Monday, December 2, 2013

NENG_VDC Update: Laser Scanning Train the Trainer

This week, the folks in WRO were kind enough to lend us Kyle Szostek from the Phoenix office for some laser scanning training.  

We spent Tuesday scanning slab edges at our super-secret site in Boston to prep for glazing adjustments, and Wednesday scanning the interior of a fit-out job in Southie so the owner and tenant have extremely accurate as-builts of in-wall utilities.  We additionally were able to scan the chiller room of our super-secret facility before we placed the slab, allowing us to mitigate future mistakes if the owner or tenant elects to add additional equipment and corresponding drains.

Over 2 days, we provided initial training of 15 VDC and PE staff on the Boston site in the FARO hardware.  The intent is to provide additional days of iterative training across multiple Gilbane fit-out and new construction jobs.


Our FARO Focus 3Ds arrived today. 

Feelings are strong in the office.... first we were like this.....
.....and now we feel like this.....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lean Construction's Inherent Failure: Too much data for an analogue process.

In Re-fabricating Architecture, Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake talk about pre-fabrication and contrast the AEC industry with the OEM industry.  What they don't provide is a solution for reconciling initial cost with total cost.  When the schedule is compressed, and money is not available to accelerate it, how does the CM deliver the building on time and at budget while maintaining its standards for quality and safety?  

Any solution requires additional CM/TC input at the design table.  As a tenant comes on board and wants to change the design, the CM in the past has accepted the change at its face-value.  The change is often documented in plan, and if the CM is lucky, in section.  
Prior to a model-based workflow, it was nearly impossible to account for every upstream and downstream impact to the design change.  The resultant vector usually ended with inflated estimates, rework, and additional costs through completion to accommodate the downstream trade contractors.  The CM, in turn, becomes the villain for not perfectly anticipating every impact.
However, the use of the model-based workflow, design model coordination, and TC involvement with the architect during design development allows the CM to provide the designers and the owner/tenant with very near real-time estimates.  These estimates very well could come in higher than estimates in the previous process, but they also more completely capture the total scope of the change.  The question then becomes:  Is it more preferable to rip the band-aid off in one motion, or pull at it one millimeter a day for 8 months?  

2D documentation of a typical change to add additional beams below an elevator:
-No depth to documentation
-No coordination with architect with regard to building code
-Omni-directional information flow - limits ability to 'read and respond' to change
-Finally.....Makes the eyes bleed.


3D documentation of the same change by CM
-After fire-spray and soffit to protect elevator equipment, room does not meet building code for head height clearance

What we've seen to-date is that the decision makers get sticker shock because they're working from a poor baseline of experience and documentation.  Very rarely is the entire change-order log digitally re-integrated with the initial estimate to determine the full cost of a job.  What should be a closed feedback loop is inherently incapable of metastasizing during a full project life-cycle (there is just too much information to process in analogue).  This, in effect, poisons the next job, because the project teams accept an incomplete and inefficient process as a success, as long as the building is finished.

So what is the solution?  

Firstly, there is simply too much information to handled by humans, notepads, and 36x48s.  Project teams need databases, not drawings.  Decisions should be made with the maximum information at hand.  

Secondly, design teams need to get away from the 'ambiguity through obscurity' of 2D documentation.  If the A/E team refuses to document scope in 3D, the CM is going to do it anyway, and use that authoring power to drive the design in its interest.  


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

As-Builts: From Spreadsheets to Intelligent Deliverables

Often enough we receive surveys or as-builts that look like this:

.....when our design models have a higher level of detail.

Our message to all parties is that points in x,y,z coordinate space are ultimately the most useful deliverable the field can provide VDC.  With points, VDC can then provide almost any deliverable to the field with the same accuracy as the laser measurement.

With elements verfied by laser, VDC limits the company's exposure with the early knowledge of dimensional variances. 


We then re-insert these variances into the Revit model and update our structural fabrication steel process (still in the detailing phase) with accurate as-built under 24 hours.

This process keeps the work in the field moving, allowing Gilbane to maintain the aggressive schedule.


Monday, May 6, 2013

BIMForum and the Generation Gap

Gilbane VDC recently attended the BIMForum in Miami, FL; where the theme was "The Human Side of BIM."


To avoid the "Death by Power-Point" syndrome typically occurring at these conferences, the presenters used the Pecha Kucha format, where they only have 20 seconds to address the current slide.  

