A digital side of reconstruction: the views of a BIM Coordinator

Two exciting renovation and reconstruction projects are currently taking place in Tallinn’s seafront and Tallinn’s inner city coordinated by TARCON. TARCON, Business partner of BIMcollab, is a BIM consultancy office based out of Tallinn, Estonia offering BIM Coordination, BIM consultancy, BIM training services, and other software. Janno Otsmaa and Taavi Liiv are both BIM coordinators in TARCON and we had a very interesting chat as they walked us through some of their learnings and day-to-day experiences working with BIMcollab on these projects.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the fascinating history as well as BIMcollab statistics of these two projects.

1. Patarei Sea Fortress: The Patarei Sea Fortress was built at the beginning of the 19th century by Nikolai the First of Russia as a naval fortress, from the end of the 19th century it was used as barracks, and during the Soviet and German occupations, it was used as a central penitentiary. Since 2005 it has been primarily used as an event space venue. Patarei is the largest Classical building complex in Estonia and a very well-preserved building complex. With nearly 200 years of history, it is currently part of the city’s architectural heritage. The renovation project aims at combining historical and modern architecture on the site covering 4 hectares, including 32,200m2 of rental space for offices, restaurants, cafes, event areas, galleries, stores, and a museum. It aims to create a social and communal hub and a place for exchange, trade, and inspiration. A 310-meter promenade is planned with numerous leisure activities along the way. Interestingly, the Patarei Sea Fortress is the first heritage building in Estonia to apply for the international LEED certificate. The renovation has begun and aims to be completed by 2026 by the US Real Estate developer and general design contractor Architect11.

Patarei Sea Fortress

Number of Models: 50
Team members: 45-50
Total Issues: 2695
Smart Issues: 2000

Issues per discipline
Ventilation: 1552
Heating: 869
Electrical: 854
Cooling: 831
Plumbing: 703
Architecture: 320


2. National Library Reconstruction: The National Library is a national monument, amongst the latest building under heritage protection in Estonia, and one of the largest libraries in the Baltics. Completed in 1992 in a brutalist style, it is one of the last mega-Soviet structures built. The 59 million € budget renovations and reconstruction of Estonia’s National Library in Tallinn are expected to continue until 2025. The library’s role as an educational and cultural center will be improved by offering an even more extended range of services and facilities for learning and events. The project’s contractor is the national real estate company Riigi Kinnisvara AS, the building designer is Sirkel & Mall and the interior design solutions have been given to VLS Interior Architecture. Head contractor is Ehitus5ECO.

National Library Reconstruction

Team members: 50-55
Total Issues: 3800
Smart Issues: 1950

Issues per discipline
Ventilation: 1176
Structural: 1027
Plumbing: 766
Electrical: 573
Heating: 501
Cooling: 472
Architecture: 360


The role of point clouds

Due to the extensive heritage structures that had to be preserved in these projects and the outdated building documents, the use of point cloud models was vital throughout the construction and design phases as well as for the federated model coordination. Point clouds were in use, helping assign and solve issues.

Point Cloud
Patarei Sea Fortress: Point Cloud combined with the architectural model within BIMcollab Zoom

For the Patarei Sea Fortress, the point clouds were particularly helpful in checking whether technical equipment would be clashing with existing floors and ceilings. Particularly the small spaces in the existing structures put a higher focus on checking ventilation and air exchange geometries. Consequently, the MEP ventilation team hit the record on a number of issues. Smart Issues played a big role in mitigating those issues.

Smart View
Patarei Sea Fortress: Smart view for point clouds. Clouds are painted black and everything else is white. Deviations can easily be seen when viewing in orthographic mode

The role of Smart Issues and Smart Views

What was key for Janna Otsmaa during the creation of Smart Issues, was discovering how designers would like to visualize and solve their clash-result issues. Grouping Smart Issues allows for a lot of flexibility once the best ideal workflow is discovered. For example, for the team MEP piping, clashed issues were preferably solved as single issues rather than in groups. While the MEP ventilation team had a keen eye for the Smart Views, such as requesting targeted views to uncover smaller elements like fire dampers. The inherent focus on communication and collaboration was key to helping the team work more efficiently on these projects.

