/ Awards / The LiRo Group’s Virtual Design, Construction and Operations Team Recognized with Autodesk’s AEC Excellence Award for Its Role on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access Project

The LiRo Group’s Virtual Design, Construction and Operations Team Recognized with Autodesk’s AEC Excellence Award for Its Role on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access Project

Parul Dubey on June 22, 2018 - in Awards

The LiRo Group’s Virtual Design, Construction and Operations (VDCO) team was awarded second place in the Infrastructure category of Autodesk’s prestigious AEC Excellence Awards for its revolutionary work on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction Division’s $10.2 billion East Side Access railroad tunnel and infrastructure project. Left to right: The LiRo Group’s VDCO team of Operations and Visualizations Specialist, Virtual Design, and Construction Manager Cheryle Cranbourne; VDCP Technology Manager Aditi Patel; Director of VDCO and Senior Associate Vice President Lennart Andersson, R.A.; and Modeling & BIM Manager David Wu.

Image courtesy of The LiRo Group


New York, NY – The LiRo Group’s Virtual Design, Construction and Operations (VDCO) team was awarded second place in the Infrastructure category of Autodesk’s prestigious AEC Excellence Awards for its revolutionary work on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction Division’s (MTACC’s) East Side Access project. East Side Access is currently the largest transportation construction undertaking in the United States, and one of the largest and most complex projects ever embarked upon in New York City.


The AEC Excellence Awards recognize global projects that embrace Building Information Modeling (BIM) technologies and sustainable design in architecture, engineering, and construction. For the 2017 awards, the jury – comprised of highly regarded members of the architectural, engineering, and construction BIM community – had their work cut out for them: the competition received 145 entries from more than 30 countries.


The LiRo Group (LiRo) is a multidisciplinary construction and project management, engineering, and architectural design firm headquartered in Syosset, New York and operating nationwide. Engineering News-Record magazine currently ranks the firm as the 15th-largest construction manager in the United States. LiRo, in a joint venture with Jacobs Engineering Group, has been serving MTACC as construction manager for the East Side Access project since 2008. The LiRo Group’s VDCO is serving MTACC under a separate contract to provide BIM and visualization services for East Side Access.


 “LiRo recognized the value of BIM in streamlining and accelerating project delivery early on. Our VDCO team has been supporting clients since 2010, and today is one of the leading BIM providers in the United States, in both the public and commercial markets. In addition, LiRo’s BIM team is at the forefront of the global innovation effort as a developer of new visualization and data-management solutions. I am very proud of the 2017 AEC Excellence Award as a recognition of the tremendous value our BIM professionals provide to clients,” said Louis M. Tormenta, P.E., The LiRo Group’s CEO and Vice Chairman.


Lennart Andersson, Director of LiRo VDCO and LiRo’s Senior Associate Vice President, accepted the award before an audience of attendees from around the world at the Autodesk University Conference in Las Vegas, on behalf of the entire VDCO team. “With over 150 interconnected models and spanning four-and-a-half miles, the East Side Access visualization program has to be one of the largest – if not the largest – integrated BIM projects in the world,” said Andersson. “Further, by connecting data with geometry, and delivering the BIM system to all project participants, we’ve enabled team members to make better-informed decisions while significantly reducing risk. It has revolutionized how East Side Access is being built. We’re grateful that Autodesk has recognized our progressive work,” he continued.

The LiRo Group’s Virtual Design, Construction and Operations (VDCO) team was awarded second place in the Infrastructure category of Autodesk’s prestigious AEC Excellence Awards for its revolutionary work on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction Division’s $10.2 billion East Side Access project. East Side Access is currently the largest transportation construction undertaking in the United States, and one of the largest and most complex projects ever embarked upon in New York City.

Image courtesy of The LiRo Group


The massive, nearly $10.2 billion East Side Access project will bring Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) service to eight new train platforms and a new eight-block-long, 350,000-square foot passenger concourse approximately 150 feet beneath Grand Central Terminal. This marks the first expansion of the LIRR in over 100 years. When complete, in December of 2022, East Side Access will serve approximately 162,000 customers a day, saving each of them up to 40 minutes’ time on their commutes, and significantly reducing overcrowding at Penn Station and relevant west-side subway lines.


The scope of work includes the construction of new tunnels under Manhattan; the construction of five massive, 10-story-high ventilation buildings; the refurbishment of existing train tunnels under the East River; and major renovations to Harold Interlocking, an above-ground train yard and interlocking in Queens used 24/7, which happens to be the busiest railway junction in the country (and, with 780 trains per day from Amtrak, LIRR, NJ Transit, and New York & Atlantic Railroad, it is the busiest passenger rail interlocking in North America). In addition, the project ties into extremely active existing infrastructure and public functions. Work is taking place in multiple locations in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx, and, while it encompasses four-and-a-half route miles total (three in Manhattan, one-and-a-half in Queens), it requires more than eight miles of tunneling, including connections to the existing 63rd Street tunnel under the East River in a one-mile dig-and-blasting effort that will remove nearly 400,000 cubic yards of rock.


