Combining VDC and BIM for project success

By bringing together virtual design and construction (VDC) and building information modeling (BIM), a project team can streamline all processes.

By Matthew Goss, Mario Vecchiarello, Kurt van Heiningen, CDM Smith October 22, 2018

Virtual design and construction (VDC) is a process that fully integrates all elements of a project by openly sharing design and construction models among the team, from design through construction. The model can use 3-D elements or can be expanded to a 4-D model that incorporates the construction sequence.

Using the resource-loaded schedule, this model could provide a 3-D illustration of the construction of the project over time. The model can again be expanded to 5-D, which also would include BIM data. This allows the team to quickly access the detailed design specifications and shop drawings of the actual equipment installed directly from the BIM model.

One of the key benefits of using the model during construction is that the contractors can place the 3-D model of the specific equipment being procured to ensure that equipment will fit in place without requiring extensive modifications.

Other best practices for use of this information are to plan for equipment movements and to monitor physical construction versus anticipated construction. Through the process, a schedule-loaded model can be evaluated graphically, side-by-side against a visual of actual project progress, an easy indicator and representation of whether the project is behind, on, or ahead of schedule.

Smoother commissioning, startup, testing, and acceptance

As many engineers, architects, and contractors have experienced during their careers, the commissioning, start-up, testing, and acceptance phase of a project can be the most difficult to complete. Too often, there is little attention paid to this phase of the project early on during the design, which results in delays in turning over the project to the client.

Having the end product in mind with regard to commissioning and acceptance testing during the proposal, design execution, and construction/procurement phases of the project is imperative to ensure the final-acceptance schedule is maintained. For alternative-delivery projects, it is imperative that designers and the contractors coordinate early during the design phase to identify the commissioning needs and select the appropriate equipment to accomplish the requirements.

During the construction phase, continued collaboration between the designers and constructors is extremely important. For instance, there typically are multiple vendors and equipment that meet the specification requirements, but one may be more difficult to commission or get acceptance, which could quickly offset the savings observed during procurement. Best practices include early identification and adoption of the project’s commissioning plan, pre-functional and functional test checklists, and procedures.

Addressing special inspections, permitting, and reviews

Early discussion of necessary permits, reviews, inspections, and special inspections is crucial to maintaining the project schedule. By identifying and incorporating these requirements, the comprehensive project team can monitor and track critical action items. In addition, early identification of requirements may allow the project team to expedite the delivery of certain permit or review-package documents.

Best practices often including the project narrative, preliminary design report, and scope with permitting resources to determine the anticipated requirement far ahead of required submittals. It also may be prudent to communicate preliminary packages to demonstrate and confirm intent to appropriate authorities.

Accelerating the project schedule

Integrated project delivery (IPD) readily lends itself to accelerating a project schedule by bringing all team members together early and overlapping each part of the project. Because the designers and the contractors are on the same team, the design documents are frequently released as multiple construction packages.

For instance, the initial sitework is typically the first construction package released to allow construction to begin prior to the completed design. Foundations also are a typical early start construction package that is developed with input from specialty trades.

Trust is an essential component of a fully integrated team, which is often why it’s best to work with a team that’s worked together on past projects. A best practice used to ensure the construction packages are appropriately identified is to require all the design and construction professionals to attend collaboration meetings to identify the various constructions packages that meet the project objectives. These meetings will also ensure all stakeholders understand what critical information is needed by each discipline or trade so early construction packages are developed with the end in mind.