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10 Solid Reasons Why VDC Is Essential During the Design Phase

Posted by Patrick Krzyzosiak on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 @ 08:11 AM
Patrick Krzyzosiak
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Let’s assume you and I are on a project together. We’ve determined the project requirements and the design phase is about to commence.  The project architect is beginning to shape the client vision through a series of project drawings and written specifications.  We know the client will be a part of this process to review the drawings and make important decisions. As we begin to embark on the design phase, we start to wonder how virtual design and construction practices could benefit our project.  

As we recall, virtual design and construction (VDC) is the management of integrated multi-disciplinary performance models of the project including the building or structure, manpower, workflow sequences and processes and overall organization of the design and construction.  This practice also references and analyzes a project model to determine material quantities, project schedule milestones, project cost, material quantities, as well as identifies potential project risks.  All of these elements are Building Information Modeling (BIM) processes. 

With the understanding of VDC fresh in our minds and after reading the post “Learn the Truth About Your Project With A BIM Execution Plan”, let’s assume you and I want to understand how these practices are beneficial during the design phase.  Simply, we are not quite clear on the real value. Fortunately for us, this post discusses 10 solid reasons why VDC practices are essential during the design phase. 

VDC practiced during the design phase allows the project team to:

1. Gain intimate knowledge of the project early on and collectively evaluate the master plan and design options.

2. Assist the design team and consultants with optimizing both the model and BIM. These practices effectively incorporate BIM and consider the overall design intent, which will ultimately aid in identifying the right combination of people with the set of right skills. These practices also answer the questions of who?, what?, when?, where?, how? and why? on BIM rules and responsibilities. 

3. Engage in proactive and predictive decision-making by using the model to walkthrough and instantaneously discuss the space, any issues and provide alternate solutions and design changes in real-time.

4. Leverage BIM to drill down to the fine project detail, such as fabrication by subcontractors and vendors, to optimize cost efficiency. 

5. Conduct interactive design sessions and walk-throughs with the client. These interactive activities will avoid late changes and rework. An owner might not be interested in just looking at drawings and renderings. They may be more interested in a virtual building walkthrough enabling 360-degree immersion of the space.  Total immersion tends to be a more effective method for approving the design.

6. Access and interact with the model early-on allowing for identification and mitigation of potential issues that would result in RFIs and potential change orders. VDC tools and methods can be very helpful; however, these practices rely on early participation of the designer and builder. It is important not to wait until 50% CDs to engage field superintendents, subcontractors, tradespeople, etc…

Design Phase VDC Coordination
Design Phase Coordination: Minimizing RFI and identifying potential change orders.

7. Evaluate all systems holistically, including architectural, structural, MEP and the project site.

8. Plan for early MEP coordination. For example, a VDC MEP Detailer can advise the team of MEP Consultants/Engineers on coordination and cost efficiency. A BIM model should be developed only once with the right level of detail for design coordination, cost estimating, constructability review, construction sequencing and phasing, pre-fabrication, modularization, field layout, and safety simulation. 

Design Phase, VDC Risk Assessment

UCSD CTRI: Rudolph and Sletten In-House Civil modeling: Site Risk Assessment

9. Create virtual mock-ups of the project’s critical areas and access the building via virtual walkthrough utilizing the latest project rendering in real-time.

10. Access a real-time project resource that is reliable and represents real world occurrences.

Virtual Reality at the Design Phase, Client Walkthrough

Virtual Reality: An immersive experience allows for much more confident decision making.

“Let’s build it twice: once virtually…and once in the field”.  The benefits of practicing VDC at the design phase are immeasurable and essential for achieving an unprecedented level of collaboration and efficiency. Essentially, the practice allows project teams to first build in a virtual environment prior to actual construction.

It is not a secret that BIM relies heavily on upfront work. Communication and planning is an essential, continuous process. Activities such as project set up, defining requirements, project planning, BIM implementation, setting expectations and establishing performance metrics allow innovative builders to successfully incorporate BIM tools and techniques.

If it is our goal to continuously improve our VDC processes to achieve unprecedented levels of collaboration and efficiency, it is important to understand that it more about accepting the VDC/BIM processes and migrating from traditional 2D methods to the 3D tools, techniques and innovative construction technologies.

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