The Manhattan tunnels were excavated between 80 and 140 feet down, while the Queens tunnels were excavated between the surface and 90 feet down. Work in Queens will also include the construction of a new passenger station in Sunnyside, train storage facilities, 50,000 linear feet of track, and systems components such as signals, communications, power, and security. The scope of the project is so large, it requires 25 construction contracts.


As BIM Manager for the effort since 2012, LiRo VDCO has been providing 4D scheduling, logistics, and constructability coordination to MTACC, which acts as an owner for the project. The team has successfully implemented BIM into this colossal project to analyze, visualize, and communicate project geometry, data, and workflows. To date, VDCO has modeled the project in its entirety, and is now using the resulting BIM resources to create visualizations, to coordinate and record laser scans for better as-built survey documentation, and to enhance construction tracking and logistics workflows as well as asset management processes. The VDCO team’s work has revolutionized the way the project’s stakeholders understand this massive undertaking and make decisions on its myriad interrelated components, not to mention how VDCO’s efforts have greatly enhanced the level of collaboration among all parties involved in East Side Access construction.


In addition to MTACC, The LiRo Group, and Jacobs, the East Side Access project team includes structural engineer and architect AECOM, project engineer GEC (WSP, STV, and AECOM joint venture), structural engineer and architect B Thayer Associates, tunnel designer Gall Zeidler Consultants, and land surveyor Maser Consulting. The general contractors include Tudor Perini; Schiavone Construction Co., LLC; Michels Corporation; and Yonkers Contracting Company, Inc.


East Side Access History (and the Future, Thanks to BIM)

LiRo VDCO was brought onto the project by MTACC in 2011 at an unusual time – in the middle of actual construction. However, it is important to note that the notion of East Side Access is hardly new. In fact, the first discussions about extending the LIRR to the east side were held as far back as the 1950s. The East Side Access project itself was initiated first in 1969, and was stopped in the 1970s due to New York City’s financial crisis. It began again in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and began anew in earnest in the late 1990s – well before the existence of BIM.


The sheer size and vast scope of the East Side Access project was a challenge VDCO had to come to terms with early on. That coupled with the fact that the team was brought on after the start of construction, and had only 2D drawings to work from, additionally compounded the substantial undertaking they faced. Prior to the LiRo VDCO team joining the project, the East Side Access design and construction team had to rely on thousands of 2D CAD drawings and documents. When MTACC decided to bring in visualization and data management consultants, the LiRo VDCO team had already been researching, developing, and incorporating into its workflows cutting-edge tools such as reality capture, mixed reality, virtual reality, game-engine visualizations, and automation tools. The hope was that LiRo VDCO could bring their tools to the East Side Access mega-project and streamline it.


The VDCO team painstakingly worked to compile the project information mid-stream, converting these 2D fragments into 3D and integrating them into one centralized, interconnected BIM model that is now so comprehensive – and easy to use – that it has revolutionized communication and collaboration on the project.


Once the BIM database was created, stakeholders had a complete view and understanding of the project, which allowed for unprecedented coordination and collaboration, significantly improved and accelerated decision-making processes, and considerably enhanced communication. Finally, the entire team could view the project in 3D and over its entire four-and-a-half miles, with the ability to zoom in to pinpoint the most minute design detail as well as automatically color-code trades and systems, and introduce conditional visualization.


Similarly, VDCO’s work has vastly improved the construction reporting process. Traditionally, paper drawings were marked up by inspectors, compiled with records of what was completed, the data was entered, and weekly reports were generated from that. It was a full-time job. Now, weekly construction reports take a mere four hours per week to generate. Despite the fact that reporting is ten times faster, estimates and tracked items are now also more accurate, due to the quality and specificity of the data going into the system. 


The VDCO work also included writing the BIM standards for contracts, which took considerable effort. Overall, the new standards focus on coordination, ensuring contractors use 3D modeling to manage the complex geometry of this project. This minimizes change orders and helps to avoid conflicts between components, such as between utilities and structural elements. The resulting set of standards and operational rules, which are now required to be used by all new contractors, calls for the continuous delivery of construction models and a final as-built model that will include the capture of all relevant asset data (manufacturer, model number, serial number, installation date, and so on), using proprietary software built by LiRo VDCO.


Existing Conditions and BIM Implementation On-site

VDCO’s process incorporated the reality capture of existing conditions and coordinating that with the proposed East Side Access design model. “The result exposed numerous design issues and site conditions – typical for a project of this magnitude – that were all addressed prior to the contractors coming on board, inevitably saving the client a great deal of time and money,” said Cheryle Cranbourne, VDCO’s Operations and Visualizations Specialist, Virtual Design, and Construction Manager. In one example, she discussed simulating an installation through animations and 3D-printed models. “We proved that several hundred vertical precast elements would simply be too large and too difficult to install this way. The designer was able to redesign the elements so that they were ultimately cast-in-place without a problem.”


