How is BIM transforming our project design?

In just a few years, BIM has completely changed the way we work. Among the pioneers of the approach, setec group is now boosting its offering with BIM for Rail and the development of “digital twins” that can be used throughout the project life cycle, from the earliest phases of design and construction to ongoing maintenance. To understand the specific features and scope of setec group’s approach, we met with a number of experts using BIM day to day.


BIM management

Coordinating all stakeholders during projects and ensuring better quality deliverables.

Guillaume Hervoches and Nicolas Horsin, both BIM managers in charge of the BIM department at setec tpi, are respectively in charge of Line 15 South and Line 15 West of the Grand Paris Express. They are also developing new solutions and a specific BIM service offering for project owners.

“We had the idea of creating a department that would bring together all setec tpi’s BIM expertise and allow us to use our methods across all our operations. We wanted to streamline and accelerate our approach by developing template documents and standardizing practices. This would enable us to gain in skills and quality as well. This new BIM department was created in June 2018. It focuses on two major tasks:

  • Service support for all operations, including all our BIM management assignments, where we implement all our processes, such as Line 15 of the Grand Paris Express, the high-speed rail crossings and the future T4 tramway terminal.
  • Consultancy on BIM issues, as well as retrofitting assignments, like remodelling projects.

This organization allows us to ensure excellent quality deliverables in the design phase and more effective collaboration between all the project stakeholders. With BIM processes, we will coordinate with everyone involved much earlier in a project, starting from the preliminary design phase, with the help of much more powerful overview tools and conflict resolution methods. As BIM experts, we guarantee high standards for the digital models and deliverables. This saves time in the execution phase. We won our first retrofitting contract, last December, from the Hérault departmental council, which asked us to remodel all the works on a development site to facilitate data management in the operations and maintenance phase. BIM can be used on any type of project, including urban development. We must not confuse BIM with 3D: what’s important in BIM is the information attached to the modelled objects, the ways this data can be exploited and how it will be useful to us. We help project owners define the data that will be useful to them; for example, to make energy savings. Furthermore, operations management and BIM management are inseparable, since the designs are delivered in BIM, which allows us, as setec BIM managers, to bundle our BIM assignments and engineering services. BIM is constantly evolving and we’re constantly innovating.

Today, we’re thinking about integrating life cycle data into BIM data.”

“What’s important in BIM is the information attached to the modelled objects, the ways this data can be exploited and how it will be useful to us. We help the owners define the data that will be useful to them; for example, to make energy savings.” – Nicolas Horsin, setec tpi



Centralising all data and information in a smart digital twin: a unique setec approach

“We’re pioneers in full-BIM design for rail facilities, including automated catenary and signalling design. This is a recent development in the rail industry, which first used modelling for stations before turning to more complex track work, which by nature is linear and must be georeferenced. Today, we’re able to design tracks entirely in BIM, by creating cross-funcational “digital twins.” To do this, we’ve brought together a range of very complementary talents and we’re developing all our tools in-house,” explains Alan Brook Diaz (a BIM developer) and Ghislain Motillon (a georeferencing and 3D modelling specialist in the setec ferroviaire BIM team. Working with them for two years now, Eric Lothe has flourished as a 3D graphic designer and videographer. “I collect the models from all the different experts and turn them into films or virtual models. It’s all very new in the rail sector, and the possibilities are endless. We can make models integrating all the different trades and all their interactions, which previously was impossible. We finally have a database that centralizes all the relevant information. This approach istrulyinnovative in the rail sector: we produce a BIM design, rather than simply monitor projects. Our BIM objects calculate all the parameters and dimensions automatically from the input data. Making objects smart in this way enables us to create families and avoid errors.”

“We can make models integrating all the different trades and all their interactions, which previously was impossible. We finally have a database that centralizes all the relevant information.”– Eric Lothe, setec ferroviaire

Reducing the margin of error from the earliest phases to optimize construction costs. The benefits of these new methods are completely transforming our practices and the value we bring to our customers.

