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Heathrow T2 Technical Site Visit

Heathrow T2 Technical Site Visit
By Jairo A Jaramillo, YEN London Chair
One of the most important topics facing young engineers within the construction industry is that of Building Information Modelling or BIM.  BIM is many things to many people, and confusion still arises as to its application, methods and general usefulness within a building services engineering scenario.  With this in mind, YEN London was lucky enough to be able to send six members to Heathrow Terminal 2 where Balfour Beatty would be showing us their interpretation of BIM and also give us a guided tour of one of the largest construction sites in the UK.

It was an early start for Angela, Neil, Karen, David, Sheyda, James and myself as we convened at the Balfour Beatty site office to undergo our security checks and be collected by our guide.  A collective sigh of relief was apparent as it transpired that everyone had heeded the various emails about not forgetting our passports.  A small detail perhaps, but it is reassuring to see the amount of checks that go into letting any staff or personnel into the airport itself.

Teas and coffees gratefully received, we sat down to digest a fascinating presentation about Balfour Beatty’s effort with BIM and its use of 5D model analysis!  The extra two dimensions?  Time and money.  A reminder that young engineers must take these into account along with the more prosaic questions of physical plant dimensions whenever working on any project.  It was interesting to note the BB representative’s assertion that BIM may well be the mot du jour but in fact it is just a name given to a philosophy and way of working that if applied to the whole construction industry would hopefully bring positive results for all concerned.

The presentation was interspersed at regular intervals with short NavisWorks animations demonstrating the logistics and thinking behind moving large pieces of HVAC equipment (including a 70 tonne AHU!)  around a large, in-constant-use site such as an airport.  This was very informative and helped to get across the importance of all disciplines and members of a design team being able to inform a decision or a process within a project.

With the talk concluded we donned our lovely shiny BB PPE kit and made our way to the site proper.  The presentation had given us some idea of the scale of the site itself but nothing could prepare us for the enormity of spaces such as the aptly named ‘underground cathedral’ – a space roughly the size of five football pitches and at least three storeys in height!  Walking around it became clear the magnitude of the engineering task that Balfour Beatty have undertaken and the many hours that talented engineers and construction professionals have and will continue to put in so as to bring this  project to completion.

After about two and a half hours exploring the site we returned to the site office for a much needed tasty canteen lunch followed by sitting in on the weekly Project Principals’ Meeting.  Again, it was a learning experience to see how the meeting was run, with every discipline taking a turn to provide a short presentation detailing progress, possible issues and plans for the weeks ahead.  Very professional and also strangely reassuring that no matter what the size of a project, resolutions to issues will always be solved through good communication and teamwork between all disciplines and sectors of the team involved.

The YEN London team left with some great memories of a unique site visit and lessons learnt from how the biggest player in the construction industry goes about tackling the important work awarded to it.  My thanks go to Neil Thompson and Scott Kerr of Balfour Beatty for making the visit possible and of course to Angela for organising reminder emails, maps and general info.  Lastly, a thumbs up to my fellow YEN London colleagues for coming along and sharing a great day out.