I recently read a post on the Tocci Building blog titled “The Role of VDC – From the Eyes of a New Hire.” The author, Kyle, does an excellent job of laying out what exactly a VDC engineer does to ensure the success of active projects. The list of his project-to-project tasks and the story of his transition to a VDC role got me thinking about the benefits and unique expertise VDC engineers bring, which make them essential personnel for any construction project.
As Kyle at Tocci Building notes, a VDC engineer comes to a project equipped with the drawing data, BIMs, and project specifications necessary to communicate key elements of the design and to collaborate with the entire project team. They understand the intended scope of the project including the construction drawings, specifications, and 3D models, which inform the constructability, budget, and timeline of the project. They also have a working knowledge of the “solution stack” comprised of software used to takeoff, estimate, schedule, project manage, and communicate issues. The VDC engineer, in collaboration with the project team, utilizes these documents, models, estimates, and schedules to come up with a case specific plan. He or she communicates this plan to the entire team and assists them with accessing data and resolving issues.
However, I would extend this list of assets. The VDC Engineer brings much more than these models, plans, and technologies to a project. A good VDC Engineer brings a host of intangible skills accrued through education and experience with design and construction processes. He or she does not simply distribute the data to the rest of the team and step back while they work. They are constantly communicating with each party to ensure everyone has the most up-to-date information. They keep a watchful eye for discrepancies throughout the lifecycle of the project, and make sure errors or miscommunications are corrected before construction occurs, when they will be much more expensive and time consuming to fix. It not only requires diligence and conflict resolution skills, but also a practical understanding of building projects to recognize when the smallest detail is incorrect, just as Kyle at Tocci noted that his experience in architecture allowed him to pick up on drawing issues others had missed.
By that same measure, because they work so closely with each party involved, a VDC Engineer gains increased knowledge for maximizing a project’s efficiency with each project they work on. Every job offers an opportunity for mentorship from another senior member who specializes in a different area. This gives VDC Engineers insight into how to best work with each party and the different data and materials they expect before arriving on the scene, allowing for greater pre-production preparation.
VDC Engineers are often only associated with the software solutions and technical knowledge they provide. This is an important aspect of their role, as teams are adopting software at a rapid pace in order to communicate in real-time. However, they bring a level of expertise far beyond this to each project they work on and that expertise compounds with time. Their eye for detail, familiarity with software, practical know-how, and ability to improve with each job make them a cost saving and essential addition to every project.
Don Henrich is an accomplished technology veteran in both the MCAD and the AEC industries. As President and CEO of Assemble he brings an distinguished track record of innovation, winning strategies, team building, and the ability to quickly grow revenue and market share. Don and his wife Noel have three children, reside in Marblehead, MA and spend as much time as possible sailing on Massachusetts Bay.
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