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BIM ensures complex Leeds Arena façade is built without delays

The fan-shaped design of the Leeds Arena presented technical challenges to the construction team, which used BIM to help overcome difficulties

The new Leeds Arena is the UK’s first purpose-built arena with a fan-shaped design. Rather than being shaped like a bowl or horseshoe as most British arenas are, the Leeds Arena instead consists of one large super-theatre seating area fanning out from the stage.

Leeds City Council states that 90 to 95 per cent of arena shows now consist of entertainment on a stage at one end of the venue – music concerts at stadiums up and down the country generate vital revenue for the football clubs that own them, despite not always offering the best views or acoustics.

Leeds Arena, however, was specifically designed to offer every spectator a perfect view of centre stage no matter where they are sitting, with every seat facing the stage instead of a sports pitch. It also claims to have ‘the best acoustic experience of any large arena venue in the country’.

The fan shape used to deliver this created technical challenges for the construction team, as Lakesmere estimating manager Ian Carpenter explains: ‘A building with such a complicated shape like this would almost always have had delays, but we avoided this through the use of building information modelling’.

The extensive use of BIM on this project was driven by the contractor. Main contractor Bam Construction drove the use of BIM on the project, and retained the main BIM model throughout the process. The steel work, mechanical and electrical services, and Lakesmere’s external cladding work were all fed into the model as the project progressed.

Although not quite a full-blown BIM project, the software was used extensively during the building’s design and construction.

‘This allowed us to see things as they were added, giving us a clear picture of how the design was progressing’, says Carpenter.

The installation of the external guttering proved a particular technical challenge for Lakesmere.

‘This was being installed high up where the dimensions and levels of the building constantly changed as it went around,’ Carpenter explains. ‘It was an irregular shape, so all of our designs for it were modelled in 3D.’

Clashes were found immediately once the guttering designs were fed into the main BIM model.

‘This is the whole reason we use BIM,’ he says. ‘You don’t want to find clashes, but it’s better to identify the problem during the design phase rather than while you’re on site.

‘If this part of the project had been done the old way, we probably would have had to re-make the components five or six times before they were right’.

Other potential issues were also avoided through the use of BIM. The grid for the arena’s distinctive honeycomb-shaped external façade was designed by architect Populous. Once fed into the model, it became clear that Lakesmere had less space allocated for their work than initially thought.

‘Using BIM enabled us to spot this probably before we got on site,’ Carpenter says.

These examples demonstrate the positive effect that using BIM can have on complex design projects such as this.

Bam Construction states that it avoided £350,000 of waste by using BIM to run the entire construction programme virtually in advance.

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