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Close up of a BIM model of the human heart

Pushing the boundaries of BIM

How a giant of a project is changing the business of building design


ProjectOVE brings building information modelling (BIM) technology to life, using virtual design tools to create a fully functioning building that replicates the human body.

The project was the brainchild of Andrew Duncan, a mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) BIM Manager, and Casey Rutland, BIM specialist and Associate Director at Arup Associates. Their team worked around the clock for seven weeks to make ProjectOVE a reality.

What started as an internal research and development project became a tool for the whole industry to learn from – the most exciting development yet in BIM technology.

Virtually human: Creating ProjectOVE

Have you ever thought that the ducts and pipes of a building are a lot like the veins and nerves of a human body? This innocent observation sparked an idea that has grown into one of the industry’s most talked about innovations: ProjectOVE.

Our team used BIM to design a 170m tall, 35-storey building in the shape of a real human body, replicating its inner workings as accurately as possible.

What developed over the following weeks has changed the process of building engineering forever.

ProjectOVE: Human body systems

The team wanted to create a multidisciplinary model comprising architecture, structure and MEP, correlating as closely as possible to the human anatomy. They replicated five major human body systems:

  • Respiratory: mechanical ductwork
  • Circulatory: mechanical pipework
  • Nervous: electrical
  • Skeletal: structure
  • Intergumentary: architecture

The initial model took just seven weeks to complete and is very much a work in progress. A future ProjectOVE 2.0 would consider:

  • Altering the position of the structure to offer more versatility
  • Incorporate the digestive system with an energy centre
  • Include the thermoregulatory system through public health (including fire sprinklers)
  • Add a transport hub and much more

Become part of the story

Do you want to access the ProjectOVE data set and be part of the story?

Contact the team today.

ProjectOVE: Specifications

  • 35 storeys
  • 170m tall
  • 38.64kW of light: 148.54lm from 483 luminaires
  • 168 radiators
  • Brain data centre: 360m2

"We wanted to demonstrate that we can create any geometry using BIM and make it work. Particularly for MEP, people have been quite shocked at what data you can put into the tool, what calculations you can automate and how much time you can save."

Casey Rutland

The future of BIM: How ProjectOVE is raising industry standards

Originally conceived for internal research and development, Project Ove has exceeded everyone’s expectations and has demonstrated the staggering possibilities of modern engineering.

The team estimate that the processes they created using six different software packages saved up to 3 hours of manual calculation time for every structural and MEP change.

The model has also proved a captivating tool in schools, inspiring the next generation of architects and engineers. And it’s at the heart of our collaborative approach to BIM.

Throughout 2015 we’ll be sharing our findings, using ProjectOVE to push the boundaries of BIM and help raise industry standards. Our team are encouraging their peers to get involved; creating an open forum for global BIM development.

BIM: Cutting the costs of construction and modernising the industry

How the UK government’s 2016 BIM mandate is raising global standards

BIM will be mandatory for UK government construction projects from 2016. Like other countries around the world, the UK wants to modernise the industry and is aiming to cut the capital cost of the construction process by 20%. BIM is central to the government’s vision of efficiency.

At Arup, we’re working closely with the Cabinet Office’s BIM Task Group. We were involved in the government’s exemplar project for Level 2 BIM. And we have our own internal timeline for BIM delivery.

“We’re looking to reach Level 1 implementation by the first quarter of 2015,” explains Casey Rutland, Associate Director and BIM specialist at Arup Associates. “We’re developing our BIM skills so that everyone gets the most out of their data, and out of their projects, and becomes more efficient. By automating mundane tasks, we can spend more time doing design work, which is what we excel at.”

A global BIM benchmark

With teams often dispersed around the world, the impact of BIM is global. Some global clients are already demanding the latest BIM technology to make their projects more efficient – and are looking to UK standards as the benchmark.

“When a client specifies BIM deliverables, it means our models need to have integrity,” says Rutland. “The data needs to be linked, it needs to be a single source of information and we need to provide data in digital formats that will enable the client and the wider team all to use it at the same time. What we’re seeing is clients are starting to ask for those deliverables based on UK guidance documents.”

Project Ove has helped prove that BIM really works. Our team worked with three primary aims: to keep the building’s geometry as true to human anatomy as possible, to use only processes that could be replicated on real projects and to make all of those processes as efficient and as automated as possible.

Pushing the industry forward

“Project Ove is very much about the practical uses of BIM,” says Rutland. “In terms of the government mandate, we’re proving it really does work. We can achieve Level 2 BIM and we’re already seeing other countries adopting UK standards.”

David Philp, Head of BIM at the Cabinet Office’s BIM Task Group says: “Project Ove is very much a collaborative project – and the fact that the data is going to be shared with wider industry is key. Using something as detailed as a human body is a great move for industry and helps demystify what BIM is. It helps drive Level 2 adoption across the UK and hopefully beyond these shores as well.”

A giant building shaped like a human body is certainly eye-catching. But, as Rutland argues, Project Ove has had far-reaching consequences for both our firm and the wider industry. “As well as demonstrating our expertise, Project Ove has allowed us to show that BIM works and is here to stay,” he says. “It’s enabling us to push the industry on to better things.

“Many other industries have adopted new technology and processes to become more efficient. For some reason, the construction industry is behind. We want to help it catch up, and we’re beginning to see some rapid changes.”

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How the UK government’s 2016 BIM mandate is raising global standards: click here to read more.

Our BIM toolkit...

The ProjectOVE team implemented an efficient workflow, using different software packages, to create the building design and automated calculations.

After Andrew Duncan’s body was scanned – the data was transferred to the following software:

Project Ove explored

For more information on Project Ove, from how the massive BIM model brought to life, how the team used Oasys MassMotion software to our contribution to the global implementation of level 2 BIM, click on the short videos below.

Meet the team

Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan

BIM Manager - Does he look familiar? Andrew Duncan is the man ProjectOVE is modelled on. Andrew is mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) building information modelling (BIM) manager for one of Arup's multidisciplinary building teams based in London. He is passionate about harnessing the power of software to aid design innovation, and he keenly tracks the emergence of new technologies. He has accumulated most of his experience working with some of the world's top architectural practices. The challenges that complex, bespoke projects present have led to Andrew’s deep understanding of different of BIM applications and processes.

Caset Rutland

Casey Rutland

Associate Director - Casey Rutland is an architect and Associate Director at Arup Associates. He specialises in BIM project design, delivery and management. Whilst acting as overall BIM co-ordinator on major projects across the Arup group, he is often found in infrastructure, engineering, knowledge-sharing and education forums. Casey leads the implementation of technologies to extract the most from our models. He also co-ordinates training to ensure Arup retains its position as a leading practice capable of delivering projects at a consistently high BIM standard.

Ken Enright

Consultant - Ken Enright is a consultant with Arup. Based in London, he has worked for the firm for 11 years. Ken specialises in digital modelling, information management and BIM. Ken has supported private and government clients on some of the world’s highest profile infrastructure and building projects. He has a reputation for challenging established methods to improve productivity and enhance the quality of information.

 If you'd like to join the conversation on social media about this exemplar BIM project from Arup, just use the hashtag #ProjectOve or follow us @ProjectOVE