“The best projects were always those with a good collaborative team,” said Roger Ferch, president of the American Institute of Steel Construction, at the recent BIMForum in Orlando, Fla., where he was speaking of successful construction projects. And that’s where building information modeling (BIM) and virtual design and construction (VDC) come into play. BIM and VDC help engender “love, peace and happiness” – as John Tocci, Sr., sees it – among owners, architects, engineers, contractors and specialty trades who can often be at odds and wit’s ends during a construction project.
That sounds great, but does it work in practice? If the attendees and speakers at the conference are the judge, the answer is a fairly resounding yes.
The beginning of a building project exists in an environment perhaps described best by HOK’s James Vandezande as “creative turbulence.” The planning and designing of a project – and its building information model – undergo various permutations and iterations.
When engineers and architects work together, the chances of major missteps later are reduced. When the contractor is also involved, those chances are reduced again, leading to smoother procurement of materials and actual construction and building management, as illustrated in the slide to the right, which was part of Vandezande’s presentation.
Without input and collaboration from many, a coordinated workflow would be impossible, waste and changes rampant, and a schedule a mere fragment of a wish.
Imagine a $1 billion stadium project, with a lead architectural firm, five associate ones, a general contractor, a dozen engineering firms, 40 or so specialty contractors, hundreds of suppliers and 1,000-plus workers on site. Imagine the piles of documents, from schematics to scans and plans to time cards, invoices, requests for information, change orders and more. Imagine the hundreds of balls being juggled in the air, and the same set of mistakes being repeated over and over
Yet a variety of technological tools can bring order to all this and encourage collaboration so each member of the team knows what he or she is responsible for; when what must be approved, scheduled and completed; whether elements have been changed; who has what information; and where everything fits together.
And that’s BIM and VDC allow. BIM, is “all about planning” and “getting people to row in the same direction,” said Tocci, and it helps to “bring efficiencies to all on a team,” said Ferch. That leads to a “fully completed, coordinated and constructible design” as one speaker noted because team members are able to make “more effective, informed decisions at the latest responsible time,” according to Jason Hopper and Michael Wojtak of Mortenson’s sports division.