Over the last 14 years there has been a lot of progress for using 3D models or Building Information Models (BIM) to improve the process of construction management. One of the terms that you hear often is 5D. What is 5D? Well, it is using BIM or 3D data to create a cost plan or cost estimate. Typically it can rapidly takeoff quantities thus greatly streamlining the process.
There are challenges to get experienced construction managers to accept this “new process” which include the difference between the design model and the construction model. It is a fact that the 2D contract drawings are the sole source of truth for the owner and design team. Also there is a lack of understanding of the 3D opportunity between VDC experts and the others in their company. A powerful technique to conquer this is using workshops where the focus is placed on improving or rewriting a process that has been used successfully for years.
But, why change a process that has been working for years? Take for example the following true story that illustrates this point. Every holiday season Stan’s wife’s mother Ruth would cut the end off of each side of their pot roast before putting it in the oven. One holiday standing around in the kitchen during preparations Stan asked, “Ruth, why do you cut the ends off of the roast?” She replied, “That is the way my mother always did it, and it was always perfectly cooked and delicious.” Later that day Grandma came for the holiday meal and Stan asked, “Grandma, why do you cut the ends off of a roast before cooking it?” To which she replied, “Well Stan, in my tiny oven you could not fit a whole roast, so I always cut it to fit.”
If you decide to examine your workflow to improve estimating performance you can follow this outline.
#1 Help your VDC personnel learn about the complexity of construction management
- For the first 4–6 weeks of work in this role, rotate the person through other departments so they can learn about the current work processes and how the data for things like quantities, building systems, estimates, and schedules are calculated
- Focus on:
- the time required to perform each task
- The value of the information being created
- The format the data comes in and the format that it needs to be conditioned into
- How many times you have to redo this work and how long it takes to redo the calculations
- Then send them to a jobsite to work with the Project team so they can see how drawings and models are being used in the field
- Focus on how 3D views could assist project engineers, superintendents, and subcontractors in quickly learning about detail and complexity in the project
- Find places where they estimate again to provide data for tasks that they must complete in a certain amount of time with a certain amount of materials and resources
- Learn how RFI’s are processed and see if 3D information from the model could quickly allow the team to resolve these issues
- Look for other applications to help such as graphical look aheads or other ways to leverage information
#2 Explain the model and drawing issue to your team
- Building Information Models are good representations of the design scope, but they are typically not what defines the construction scope
- Find a method to QA the model by following a checklist that compares drawing information to model information. Focus only on the areas or systems where you will use the 3D data from the model, you can work on other areas as this process evolves
#3 Educate your team, make the initiative a team effort
- Communication is key to get team members to have an open mind about new processes or technology.
- It is critical that you explain to them that there is competitive advantage for the company to learn how to do this well and the success of certain project pursuits for new business could hinge on mastery of improved processes
- Hold open meetings, present the overview, the plan, and the potential. Recruit expert volunteers to help, seek input, and accept critiques graciously and thoughtfully.
#4 Promote your new work process with your partners
- Make sure owners, designers, engineers, and subcontractors know what you are doing.
- Think about using the “Big Room” concept or a derivative of it to help the entire project team benefit from this work
- Write, publicize, and document your work. Join online groups and work within local groups such as the AGC, ABC, or DBIA to promote the changes that will help everyone involved in building projects.
#5 Have Fun!
- Work hard, do your research, have fun, and don’t underestimate the impact you can have on your career, company, and your industry as you work to totally rewrite work processes and improve the AECO industry.
Don Henrich is an accomplished technology veteran in both the MCAD and the AEC industries. As Chief Operating Officer of Assemble he is responsible for strategic vision, sales, marketing, customer support, partners, and field operations. 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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