BIM Processes and Software Aid Delivery of Facility for Cutting-Edge Cancer Therapy

Oct. 2, 2012
Precise tolerances involved in design and construction

Set to open in spring 2013, the $225 million Scripps Proton Therapy Center in San Diego, a state-of-the-art, leading-edge cancer center, consists of two vastly different structures: (1) a large concrete bunker with walls as thick as 16 ft housing a 90-ton cyclotron and associated equipment and five proton-therapy treatment rooms and (2) a steel-framed clinical facility containing equipment and space for magnetic-resonance-imaging- and computed-tomography-scan diagnostic services, exam rooms, and offices for physicians and other staff.

Coordination of the two structures required careful planning. Because the structures behave very differently during a seismic event, the design team had to ensure the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems connecting the buildings can accommodate different rates of movement. Additionally, the intricate network of mechanical, electrical, and concrete shielding systems that support the proton-treatment equipment required precise integration. For example, much of the building’s piping and electrical conduit has to follow a Z-shaped path through the bunker wall; a misplaced pipe or conduit could be disastrous and very expensive to correct.

Haskell Architects and Engineers P.A. provided MEP design services for the 102,000-sq-ft facility, working closely with its corporate parent, design-build contractor The Haskell Co., as well as Scripps Health and Advanced Particle Therapy. For multidisciplinary coordination and collaboration, Haskell Architects and Engineers relied on building-information-modeling (BIM) software from Autodesk, including Autodesk Revit MEP and Autodesk Navisworks Manage.

Coordinating Connections
With the help of Revit MEP software, Haskell Architects and Engineers overcame the design challenges. For example, for the main mechanical room, which is on the patient side of the facility, the team had to run piping underground, through thick concrete walls, where it emerged in very specific locations in the bunker area.

“BIM helped us visualize how to place the pipes and conduit with a high degree of precision,” Aryak Goswami, a mechanical engineer for Haskell Architects and Engineers, said. “The Revit 3D modeling environment and built-in design visualization was critical for these complex buildings.”

Revit software also was essential in coordinating with the proton-therapy-system manufacturer, whose equipment was custom-built and required very precise tolerances—as close as one-thousandth of an inch.

“Using Revit MEP for virtual modeling and visualization helped us meet those tolerances and keep up with any changes that occurred during design, saving us considerable coordination time,” Goswami said.

Model-based Design Coordination and Construction
The design team used Navisworks Manage software to conduct virtual walkthroughs of the buildings during design reviews, helping the client and other stakeholders to visualize the facility more clearly.

“We showed them what the completed facility would look like, checked for conflicts, and gathered feedback that helped improve the design,” Goswami said.

Navisworks also proved valuable during construction. For example, a sequence of pours was required to complete the facility’s concrete wall. To verify accuracy before each pour, the builder compared printouts of the 3D model to the pipes and conduits that already were installed. This process helped the builder to detect a missing pipe, avoiding significant and costly consequences. In another example, the model helped the team to determine that the proposed location of underground electrical conduit posed a risk to the cyclotron. Using information from the model, the team illustrated the risks associated with the mistake and helped the subcontractor to make the hard decision to relocate the conduit.

On Schedule
The cyclotron was installed successfully, and construction remains on schedule. Revit MEP and Navisworks software helped Haskell Architects and Engineers to work more efficiently and improve design quality. Additionally, the close collaboration enabled by BIM solidified the firm’s relationship with the project developer, Advanced Particle Therapy. As a result, Haskell Architects and Engineers is involved in the design of a new proton-therapy facility in Maryland for Advanced Particle Therapy.

“We look forward to using Revit MEP and Navisworks Manage on our future projects and fully integrating BIM into our practice,” Goswami said.

Images courtesy of Haskell Architects and Engineers P.A.

For Design Solutions author guidelines, call Scott Arnold, executive editor, at 216-931-9980, or write to him at [email protected].