Sundar Chandramouli Bangalore Airport

Interview: Sundar Chandramouli, Vice President, Bangalore International Airport Limited

“Data modelling (BIM) and Spatial Data (GIS) are two sides of the same coin…
Integration of BIM and GIS, AI/ML and other technologies open up the possibility of robotic construction with minimal manual intervention.”

This interview was originally published in AGI’s Sep-Oct 2021 Newsletter Edition on the theme of BIM+GIS. To download the full newsletter, click here.

The Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, is the first in India to have used Building Information Modelling (BIM) for end-to-end project delivery. Can you throw some light on the reason behind BIAL opting for this technology in the first place, and the benefits you could draw from it?

BIAL is always on the lookout for technology that helps us deliver our vision of ‘Enabling Journeys, Creating Experiences and Touching Lives as the Gateway to a new India’. When the expansion of our airport facilities was conceived, we automatically began to explore the best tools available to help us in this endeavour.

The reason for using Building Information Modelling (BIM) for end-to-end project delivery was to first visualise the new terminal before physically building it to help coordinate all disciplines virtually and speed up the construction. Further, this would also facilitate seamless integration with Facilities Management at the handover stage of the project. Additionally, using BIM enabled us to have all information of the project in a single environment, including all drawings, specifications, and all relevant project data.

The Airport has been designed on the lines of Bengaluru’s rich history as a “Garden City”, recalling the city’s expansive parks and plantings. At the same time, it has earned GreenCo Platinum certification from the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Green Business Centre and LEED Gold certification from the IGBC. What role did BIM play in the environmental management plan for the project?

BIAL always believes in leading by example, and is keen to partner with other leaders in the industry to achieve our vision. This led us to achieve the GreenCo certification from CII for our existing terminal. We are keen to replicate the same for our upcoming Terminal 2 also. In this context, 3D and 4D BIM models have played an important role in workspace planning, safety and environmental management.

Bangalore International Airport Geospatial Technology
Kempegowda International Airport Terminal 1, Bengaluru; Source: BIAL

The models were used for obtaining all important aero-related approvals and in discussions with statutory bodies for environment related approvals. BIM also played an important role in associating the appropriate material specifications to each of the project documents as well as in calculation of energy consumption. It was a valuable tool for maintaining the carbon footprint classification of each selected material in a combined database.

What are the shortcomings that you faced despite or upon using BIM modelling for the Airport Design, if any? What improvements do you expect in the coming years for a more seamless process and outcomes?

The major shortcoming in BIM in an Indian scenario is the level of expertise that is required for the various vendors and contractors to manage the project digitally. The local industry is not in pace with all the technological advances in the marketplace. This makes it very difficult to collaborate with international consultants and specialist vendors with various levels of skillsets.

Additionally, the infrastructure on site is limiting the bandwidth availability to effectively use BIM on mobile devices and utilise the full benefits of AR and VR for construction. We expect the familiarity of BIM and AR / VR to increase and more effective communication devices to encourage widespread site-based application. 

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and BIM have developed simultaneously over the last few decades, especially for the construction and infrastructure management industries. As compatibility between software, standards and data material is increasing, what opportunities do you think an integration of data modelling (BIM) and spatial data (GIS) can present for mega-projects in India?

Data modelling (BIM) and spatial data (GIS) are two sides of a same coin. As the modelling is done in BIM all things have GIS built-in already. On one hand this data is used for construction coordination and on the other hand this embedded GIS data in BIM can be easily ported to any Map software as well as Facilities Management modules. We have experimented in ‘digital construction’ on our earthworks and runway construction which achieved limited success. In the future, this will help in automating the construction process for wide application in machine guided construction.

The COVID-19 crisis has proved to be a major deterrent for both the aviation and the architecture, construction, and engineering (AEC) industries. Looking ahead, how do you think the integration of BIM with GIS, AI/ML, Blockchain, and other technologies can help avert such a standstill in the face of future crises?

Traditionally construction has been seen as a high contact industry requiring high level of physical interaction for any and every transaction. This crisis has challenged this traditional thinking and required out of the box approach for progressing the ongoing projects. 

Irrespective of any scenario, the direct benefit of BIM is that it supports remote working in a collaboration mode thereby enabling all project team members to be in different geographical locations to contribute and collaborate seamlessly. We have had instances where complex problems were solved in virtual meetings, and entire design stage delivered without any physical meeting.

Integration of BIM with GIS, AI/ML and other technologies open up the possibility of robotic construction with minimal manual intervention. BIAL has recognised this potential and is also exploring 3D printing technologies by supporting startups to innovate in this sphere. This is an exciting phase of research and development leading to exciting possibilities for new applications which we look forward to.