Virtual Design and Construction (VDC/BIM) may be used to plan and communicate project safety measures and to improve project safety during construction and in facility operations. Creating a virtual building in 3D allows for a clear understanding of the proposed building by all stakeholders, regardless of their ability to read drawings. The building is spatially correct and can therefore be used for to identify and mitigate safety hazards in the planning stage that would affect construction and operations of the building. This paper will review how VDC/BIM may be used throughout all phases of the project lifecycle to enhance safety.

VDC for Safety – Design Phase

Safety should be considered from the beginning of design - safety as it relates to occupants of the building and for those who operate and maintain the building as well as safety for those who construct the building. "Safety by design" is a term used to describe how buildings may be designed to allow safer construction and safer operation post construction. For example, a valve may be located so that a ladder is not required for installation or a chain wheel may be designed to couple with the valve to avoid using a ladder during operations. Below is an example of an access ladder designed adjacent to the edge of the building, creating an unsafe fall condition. Moving this ladder away from the building extremity would have made for a safer condition, both for those on the ladder and anyone below from the hazards of something falling.

Safety by design may include:

  • The use of VDC/BIM to enable enhanced collaboration between designers, contractors and maintenance staff. Models may be used for discussions and to propose and capture resolutions.

  • Testing and analysis of VDC models for potential safety violations before work has started to avoid safety issues. This may be in the form of automated rule checking software and by sharing the models with safety experts and local authorities such as the fire marshal and building department as well as with Facility Management staff, who will ultimately operate the building.

  • Test the safety of planned maintenance routines with the VDC model for post occupancy prior to construction. For example, the safe egress route and clearances for equipment which may require long term replacement and maintenance.

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