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How Smart is Virtual Construction?

Posted October 11, 2010 7:58 AM

Virtual Construction, the act of creating a structure on a computer with BIM (Building Information Modeling) tools and other 3D software, has been around for almost a quarter century. But never before has the practice been as popular as it is today. Why? Because up until recently, argue some experts, the programs fell short. They provided a graphic overview of what a building would look like and offered information on structural data and architectural design, but when it came down to the actual nuts and bolts of construction, nothing beat the real construction experience.

George Pfeffer, project director for San Francisco's $1.5 billion UCSF Medical Center, says the biggest difference between the virtual construction of today and yesterday is that a designer can now click on the image of duct or pipe, (and) it takes him to a document with details about that duct or pipe." In other words, 3D modeling has gotten smart.

In fact, today's software is so smart that it can predict where materials and building schemes might "clash," providing the designer with sufficient warning. Virtually speaking, there are no more excuses for long electrical runs to collide with HVAC duct runs in the field. By creating their buildings first on the computer, engineers and architects can remedy both anticipated and unanticipated problems, saving time and money.

What do you see as the prime payoffs of using new virtual building models for your commercial construction projects?

The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Building & Design, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Building & Design today.

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#1

Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

10/11/2010 12:24 PM

This smart design program... different versions for different model building codes?

Element interference has ALWAYS been a big problem with construction. Architect has laid out the parking lot with 4 foot square concrete light base with centerline 6 inches from CL of a catch basin; door to toilet stall only opens 300, then hits toilet... we have all seen many examples. Reducing these problems is a GREAT trouble saver.

But what about the rest? There is no substitute for being good at what you do, and knowing exactly what to do. Design professionals (how about naval architects and engineers?) must exercise diligence at every stroke of the pen... whoops, there are no more very, very few pen and ink vellum drawings anymore. Will such software reduce diligence as well as cognitive effort?

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

10/13/2010 2:08 PM

'Will such software reduce diligence as well as cognitive effort?'

You bet it will! Since when does the typical customer see faster turnaround as an opportunity to increase design review/QC time, as opposed to just getting a cheaper product?

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#3
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Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

10/13/2010 2:19 PM

"Since when does the typical customer see faster turnaround as an opportunity to increase design review/QC time..."

Never. In my experience, trust is placed on the ability of the software to find every conflict and interference review is (sometimes) nearly eliminated.

CAD: Computer Aided Drafting. CADD: Computer Aided Drafting and Design.

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#5
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Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

10/14/2010 8:20 AM

You sound like office engineering finds them?

I have built plants where the office repeated the same mistakes year after year - plant after plant.

The programs are not perfect but allow a better job to be done - if the engineer in charge is interested and competent.

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#4

Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

10/14/2010 7:34 AM

It's been 20+ years since I've worked on large constuction projects, many of them for the federal Gov't.

It was not uncommon to find stupid mistakes, both in drawings and specifications, out in the field.

I had a crew of 80-100 people on one project. Liquidated damages for time over runs were $5000 per day, assesed to whatever company was holding things up.

It got real interesting when architects' mistakes were discovered out in the field. I would have to fill out an RFI (request for information). Sometimes it would take a week to get an answer. Did these hold ups buy me extra time? Hell no! I was eating more antacids than food at the time.

If this software delivers as promised, it will save untold time and money in the field. Huge amounts.

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#6
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Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

10/14/2010 9:19 AM

YIKES! You just described an average day on an average project for me! Glad to hear that I am not the only one munching on antacid on a daily basis.

We can welcome each other to each others hell!

I am seeing the use of BIM spec'd in bid documents more and more frequently within the last 2 - 3 years. In projects that I have worked that have implemented BIM, we have used it for coordination purposes between the trades, example: between the tin knockers and electricians to prevent conflicts due to conduit/duct routing.

In my opinion, BIM programs are all well and good but nothing (again, in my opinion) will replace a good old fashion early morning job site walk through and follow up coordination meeting between the various trades.

I do see value in BIM for creating very accurate as-builds though.

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#7
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Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

10/14/2010 2:11 PM

I got out of that game a long time ago.

You're right, nothing will ever replace coordination between the trades, out in the field. Having drawings and spec's that work and are accurate would be great though.

I'd just like to add, regardless of the occupation, anybody that thinks that being in management is a glory job, couldn't be further from the truth!

Enjoy your Rolaids

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#8
In reply to #4

Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

11/03/2010 2:36 PM

I agree with you 100 % In the CAD draws of today I find the same errors that I saw in the blueprints by hand in the past.

The CAD software only will be so good how the profesional in front of the screen.

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#9

Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

11/15/2010 11:30 AM

Hmmm, thanks for the interesting article, I like it.

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#10

Re: How Smart is Virtual Construction?

11/15/2010 12:58 PM

I saw a video on a Virtual Reality Design system that allows users to 'walk through' and see every aspect of a plant or building. That is definitely one generation better than 3d cad, which is a generation better than dumb 2D cad. (where all the knowledge is with the user)

The next generation that is being made is 'object oriented', and each door, window, cabinet, walkway, component, etc, is programmed with it's own requirements for operation. The software then runs an 'interference and fit' function, and interrogates each object, which tells the software whether or not it can perform its function (ie door swing) without interference. If there is, of course, it is logged for the operator to correct.

This sort of smarts, coupled with more interactive walkthrough technology (allowing edits in the walkthrough) will go a very long way to eliminating the stupid errors. (I can't find the original video link)

http://www.vrcontext.com/solidworks-2.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ct_huO7Y-fM&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah7n7QzxcDQ&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRid-i0y6bU&NR=1

Chris

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