Who Should be Utilizing Models Daily to Support Construction Project Execution?
January 20, 2022
Over the years I have heard and learned from many different industries and companies as to how they utilize models in project execution. Some are farther along in their journey than others, but for the most part, I believe there is still a lot of room to grow in how models are utilized. Models are being used in the pre-planning, design, construction, startup and commissioning, and project turnover phases. In the following paragraphs, I have provided thoughts on how other project personnel besides building information modeling (BIM) or virtual design and construction (VDC) personnel may be involved with great benefit to project execution as it relates to the project model.
Pre-planning phase: estimators, schedulers and model gurus
During the pre-planning phase, models can be integrated with the schedule to provide construction insights early on in the project life cycle. The scheduler can connect the schedule with the model or work with a model guru to make those connections. Also, models can be integrated with estimating to participate in a bid. The most common process that I see is model data being exported from the authoring application into excel and then the estimator will import those quantities into their estimating software. Another common practice is that the model is taken from the design-authoring application into another application to sum up quantities and then export into excel for the estimator to import into their estimating software.
Design phase: discipline leads, VDC/BIM personnel, project engineers and schedulers
During the design phase, models are almost always used for clash detection and visual resolutions, which is generally done by discipline leads within an EPC company, by VDC/BIM personnel or by project engineers within a construction/construction management company. Also, during the design phase, the estimate is validated from pre-planning to design. The estimator will utilize 2D drawings and 3D models for quantity takeoff. As mentioned in the pre-planning phase, there are different means and methods of utilizing the 3D model quantities for estimating. A schedule will be developed during the design phase and a scheduler will work with project engineers to develop the schedule. During these activities the schedule can be linked to the model by the project engineers and/or VDC guru to visualize the design and construction plan to validate an effective plan and visualize risk areas.
Construction phase: project engineers, field engineers, schedulers and model gurus
During the construction phase, project engineers will sync up the schedule with their work planning. Link the model to the work plans helps to visualize the validity of work plans to ensure sequencing is at its premium and to identify all the trades working in the same area at the same time. Project engineers or field engineers can identify project activities that are completed to have that visual within the model, which is available to all project personnel to access up-to-the-minute modeled construction status. The document manager can also play a vital part by connecting construction documents, vendor documents, and more to the model objects as part of their responsibility to allow all project personnel quick access to the documents via the model.
Startup and commissioning phase: project engineers
The startup and commissioning project engineers can utilize the model to visualize the turnover packages and their status. This status can easily be communicated to the rest of the project team and the owner via the model.
Project turnover phase: project engineers, owner, owner maintenance personnel
“One Project Model,” i.e., a federated model with the disciplines of design, fabrication and construction models all brought into one model, linked to the documents and to completions information makes for an easy turnover to the owner. The owner maintenance personnel can utilize the model as part of their asset management. This type of turnover reduces the time and effort and paperwork that a traditional turnover often takes.
What are the benefits?
- Estimators utilizing 3D model data for estimating. How long does it take you to utilize data from a model in the tradition way? Imagine, as an estimator, the design team or BIM/VDC personnel dumping model data into Microsoft Excel®. Then the estimator needs to message that data before they upload it into their estimating software. So, what happens when there is a model change? How easy is it to bring in that new and changed data into the estimate? By linking the model directly to the estimate, you can save time within the process and create repeatability throughout the project and on into other projects.
- Document managers linking documents to the project model. This activity may take 60 seconds or less and let’s say there are 100 documents to link to the project model. That activity would take approximately one hour and 40 minutes. So where is the value? The value is for all the people that need to access and use those documents, and once they are connected to the model, it takes one second to access the needed document. How does that compare to your current method?
Let’s say you have superintendents, field engineers, project engineers, estimators, VDC personnel and others that utilize the model in some fashion or another. For an ambiguous number, we will use 30 personnel utilizing the model and needing to access documents and will use 60 seconds for their current method of access such documents. So, for 30 personnel finding one document takes about 30 minutes. And how many times to they do that in a day, a week or for the duration of the project? With document managers linking documents to the model it will take your personnel only a second to access needed documents.
- Project engineers utilizing 3D for construction. Traditional methods mean utilizing point solutions to do specific activities and uploading the latest model into each solution as the updates are available. The benefit of a “One Project Model” that is being updated for the project in one solution is providing certainty of the whole project team utilizing the latest version, along with the construction activities being captured on a daily basis. Creating workplans within the model and/or linked to the workplan product eliminates the need to capture information in one application and duplicate it in another to show a visual.
- Project engineers utilizing 3D as part of project turnover. Traditional methods consist of turning over electronic model files in their native format and sometimes in a free 3D viewer. This, however, provides little value to the owner. They can certainly utilize the native design files to pass to another designer later to add or remodel the owner asset. And they can certainly view their asset in the free 3D viewer, but probably not much more than that. Another part of the turnover is all the documentation either via troves of paper or electronically, but there is no correlation of the documents to the model.
The benefit of having the “One Project Model” linked to documents and to completion activities is to enhance the communication during project execution and remove the extensive exercise of turning the completed project over to the owner. The owner will receive a useful model of their asset with documents and all the required metadata that is available, all with easy access.
While some solutions are farther along in their journey than others, there is still a lot of room for growth in how models are utilized. Throughout the pre-planning, design, construction, startup and commissioning, and project turnover phases, utilizing models in project execution is providing a new window into project certainty for better outcomes more often.