Pauwels Consulting employs around 1,500 talented consultants in the fields of IT, engineering and life sciences. Today we are sitting with Patthamawan Mijnendonckx, BIM coordinator for a major infrastructure project in Flanders as part of the Oosterweel Link (Oosterweelverbinding). She talks about her career trajectory, the challenges she faces in her job, and her aspirations for the future. Want to know what a consultant’s journey looks like? Read on to find out.
I recently started working on the Oosterweel Link project in Flanders. Part of my role involves looking at how to implement a circular construction process on a large scale. To this end, we are evaluating the service life of certain materials and considering how to use them more than once. This is something I’m greatly interested in, and I don’t shy away from asking what kind of impact architecture and construction have on the environment and society. These are questions we have to keep asking, because we’re designing new environments for the people and the society of tomorrow. Sustainability has been an interest of mine for a long time. It was actually my primary motivation for studying BIM.
Moving towards BIM
I started off studying Educational Sciences before switching to the social sector as a freelancer. Although I was passionate about doing this, my dream was to become an architect. While seeking out training opportunities, I quickly discovered there were far more options than I’d expected. I realised that I wanted to make an impact as part of the construction process, and that’s how I ended up doing the BIM Architectural Drafter course at Syntra. As a BIM coordinator, I can use my social and communication skills alongside the analytical aspect of the job.
What is BIM?
Building Information Management (BIM) consists of all the relevant information required to create and integrate building processes. This ranges from design and execution to facility management. BIM provides a digital overview of all layers of a structure and makes it possible to link different types of information together. It’s now considered an important part of today’s construction industry. BIM professionals play a crucial role in ensuring information flows are complete and efficient. This prevents expensive mistakes from being made during the construction process, reduces design and building errors made in modelling, and facilitates collaboration and the exchange of information between the different disciplines involved.
BIM before, during and after projects
A BIM coordinator should ideally be brought in at the start of a specific phase of a project, as this enables the BIM protocols to be drawn up in a timely manner and the execution plans and appendices with BIM agreements to be collected.
BIM can also be used to simulate the purchase of parts or how maintenance should be planned. In other words, it’s important not only within the context of design and execution, but also for efficient facility management. It’s a method that covers the entire life cycle of a building.
The consultant at the heart of the project
As a BIM coordinator, you need to be at home in all markets and have a thorough understanding of civil engineering, construction processes and BIM processes (software, standards, etc.). I use all the tools applied within a project: Civil 3D, Navisworks, Madaster, Relatics, ACC, ArcGIS, Bricsys, AGACAD, Connections, PowerBI, Archicad, Dalux and the associated add-ins. This varies from project to project and from phase to phase.
I also work with a wide range of stakeholders on a daily basis. Engineers, site managers, architects, facility managers, the client – in essence, the entire chain of the process is involved. BIM serves as the project’s data source, basically. We build up the data, check what is included in the model and look into how this data can be used. We then verify whether it corresponds to the agreements made and who is responsible for each component.
Building up experience quickly
Even before I started working at Pauwels Consulting, I was always learning a lot, and this gave me a great deal of relevant experience after completing my BIM studies. For example, I worked at a company that provided BIM consultancy, research and development services for customers, and then joined a contractor that wanted to consolidate its focus on BIM applications. After that I spent time with a scale-up that designed, produced and managed the life cycle of sustainable prefabricated homes. So you could say that I’ve gained in-depth experience in different contexts involving BIM applications.
Strong agreements and efficient communication
I found that every project came with its own challenges. Every context is unique and there are always many variables due to the structure or environment. And, of course, I worked with other stakeholders on every project. BIM also means making proper agreements, such as who needs to share what information at what time in order to optimise collaboration and facilitate the transfer of information. Efficient communication and transparency are essential in this regard. It’s also my job to make reference to the agreements made. Although BIM is a relatively new way of working, I believe in the future and the importance of collaboration by sharing information, expertise and knowledge.
A dream project at Pauwels Consulting
After hopping between jobs, I realised my hunger for new projects had not yet been met. I now had a nice bag of skills and tricks and was ready to take on a new challenge. When I got in touch with Pauwels Consulting, the communication went very smoothly. The Talent Acquisition Specialist and Account Manager with whom I spoke were very open and transparent about my opportunities.
I soon had something concrete lined up: I had the chance to work on the Oosterweel Link project. One of my goals for some time had been to work on a project that made my neighbourhood greener, more sustainable and more liveable – and to do so at a company where I could still learn a lot.
Outlook for the future
This is the most large-scale infrastructure project I’ve ever worked on. I am very invested in it because it has a direct impact on where I actually live. As a consultant, you have the opportunity to learn a lot, grow and experience new contexts. You also have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and expertise you acquire with the customer in projects where you can make a genuine difference. I truly appreciate this, and I’m already looking forward to what my career at Pauwels Consulting will bring next!