“Digitalisation in civil engineering is my hobby-horse.”

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is used to make digital models of buildings and other structures. This reduces project risks and costs, optimises timetables and results in better quality planning and execution. As one of Implenia’s BIM developers, Mariel Rivero Dapena, Venezuelan by birth, is helping establish BIM in civil engineering.

Buzzing quietly, the drone rises vertically into the blue sky, and briefly hovers over the Rhine. It appears almost curious as it circles the Mülheimer Bridge, which connects the Mülheim and Riehl districts of Cologne. With camera attached, this unmanned flying robot has been sent aloft to take high-resolution aerial images from every conceivable angle. The data it delivers will help Implenia as it completely refurbishes the old suspension bridge.

The drone is being navigated by Mariel Rivero Dapena, who works as a BIM developer in Implenia’s civil engineering department. She focuses mainly on research and development: “My main jobs include testing and customising software, as well as advising the operational units on what software might work best for them, and how much it will cost.” She also delivers presentations and training, and helps the units with drone flights, terrain modelling and mapping. Her job also includes developing and producing digital models for construction planning and execution.

Mariel Rivero Dapena, BIM-Entwicklerin

“Working at Implenia, I have the opportunity to learn new things every day, and to make a real difference.”

Mariel Rivero Dapena, BIM Developer

A circuitous route to a dream job

Mariel Rivero Dapena has only been at Implenia a few months. Born in Venezuela, she studied civil engineering there and set up a construction company with her cousin. In 2015, the economic and political situation prompted the 34-year-old to leave her homeland, have her degree recognised in Spain and start on a new course. Her grandfather fled Franco’s Spain in the 1950s to settle in Venezuela; the “Law of Historical Memory” meant that she, as his granddaughter, could claim Spanish citizenship.

But Spain was only ever a staging post for Mariel Rivero Dapena. “I had a clear goal. I absolutely wanted to go to Germany because of its modern construction industry.” In 2016, her dream became reality, and after a few detours – including making ends meet as a cleaner and then as a construction manager’s assistant – she signed on with Implenia in mid-2018. “The job I saw advertised could have been designed especially for me, because digitalisation in the construction is my hobby-horse. My work is incredibly multifaceted and varied,” says the ambitious civil engineer.

A successful start

She feels very well taken care of and completely at home at Implenia: “I get the chance to learn new things every day and at the same time to make a difference. And I have access to lots of opportunities for professional development. Besides specialist training, I have already done a private language course and fire assistant training.” She also emphasises the very special sense of togetherness at Implenia: “The team spirit is simply unique, in the office and on site.” Recently she even started singing with the BimPlenia Band, which spontaneously formed to provide entertainment at a company Christmas party and other events.

BIM: Building a virtual twin

Implenia is a BIM pioneer: with its own competence centre, the Group is actively shaping the construction industry’s digital future. BIM is used to create a digital twin of a building or structure. Each construction element, with all of its individual properties, is included as a data object in a central, multi-dimensional model. As well as the physical elements, this virtual twin includes planned timings and costs, as well as information about the location and other data. All the different specialists involved in the project can access the model so every process in the entire life cycle of a project – from planning to production to management of the finished building – can be designed, simulated and optimised, while any problems can be identified early on.

Virtual 3D model of the Mülheimer Bridge

After the job on the Rhine, Mariel Rivero Dapena returns to the office to evaluate and process the data collected by the drone. She then uses this to help create a 3D model of the Mülheimer Bridge. People at Implenia will subsequently be able to access the model and get a realistic impression of the structure by taking a virtual tour.

One of the main tasks is to create a digital catalogue of individual building elements, which can also be used for future BIM projects. This is particularly important because the method is only in its infancy within civil engineering, as Mariel Rivero Dapena explains: “BIM is now used quite often in building construction, but in civil engineering in Germany we are starting more or less from scratch. The simple fact is that the demands are very different for bridges.”

Mariel Rivero Dapena’s work is helping to advance the cause of BIM in her field: “I’m sure that BIM is not just a promising option, but will soon be completely integrated into civil engineering projects.”

Total renovation of the Mülheimer Bridge

The Mülheimer Bridge in Cologne, which was rebuilt after the Second World War, links Mülheim on the right bank of the Rhine, with Riehl on the left. The four-lane suspension bridge, which also carries the local railway line, is a key transport link, but it has been in poor condition for some time now. The bridge is now being totally repaired and renovated by Implenia on behalf of the city authorities at a cost of around EUR 137 million. Two of the four individual structures that make up the bridge are being torn down and rebuilt; the others are being repaired and reinforced. The work also includes resurfacing the road and walkways, constructing new drainage facilities and replacing the suspension cables. The project should be completed in 2022, leaving the bridge shining bright once again.

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