Building a hydropower station without any drawings

Soon after commencing the design and construction contract for the largest greenfield hydropower project in Norway in recent times – Smibelg and Storåvatn (Smisto) – Multiconsult ASA and Hæhre Entreprenør AS set themselves the ambitious goal of communicating the design without the use of conventional two dimensional (2D) drawings.

This innovative approach termed ‘drawingless design’ is currently catching an increasing attention in unison with maturing modelling software packages. The Smisto project is currently one year into the construction phase, and demonstrates its success as one of the most developed drawingless projects in Norway.

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Photo: Smibelg power station

New technology and creative use of 3D tools

In order to achieve the goal of eliminating conventional 2D drawings, Multiconsult has replaced traditional design methods with modern 3D/BIM tools such as Revit, Civil 3D, Solibri and Navisworks in combination with improvements to the planning and design process. At a high level, these improvements include a revised workflow for the project execution based on the standard Multiconsult philosophy. On a lower level, drawingless design allows for modelling a detailed level of building elements such as reinforcement, pipework and cable trays, and allows for including supplier equipment more easily compared to conventional 2D drawings.

“A drawingless project required changes to our working practices as consultant engineers, but also changes that apply to the construction workers on site. For these reasons, we have been in a close dialogue with the contractor to come up with solutions that make it possible to complete the construction works with information from the BIM model only, without the use of drawings. Our collaboration has proved successful as we are one year into the project and we have only delivered a single 2D format working drawing,” says project manager Herman Smith.

 

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Photo: Smibelg 3D model

Right from the concept stage

Multiconsult gave a presentation on its use of digital tools in the concept stage of the Smisto power station project on the 2015 Autodesk University Conference in Las Vegas. The presentation was well received, and the progress made by Multiconsult with 3D technology and visualisations received a lot of attention internationally.

This resulted in a highly realistic 3D model and visualisations.

Worth pursuing

The advances of the Smisto project has convinced the main contractor Hæhre Entreprenør AS and Multiconsult that drawingless execution is worth pursuing. The direct flow of data in the model simplifies the interaction between the design team, the contractor and the project owner, and facilitates for identifying expensive mistakes prior to construction. Furthermore, a positive side effect of drawingless design is the ease of monitoring the progress by setting statuses, where the models are used to schedule and sequence both the design and construction process.

However, because of the new design process, it has been essential to work closely with the contractor in order to optimise the information provided for various on-site operations.

“Carrying out a project of this kind without drawings would have been nearly impossible it were not for the excellent cooperation between the client, contractor and the design team. All parties have also had to show their capabilities in decision making and courage to achieve our goal,” says Herman.

Largest greenfield project in more than 10 years

Smisto is financially the largest new greenfield hydropower project in Norway since 2004. The project comprises two separate power stations located on each side of Gjervalen, a fjord located to the west of Mo i Rana. In addition to the mere power output, Smibelg (33 MW) as well as Storåvatn (25 + 8 MW) are supplied with water from large capacity reservoirs.

Together, the two power stations will generate enough electricity to cater for 10,000 households.