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How VDC Can Envision Your Future Facility at The Conceptual Phase

Posted by Patrick Krzyzosiak on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 @ 07:04 AM
Patrick Krzyzosiak
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Whether you call it data-driven prediction or think of it as pseudo-science, virtual design and construction is going strong.  Today’s owners require smart, efficient planning and want the architect, engineer and general contractor to work together to meet their desired building requirements. Given today’s technological advancements, what are the qualities or characteristics of an intelligent and predictive master program plan?

It is common knowledge that a master program plan begins at the conceptual planning phase. This phase is a time when the project team, consisting of a group of stakeholders who are actively involved including the owner, architect, engineer, and general contractor, begin to render an initial vision and scope into a set of realistic plans and, also, formulates the means for achieving those plans.  The purpose of this phase is to begin to break down a project solution in detail and, also, frame a high-level plan and overall milestones. These exercises tend to include developing solutions for functional design and architecture, defining specifications, preparing cost estimates, project schedules and budgets.

An example of a typical project program sketch that further illustrates project expectations and inspires an exchange of ideas among project stakeholders:


Project Program Sketch at the Conceptual Phase

A key ingredient to transforming a regular plan into an intelligent and predictive program plan begins with the basic understanding between all stakeholders to be actively committed at the conceptual phase.  In other words, the sheer brainpower behind the stakeholders will be greatly magnified if they simply apply a collaborative approach and be actively prepared to apply technologies that will, ultimately, innovate the way we build at the conceptual planning phase. 

First, let’s discuss the human intelligence behind a great project program. Working together, each stakeholder can apply their disciplinary expertise to anticipate the future and make solid business judgments to craft more detailed yet realistic plans. Early on, stakeholders provide feedback on how project execution methods may result in positive or negative impact and influence an alternative direction that offers a more desired result. Together, the team provides a range of plans that may include a development plan, procurement plan, sequencing and phasing plan, and other schedules for all aspects of a project. Together, the team can combine and harmonize these plans into a single master program plan.

Now, let’s talk tech!  Assume the team has identified the staffing requirements, program requirements, site, functional performance, and design concepts.  This is an ideal time to engage a general contractor’s virtual design and construction (VDC) team to offer strategic guidance and implementation strategies to the entire team for consideration.  The team works together to exchange ideas and identify opportunities that will optimize the project’s value as well as ensure realistic communication of project milestones. 

Bringing forth VDC efforts will validate the human intelligence behind a great program as well as offer alternative means and methods for getting the job done more efficiently and in a more predictive manner, i.e. predictive modeling. The VDC team is a resource for identifying potential project challenges, providing alternative solutions and recommending implementation methods that will positively impact the project from the design through to construction project phases. Working together, the team can then reach a consensus about the plan’s activities as well as set manageable expectations.  Together, the team develops realistic milestones based upon predictive modeling. This approach increases the likelihood of entire team success, offers greater value to the owner, and reduces project program risk.

Visualize the role of VDC team at the conceptual phase in the following workflow:

VDC Workflow at the Conceptual PhaseVDC Process Workflow 

Now that we can develop more realistic milestones, are there any other benefits to engaging a general contractor’s VDC team?  The simple answer is, “Yes.” VDC and preconstruction professionals can assist the project team to verify the project budget’s feasibility (e.g. using cost model benchmarks) as well as review a list of values and benefits that will help each stakeholder make more informed project decisions. This effort will not only ensure a more reliable project plan, the result will be an overall savings in both time and money. 

VDC, 3D Model and Cost Model

Conceptual Rendering to 3D Modeling and Cost Model Estimating

Another benefit to engaging a general contractor’s VDC team at this conceptual project phase is to establish the BIM vision for the project with the entire team. The vision is a statement that clearly and concisely communicates areas that bring efficiency and effectiveness through an integrated project delivery method.  A master program includes 3D model visualizations of how the project will appear. See the example of a 3D model above and compare to the earlier Conceptual Sketch. The vision sets the stage for a more holistic approach to project efficacy. 

Every project team stakeholder wants to be a part of a wildly successful project.  The advent of new design and construction technologies allows all stakeholders to rethink their role during the project lifecycle and identify how they can apply their expertise to provide dramatic results.  The next post in the VDC series will take a close look at the VDC requirements during the planning phase to optimize implementation of BIM to the benefit of maximizing the project performance efficiencies. 

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Topics: Conceptual Planning, Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), Best Practice