• 3D models (like this example) provide enhanced facility visualization and improve collective understanding of design intent, form and function.

file under: 3D/4D Design, Chemicals, Design-Build, Facilities, Federal Government, Food and Beverage, Government, Industrial, Metals and Mining, Oil and Gas, Power

4 Ways 3D/4D Modeling Will Make Your Team More Safety-Conscious

Safety is integral to every project. Its value cannot be overstated. But not all safety improvements are created equal. The earlier that safety issues are prioritized and identified in the project lifecycle, the better. Catching problems and making reasonable design modifications in initial phases helps avoid unanticipated costs, scheduling setbacks and shutdowns during construction and operation.

Eric JohnsonEric Johnson, PE

3D modeling and 4D Building Information Modeling, commonly known as BIM, have become prevalent tools in the engineering and construction industry for their ability to look at and improve safety at all phases, well before a final design comes to fruition. No longer does the responsibility fall solely on the shoulders of the health and safety professional. These tools are enabling the entire project team to consider the safety pros and cons of any particular decision. Here are four ways 3D/4D modeling is fostering safety-conscious teams:

  1. 3D/4D modeling allows the project team to design in safety from the outset by enhancing facility visualization from the end-user perspective. Placing owners, operators, designers and constructors inside a virtual mockup of the facility improves collective understanding of design intent, form and function and helps reveal opportunities to build a safer and more user-friendly product. Everything from potential trip and fall hazards to how process equipment will be changed out gains more clarity when using these tools.

  2. These tools facilitate dynamic, on-the-fly resolution of safety challenges. Thus, change orders and rework are limited, time is saved, construction costs and risk are lowered, and ultimately higher-quality, higher-margin designs and projects are produced. Consider a project in which a confined space is identified. A dialogue between team members can produce options for quickly modifying the design to eliminate the issue, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in rework to eliminate the space or train staff to work within it.

  3. Safe access to equipment for builders and operators is sometimes overlooked during design. 3D/4D modeling helps the design team account for the positioning of cranes, lifts and access ways; reduce confined spaces; and, provide proper space for chemicals handling and movement.

  4. Sharing and collaborating with 3D/4D models is more effective than dealing with reams of 2D drawings. State-of-the-art visualization studios and CAD tools enable more minds to work simultaneously to resolve safety needs and address construction and operations concerns. The level of teamwork supported is especially effective on design-build projects, where designer/constructor and owner have a shared incentive to work in tandem.

The benefits of data-rich 3D/4D environments are clear: increased efficiency, productivity and quality. With the information models provide, everyone on the project team becomes equipped to make smarter, safer decisions.

Want to discover more ways to incorporate safe behaviors and practices at all phases of your projects? Watch our recent Safety by Design webinar.

Eric Johnson, PE, is an environmental engineer and lead 3D/4D modeler with more than 10 years of experience. He has worked on numerous water and wastewater treatment and private industrial projects. His design-build experience includes serving as the lead 3D/4D modeler on both the first thermal hydrolysis project in the United States and on a commercial hazardous waste incinerator expansion project.