Constructing Hinkley Point C, the UK’s first nuclear power station in a generation, is understandably no mean feat, with a project of this scale and complexity requiring digital collaboration, traceability and visibility to deliver the nuclear level quality required.
With a project value of over £20 billion, 60 major structures to be built over a seven-year period, and the fact that two identical nuclear reactors are being built concurrently, Hinkley Point C (HPC) is one of the largest and most complex projects currently under construction in Europe. Marking the first nuclear power station to be built in the UK in a generation, once completed it will be responsible for providing around six million homes with safe, secure and low-carbon electricity.
Contracted to provide the main civil engineering works at HPC is BYLOR, a joint venture between French Bouygues Travaux Publics (TP) and British Laing O'Rourke. Given the scale and complexity of the project - with a workforce of 5,000, 50 tower cranes, 222,000 tonnes of reinforcement and 1.3 million cubic metres of concrete - it’s no surprise that digital technology and digital workflows have played a huge part in its delivery so far.
Digital workflows require sharing of relevant project data between various stakeholders throughout the project. Starting with the design and detailing process, BYLOR was responsible for modelling all of the concrete and reinforcement needed for the incredible range of complex structures on site. Right at the start of the project, it was decided to complete all of this work in Tekla Structures, the structural BIM software for creating, combining, managing, and sharing information-rich accurate 3D models.
Speaking about the benefits of employing a digital design and detailing workflow including model sharing, Andrew Jackson, Technical Director & Nuclear Quality Lead, BYLOR, says: “The first is the ability to clearly visualise and see what it is that we have to do. As a construction team, this helps us to better understand some of the designers’ complex needs, by spinning around the 3D model and looking inside. Likewise, the designers can understand our construction requirements and see how certain details may be difficult to build on site and therefore suggest alternatives. The range of scale on Hinkley Point-C is mindblowing as we use the same detailing approach on a one cubic meter pour as on the two largest onshore continuous pours ever performed in the UK.
“The second benefit is coordination. Sometimes, as the civil builder, we need to remind ourselves that we are just one cog in the massive machine that is a nuclear power station. Being able to join together all the different complex aspects of the design and ensure that they work together is critical, and it’s only by looking at the 3D model that we can do that. Where issues have arisen on other nuclear power stations, it’s likely because components haven’t fit together correctly. Often there may have been one designer detailing the reinforcement on one set of 2D drawings and another designer detailing the embeds on a second set of drawings. The first time those 2D drawings will be introduced to each other is in the hands of the team on site that has to make it fit. By using the digital models, whether it’s the civil design being produced in Tekla or the other designs being produced in different platforms, we can put those together and make sure that, out in the field, everything is going to fit out of the box.”
BYLOR at an early stage decided to use the IFC data format to describe, exchange and share information. “That has really proven to give us great flexibility to adapt and as the industry adapts around us,” says Jackson. “As information is issued and frozen and controlled, we can tell who created it, we can demonstrate the level of control needed to deliver nuclear quality.”
With 5,000 people working on-site day in and day out, reaching 8,500 at the project’s peak, ensuring effective levels of coordination and communication between all teams was a critical concern. To facilitate this, BYLOR employed the cloud-based Trimble Connect – a common data environment and collaboration platform designed specifically for the construction industry.
Tim Davies, Central Digital Engineering Lead, BYLOR, says: “Our main use is to get information that’s traditionally only available on laptops and desktops, such as 3D models and PDF documents, out of the office and onto the construction site. We can then give that information to the workforce, providing them with up-to-date, correct information at the right time.
“Trimble Connect has been critical in helping us to understand the very complex designs that we have here, designs that are difficult to convey with traditional 2D drawings. By giving the site team the ability to view 3D models out in the field as they are doing the work, makes it easier for them to build the right quality and get it right the first time. As well as allowing us to push data and information out to the field, Trimble Connect can also be used to get data and information back from the field. For example, by using the status sharing tool to track the progress of our installation. The Trimble Connect API enables us to automate our workflows as well as scale up the use of the tool across the whole project.
Apart from detailing and building the structures required on-site, another momentous task facing BYLOR was how to report on and record this work completed, as well as effectively manage the immense amount of data generated. This is where Trimble’s Viewpoint Field View came into play – a cloud-based mobile solution designed to replace pen and paper in the field for forms, recording, project delivery and handover processes.
Speaking about the use of Field View, Greg Bond, Business Intelligence Manager, BYLOR, comments: “Right from the beginning of the project, we knew that we needed a digital system for all our records. At the start, a lot of the focus was on how we could capture and maintain those records in a digital format, making them really easy to retrieve, easy to audit and easy for people to take out into the field – which is why we chose Field View. We wanted to help our engineers get out onto site, rather than being sat at their desks in the office.
“As well as the focus on documentation delivery, we also have an ongoing requirement to keep our client informed of progress and help our teams out on site to understand what items need actioning. Field View allows us to capture this information really easily out in the field but also allows us to process that same information. Given the size of the project, not everyone can be at the work front looking at what’s physically happening. As a result, the ability to move that information into a digital dashboard - far faster than a person could run up to the office, the boardroom or the client - is really useful.”
Changing the traditionally paper-based process of compiling lifetime quality records (LTQRs) to a digital format, sped up the process of compiling these highly detailed reports and metrics, by approximately fivefold. Alina Turda, Quality Systems Engineer, BYLOR, says: “On a project of this scale, you would never be able to do anything with just paper. Field View has proved instrumental in providing us and helping us maintain a quality system and record system that is fit for purpose. Through the records produced, it delivers consistency, transparency and full visibility, both for us and for our client.”