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Turner & Townsend, Global Driver of the Technological Transformation

CanBIM meets David Thompson, Senior Consultant at Turner & Townsend. unveils for us the secrets of the cutting-edge company's success

Mohcine Sadiq
Mohcine Sadiq
Posted on
June 7, 2021

CanBIM meets David Thompson, Senior Consultant at Turner & Townsend. an internationally-based firm with high-scaled projects all over the globe. David walks us through the firm's experience and how BIM processes are shaping the global AEC landscape.

CanBIM: Can you provide a brief introduction to your background?

My career in digital construction stretches back to 2010 in the UK, where I began working as a digital (BIM) engineer for a UK based general contractor. This role evolved overtime which took me to the UAE, leading a team of digital engineers in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi.

Since moving to Canada in 2016 I’ve held a number of roles, including VDC lead for PCL Construction and providing consultation for the University of Manitoba. In 2017 I co-founded the Winnipeg BIM Community, and 2018 we had the pleasure of hosting a CanBIM satellite session in Red River College.

My current role in Turner & Townsend as a Senior Digital Consultant, specializes in providing digital advisory services to clients across North America

CanBIM: Can you provide a brief introduction about Turner & Townsend and its notable achievements?

We make the difference in successful project delivery for the healthcare, commercial, retail, pharmaceutical, high-tech, power, mining and metals, and manufacturing industries. Our reputation is founded upon a single-minded commitment to add value to our clients’ businesses.

Our team of experts is uniquely skilled in many technical areas of project delivery, managerial capabilities, and innovation. We tap into our global network and use our local expertise to help enable predictable, successful outcomes. Our project managers, cost experts, risk, contract, and procurement specialists all bring diverse experiences and the ability to use data and project analytics to protect our clients’ capital investments and help manage their assets.

Technology plays an integral role in the way we do business. Our digital specialists offer services for BIM and Information Management. We have a team of experienced consultants who have worked across the globe managing BIM projects for clients, providing advisory services for digital solutions, and putting strategies in place for improving the management of project information using a common data environment. These services are becoming more important as construction projects become more complex. The adoption of cloud-based IM platforms has allowed us to collaborate with partners from around the world more effectively on projects, and with the adoption of BIM on projects, we can ensure schedule, cost and quality for the client is met.

We have been recognized across the globe for some of our outstanding achievements. Working in collaboration with our clients and their teams, Turner & Townsend picked up seven awards out of a shortlist of ten commissions in nine categories at the Constructing Excellence in the North East 2018 awards.

The Urban Sciences Building at Newcastle University swept the board and was triumphant in winning all five categories in which it was entered, including taking home the prestigious Building Project of the Year award. Turner & Townsend provided a combination of Project Management and Cost Management services, as well as Principal Designer and BIM Information Manager in the construction of this unique project.

CanBIM: Can you tell us more about the development of your group and areas of focus for the future?

Turner & Townsend’s technology team has grown rapidly since it was established in 2003. What started off as a traditional ITPM service, however it quickly became apparent the lack of coordination on site was everywhere in the construction industry. Our experience in Oil and Gas demonstrated the benefits of a 3D model to mitigate these risks. We were early adopters of BIM and this evolved into a full technology service offering.

Our future focus is around three key pillars which underpin many of the targets and challenges that the industry is facing:

  1. Sustainability – helping our clients maximize the benefits of the BIM processes and model to capture and manage sustainably targets.
  2. Productivity – using BIM to improve productivity
  3. Digitalization – helping the Industry transition and transform the way they work and embrace the BIM world.

What major industry challenges are you seeing through your clients’ projects?

This past year has presented global challenges in every industry, including construction. The limitations on-site, throughout the supply chain and manufacturers, have delayed projects of all scale.

A major challenge we see throughout projects is cultural differences. Some are embracing BIM/IM etc., but when mixed with those who can’t or won’t, can be quite challenging. Getting everyone on board to collaborate and embrace modern methods of construction means less time to innovate and find new solutions together.

Environmental considerations are playing a big role in the industry. As we are looking to achieve global and regional goals in reducing our carbon footprint, not only do we need the technology in place to help support minimizing waste and reducing our carbon outputs, but we need the skillset and mindset of our workforce to help enable this change.

