If you’re a construction project manager, you’ve probably heard about the great benefits of virtual design and construction (VDC) and how fantastic it is to be able to construct a three-dimensional, visual model of your project before you ever break ground. The trouble with new technology isn’t always finding the benefits though – it’s making the business case for why your company should be going after those benefits and answering questions like “How does this help us make more profit?” and “How will this add more value?”
If you’re a construction project manager who believes in the power of VDC, we’re here to help you make the business case for adopting this technology at your firm. Our list of the top six ways that virtual design and construction improves business performance objectives can help you convince the right people that VDC is the way forward for your business.
VDC Helps Contractors Win More Projects
Construction has one of the most costly and time-consuming bidding processes of any industry, owing to the high complexity of projects. When a construction company makes a bid on a large project, there are usually many people involved – the client that reviews the bid, architectural and engineering firms that work together on a proposal, general and specialized contractors who deliver quotes, materials information and other submittals, material suppliers that provide pricing, etc.
Virtual design and construction can be used by construction companies to demonstrate the organizational and collaborative skills that are essential to successfully completing the project. With VDC, engineers and architects can work together to create a visual model of the project for presentation to the client. Integrated models that include information about products that will be used in construction, processes that must be performed to achieve the final result and the organization of those processes demonstrate expertise and help construction companies win more projects.
VDC Improves Project Estimates
Project costing is one of the major challenges that construction firms face on large projects. An accurate job cost estimate can mean the difference between a project that loses money and a project that earns the company a sizable profit, but it can be difficult and labor intensive to generate an accurate estimate using spreadsheets and shop drawings.
Construction companies that generate detailed models of projects using virtual design and construction can use Building Information Management (BIM) software to extract data from their visual models and create more accurate cost estimates. The collaborative process that is inherent to VDC also improves the accuracy of project costing, as it prevents critical subsystems from being overlooked during the cost estimation process – architects and engineers working together on a collaborative model help ensure that cost estimates account for every nut and bolt required for the project.
Increased Communication and Collaboration Reduces Rework
The two biggest problems facing the construction industry in 2018 are waste and lack of productivity. While other sectors adopted new technologies to enhance worker productivity over the last 50 years, the construction industry has lagged behind in technological adoption and failed to meaningfully enhance productivity through innovation.
Reworks are the best example of waste and missed productivity on construction projects. When part of a project must be taken apart and re-completed, it represents a huge source of wasted time and money. Industry experts estimate that up to 30% of construction costs are related to rework.
Construction companies that use virtual design and construction software have communication and collaboration happening between teams during all phases of project design and delivery, reducing task silos and design discrepancies. When the of the subsystems of a building are designed separately, conflicts invariably emerge when it comes time to combine those designs into a single model. With VDC, all subsystems are modeled together from the beginning and firms can benefit from software clash detection features that can identify potential design conflicts before they manifest into reworks and delays on the job site.
Early Project Planning with VDC Keeps Work on Schedule
When it comes to performance objectives for construction project managers, completing projects on schedule usually tops the list. Projects that experience delays and run months behind schedule can lead to dissatisfied customers, out-of-control budgets and legal liabilities that can completely erase any possibility of the company generating a profit.
With virtual design and construction, architects and engineers can work together to create more accurate visual project designs, leading to greater transparency and more accurate scheduling. BIM software can be used to integrate scheduling and cost projections into the design phase of the project. When scheduling begins early in the design phase, project managers have more time to identify blockers or other potential sources of delays and address them ahead of time.
While virtual design and construction is primarily thought of as 3D modeling, it’s important to remember that the visual model only tells one part of the story. For virtual design and construction to have its maximum organizational impact and to optimally support business objectives, design teams should take advantage of features like job costing and develop a building schedule early on that can be tweaked later to ensure the project finishes on time.
VDC Enhances Construction Safety
Virtual design and construction can be used to plan and communicate important safety measures to workers on the job site. It can also be used to improve project safety, both during the project phase and during the facility operation phase (once the project has been completed and the keys have been handed over to the project owner).
The preparation of a building plan in three dimensions ensures that all stakeholders can clearly understand and interpret what the building will look and feel like, regardless of their ability to interpret blueprints or technical drawings. As a result, more stakeholders can have the opportunity to identify and assess potential sources of risk that could materialize during the construction or facility operation phase.
Virtual design and construction make it easier for architects and engineers to achieve “Safety by design”, as they can access a to-scale visual representation of the project environment at any time, assess potentially dangerous areas of the job site or risks inherent to the construction process and implement safety measures to mitigate the risk.
VDC Simplifies Building Maintenance
Once a construction project is completed, the contract closes, and the construction company hands the keys over to the project owner, along with all the information required to facilitate building maintenance. With virtual design and construction, the final deliverables for a construction project can include a 3D model of the building with all its sub-systems laid out in detail for the project owner.
While as-built drawings or diagrams are typically among the final project deliverables, these diagrams must be regularly updated and maintained. By using virtual design and construction continuously throughout the design, construction and operation processes, construction project owners can maintain a current model of the building that can be used to guide and streamline routine maintenance or expedite repair tasks.
Some construction companies are developing tools for the electronic maintenance and operation of newly constructed buildings. This technology would allow building owners to access automated building maintenance functions through an interface attached to a virtual model of the building.
Virtual design and construction is being used by companies around the world to improve business performance objectives like keeping projects on time and on schedule. VDC enables construction companies to build compelling three-dimensional models and provide early costing and scheduling information, helping them demonstrate competence and win more project bids and proposals.
VDC also allows construction companies to more accurately estimate the material quantities and costs associated with completing a project, and it facilitates increased communication and collaboration that prevents task silos and helps avoid costly reworks.
Once the project starts, the benefits of virtual design and construction become even more clear on the job site. The comprehensive planning approach inherent to an integrated virtual design and construction approach helps keep the project on schedule, and the design team can use the virtual model to detect and address safety concerns, communicating those risks to workers to help prevent accidental injuries.
Finally, 3D building models are beginning to be used in facilities operation, providing project owners with an accessible real-time view of the internal workings of their building that can be used to facilitate and streamline maintenance tasks. The delivery of a comprehensive 3D building model is a major value-add and competitive advantage for construction firms that wish to take full advantage of VDC technology.
Tyler Riddell is Vice President of Marketing at eSUB Construction Software, a leader in mobile and cloud-based project management and document control software designed specifically for subcontractors in the construction industry.