Both sustainability and historic preservation are big topics in the world of construction. Detroit’s new up-and-coming State Fair Transit Center covers both of these topics while also truly taking into account the needs of the citizens of Detroit. And digital design solutions are helping to make this incredibly important infrastructure project a reality.
The state-of-the-art center is converting a historic 52,000-square-foot former dairy barn not just because it is sustainable but also because the citizens of Detriot voiced their desire to reuse the already-standing structure. The transit center will serve both the Department of Detroit’s Transportation (DDOT) and Suburban Mobility Authority on Regional Transit (SMART) buses, but also other means of transport such as MoGo, the bike-sharing program. This transformative center will also sit next to a beautiful plaza for everyone to enjoy.
The GovDesignHub sat down with Donna Rice, Deputy Detroit Building Authority (DBA) Director, and Jason Dyer, Senior Project Manager at Ideal Contracting, to learn more about the State Fair Transit Center, how this project will impact their community and the importance of using 3D BIM modeling.
GovDesignHub (GDH): What are the main reasons behind the State Fair Transit Center? How will this project positively impact Detroit citizens?
Donna Rice: The new center will provide a state-of-the-art transit center and improve the services for both ridership and DDOT staff. The new center is also going to provide many amenities, such as an indoor waiting area, indoor restrooms, lounge area, and offices for DDOT staff.
The State Fair Transit Center serves as a hub between our suburban transportation, SMART, and our city transportation, DDOT. This is a really important hub because it’s where many people from other cities catch the DDOT bus. So having a beautiful big new indoor facility will help those people coming from outside of the city to reach their destination.
“Sustainability is very important to the city, so it’s always better if we can adaptively reuse than build new.” — Donna Rice
We can’t forget that this site plan is also going to be a destination used by not just the ridership and the transportation staff but also the surrounding developments in the community. There is also going to be a plaza where the Coliseum used to be that can be enjoyed by everyone in the community. The Coliseum was demolished, but the portico still remains and is being preserved as the gateway into the Plaza, which is adjacent to the transit center.
For people who may have a layover, they can go over to the Plaza to enjoy the park. The Plaza will have various programming capabilities, including a stage and food trucks; the Plaza will be a nice place for those in the area to enjoy.
Jason Dyer: The State Fairgrounds is going to be creating a lot of job opportunities for residents essentially on the same property. There was an agreement made with the developers where they actually paid some of the money toward this new facility as part of the land agreement, and then they developed these two new, beautiful warehouses. The State Fairgrounds is really going to serve as an important hub for our community.
GDH: We saw the State Fair Transit Center is repurposing a 52,000-square-foot dairy barn. What challenges does this pose for this project? Why is this important to the City of Detroit?
Donna Rice: Essentially adaptively reusing while maintaining the historic structure can always be a challenge. You don’t know what you’re going to find, and there are unforeseen conditions. However, sustainability is very important to the city, so it’s always better if we can adaptively reuse than build new.
Additionally, the community expressed a strong desire to preserve the historic structure in some capacity. After the facility condition assessment was performed, we realized that preserving the dairy farm was actually a viable option and also met program needs. So it was a win-win situation in a lot of different ways. We are able to be sustainable while also meeting the desires of residents.
GDH: As this was a renovation of a historic structure, I would assume that there were no existing 3D/4D models of the space or even CAD files for the building. How was existing conditions modeling done on this project? What technologies and innovative solutions/approaches were used to create models of a building that was already standing?
Jason Dyer: We used 3D cameras to scan the existing structures, which took about a week. There was the cattle barn and the Coliseum to go through and run their scans into a 3D model. This method helped us create different types of alternate ideas that could be used with the land and the buildings, ultimately leading to the design that we have today.
GDH: Was 3D/4D modeling used for this project? If so, why is a 3D/4D BIM model important for building this transit hub?
Jason Dyer: Yes, we did use 3D modeling on this project. We scanned the existing structure and created the project virtually in a 3D modeling shared deck that was coordinated with the engineering team to work through the progression of the design with DBA and DDOT. With BIM modeling, you can look at the pieces to see exactly what it takes to put the project together.
GDH: How do BIM models improve workflows and make the program run more efficiently? Have you found that the use of BIM models has helped ensure that projects like this are completed with less rework? Has it helped keep projects like the State Fair Transit Center on time and on budget?
Jason Dyer: The BIM models help with workflow by aiding the engineering team to work through the design, allowing them to design from all angles. As far as rework goes, you’re always working on the job and going back to improve. Rework is probably about the same as you would if you’re not using a BIM, but it’s okay because you’re just ensuring that the design is going to be that much more complete when you’re ready to go into construction.
“BIM modeling ensures that what we’re building is correct.” — Jason Dyer
As far as budget goes, BIM models allow you to see where items need to be budgeted properly, or you can see how the pieces come together. When it comes to project timing, there was much public introduction, so we wanted to make sure what we’re designing is appropriate for the public because it’s going to have a big community impact. BIM modeling ensures that what we’re building is correct.
GDH: One of the largest hurdles for projects like these is getting public approval. Have 3D models been used in the public approval process? If so, have they played a role in expediting the public approval process?
Donna Rice: I would say yes, the 3D models have helped with the public approval process because they provide a visualization of what the project is going to be. It’s definitely helped us to be able to provide renderings and plans to help express the vision of what ultimately will be in the area.
Jason Dyer: What was interesting from my seat in construction is how much community involvement was in this project. It’s very seldom that I see a community involved at this level in any design. This involvement included meeting with the ridership, receiving input, generating a list, and considering that list in the design. This level of public involvement is something that is not a very common practice. I was very surprised by how much DDOT cares about its riders.
GDH: What other design technologies are being used in this project? And how do they benefit the construction project?
Jason Dyer: Some of the design technologies we used began at the very beginning. We conducted 3D scans of the existing structure to generate our drawings in Revit and work through the design.
As we started working through the project, we realized we needed to consider lighting. We’re talking about a facility that runs a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation, so we want to make sure that the site is well-lit. In order to accomplish this, we’re using software and technology to properly design the lighting set without the campus. Another noteworthy software we use is for bus routing and traffic. We want to make sure that the radius of the buses complies with the structure that we’re adaptively reusing.
GDH: The work on a project of this size doesn’t end when construction is complete, and ribbons are cut. There are continued maintenance and management tasks that need to be done once the new hub is complete. What role can 3D and BIM models play in the management and maintenance of the facility? Is that something that the City has planned?
Donna Rice: Yes, this is something the City of Detroit has considered because all the information stored in BIM will create as-built drawings, which are the final drawings of the ultimate build condition. Those 3D and BIM models will then be turned over to the City of Detroit for future maintenance and to use for reference.