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EllisDon — Lauréat du prix de l'envoyé mondial 2022

Digital Transformation Strategy for Mega Water Theme Park Project

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi (SWAD) is a world-class theme park development located on Yas Island on the coast of Abu Dhabi Island, in the United Arab Emirates. Natural places will be rendered using water, sculpture, sound, media, and lighting — creating immersive, compelling, and transformable environments. The project consists of 10,000 T of steel, 150Km of piping, 44 KM of HVAC ducts, and around 300,000 m3 of concrete. Once completed, SWAD will be the new home for 147,000 marine animals. The project is developed by Miral and it is one of the most complex projects in the region due to the sheer amount of thematic, functional, and technical requirements. BIM & VDC tools have been identified as the key technological environments needed to execute and manage the whole project activities from design to handover.

Open BIM Protocol

Several challenges were highlighted during setting up the project execution strategy. The team estimated that aroun d 500 different design models needed to be coordinated, taking into consideration that project stakeholders were operating in various regions between the US and the Middle East. Design to budget, project approach was key and the decision to utilize BIM data for analytics was a no brainer. Theming models, artistic scope modelling, and specialty interior items required the use of different design authoring tools, VR simulations, and specialty render software to address the extensive thematic. Therefore, compatibility was an issue as long as data sharing between various model formats. When it comes to QA/QC, program control & monitoring, and field approvals and inspections, the team had to come up with a digital and paperless approach to ensure the highest level of quality, efficiency, and site performance.

High-Level Solution

Project stakeholders took a strategic decision to utilize Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and BIM throughout all project stages to increase communication and team efficiencies, while working toward a win-win project delivery outcome. By participating in a project that leverages IPD, the participant forfeits their opportunity to manage their share of the project work in a way that will generate maximum collaboration and openness. BIM and other VDC applications utilize 3D models and metadata to help in the design and construction of the project as a way to increase understanding of the project and reduce risk of unseen issues. BIM and IPD can seem like very similar concepts, with them both advocating close collaboration between cross-functional parties with a “collective mind” of information as a means of enabling more efficient and effective trans-disciplinary problem solving.  When IPD and BIM are used in conjunction, the expectations for the project to be completed successfully are increased.

Solution Details

Solutions to Streamline Collaboration

  • To support the fast-track approach of the project, the team developed a formal shop drawings approval workflow directly from the construction BIM models throughout the construction stage without going through the traditional 2D approval process. LOD 400 models were reviewed and approved in the BIM360 cloud environment and utilized directly in the site.
  • All project spaces and rooms were tagged with a unique barcode for ease of identification to support snagging and inspections. BIM360 field was used to issue, manage, and close all requests. The whole workflow was paperless and eliminated redundant correspondences between consultants and contractors.

Solutions to support Project Monitoring & Control

  • A detailed 4D model was developed to simulate the project program in the 3D environment. Unique activities’ IDs extracted from the Primavera schedule were incorporated in the BIM models developed by the GC. Using the SYNCHRO Pro software, the 4D model was developed with 2 programs: the baseline schedule and the weekly update as per site progress. SYNCHRO was utilized on a biweekly basis to develop a side-by-side visual comparison between actual progress vs. planned. 

Solutions to Support the Development of the Thematic Content

  • EllisDon deployed a dedicated VR specialist to simulate material finishes and textures in reference to design development. In addition to that, a cloud collaboration approach using the VR tools was implemented to allow offshore reviewers to tag their comments and approve the work.

Solutions to support Data Analytics

  • EllisDon developed various PowerBi dashboards to synchronize data acquisition and analysis from different teams at different stages to automate: Quantity takeoff, LOI compliance, completion of design, analysis of design changes, and progress monitoring.

Business Benefits

At the preconstruction stage, BIM constructability assessment allowed the IPD team to virtually rehearse various execution plans with no impact on time and cost and achieved a 30% reduction in decision making time at construction stage. Also, it allows for 30% less time for generating take-offs & 30% less shop drawings submission time.

BIM enabled the  general contractor to  complete a design review at the pre-construction stage to check the constructability and assess risks. The general contractor’s recommendation had been taken to optimize design and expedite the design development by 3 months. It also supported the usage of offsite prefab elements due to the high level of coordinated models. Having a component manufactured off site helped speed up the construction, diminished waste labor by 15%, reduced material costs, and improved overall efficiency by 12%.

As the coordination process connected various teams, BIM design models have been updated constantly via BIM 360 cloud solutions, and thus, allowed teams with different time zones to review the work and provide their comments effectively. Online virtual coordination sessions reduced the number of planned design workshops by 40%. Project handover stage saved 4% of the budget due to delivery of a BIM asset model with embedded O&M hyperlinks.


Implementing BIM and IPD for the SWAD project assisted the client, designers, and constructors in reducing wastage in time, and improving productivity. It helped in sharing information openly with the owners where they will have a clear picture of how the project will be executed throughout the planned phases. Biweekly BIM coordination sessions were executed in the presence of the main stakeholders where discussions and problems were shared in the open environment. The utilization of  BIM created a center point for all project information to facilitate a process for smart designing.

As BIM provided, to a great extent, a single source of truth for the SWAD project, all disciplines had the opportunity to collaborate closely even without regularly meeting each other. The general contractor and their sub-consultants communicated reported issues, and progress by utilizing BIM as a live data repository for communication channels. In addition to that, the redundancy of traditional emails and markups was significantly reduced by combining all information from all involved parties and translate them into an integrated model that can improve the efficiency of the whole project team. Overall, putting all engineers, subcontractors, designers, and project managers under a single umbrella created a win-win situation for all of them, including the client. The flow of information became smoother in that everyone moved according to the requirements of the client, achieving success for all involved in the project.

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