Because the presentations were so short, it eliminated most of the 'fluff' that typically occurs, making the presentation all meat and no filler. 

During the course of the conference, several presenters tried to infer that there was not only a communication gap between members of the A/E community, but that communication gap could be filtered and ordered by age group.  

As presenters came and went, it became fairly obvious that most of the presenters were of the 'baby-boom' or 'generation-x' age groups; yet they were all speaking to the difficulties in managing the 'millennials', or people under age 30.

As us millennials sat in the crowd, continually being told that the A/E business doesn't, and will not support our desire for a fluid, collaborative, and ever changing set of workflows, I couldn't help but wonder if VDC, as it is used today (not truly integrated in design, development, or execution as one process) is just reinforcing the stigma that employment of 20 somethings is a necessary evil: to be used and abused until they've been broken by the system.  

Only once the fight to change the industry has left us, can millennials be assimilated into the 'design --> rfi --> communication failure dysfunction' culture of the A/E industry. 

      Resistance is futile

The reason for the above thought was highlighted later in the presentations: people in general have a physiological aversion to change.  Change elicits a 'fight or flight' emotion in almost everyone.  Because of this, persons who have been inside the industry for 15, 20, or even 30 years cannot understand how a sudden, cataclysmic event, such as converting a drawing-based process to a comprehensive model-based process could be a good thing for all parties.  

In some ways, they are right.  VDC is a disruptive process.  It tries to overcome (mostly) custom details and shoddy craftsmanship with difficult to use technologies and workflows.  Can you imagine if Mercedes treated their manufacturing process like the A/E industry treats it's products?  (We will address the custom fabrication of custom building components at a later date.)

Going back to disruption, it is my opinion that the adaptation of a model-based workflow which is run by young, eager, innovative architects and engineers could be compared to a tidal wave headed for shore. It is better to latch on early, (even if you fall off your board from time to time) ride the crest, and have a smooth landing than to stand in the way of the wave, fist shaking at the whippersnappers while the wave smacks you in the mouth.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Level of Detail and the Risk vs R.O.I: How much should we model in support of the construction effort?

It's one of the hardest thing to quantify in the industry: at what point does the A/E team's responsibility to design a workable solution end, and the TC's logistical design of construction means and methods begin?  Additionally, what risk is left in the gap where that split occurred?

Often, the gap is made up in sketches by the A/E team.  Sketches are about as useful as the napkin they're drawn on: okay to clean up a bloody mess, but not really efficient at preventing the initial nail through the foot.

Most T.C.s we've encountered are hesitant to model from the conceptual phase in parallel with the designers, as they see the means and methods, design, and logistics as an extension of the direction of the A/E team, rather than an iterative process that they can shape to both their fiscal benefit and the overall quality of the project process.

This gap of modeling responsibility leads to an issue in scheduling on IPD projects with compressed time-fames, especially when a design consultant refuses to model schedule-sensitive elements in 3D.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the CM to ensure the proper coordination of elements installed to the design-intent of the A/E team.  Because of this, CMs cannot stand by and plead ignorance of designed elements when there are potential spatial, sequencing or schedule risks.  Buildings have become so complicated, and owners so tight-fisted with the state of the economy, that processes not utilizing a complete, integrated VDC effort will suffer fee-erosion due to factors outside their control.

For example:

On a life-sciences building in New England, Gilbane is faced with a site that requires extremely accurate placement of underground plumbing elements.  Because we know the placement and sequencing of sub-surface precast structures is of the utmost importance to keep our tight schedule, we actually modeled the zone-of-influence below the structural footings (based on a typical structural criteria) to avoid subsurface undermining.

Now, I have no business designing footings. We have a wonderful structural design team sitting in colocation with us who does that.  What is my business is the successful execution of the coordination effort of all ME&P in the building.  Because of that, I needed to be able to tell my plumbing designer how close to the footings he could place his precast structures before we were in the "danger zone."

This type of modeling could be considered by some to be 'risky', in that we are providing (a sort of) dimensional data to a subcontractor who is contractually obligated to a set of 2D drawings and a spec.  But what ended up happening was that our structural engineer saw the value of the coordination effort, and she incorporated the zone-of-influence family into her design model, which then goes on to produce later documentation.

So, in the TLDR version, Gilbane was able to coordinate a tight underslab ME&P situation to an accuracy of under an inch using total-station layout and drive a model-based process in a situation where the sub-surface engineer refused to model in 3D.