Sustainability in DEGES projects through BIM and CDE

We interviewed Mr. Vollmer who oversees coordinating BIM projects at DEGES. Mr. Vollmer pioneered the introduction of BIM within the organisation which now consists of a 20-person team.

Stellingen Tunnel

Project 1

The approx. 960-metre-long Stellingen Tunnel begins in the south at Kieler Straße and connects to the bridge of the freight bypass in the north. Up to 165,000 vehicles per day are predicted on the A7 Stellingen by 2025.

The high volume of traffic requires extensive noise protection in the construction area, such as noise barriers, median walls, low-noise road surfaces and a noise protection tunnel. A total of 20 noise barriers were erected, varying in height between 4-9m.

To limit the enormous heights, most of the noise barriers were provided with a cantilever, and based on an acoustic study, were designed to be highly absorbent.

Project 1: Stellingen Tunnel
At a glance
  • Tunnel length
    Tunnel width
    22 to 31m
    Clear headroom
    Cross section
    8 lanes
Project 2: Heumer Interchange
At a glance
  • Bridge replacements
    Total length
    approx 8.4km
    Current traffic load
    220k vehicles per 24 hrs
    Traffic load in 2030
    240k vehicles per 24 hrs
Heumer Interchange

Project 2

The Heumar interchange (A3/A4/A59) is one of the most congested freeway junctions in Europe. It connects three freeways as part of the Cologne freeway ring. With its numerous bridges as well as the traffic routing in several levels, it represents a very complex junction, which crosses further subordinate roads as well as railroad tracks. Due to its location as well as its proximity to the airport, it is a crucial route for both public and freight traffic. With a share of heavy traffic of about 20%, the AD Heumar is already one of the most congested highway intersections in Europe.

The aim of the reconstruction is to maintain the Heumar interchange as a central junction in the freeway network, to safeguard its connection and performance quality, and to improve traffic safety, reduce risk of traffic jams, as well as increase stability and usability of the bridges. DEGES will carry out the reconstruction of the freeway interchange under flowing traffic. Therefore, coordination and planning of all activities at the site are of utmost importance for the safety of everyone involved.


Before the Stellingen tunnel project, BIM was quite new in the execution phase at DEGES, and the team of 16 people in charge of project coordination needed to strengthen their daily collaboration. Initial challenges focused on how to convince the general contractor (GC) that BIM was beneficial for all parties. Main arguments stressed the stronger collaboration with the owner and the engineers for construction supervision/site management as well as the one data point as project reference compared to the multiple silos used until then. The GC was initially reluctant, with important priorities at the job site and other responsibilities.

Siloed teams spending time commuting


Two main locations (Berlin and Hamburg) concentrated most of the team with a defined site visit dynamic – 2 days on-site and 3 days at the office. Data and project information was gathered and put together in project workflows which followed pre-established timing. DEGES staff in Berlin had to commute to Hamburg twice a week. Around five people would travel 290 km (according to google maps).

Furthermore, Construction Supervision/Site Management were sitting partially in Kassel and Hamburg and also had to commute twice per week. Approx. 15 persons would travel 310 km, and the rest were situated around Hamburg, for which we estimated about 50 km commute.

Different project requirements

Stellingen Tunnel

A 500 M€ project which used SharePoint as a repository for information created and exchanged during the project among the team members. In the middle of the project in 2019, during the execution phase, BIM methodology was introduced. The project is now completed, and the Operation and Maintenance phase have started.

Heumar Interchange

The project began planning in BIM method since the Q3 2018 and started using Thinkproject CDE INFRASTRUCTURE in July 2020 for the project collaboration and coordination processes; BIM included. The project is expected to go on for 7 more years. The number of drawings and documents included in the DEGES CDE will increase exponentially from the current total of around 8000.

