Najaf Hospital in Iraq

After long deliberations, Engineering Adnan Saffarini Office (EAS) chose ArchiCAD as their BIM software. Here, Hassan Saffarini, Director of Operations at EAS explains the reasons behind the decision and how implementing BIM in a large office is managed.

Eng. Adnan Saffarini Office (EAS), one of the most prominent engineering consultants in the United Arab Emirates and other parts of the Middle East, was established in 1968. With four decades of experience and merit, EAS has already gained enormous recognition for multiple landmark projects that include universities, hospitals, schools, shopping malls, skyscrapers, embassies, warehouses, mosques, villas, urban design and infrastructure planning. EAS employs a professional workforce of more than 600 and includes highly qualified Architectural, Civil, Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers.

EAS offers a comprehensive range of services across the commercial spectrum of the construction industry such as design, supervision, and pre-contract advice, preparation of contract documents, claims dispute resolution, value engineering and tender analysis.

Setting Minds for BIM

Hassan Saffarini, Director of Operations at EAS

Hassan Saffarini, Director of Operations at EAS

“As BIM is going to be the next evolution in the AEC industry, we must upgrade our skills to ensure our competitiveness in the region”, says Hassan Saffarini, Director of Operations at EAS. When the market started to slow down in the Middle East he saw this as an ideal opportunity to implement ArchiCAD BIM into this giant organization. This process was almost impossible to realize during the peak period of the construction industry in Dubai when they were designing an average of 120 towers per year – not to mention other projects.

EAS conducted a year-long in-depth investigation into several BIM solutions available on the market before making their final decision. The BIM solutions were compared in terms of documentation quality, the detail level of quantity information that can be extracted from the model, file size, availability of parametric content, availability of training materials and local support quality. The detail level of quantities and the quality of local support provided by BIMES set ArchiCAD apart from its competitors. EAS started the BIM implementation in their organization with a BIM toolkit containing ArchiCAD, MEP Modeler, StairBuilder and BIMx (formerly called VBE). Artlantis Studio was also added to the toolkit for presentation purposes.


EAS selected the hospital project as the BIM pilot due to the importance of the interdisciplinary design coordination: “Using traditional methods for the design coordination is very painful and susceptible to human errors. Our aim by implementing BIM was to minimize the risks and prevent any possible clashes in the early phases of the project”, says Saffarini.

ArchiCAD views of the project

ArchiCAD views of the project

The project-based implementation was started in June 2010 by the local ArchiCAD Distributor, BIMES. Within three months the team was up to speed with ArchiCAD and the project was on track. However, this did not mean that the transition was painless – the team had been using traditional CAD for ages and switching to BIM took them out of their comfort zones. “On the first days of implementation I felt like a fresh graduate”, confesses Mohand Alamro, an architect of ten years’ experience. However, once the team managed to change their mind-set from 2D to BIM, things started to go smoother. Managing the element priorities, creating custom profiles, setting the origin points for the tiles, for example, were no longer painful activities for the team.

EAS’s BIM team

EAS’s BIM team

The design team was not the only team who had to change their mindsets – the IT team was also involved in the implementation since the computers and network system were not capable of handling large projects. After submitting the system requirements of the computers needed, the BIM team received a call from IT to actually confirm that they really need such ‘dream machines’ – a typical scenario for most companies who are new to BIM. By July 2010, EAS’s BIM Pilot Unit had their dedicated super-fast computers to handle the large project from their office that overlooked the Arabian Gulf.

The BIM Server Miracle

The initial model was completed within 15 working days thanks to the template file with graphical favorites provided by BIMES’s Implementation Team and BIM Server. A team of ten worked simultaneously on the same project with their dedicated access rights.

The hierarchy in the BIM Server access rights is a crucial factor – one that can lead the team to success or failure in projects where there are more than five architects and engineers working on the same file. If more than one person has access to the attributes it is quite easy to end up with composites that are not set up with the priorities standardized by the BIM Manager or with layers that do not follow the company’s naming conventions, for example. These small mistakes made during the modelling can result in a significant time loss during the documentation phase.