Limited skilled resources and resource mobility are key challenges we are seeing, as well as supply chain viability. Since the start of the pandemic, the viability of some companies has been brought into question, whether they can survive the tough economic times ahead is a concern of many in the industry. Further to these challenges are legislative changes and compliance with these changes, which have become tougher for many companies to contend with.

Interface risks are now becoming more apparent. As we build larger, more complex facilities, more and more stakeholders are included in the project, along with more technologies being adopted. Without the proper identification and management of these risks, we are seeing compromises in cost, schedule and quality.

CanBIM: What disruptive trends do you see occurring in the industry? And of those trends which ones are your company embracing?

The use of technology, in general, is having a major impact throughout the industry, from using 360 cameras with cloud-based solutions, to the Internet of Things, and smart buildings.

The use of drones and point clouds has allowed us to not only continue to capture and use information throughout the pandemic but has allowed us to improve our processes for capturing and using data for surveying, cost control and collaborating with our project partners in a more efficient manner.

The use of BIM and digital construction is a trend that the industry is still working through. While we have global standards in the ISO 19650, as a region, we are still immature in its adoption and use. Turner & Townsend is currently working with our clients to educate them on the benefits of BIM and adopting an information management strategy and working with our industry partners to identify best practices and improve our collaborative efforts.

The use of Blockchain in construction has been a real talking point recently. Using blockchain to provide secure access to a digital model, will ensure reliability and visibility of who has made changes, what changes were made and when. We can become smarter with a more automated contractual and payment process and improved security for data storage and usage.

Other technologies we are seeing become more widely adopted include VR and AR devices. Allowing stakeholders, the opportunity to view the model and make more informed decisions earlier on is resulting in less rework on site and changes being made later in the projects.

CanBIM: In comparison with the global development of BIM practices, How would rate its implementation in the Canadian AECO industry, and How is the Canadian market reacting to those new trends?

BIM processes have been used around the globe now and have been maturing for the best part of 15 years. Since the PAS 1192 suite of documents were released in the UK in 2011, governments around the globe have adopted them and the frameworks outlined within them.

The Canadian market has been somewhat behind on adopting BIM and its methodologies. While we have seen pockets of great work being done using BIM in Canada, the industry has been lacking federal and provincial support to drive BIM. We are now seeing private and public organizations starting to bring BIM to the table when planning and procuring projects, so while we are seeing progress, it is still slower than we would hope.

Since the release of the ISO 19650, the Canadian Annex is in the process of being developed. Hopefully, once this is published and the ISO 19650 is implemented, we will have the necessary framework needed to include BIM into contracts.

What is apparent is that BIM is being driven by the contractors and specialist contractors, who are seeing many benefits using BIM and digital construction to manage their schedules, costs, and risk. However, we are not seeing as many owner-operators driving BIM through their contracts and requirements.

CanBIM: What do you see as the most pressing future trends in this regard?

The adoption and use of an established BIM framework and information management processes will provide the platform for other innovative solutions such as point clouds for surveying, to digital twins for operating the facilities. Digital data is central to designing, constructing, and operating buildings. We need to have our humans and machines operating in sync with one another and have the contractual frameworks in place to allow us to do so.

Digital twins incorporate data in real-time which is captured using sensors and other technologies, to create a living representation that thinks and acts. This is leading to more efficient processes, helping drive down carbon emissions and providing considerable cost savings for our clients.

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) is complimented exceptionally well with BIM and digital construction. The development of a coordinated model means that off-site manufactured components can be built with greater accuracy and improved quality in factory conditions, rather than on-site. Utilizing manufacturing processes is showing improvements in the health and safety of our workforce, working in controlled environments, and reducing the number of personnel on-site.

CanBIM: What is your view regarding the work CanBIM is doing, and what are your expectations from this collaboration?

CanBIM has played an important role in facilitating the networking opportunities and education needed in Canada. The regional and satellite sessions that are delivered not only allow BIM-minded professionals to network, but allow non-BIM professionals to learn, and share with the industry.

The CanBIM certification will play an important role in the future when clients, employers etc. require a form of recognition of BIM expertise. Once we increase our awareness and adoption of BIM in Canada, I see it being a key part of our certification requirements.

One of the key drivers for Turner & Townsend is education. We have a wealth of experience in providing training and education for public and private clients and are looking forward to becoming an active member of CanBIM, working alongside its members to help improve the industry.


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