The team also scanned the existing conditions for the outfit of Madison Yards (the concourse level that will connect Grand Central Station to the “Caverns,” the eight-block area where eight train platforms will be built), in order to create a complete model in BIM. The resulting model was used to perform preliminary clash analysis and was instrumental in rectifying many coordination issues during design. The complexity of the existing conditions – including irregular arched ceilings and sloping floors – made this exercise invaluable. On some of the major systems contracts, too, using mandated BIM coordination has allowed for a number of design conflicts to be resolved without having to resort to field change orders.


The BIM procedures have also been instrumental in enabling project team members to determine the feasibility of numerous on-site operations, such as moving large mechanical and electrical equipment through a ventilation facility. To address the spatial constraints inherent in underground construction, the VDCO team not only modeled the equipment to be installed, it also modeled the proposed access routes. (Deliveries are not allowed from the streets. Instead, the only way through was to bring materials and equipment from Queens or Harlem.)


Rather than using schedule lists, VDCO generated 4D visualizations using BIM. This has helped stakeholders visualize schedules that feature thousands of activities, while verifying the feasibility of timing, labor density, and the mobilization of materials. Meanwhile, VDCO’s built-in progress-tracking system allows data collection from the field to be directly routed into the project controls system and model, which has eliminated the redundant work of transposing paper-based information provided by the inspection staff. The result is that the time spent by construction management staff on weekly reporting has been cut down by a full 30 hours per week for each contract. Not only has this saved a significant amount of time, it has improved the quality and transparency of data from the field to management.


Further, thanks to VDCO’s work, all contractors received “scope models” that depicted the scope of work on their respective contracts. The detail and accuracy of these models were such that contractors could begin construction coordination a full six months earlier than expected.


At another point, the VDCO team took the models for Madison Yards, the Caverns, and the entrance at 48th Street, and linked them into a game engine. The resulting experience simulation takes the future end-user from the street level all the way down to the train platform. The design and facility operations teams found this simulation to be vital in helping them better understand the customer experience. It also enabled them to determine optimal locations for signage, as well as demonstrate opportunities for the placement of advertising and retail operations.


East Side Access Today – BIM as a Mainstream Tool for Construction and Facility Operations

Over the past year, the emergence of cost-effective reality capture technology has augmented the VDCO team’s workflows considerably. Large portions of the East Side Access facilities are being scanned, resulting in rapid updates of models and tagged interactive scan models that are easily shared with the project team. Ultimately, the web-based current conditions models – which can be walked through virtually, using a web browser – will be used by the facility management group. In fact, all the assets generated from the BIM will be linked to the current conditions scan models.


The LiRo VDCO team is using the software it has developed internally, because it connects design and construction with the asset data captured during these same phases, so that the operations personnel and end-users ultimately receive organized materials. “On typical projects, they receive less-than-organized information. We’ve found that when this is captured upstream, using our automated software to organize it to the largest extent possible, at handover they get exactly what they need,” said Andersson.


Throughout the remainder of construction and commissioning, contractors will continue compiling data into the models, while VDCO leverages software with plug-ins to manage and maintain the quality of the data. By using the models as 3D databases, VDCO has streamlined the input and delivery of the asset data, while increasing the reliability of asset information for the MTACC and LIRR. This will eventually increase efficiency of proactive and reactive maintenance, and other operations-related tasks, which will ultimately increase system reliability and reduce operational costs.


VDCO’s work is also serving to save the client’s and LIRR’s legal teams a great deal of time and effort. MTACC and LIRR are in the midst of drawing up comprehensive legal documents detailing which agency is responsible for maintaining which parts of the five massive ventilation facilities. VDCO scanned the ventilation facilities into their online viewer, enabling the approximately 20 legal team members the ability to virtually walk through each facility and discuss – remotely – which agency will be responsible for each part. “This eliminates the need for 20 people to get together and hash this out in a room over days and days on end. It’s a complete game-changer,” said Andersson.


When complete, the East Side Access project will be an integrated, functional component of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s and Long Island Rail Road’s 24/7 colossal regional operations. Its eight new miles of tunneling, its 350,000-square foot passenger concourse and eight new tracks 150 feet below Grand Central Terminal will be simply where 162,000 customers are shuttled each weekday, and go about their daily business as they disperse via 47 new escalators, 22 new elevators, and a seemingly infinite number of new staircases. Few of these customers will be thinking about the BIM and visualization services that LiRo VDCO provided that revolutionized the way East Side Access was built, the way its elements are maintained, and that will help increase system reliability and reduce operational costs for decades to come. They will simply reap the benefits of a shorter, more-convenient commute. And that is as it should be.

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