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BIM Only? The Randselva Bridge, A World First
15 May 2023
If you're looking for a shining example of how BIM can help realize even the most complex of projects, look no further than the Randselva Bridge in Norway. This incredible bridge, which spans 2,080 feet (634 meters), was made possible thanks entirely to the use of BIM. But what was the Norwegian approach to this project and what made it a BIM world first?
No Trolls Allowed
The country that gave us Vikings, the three billy goats gruff, and their nemesis — the bridge-dwelling troll — now has a bridge for which trolls would give their left eye (if they had one). Travel 39 miles (63 kilometers) northwest of Norway’s capital, Oslo, and you arrive at Hønefoss, a surprisingly charming industrial town where the Randselva and Begna rivers merge. The cantilevered concrete Randselva Bridge straddles the river, a valley, a rail line, and the picturesque foothills around Hønefoss, as it carries the E16 motorway to Sweden.
The design required over 200,000 sections of rebar, 200 separate concrete pour phases and over 250 post-tensioning cable anchors. None of these materials or processes are unusual in bridge construction, but what is unusual about the Randselva Bridge is that not a single 2D drawing was ever made.
The entire project was executed only in BIM, from start to finish, and at the time of construction, it was the world’s largest bridge ever built without drawings of any kind. All contributors relied entirely on the 3D model.
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration encouraged the use of BIM for this project. They observed a reduction in the number of change requests during the construction phase when BIM was used on previous projects. With the design team working from four different countries — Norway, Denmark, Finland and Poland — model-sharing was essential from the design phase all the way through to the construction of the bridge. Every on-site crew was equipped with a tablet so that they could easily access the 3D model from any location.
BIM for the Win
The use of BIM allowed the designers to create a highly efficient and sustainable design that would not have been possible with traditional methods. BIM also helped eliminate a key area that has become a problem-plagued step in construction. For the past decade or so, with the advancement of digital-design software, most big construction projects have been designed digitally as 3D models. With the 3D model complete, the model would next be converted into large sets of 2D drawings. Contractors and suppliers would use these drawings to plot out the step-by-step construction process. Any issue encountered during construction would require changes to be made to the digital model, which would then require the creation of new construction drawings — changes that are generally as common as they are expensive.
Some of the other benefits of using BIM for this project include better time and cost planning and control, as well as easy revision and speedy changes enabled by parametric design. The bridge is also expected to have a much lower lifetime maintenance cost than other similar bridges. Additionally, while 2D drawings are often country-specific, BIM tends to be more universal, which made cross-border collaboration significantly easier.
The Randselva Bridge took three years to build and was constructed using prefabricated concrete elements that were assembled, on-site, using cranes. This technique resulted in minimal disruption to traffic and pedestrians in the area.
BIM helped eliminate a key area that has become a problem-plagued step in construction.
In 2020, four years after its completion, the Randselva Bridge won a Global BIM Award due to the way in which this project demonstrated the benefits of adopting new technologies and challenging the status quo.
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