EAS was extremely satisfied with the speed of synchronization between the local files and the server file. The synchronization time never exceeded one minute even during the final stages of their 44,000 m• project.

The integrated messaging feature of Teamwork assisted the team not only on managing the project but also on deciding what to have for lunch! ArchiCAD truly became part of our daily life.

Challenges of the Project

They faced the real challenge of the project when they started to add the furniture and medical equipment. Although the detail level of objects were set to ‘simple’, the model was getting extremely slow. Changing the detail level of objects when they needed to prepare a VBE file was also another taxing chore. However, their solution was to categorize the furniture per department and kept them as separate files. The main hospital building was hotlinked to these furniture files, which allowed them to work on smaller files thus providing a greater flexibility for the team.

However, things became even more challenging when they began to incorporate the medical equipment. As the team was informed that the manufacturer of the medical equipment had the BIM models of the equipment, they immediately requested the IFC files. Unfortunately, reality was slightly different.

The manufacturer was using their own software – an in-house development – which could not export DWG files other than in its native file format.

One long week later, EAS’s BIM team received the first batch of equipment DWG files and cheerfully began converting them directly to GDL format. But this cheerfulness was short lived since just one ‘equipment’ object was a staggering 44 Mb compared to the hospital’s full model of only 136 Mb.

The team started to investigate different conversion options and finally agreed on DWG to 3DS to GDL conversion. Converting the file through 3D Max also allowed them to modify the materials, clean any unnecessary details and reduce the number of polygons. Finally, all the objects were converted to a manageable total file size.

Seeing the complex geometries of the medical equipment within their model was a great advantage. The equipment was represented by very abstract 2D geometries in the initial design, and once they were replaced with the 3D models many clashes were identified. It would have been a disaster if we had not noticed these problematic issues at this stage of the project.

Communicating with the Client

As the client employed consultants with medical backgrounds, the hospital’s VBE files containing medical equipment was a life saver in meetings with them. It allowed EAS to communicate visually and interactively and, if necessary, give any technical information required: “It was quite often that while we were walking through the hospital in the VBE model, one of the client’s medical consultants would interrupt me and ask the width of a specific corridor or the height of the walkable ceiling. Being able to show the distance in a well-rendered model is a great way of communication in these kinds of meetings”, explains Khalid Qidan, BIM Manager at EAS.

VBE Views from the project

VBE Views from the project

Some VBE models were made available to the client’s representative after the meetings to be presented to the whole team back in Iraq. This was a great method of ensuring transparency between the designer and the client as well as establishing greater client confidence in the designer.

EAS is planning to expand the BIM team in the near future since BIM is becoming a common requirement on prestigious projects across the Middle East and the North Africa Region.

About the Project

Project Name: Najaf Hospital

Client: Ministry of Health, Iraq

Consultant: Engineering Adnan Saffarini Office (EAS)

Contractor: GMS

Built-up Area: 44,000 m•

Location: Najaf, Iraq

This article was published in the 3/2011 issue of ArchiMAG in October 2011.

One Response to “Najaf Hospital in Iraq”
  1. Marcell says:

    Hola Javier.Mucha suerte con este nuevo eipscao en tu rincon de disef1adero.Espero que sea de utilidad para todos y que sea un medio para compartir ideas.Como sabes, he vuelto a reengancharme a Archicad despues de un periodo de parf3n en mi estudio pero ahora, con me1s ilusif3n que nunca vuelvo a emocionarme con el mundo archicad y sus infinitas posibilidades para nuestros proyectos. Yo siempre lo he visto ased desde que lo conoced gracias a ti. Bueno no me queda me1s que desearte lo mejor en tu nuevo eipscao y que esta plataforma nos ayude a todos. Saludos.