilities and maturity.

In early 2016, RTA updated a number of BIM-related requirements set out in the tender documents and contracts it issues to its supply chain.

Now, all RTA project teams assess the BIM capabilities of companies tendering for their projects as part of their standard technical evaluation.

Successful tenderers are then assessed against a number of BIM-related key performance indicators throughout their work on the project. RTA monitors these indicators using a multilevel validation process, including quarterly audits, quality assurance and control procedures, continuous follow-up, and gathering feedback and lessons learned to inform future policies.

Managing data

The updated processes and requirements aim to improve collaboration between supply chain members, and to make sure all partners on RTA infrastructure projects deliver optimised, shareable asset information to the asset management support functions. Of course, it is not enough to gather the right information from project partners; to gain the cost and value benefits promised by these improved BIM capabilities, RTA needs to manage its data and information effectively.

In 2016, RTA launched the BIM Centre. Equipped with heavy-duty computers, smart wall screens and smart whiteboards, and space for 35 people, the BIM Centre enables information sharing during the development of a project, so all the concerned stakeholders can make effective decisions together.

The Centre also hosts training sessions for RTA engineers to build their BIM knowledge and capabilities. Implementing BIM requires specialist roles and responsibilities, and RTA decided that existing personnel would fill most of the required positions, so a series of awareness and technical training sessions were necessary. More than 280 RTA employees have now received this training In 2017, RTA procured a common data environment, asset information management and authoring software.

RTA engineers use these tools to share information and instructions, and to check projects’ BIM deliverables against the processes specified in supply chain contracts, and to manage data throughout the entire asset lifecycle.

Design information is shared in both native formats and common formats, which allows RTA to create, interrogate and utilise federated asset information models. Project teams can now take advantage of not just 3D modelling, but 4D (simulating changes over time) and 5D (estimating and quantity surveying). More sophisticated models minimise variation orders generated, clashes and other issues during the construction phase.

The implementation of a central, unified digital reference has made data sharing more efficient, with 30 per cent less data exchanged between organisations. Data is 30 per cent more available, 50 per cent more accessible, and 25 per cent more accurate.

This speeds up processes; decision-making is 20 per cent faster, and design reviews take 30 per cent less time. This has made RTA’s infrastructure projects 20 per cent more productive, and reduced operation and maintenance costs by 10 per cent.

These are promising figures, but do they represent good value for RTA’s investment in BIM?

A standard formula for calculating return on investment in the first year is: (B-(B/(1+E))x(12-C))/(A+(BxCxD))…where A is the cost of the hardware and software, B is the monthly cost of labour, C is the number of months of training required, D is the percentage of productivity lost during training, and E is the percentage increase after training.

Based on this formula, in the worst-case scenario, RTA’s BIM implementation will pay for itself within four years, with at least a 10 per cent gain in productivity.

The five-year strategic implementation plan is on schedule to be achieved by the end of 2020. The next target, in 2021, will be rolling out BIM implementation to all projects.

RTA has not only achieved its ambition to be the first transport authority to fully integrate BIM with its processes. It has also become the world’s first asset-owning government entity to be certified to ISO19650, the international standard for BIM, and gain the BIM level 2 maturity kitemark.

And the benefits of RTA’s transformation go beyond the organisation itself. BIM maturity allows RTA to improve safety for road and public transport users, and to deliver more reliable transportation to the people of Dubai. This causes outside investment to flow into Dubai, as the high-quality infrastructure encourages more businesses to base themselves in the city.

This article was originally published in the May 2022 edition of Assets magazine.