Archaeological excavation of the Olympic Park

BIM and archaeology: an unlikely match made in heaven

MOLA team

BIM basics

In its purest form Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a collaborative approach to digital information management. It integrates the different aspects of design so that everyone works to the same standards. Doing away with endless sets of incompatible drawings, it reduces the risk of conflicting information and discrepancies.

A sensible approach to data management when working with multiple contractors on a complex scheme, the future of BIM was set in stone in 2011 when the Government announced a move towards all centrally procured projects being fully BIM compliant, with a deadline set for 2016.

An unexpected ally

Although archaeology is largely concerned with the past, the vast amounts of data generated whilst excavating sites demands a common data environment. Urban archaeology is a particularly complex 3-dimensional problem and in London there are layers upon layers of finds, features and remains. To cope with this giant jigsaw all this information is managed in relational databases, enabling us to compare discoveries made over time and space. It’s a constantly evolving model of London’s past, representing nearly 2000 years of the capital’s fascinating history.

A natural BIM fit you may say. Moreover there are clear advantages to integrating archaeological data into Building Information Models. Working on large infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail and Thames Tideway Tunnel and other major commercial developments, we have been able to explore these benefits.

It’s possible to map the fine detail of individually significant archaeological features to pinpoint accuracy, as well as larger scale structure and zones of archaeological potential, alongside utilities and other existing features. Incorporating this archaeological data into BIM models enables other contractors to understand the nature of the archaeology and the task at hand, ultimately streamlining the design process and construction logistics.

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