Team BIM Unlimited Takes Home Award in Build Earth Live Hyperloop Competition

Posted by Guest Author on 12/12/16 11:42 AM  |  11 min read time

By Martyn Horne, Group Product Development, Exertis Unlimited

During the eighth annual Build Earth Live competition this fall, I’m excited to say that my team, BIM Unlimited, won the BEST MULTI-DISCIPLINARY BIM & USE OF INTEROPERABILITY award. This virtual, global design competition revolved around three sites in the Arabian Peninsula. As with previous competitions in the Build Earth Live series, such as London, Sydney, and New York (which we also participated in), teams had just 48 hours to publish their proposals to Asite's Adoddle cloud-based collaboration platform. The competition and subsequent award is in recognition of the best project submitted combining work from multiple disciplines, applications, and open file types.

This year, the competition required the teams to design multiple terminals and infrastructure for a Hyperloop train prototype connecting Dubai and Fujairah, which, if built, would reduce travel time between the two cities to 10 minutes. The seven finalists were chosen from a pool of 250 registrants working in 65 teams from 29 countries around the world. The competition attracted attention from international media, including one million views for the hashtag #BELHyperloop and 130,000 interactions on Twitter.


As the BIM Unlimited team captain for the event, I led an international team with an objective to create innovative architecture within an organized and collaborative BIM workflow.

This year’s brief was tougher than ever before. Not satisfied with asking the teams to produce one building proposal in one city in 48 hours, the organizers asked the teams to design three Hyperloop train terminals linking the three transport hubs of Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Fujairah International Airport, as well as providing the Hyperloop track infrastructure and route between the three terminals.

Our submission included work from the disciplines of architecture, interior architecture, landscape architecture, structural engineering, pedestrian simulation, environmental analysis, BIM project management, and BIM verification.

With regard to tools and workflows, the team members each used their preferred software and exchanged their BIM models using IFC. Our team also welcomed research students from the University of Tokyo and Tokyo University of Science with expertises in environmental analysis and external airflow led by Yasin Idris. Truly demonstrating our open and interoperable BIM approach, we also integrated an extra team member, Gregory Fortune, into our workflow with only a few hours to go before the event, as he was looking for a team to join. Gregory provided work on the track route concepts and also the Hyperloop passenger and freight payload space requirements.

Our use of Vectorworks Architect and Landmark software gave us the opportunity to manage all the urban information as a GIS process. For the first step, we imported the three distinct IFC site models provided as part of the brief. Each site was correctly georeferenced using real-world latitude and longitude coordinates. This was critical for establishing an important requirement of the brief, namely the design of the track route between the three train terminals. An airflow analysis of the site using AKLFlowDesigner was also instrumental at this stage to simulate wind patterns over the localized site and existing buildings using weather data.

Our team's response to the brief sets out to address the needs of the urban environment while also considering energy-use, so we approached the project with these four fundamental points in mind: efficiency, sustainability, cost effectiveness, and fresh aesthetics. For example, our proposed track takes the shortest and most direct route, ensuring the minimum travel time, without interfering with existing airports or another infrastructure.


"By placing the terminals at the points where the Hyperloop needs to change direction, it minimizes the travel time and creates a more user-friendly experience,” architect and BIM Unlimited team member Rubén Hernández Fontana explains. “We proposed three terminals and a loop which connects them in a parallel system without tangling, allowing the entire journey of 258 km to be undertaken in 11 minutes and 50 seconds. The curved footprint of the buildings not only demonstrates their relationship to the loop, but it is also a geometry that comes as a result of the detailed environmental airflow analysis."

The non-rectangular footprint of the design concept, with its interplay of internal and external space, meant that instant feedback of critical area quantities was invaluable throughout the design process. This was enabled by the Space tool in Vectorworks Architect, which also allowed for an immediate evaluation of the areas per the brief, not only defining all the spaces but also their occupancy rates.

"Each terminal is conceived as an oasis — as a form giver for places of interchange, such as services, food, stores, businesses, parking, and security,” describes Architect Irina Angelo. “Working as a node, the project is always surrounded by soft and green spaces, while also functioning as an open space in general terms. As an example of this, the air circulates as a conveyor, extracting hot air through big holes that penetrate the building roofs acting as chimneys. And for the wraparound façade, the perforated modular panels allow for natural ventilation while blocking 70 percent of the sun’s radiation and allowing for natural, dappled light to enter the space."

