University of Canterbury Structural Engineering Laboratory

The construction of the University of Canterbury’s specialist Structural Engineering Laboratory demonstrates how BIM can be applied at specific stages of construction to determine specific building elements. It shows that BIM can add value to projects, large or small.

The Canterbury earthquakes highlighted the need for a seismic testing facility for large built structures to ensure that people can escape safely from them in the event of a quake, and to make them readily repairable so they can be back in use as quickly as possible.

The University of Canterbury (UC) College of Engineering decided to construct a purpose-built facility with strong floor and walls for earthquake testing building prototypes. It comprises a 2 metre deep, concrete 500m² floor and L-shaped concrete walls 1.6 metres thick and 9 metres high. Around 1.5 kilometres of steel is used in the reinforcing.

The Structural Engineering Laboratory is designed to test large chunks of full size structures at a loading rate and pace that simulates a real earthquake. Thousands of anchors are built into the floor and walls so that structures can be bolted on to them. The walls stay rigid and hydraulic rams push the structures from side to side to measure their resilience.

It is a very complex building with a very specific use that called for exact coordination.

On this project BIM wasn’t used in the design phase, however, the contractor Dominion Constructors saw the benefit of using BIM to give proof of design, inform fabrication and help execute a number of processes in the construction phase. So the path was chosen to create a virtual mock-up of the floor and walls to test buildability, alignment with procurement of materials and to inform quality assurance and quality control throughout construction. Assemble was engaged to lead the BIM modelling process.

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Project duration:
March 2015 to April 2016

BIM Uses:
Design authoring
3D coordination Phase planning Construction system design