Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Digital foundation for smart city

According to the World Bank’s alarming forecasts, today 54% of the world’s population (or some 4 bln people) lives in urban areas. By 2050, only 3 out of 10 people will be living outside megalopolises. Obviously, outdated infrastructure and traditional approaches to urban development are failing to provide proper quality of living. In response to such challenges we are facing daily, new solutions are created with the use of digital technology, new concepts and approaches to organizing regular processes.     

In Russia, the task of creating smart cities that would be on par with the best global practices is being solved by the country’s top officials and implemented through state projects. In 2018, the Government launched the Information Infrastructure project as part of the national program the Digital Economy of the Russian Federation. The construction industry was among the first sectors affected by the changes. The program key goals include creating a Smart City ecosystem for introducing digital technology in construction and urban management. 

This is evidenced by a growing popularity of a fundamentally new approach to the design and construction of new facilities – Building Information Modeling (BIM). The recently emerged technology is actually becoming an industry standard.

With the use of this technology to create a building information model, design documentation is made automatically. The model can contain any necessary information and will serve as the object’s “digital twin” during the operational stage. This allows designers, construction workers and maintenance services to perform their work being fully aware of the data integrity and coherence. This results in a faster development of the project with subsequent automated issue of project documentation, without any contradictions, and leads to reducing construction expenses by 20-30% and lesser operating cost afterwards.   

As with many other breakthrough technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and edge computing, BIM standards are not yet supported by the regulatory system and Russian lawmakers are working hard in this direction.  

For example, a roadmap for implementing BIM throughout the lifecycle of buildings was approved in 2017. In July 2018 Vladimir Putin instructed the Russian Government to create conditions for the construction industry’s transition to the BIM technology. The president’s instruction requires focusing on several areas of work such as developing a talent pool for information modeling in construction, developing national standards and harmonizing existing regulatory and technical documents with international and Russian law, as well as switching to managing the lifecycle of major construction projects. 

The initiative soon found its way into education. Several Russian higher schools launched new programs in building information modeling. Future BIM professionals are also practicing how to use AR and VR helmets, 3D printers and 3D modeling labs. 

In addition to training its own workforce, Russia is searching for BIM experts who could help with developing national standards. Schneider Electric was one of the first foreign companies with unique experience of successful operation projects using BIM technology. The company offered its assistance in developing the Russian construction industry. In April 2019, it signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Project Technical Committee for BIM Technologies (PTK705) in order to outline and formalize the standards of information modeling for the efficient use of BIM technologies at all stages of the building lifecycle. 

In February 2019, the Ministry of Construction developed and published amendments to the Urban Development Code that include the creation of an integrated information environment for interaction between developers, managing companies and state agencies. The amendments formalize the main terms of the BIM, such as information modeling and the permanent building information model, and introduce the term ‘classifier of civil engineering information’. According to the document, the classifier will be used to provide information support to the tasks related to classification and encoding of building information in order to computerize processes of engineering survey, feasibility study, design, construction, reconstruction, overhaul, use and demolition of permanent buildings. 

BIM is already transforming the construction sector. However, it is just one of many elements of true smart cities of the future. There is a long way to go before the planned state initiatives can be implemented in full. But it is definitely worth it: in the near future, urban development will become more efficient because making digital models will allow for rational planning and using the city infrastructure energy resources more productively.

By Dmitry Babik, Director, Department for Project Organizations, Schneider Electric

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