“Indeed, we can use the models to identify, for example, the networks that would be in the same place, the clashes,” explains Alan. “This enables us to avoid problems we might encounter during the construction phase. We can also use virtual reality to train operations and maintenance staff, who can use the model to further develop and manage their sites. We’re immediately immersed in the project, which allows us to make decisions much more easily; for example, during the maintenance phase.” “Even if BIM product costs are higher, the end customer will benefit,” says Ghislain, “because we’ll identify all the potential problems right from the design phase. We’re lucky to have experts on every aspect of rail: track, catenary, signalling, telecommunications, electric traction and so on.In this way, we master many skills and can combine them in our BIM models to offer a very realistic vision of the final result.” This is a particularly complex approach in the rail sector, because it’s fully integrated into the georeferencing of each element.” “What makes us strong,” says Eric, “is that all of us, about a dozen people, are specialists in different areas and we create an interface between them. It’s a team effort.” “Our software and tools are constantly evolving to achieve a centralized final rendering,” says Alan. “We use geographic information systems (GISs) every day and integrate all the data.” The benefits of these new methods are numerous. Any change is immediate and easy to make, automatically communicated to the relevant stakeholders. “This is what we’ve with the Mantes-la-Jolie maintenance center, on the Eole project,” says Eric. “We’ve used all the group’s complementary skills for this project. There’s been real cooperation between all the companies in the group.”



BIM project management support

Mobilizing BIM to advise project owners and help them make the most of these new technologies

Two members of a BIM working group at setec organisation are Cara Benissan, project manager, and Aurore Dargent, BIM leader in the infrastructure department. Here, they explain the importance of BIM for project management support. “As an assistant to contracting authorities, our assignments require to intervene at every phase of a BIM project. In the earliest phases, part of our job is to raise project owners’ awareness of what BIM is, its processes and the role of each stakeholder in this new context. This learning and support phase is essential. In fact, project owners are generally curious and quite receptive. Once the decision has been made to use BIM, we help project owners define their BIM objectives. This means helping them define their needs and understand what they can and cannot do with BIM. BIM offers a wide variety of possibilities, so you need to clearly define expectations and set milestones that will enable the project to succeed.We also help project owners prepare their BIM specifications, by clarifying the required means for their BIM approach (practices and input data), proposing an internal organization, defining the deliverables expected in the various phases, and so on. During the operational phase, we help them steer the BIM project. To do this, we refer to the contracts, especially the BIM agreements drawn up by the project owners. Beyond the tool, our role is to make BIM a collaborative process, in which the project management assistant participates without interfering in the work of the owner. Of course, we contact other setecsubsidiaries if technical expertise is needed. Our aim is to provide the best possible support to project owners as they transition to BIM, so they can get from the best from these new technologies. In the infrastructure sector, for example, we’re working on Phase 2 of the T13 tramway in the Paris region, the first BIM project for Ile-de-France Mobilités. In the construction sector, we’re working on the extension and renovation of the Miollis administration center for DRIEA Ile-de-France.”

“In the future, we can move towards an even greater convergence of 3D modelling (for industrial processes, supervision, process control) and BIM for Construction, merging them into a single global methodology.”- Charles Cantogrel, Director of setec’s Lille agency and a setec énergie environnement leader on waste recycling and recovery facilities




Meeting operational and maintenance needs and optimizing rail construction costs with BIM

A good international example is Phase 1 of the HS2 high-speed rail line, connecting London to Birmingham. Justine Vassart, a setec international BIM manager on this project, explains the benefits of BIM for this rail infrastructure project. “The HS2 project is a fantastic innovation playground in terms of BIM for Rail. There are few infrastructure projects on this scale, designed with full-BIM processes. The demand for BIM quality is considerable, the methods are never fixed, the data we need to produce changes regularly and we have to constantly reinvent ourselves. It’s a real challenge! On HS2, each discipline produces a BIM model and its properties are then entered into a central database. To secure the information in the long term, a minimum of attributes are kept in the 3D models.

