On-Site Magazine

Webinar Review: VDC movement growing in construction

By Adam Freill   

Construction Leadership Software

Major projects are ideal targets for use of 3-D models and advances in project tracking, but capabilities and applications are rapidly evolving.

Last week, On-Site magazine hosted a panel of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) experts as we explored how 3-D models are currently being used in the building world, as well as how they are evolving in their capabilities and use.

Panellists, Aaron Akehurst of PCL, Stephen Bianchi of Hatch, Hammad Chaudry of EllisDon, and Steve Rollo of Graham Construction, shared insights into how their companies have integrated such technology as BIM into their projects and explained how new features based on the integration of jobsite data might open the door to more robust modelling in the years to come.

“All of our major projects are leveraging some form of VDC workflows,” stated Akehurst, explaining that the use of VDC and BIM is not as prevalent on smaller projects, generally due to the time necessary to set each project up, but added that more and more of even small and specialty projects are becoming targets to take on the benefits offered with 3-D visualization and planning tools.

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Where it was not long ago that a BIM department may have consisted of a single digital expert who could be accessed when a BIM or 3-D topic came up, he says his company is taking the idea of VDC and BIM to “move it to the centre of the project so that our entire project teams have access to the 3-D model.” With that focus, digital departments are expanding to play a role in more projects.

“I do believe VDC is a must for all major projects, as well as most minor projects, but it does depend on the scope and the scale of the job,” agreed Hatch’s Bianchi.

“For some time now, we’ve been shifting away from the old traditions, and we’re pushing to generate our designs in 3-D… We can generate our drawing deliverables quite easily from these models,” he explained. “It also generates a very collaborative environment for the team. It allows a lot of the different disciplines to come together in a coordination model. Recently, we’ve also been putting a lot of focus on data-rich models. These models will contain many attributes built into the model, so it’ll be a lot more than just a 3-D shape.”

And it is not just the capabilities of the software that’s expanding. The users are changing as well.

“I think a little bit of the shift is coming as upskilling of traditional project coordinators to be able to use those tools without having dedicated VDC folks,” explained Chaudry. He also illustrated some of the benefits that modelling tools can offer as they extend beyond simply visualizing a project and bring more business-side attributes into the integrated plans – a theme that was extended on by the rest of the panel.

“The thing that we’re shifting towards a lot now is this overall idea of digital construction as opposed to just BIM or VDC,” said Rollo. “Because it encompasses so much more than things like drone capture and amazing scanning.”

Of course, it’s a little early to be looking to rely on digital models to automatically track projects and forecast any costing or timing changes, but the needle is moving, and some companies are starting to incorporate the use of more advanced capabilities housed within some VDC software offerings.

“The anticipation or the drive is there within the industry to want to leverage it for specific model-based quantity, takeoffs and everything like that,” said Rollo, but he warned that the ability to make effective use of the information is reliant on the quality of the data being measured and collected. “The drive is there for it, but I think it’s still in its infancy as far as finding out the best way to most efficiently execute,” he said.

The path to making effective use of data from a jobsite, said Akehurst, is going to be reliant on data structure and data standards. “I think that that’s the foundation that we need to be able to build out. Whether it’s connecting IoT sensors or tracking progress, or all of those kinds of things, we need that well-built data foundation to be able to connect.”

“Ultimately this goes right back to the beginning of when you have a project. I have a plot of land. I want to come up with different design scenarios, and different methods of schedule execution… but with technology as the focal point,” said Chaudry. “The evolution of VDC is not about how do we do 3-D coordination; it’s more about the sophisticated technologies that are trying to look at automated data capture to inform decision making.”

If you missed the session, click on the video above.

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