The view of a BIM coordinator
Patarei Sea Fortress: Smart View to discover the fire dampers for the ventilation team (seen in red)

Janno Otsmaa encouraged designers to try to better understand their models in order to help them check their data instead of just its geometries. All the Smart Views, Clash Rules, and Lists were shared in Nexus for the whole team to use. A very popular and useful List that was highly in action displayed all the IFC Elements colored in their respective construction time-based phase (new elements, existing or demolished elements). The use of Lists was very popular in the National Library Project. External and internal users alike were checking the data quality through Lists, in Nexus, and in Zoom.

List showing all colored elements based on their phase status (new elements, existing or demolished elements).

The federated model for the National Library Reconstruction was composed of numerous models. Due to the constant need for new model versions, SharePoint as a Document Management System was used to receive alerts when a new IFC file was uploaded by the team. Taavi even created a Smart View to check which models are updated (based on Modification Time)…. making it partially uncomfortable for the teams lacking updated models during coordination meetings. Who knew Smart Views could be used so diversely?

Smart Views
National Library Reconstruction: Smart View showcasing updated models

While the partial “Smart View Shaming” of team members was less popular, Zoom itself was consistently in use during Coordination meetings, by the different teams to easily explore and discuss issues directly in the model. Interestingly, it was observed that team member would often visualize their Issues in the default ‘Tile View’ while Janno finds the ‘List View’ most useful as he can filter, sort, and visualize the table of List accordingly, especially powerful and handy when dealing with many issues. How BIMcollab is used can vary in action, but the end goal is the same: Communicate and solve the issues.

Helpful tip to take away: Janno finds the personalized flagging Favorites feature useful to keep track of issues and particularly prepare for meetings by flagging the issues at hand. He urges other team members to do the same, to help keep meetings short and keep in mind issues in focus.

views of BIM coordinator

Taavi Liiv shared how one particular Smart View is trending with Project Leads: A view that visualizes all the elements per level to gain a global understanding of what is happening on each floor. This view gained popularity with Users who are less BIM-affine. “It has become a special View for Leads; the Smart View was even named after the guy who made the initial request that has now become a trend!”

BIMcollab Issues
Janno shares how Issue numbers always peaked a little more as the deadline approached. Deadlines can sometimes cause quite the tipping point! He adds how beneficial these issue statistics can be to keep an overview of the project and individual or company-based progress.

Streamlining the Process, training, and BEP

Due to the scale of both projects, BIM training was always a big challenge. BIMcollab was listed as one of the software to be implemented from the start on both projects, outlined in their BIM Execution Plans (BEP), even including a series of detailed explanations and images elaborating on the Use of Smart Views and Lists.

TARCON further supported the team by providing easy and accessible training videos on YouTube in the Estonian language and referencing them as learning material in the BEP. Taavi mentioned, how important the project BEP Kick-Off meetings are to help answer as many questions as possible as soon as possible. It is often the case, explanations are repeated up to 5 times but they hope with better videos, more alignment, and more model-minded team members, repeated explanations can be kept to a minimum. In addition, Taavi elaborates how it is helpful to understand the types of designers from the start (who is more open to learning? who needs more convincing? where does everyone’s experience start and end?) and to give and take the time to show designers how to, for example, set up the models in Zoom or showcase the multiple uses-cases of Lists.

Another helpful tip to take away: To keep an even better overview of the team members in the cloud, company or discipline abbreviations were added at the end of the names. So, while assigning issues, it could be helpful to scan visually the name of individuals based on the abbreviation.

How TARCON as BIMcollab Business Partner helps clients

Taavi and Janno share how their definitive goal as well as gain has been to help give designers easier tools to communicate and validate their models successfully with as few clicks as possible. With every click less, the value increases for the designer, and with more model-minded teams, the better the collaboration. While the Estonian market is small and teams will eventually come in close contact again, Taavi and Janno have both noticed the rise in BIM understanding and appreciation within the Estonian market. That’s a great step into creating a more collaborative and communicative society around better, cleaner, and more user-friendly models.

To Taavi and Janno from TARCON, a big thank you for sharing your helpful insights into some of the day-to-day impressions of a BIM Coordinator! Your insights are important to us!

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Lilian Mandalios