The project stakeholders can then exploit the data in the environment best suited to their needs. HS2 has already developed a specific tool based on BIM and GIS to support operations and maintenance on the line. In the construction consortium, similar work has been carried out with different objectives, since EKFB wants to secure the quantities of materials and project costs. The objectives of the upcoming detailed design phase will push the use of BIM towards new features: land motion optimization and 4D construction scheduling. For designers Arcadis, setec and COWI, BIM production should be facilitated in the detailed design phase since the expectations of each stakeholder have been clarified. The aim of this phase for the consortium will be to facilitate team coordination and detect potential clashes before the construction phase.”



Converging BIM for Construction and 3D industrial processes: a setec innovation bringing real value to project owners

Setec énergie environnement has been selected to supervize the design and construction of a new household waste recycling centre for the Grenoble metropolitan area, as part of a consortium led by Dalkia Wastenergy (a subsidiary of EDF), with architects DHA, equipment manufacturer Bollegraaf and engineering consultancy Artelia Group. According to Charles Cantogrel, director of setec’s Lille agency and a leader on waste recycling and recovery facilities, “Our setec energy environnement teams innovated with a broad approach, using BIM for Construction to design the complex sorting facilities and the industrial processes from the earliest phases. Today, we can handle construction and industrial projects with a comprehensive new solution. We can define the required data for using the tool and take an integrated design-build-operate approach. In the future, we can move towards an even greater convergence of 3D (for industrial process modelling, supervision and process control) and BIM for Construction, merging them into a single methodology. We could offer a single BIM model for processes and construction and overlay the data for managing the industrial unit.

This would provide us with a “hypervisor” for monitoring the industrial processes and building simultaneously, generating energy savings, for example. The purpose of this hypervisor would be to create a digital twin of the factory we could use for testing.”




BIM interoperability with geographic information systems (GIS) : transforming infrastructure design with greater efficiency

The fusion of GIS and BIM data introduces a geospatial element to project design. Improved interoperability between digital modelling and geographic mapping software makes construction and operations more efficient and accurate.

Engineers Jean-Christophe Ouaknine (setec tpi), Romain Carton (setec énergie environnement) and Amanda Pierrot (setec international) and operations manager Pauline Réthoré (setec organization) are part of a GIS working group. “We’ve created a GIS unit within the group to share our skills and tools, and we’re currently developing a demo,” says Amanda.

“These days, especially among the major GIS companies, we’re noting a convergence with BIM, making GIS science, which supports contextualization, interoperable with BIM, at the building level. The combination of these two tools will place buildings in an environment, enabling interaction between the two. For example, if a new hospital is being built, we’ll be able to understand the interactions with nearby transportation networks and calculate the impacts.”

“Esri and Autodesk, the two major GIS and BIM software solutions, have been working together for several years to improve interoperability between digital modelling and geographic mapping software,” explains Romain. “The goal of this partnership is to improve design in a real-world environment, making construction and operations more efficient.”

“I work mainly on roads and utilities,” continues Jean-Christophe, “but the software for buildings does not yet work with BIM for Infrastructure. For example, on the Aulnay maintenance and storage project (the operations center for the future Metro Lines 16 and 17 of the Greater Paris Express system), we’ve launched a truly innovative combined BIM-SIG approach, with a lot of research, which we’ve used to draft new procedures and use various interfaced BIM and SIG tools. There are major differences between these two environments and real technical challenges. In BIM, the objects interact with each other, whereas with GIS software, they’re related to their environment. So, they’re complementary. Making these two programs compatible enables us to use all the information. For project owners, this offers a major benefit: during the construction phase, the network architecture can be scaled up or down and the project managed more effectively. It’s better designed because we can identify the conflicts between networks in advance. And thanks to these developments, project owners can truly understand their assets.”

These tools are constantly evolving and we’re continually training,” says Romain, “Our planning and GIS expert jobs are very different. We’re not trying to merge them, but rather connect them. In the future they’ll be increasingly interconnected.”

This interoperability happens on various scales and with various tools, depending on the projects and needs.

“On other projects, we work earlier in the process, at the scale of the city or the neighborhood. We work with new GIS software that enable us to to integrate BIM models.

For example, we could integrate BIM models from each project manager working on a neighbourhood into 3D GIS software. This would enable us to centralize the information, contextualize the data and visualize the neighbourhood, with links to the BIM models, as a gateway to projects,” explains Pauline.

