Thanks to digital engineering, concrete contractors are now able to work with temporary works specialists to efficiently design, plan and visualise a formwork scheme in a 3D digital environment, before they get on to site. Here, Billy McCormick, Head of Regional Engineering – North explains how both building a relationship with a temporary works specialist and the use of BIM can ensure successful project delivery, improve efficiency levels and offer enhanced visibility.
Both formwork panels, which act as moulds into which concrete is poured, and falsework props, used as a means of providing vertical support to the formwork, are wholly temporary in nature, only installed on site for a short period of time. That said, the temporary formwork and falsework can have a very real and permanent impact, with the success of the concrete pour, and the overall project delivery, often depending heavily on the initial formwork scheme design.
It is for this reason that temporary works would perhaps be better labelled as enabling works, something to be considered at the initial design and strategy stage of a project, as the permanent works are. Despite this, there is still the potential for a project’s temporary works to not be given the attention needed, as well as underestimating the level of cost and labour that formwork can require. While smaller projects may only need a standard formwork solution, this is not the case for all, with some sites requiring a bespoke and more complex design.
As with all temporary works, early engagement is important. Liaising with a temporary works specialist as early as the tender stage of a concrete project could provide real benefits for you as a contractor.
As well as enabling you to a submit a more informed and detailed bid to the client, with an initial engineered formwork design already created, you would also be able to offer more accurate time and cost estimates. Cost, as always, is a very important factor, with the potential for a concrete job to go considerably over budget if formwork is not given ample consideration at this initial stage.
Put simply, a successful and efficient formwork project relies on more than just the kit itself. Instead, it needs a detailed and engineered temporary works design behind it, with a focus on planning and optimisation right from the start.
Formwork projects often have a strict deadline, especially if the concrete has already been ordered for the site. So, any issue with the formwork design could result in long – and costly – delays. Even small mistakes could create big issues, such as a simple case of human error when counting the number of kit components needed. This is one area of formwork that the use of BIM, in particular, has helped to transform in recent years. It enables temporary works specialists to automatically generate kit lists from the completed model and provide contractors with the assurance that the correct equipment will be delivered to site ready for installation.
In many ways, BIM can be central to ensuring a successful formwork delivery. While it is perhaps more commonly associated with permanent works, designing and visualising a project’s temporary works in this 3D digital environment can provide similar rewards.
When working with a temporary works specialist with BIM capabilities, you can either provide 2D drawings for the temporary works engineers to first model in a 3D environment, followed by the formwork scheme; or, if your company also has BIM processes and workflows, a 3D model of the permanent concrete structure can be provided for the formwork and falsework to then be designed around.
Using intelligent BIM software, such as Revit, to model and visualise the formwork scheme – as opposed to 2D drawings – can reduce the likelihood of design issues or rework being required on site, with features such as clash detection helping to ensure that the proposed formwork is both correct and constructible. Not only this but moving from 2D to 3D can also enable more complex geometry – such as curved concrete walls – to be created, with the temporary works specialist and contractors able to more effectively visualise and plan the formwork scheme required to bring the end-vision to reality.
As well as improving design accuracy and helping to facilitate the complex, BIM can also help to enhance the overall formwork scheme’s efficiency by reducing the amount of steel props, frames or supports needed.
Through the use of a 3D digital environment, temporary works specialists are able to model, analyse and consider multiple formwork design iterations with a level of certainty that simply would not be possible in traditional 2D. This allows engineers to select the design that strikes the optimum balance between performance and steel weight. Put simply, the fewer components used, the lower the cost. Not only this, but fewer components can also result in time savings, with the formwork and falsework being quicker to assemble and disassemble on site.
What’s more, this concept of using BIM to see the ‘bigger picture’ when designing a formwork scheme has many practical applications, enabling contractors and project teams to progress from a 3D way of working to a 4D project planning process. With the increased levels of visibility that BIM offers, concrete contractors are able to better plan the whole scheme and in higher levels of detail, right down to the phasing of concrete pours and the re-use of formwork panels and props, where applicable. Particularly beneficial on larger commercial and industrial projects, where there may be any great number of separate concrete pours, this enhanced visibility and information-rich data can be used to create a project timeline, helping to better plan the most efficient installation and pouring sequence.
It can be said that BIM offers a digital rehearsal of the temporary and the permanent works, before you get onto site. Effectively, it allows you to build it, before you build it. Being able to see the whole formwork scheme and phased concrete pours in the context of the overall project or construction sequence will not only aid better delivery of the works but can also improve coordination and communication between project parties. Once a 3D model has been created of the temporary formwork scheme, this visual tool can be shared between all parties and disciplines, from the installer and concrete contractor to the site manager and client.
Liaising with a temporary works specialist with VR capabilities, as well as BIM processes, takes this one step further, offering teams a virtual walk-through of the formwork scheme and construction site.
While only temporary in nature, formwork and falsework schemes have an integral role to play in the success of a project’s permanent concrete works, with any mistakes, clashes or delays at this stage potentially having a significant impact further down the construction sequence. With this in mind, liaising with a temporary works specialist with BIM capabilities can provide you, and your client, with numerous benefits and assurances, from the initial tender stage through to on site delivery.
As BIM becomes firmly embedded in construction’s permanent works, designing and visualising a project’s temporary works, such as formwork, in this same 3D digital environment is surely a natural next step.