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Compelling Reasons to Use Virtual Mock-ups for Fabrication

Posted by Patrick Krzyzosiak on Thu, Jul 07, 2016 @ 15:07 PM
Patrick Krzyzosiak
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Building Information Modeling (BIM) is forever changing the way we design and build. The process encourages and actually improves project engagement allowing for more effective collaboration throughout a project’s lifetime. As the demand for BIM tools continue to rise, the need to design within an enhanced virtual environment will continue. In this post, we concentrate on two areas, virtual mock-ups and fabrication simulation.

A virtual mock-up is a model of what will go on or into a building’s design. Pre-fabrication is one of the reasons why subcontractors adopt BIM. A mock-up coordinates real-time LOD 400 content to support the identification and assembly of parts needed to simulate physical fabrication. It behaves as a pre-building system evaluation without the initial cost of physical investment. Mock-ups are particularly beneficial early on in the design phase through to fabrication and construction sequencing. During the design phase, a team can take advantage of the project’s flexibility and develop fabrication specifications, performance compliance, and assembly and installation procedures. The ultimate goal is to work out constructability issues and improve productivity.

BIM_Prefabrication01.png Physical_Prefabrication.png

From Revit design model through modules and unitized wall to advanced pre-engineered components/assembly.

Team collaboration is essential for designing virtual mock-ups and simulate fabrication. Integrated project teams engaging with Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) practices rely on a high-focused design process that is reliant on information exchange and interoperability. The intent is to achieve common goals that are focused on creating project efficiencies and greater building performance. A detailed virtual mock-up will positively affect constructability studies, work sequences, scheduling, and, ultimately, result in the identification of potential savings in terms of time and cost, improved coordination and design flexibility. Projects using virtual representation to document the building envelope report greater benefits in cost savings as opposed their physical counterparts.

Virtual mock-ups can coexist with BIM. Level of Development (LOD) is a categorization that defines the level of detail and information placed on BIM models. LOD works together with BIM practices from schematic design through to construction phases. The categorization of the model identifies at what point the mockup can be prescribed since different project delivery types and challenges have varied LOD definition use through the design phase.

Virtual mock-ups may cover:

  • Enclosure Systems
  • Exterior and Interior Architecture
  • Self-Performed Work
  • Demonstrate Installation or Assembly


Using the design model to create virtual assemblies for construction coordination and fabrication (MWF Structsoft)

Virtual Reality Mock-ups


A VR integrated Construction Mock-up system can enable the project Team to walk through the Mock-up so that issues can be found and design /or construction improvements can be made earlier.

It also can facilitate the selection of alternate designs or construction assembly. As VR become an interface for interactivity, Immersive Visualization is used for communicating constructability information between Design and Construction as well as structural complexity and aesthetical properties (finishes).





The main strengths of virtual building mockups include:

  • Allows three-dimensional studies and include 3-D detailing, where practical, and determine relevant details.
  • Allows design team to determine levels of design flexibility throughout the design process.
  • Promotes better communication through visual representation, not relying on physical representation (physical mockups), and creates feedback structure with design and construction teams.
  • Emphasizes integration of project team, exchange of ideas, and building information.
  • Tests and validates constructability, functionality and quality.
  • Helps to develop and verify sequencing process
  • Ability to make cost effective decisions of mockup selection.
  • Dramatic cost savings when comparing physical mockup [field] counterparts.
  • Ability to provide a movie that provides a visualization of piece-by-piece assembly.
  • Mitigates conflicts among MEP and fire protection trades.
  • Minimizes RFIs
  • Minimizes potential change orders.

Virtual and Physical Mock-up Comparison

Virtual mock-ups allow studying and manipulating the design to gain a greater sense of assembly, material characteristics, as well as, its performance and construction processes. While the virtual mock-up lacks the materiality and tangibility of its physical counterpart, it offers consistency in transfer of knowledge in developing the virtual mockup through to its installation. Mock-up information is easily accessible and visual for both the design and construction teams. The virtual mockup can have implicit effects on the design process and imposes better building practices by allowing design and construction teams to study the building envelope system at greater depth earlier on. 

Physical mockups are most effective when the design team provides thorough drawings, and construction teams are well organized. This allows the mockup to serve as a step in the design to construction process, reassuring involved project teams of their understanding of how the envelope should be installed to meet performance requirements. Performance mockups provide more in-depth examination of the building envelope and are certainly useful for unique prototypes, however its use on conventional systems is redundant.


Cold Stud Framing Fabrication Details

Are you using virtual mock-ups for prefabrication? Please share your experience under comments.

Topics: Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), BIM, Virtual Mock-ups and Prefabrication