Impact estimate approach


Conclusions about how each project was impacted by digital solutions were drawn, and although it is not easy to make a straight comparison between projects using digital solutions or traditional methods, practical extrapolations and estimations were completed. With one project adopting disruptive methodology and tools in the middle, and another where it was introduced from day one, allows DEGES to have a better feeling of the impact in the daily activities.

Discussion around how BIM was introduced in the two projects and the impact the new collaboration and digital tools (Thinkproject CDE INFRASTRUCTURE and VDC MANAGER) had on the business lead to interesting findings.



During COVID-19, the team had to adopt many changes. The limited staff on-site highlighted new health & safety issues and organisational changes in the way they were addressed. At the same time, the flexibility to work at any time and from any location thanks to Thinkproject enabled team members to use a different task completion cadence which led to faster workflows and better use of resources. There were important time savings perceived due to the digital resolution of the review and approval processes, information exchange and approval, but no comparison was done to be able to deduct a sound metric. Time savings were also recorded due to the limited travelling which is possible due to the use of digital solutions. DEGES perceives up to 30% of regular travelling time for similar projects is reduced. This means a good impact on the environment, given the reduction in the CO2 emissions.

Travel impact

For Stellingen Tunnel, less travel was required for all participants. 5 persons from DEGES and 15 from construction supervision/site management at 290 km, 310 km and ~50 km respectively, 2 times per week for 75 weeks:

5 x 290 km x 2 x 75 x 0.3 = 65,250 km
5 x 3.5 x 2 x 75 x 0.3 = 800 hours
15 x 310 km x 2 x 75 x 0.3 = 209,250 km
15 x 4h x 2 x 75 x 0.3 = 2700 hours

Time savings allowed DEGES GmbH personnel to be more efficient, handling more tasks, supervising more projects, and all this with an increased quality of the final work. Not only did the project save time in travelling and in completing workflows digitally at any time of the day, the use of digital solutions across all the organisations involved in the project allowed also for exceptional paper savings.

Digitised information and digital workflows impact

Paper is used at different critical moments in the project, during design phase for the discipline coordination, design reviews, internal approvals, approvals with the owner and the engineer, final signatures; minutes of meetings at the site which have to be approved and signed; inspection forms and non-conformance reports; change forms and approvals; material bills; logistic calendar for equipment and material delivery; all internal coordination papers we all take with us in meetings for review; etc.

Stellingen Tunnel and the initial set of drawings from the Heumar Interchange:

  • Drawings were part of a complex set of workflows, if we consider only the two main ones, each of them with several steps (23 and 15 respectively), reviewers and final signatures (10 and 11), and considering 35% could have been printed at the site, we have 28 million sheets in total.
  • The estimated number of sheets across all the above, lead us to 28 million of papers were not printed. The direct environmental impact gave the following results:

Saved: 2069 trees | 159 million litres of water | 70 tons of CO2 by not printing

Mr. Vollmer himself states he does not print paper anymore. He assures that digitalisation does not just end at the owner side, and that it goes across all stakeholders and throughout the asset life cycle. DEGES requires their general contractors to use digital tools whenever possible to ensure the project/asset is completed in a digital manner, ensuring a smooth handover and with all the necessary information for the asset during O&M.

A digital model of the built asset would enable DEGES to increase the control over what is built and how. Looking at a contract for example, there we could include not only the EIR when we talk about BIM but also environmental KPIs related to the materials used, with the eyes set on the circular economy and recycling. Mr. Vollmer believes that this could be achieved in the medium term and that this would also allow for a more transparent model of sharing additional expenses and strains as well as gains. In other words, a more cooperative and partnership-based approach to contracts.

Costs are not the ultimate purpose, tracking the source and type of materials is very important and it is likely to be included soon in contract requirements. DEGES, as the as Project Management company of the project has a huge responsibility on how the asset is built, looking for the least negative impact on the environment, therefore DEGES plans carefully and builds making use of the most advanced digital tools the transport infrastructure of tomorrow.

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