International Engineering Ambassadors
Insight into the life & course of international students.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Summer Internship Experience in Malaysia by Lucas L

I spent the summer of 2016 on the forefronts of development in the Malaysian construction industry, as I practiced on a futuristic tool that has revolutionized global construction. This is my story …


A tranquil ambiance blanketed the massive 34-acre site, sitting at the edge of Peninsular Malaysia’s administrative capital, Putrajaya. Early birds arriving on site enjoyed the cool morning climate, coupled with the scent of fresh earth and concrete around the bare land. Welcoming workers entering the site was a giant sign naming the “Parcel F” site while banners of Sunway Construction fluttered proudly along the perimeter fence.

30 minutes later…

The silence was replaced with blaring sirens, signaling the start of the workday. Trucks, rollers, and bulldozers roared to life; towering cranes recovered from their dormant states, controlled by their puppeteers. Site engineers took their places around the 10-office-block site, skillfully directing workers in mending steel and casting concrete. I, had the privilege of being assigned to the company’s pioneering Building Information Modeling (BIM) department. I headed to the satellite office at the edge of the site, ready to start my day as an intern BIM engineer.

Just for your information, BIM was a budding piece of tech in the historical construction industry. The system utilizes a series of computer programs to generate an accurate digital representation of a structure, allowing also the effective management and optimization  of various aspects throughout the construction supply line from design, coordination, and delivery.

The Malaysian construction industry had only begun to embrace this newfangled system. Design works are typically conducted using conventional methods (sketches, 2D CAD, human calculations etc). Sunway Construction, being an innovative player within the local construction industry, had recently begun to integrate this technology recently into their supply line.  

Armed with a computer and a plethora of plans given by design consultants, my job comes in in the early stages of the BIM supply chain, in which I produce/amend structural and

architectural models. ‘Accuracy’ and ‘buildability', are the two words that summarize the critical aspects of my job. An accurate representation of the actual structures was vital as the models will be used for analysis throughout the production line. In order to deliver a high level of  accuracy, I had to dig through a trove of design plans and detailed drawings. A ‘buildable’ structure was ensured through a critical analysis of the model, i.e. there was a need to be able to identify and report design failures or discrepancies, between the design detail of all trades as the models are being made (architecture, structural, mechanical and electrical) to ensure the structure could be delivered smoothly on site.

The true effectiveness of BIM becomes apparent down the supply chain. Utilizing the delivered models, experienced engineers will then conduct further checks such as clashes with services, plan construction phases and conduct precise estimates of material volumes required for construction. The final product will then be a model that integrates the complete set of information of the true structure being built. From then on, plans are shipped out to site engineers for casting.

The main advantage of my industrial experience was witnessing the deviation of the engineering field from the conventional tedious calculations and field labour to a more effective technocentric path. I have to admit that the emphasis placed on technological fluency at the University in structuring their course, runs parallel to industrial requirements, allowing me a quick transition into my placement role. Just writing this article brings back memories of  recent  MATLAB programming coursework, which prompted students to figure out the most effective algorithm to analyze parameters and determine the most effective method of training a baseball player (slightly unorthodox for civil engineers, but a fun topic nonetheless). The principles of optimization using technology highlighted by such coursework from the underlying principles of which BIM is established for.

At the end of the 12 weeks, my industrial training program came to an end and so did a chapter of my student life. But with this experience, I now possess an insight which will be helpful in my preparation for the future as the global construction industry treads down this technocentric path.


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