The synergy between BIM and GIS is extraordinary today. On some projects, we’re starting to enter into very fine detail, in terms of contextualizing or pooling data. We’re fully complementary,” adds Romain.



Building operations and maintenance

Making BIM useful to operations

According to Emmanuel Fruit, head of the Praxice department at setec bâtiment, a department focused on operations and maintenance, as well as improving the energy efficiency of buildings, “BIM unites different experts: BIM managers, design engineers and property managers must all cooperate to identify the information and data that will be useful over the entire life cycle of the building. For example, we anticipate potential equipment changes. This is a completely new approach to our work. We’re now able to remotely centralize operations management for an entire building, from design to demolition, and to connect new tools to our digital model. These include, for example, Advizeo sensors, which will provide information on the energy consumption of a building. This is a major benefit, considering that the operating phase of a building represents 75% of its overall cost.

The next challenge for setec ? I think we could extend this approach to line works, like the Grand Paris Express. Currently, for example, Praxice is helping Saint-Gobain implement a management, operations and maintenance BIM for its new tower at La Défense: “We must check that the digital model delivered by Generali will be useful for managing the company’s new tower at La Défense.”  We were chosen because we’re independent of the managers and builders and because we helped design the building.” This approach also guarantees efficiency for building owners, providing them with a better return on investment.



BIM systems

Using digital models to improve project knowledge

“Our experience with BIM processes has allowed us to adopt new practices with digital models; in particular, developing tools to help us understand projects. Our approach is quite pragmatic: we capitalize and build on what we’ve produced. We always consider how BIM can bring value to our projects,” comments Guillaume Segrettin, systems engineer at setec its.

We can use the digital model to make videos, communications tools, animated pictures and virtual reality. This helps our clients understand the issues. “One of our most successful BIM systems projects was, for example, the bus depot we created for Laval in Quebec.

On this project, we produced a feasibility study from the scatter chart provided by the client, used it for it an internal and external promotional video and provided the client with the virtual reality design plan. This enabled the client to understand the project and take ownership of it very quickly,” he said, before adding, “We benefit from the synergy within setec group, working with diadès (capture department). This enables us to acquire existing buildings and structures. “I think BIM will play an increasingly important role in projects, including systems projects, where we’re reaching maturity and adopting BIM processes.
There’s real coordination between the group’s BIM managers. Our BIM manager, Stéphane Delrue, took part in a discussion on data management during our innovation labs.

This approach is a real strength for setec group. It pushes the boundaries and allows us to continually move forward. We can now extract and use the data we need from the digital model,” comments Guillaume.

“Our approach is quite pragmatic: we capitalize and build on what we’ve produced. We always consider how BIM can bring value to our projects.” – Guillaume Segrettin, setec its




Developing a comprehensive water cycle model in an open-source GIS

The example of Hydra by hydratec

Powerful software for contextualizing hydraulic modelling data, Hydra was entirely developed by hydratec teams, led by Thierry Lepelletier.

Simon Olive, a hydratec engineer, shares his insights. “Hydra is hydraulic modelling software that is fully integrated into a GIS. We produce the hydraulic models used for sewerage systems and flood maps (rivers and surface water), and we fully integrate them into a GIS (the river route, floodplain and protection facilities). These are represented spatially, with their own characteristics (maintenance schedules, etc.).

This tool is really powerful. The authority in charge of managing the flood zone or wastewater system, the public authorities or unions in charge of the system and other local authories can use this model for all types of needs.

This provides us with a map including all the data for each object, the flow rate, the hydraulic data, the flow rate and so on. What’s important for developing software like Hydra is to understand what’s relevant to users, which means interacting with them. I’m an environmental engineer, which allows me to clearly identify needs. For example, we’re surveying the vulnerability of the Seine. The purpose of this survey is to understand what happens to the sewerage systems in Paris when the Seine overflows.

Hydra provides us with all the relevant information for this survey, in very precise detail, and allows us to carry out simulations based on Seine water levels and flood durations. It’s now entirely possible to consider modelling smart cities with all the water networks managed by Hydra.”