From the outset, it was our aim to develop a building that would mitigate the high turbulences evident on the downward side of the building and to minimize the rapid increase of wind velocity near the building’s edge. Our team members from the University of Tokyo provided airflow analysis feedback of the initial massing studies. The offset, curved footprint of the arrival and departure terminals provided a good wind analysis pattern creating calm, sheltered zones on its downwind side, which is where we situated the parks. Further calming of the wind speed experienced in the park areas was achieved by creating a phoenix palm tree forest in front and upwind of the buildings.

Pedestrian flow analysis was also undertaken early on using the Vectorworks plug-in for SimTread software. Here, Takeshi Kimura was able to confirm that the design could accommodate the peak pedestrian foot traffic as specified by the brief. Takeshi presented several real-time animations to demonstrate that the architectural layout presented no crunch points or delays to the movement of people either through the terminals or when embarking or disembarking the Hyperloop trains themselves.


The space layout objects and early concept massing model also allowed the structural engineers (via Scia Engineer software) to begin working on IFC files exported out of Vectorworks Architect by the architectural team. The team’s BIM Validation and Analysis Manager David Oliveira then carried out clash tests, evacuation escape route analyses, and room accessibility tests at this stage in Solibri Model Checker. "The Build Earth Live events are a great example of what can be created in the short timeframe allowed when team disciplines work collaboratively and in parallel,” Olivera said. “In this particular case, we were able to run a series of space program validations, even within the very early stages of design, due to the spaces in the IFC models.”

A similarly collaborative process took place for the Hyperloop track system, which was elevated on concrete pylons. Designed in Vectorworks Architect and analyzed structurally in SCIA by Rodrigo Couto, the IFC files were then taken into Synchro 4D Software, where the fourth dimension of time was added, to create phased construction schedule worksheets and associated 4D sequencing animations which demonstrated the associated construction sequence.

As another example of parallel working, Architects Jonathan Reeves and Fortune from the Palace of Westminster created a series of proposals for both the track routes and the design of the Hyperloop train module, along with the low-pressure tube in which it travels. Their deliverables ranged from space models to developed coordination models and rendered visuals, all of which communicated and documented the constant refinement of the design as the project evolved. Reeves took Fortune’s AutoCAD files and developed them in Vectorworks Architect before rendering them in Vectorworks’ integrated rendering feature set: Renderworks.


“I was able to federate the existing site buildings and the designers DWG models alongside the native Vectorworks Architect files and render them in a single solution,” Reeves said. “The flexible and powerful free form and parametric modeling tools available in Vectorworks 2017, combined with realistic built-in rendering via Renderworks, made developing and visualizing the complex geometrical forms rapid and streamlined. My design response was to explore the modeling of a typical section of the Hyperloop that was suitable for the urban environment above ground. Initially, I modeled the four passenger and freight pods, and encased them within the structural tube to establish the form and size of the Hyperloop. Then, I used the Surface Array tool in Vectorworks to model the complex surface façade treatment, which allowed me to rapidly explore the effect of altering the base surface, and the array item itself to explore different geometries inspired by traditional Arabic patterns. The legs supporting the Hyperloop were modeled as organic concrete forms using the Subdivision solids modeling tools in Vectorworks. This allowed me to rapidly explore a range of organic forms and options with ease without needing any other software."

And finally, the team's presentation was completed with a series of associative plans, sections, and elevations generated directly from the BIM file within Vectorworks Architect. With such tight deadlines, the fact that an adjustment to the model creates instant, automatic changes to the related drawings means that the team can concentrate on refining the design all the way through to the finish line. Having been involved in a number of these events, from a personal perspective, it’s great to see how year after year, the various individuals from different disciplines are refining the collaborative process while at the same time producing increasingly sophisticated proposals to increasingly challenging briefs. It’s also great to see new team members come in and each time add something new to the experience.

In summary, both veterans and newcomers to the team all agree they took away a lot from their involvement in the competition and will look to apply their new knowledge back to their respective work. Beyond the award itself, the real value of an event like this is the experience it affords the team members involved. Judging by the demand from the BIM Unlimited team members to make sure they are involved in the next event, it’s safe to conclude that the experience was very valuable indeed.

Topics: Al Maktoum, Architecture, Asite, #BELHyperloop, BIM Unlimited, Dubai, Exertis Unlimited, Fujairah, Gregory Fortune, Irina Angelo, Jonathan Reeves, Martyn Horne, Renderworks, Rodrigo Couto, Rubén Hernández Fontana, Scia Engineer, SimTread, Solibri Model Checker, Takeshi Kimura, Tokyo University of Science, United Arab Emirates, University of Tokyo, Vectorworks Architect, Adoddle, BEL, BIM, Build Earth Live, Cloud, FlowDesigner, GIS, Hyperloop, IFC, Landmark, Synchro 4D, Vectorworks Landmark, Yasin Idris

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