Several million aging baby boomers claim to have been among the 400,000 who attended the legendary Woodstock music festival during the 1960s. In hindsight, today's boomers recognize the cultural watershed that Woodstock represented: anybody who (now) is cool must have been there. Likewise, in just a few years from today thousands of building industry folks will claim to have been among the 100 or so who attended the June 27 Virtual Builders Roundtable Workshop at DPR Construction and the June 28 executive seminar at Stanford/CIFE, "Real Profits Through Virtual Building." Just as Woodstock changed the course of popular music, the DPR and CIFE events promise to change the course of design and construction.
Virtual Builders Roundtable Workshop
Just off highway 101 in Redwood City is the California headquarters of DPR Construction, Inc., a US$2-billion construction outfit (founded in 1990 by three guys named Doug, Peter, and Robert) that offers the equivalent of a full-credit course in "Intelligent Construction 101." Operating as a fast-track design-builder with A/E designers as subcontractors, DPR's typical negotiated guaranteed maximum price (GMP) contracts and shared savings incentives with building owners consistently drive the firm to build smarter and to leverage information technology as a tool for managing project risk.
Beginning in the late 1990s, DPR began exploring teaming and workflow methods that would move the assessment/resolution of "coordination risk" earlier in the project, compared to traditional design-bid-build or "conventional" design-build. Working with researchers from the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) at nearby Stanford University, DPR started modeling their projects in 3-D and 4-D in order to build virtually. DPR sees 4-D virtual building (VB) as a kind of schedule risk insurance, enabling the entire team to gain a shared vision of the project, with improved communication and the ability to analyze constructability issues before going into the field. Since the integration of the fourth dimension of project scheduling information presupposes a 3-D model, DPR must create such models on its own if the project A/E hasn't delivered the project design in that form.
In 2001, DPR, in conjunction with CIFE and others, launched the Virtual Builders Roundtable (VBR) as a forum for sharing practical information about VB experiences as the methodologies moved out of the realm of laboratory theory and into the dirt-based world of construction application. At the June 27, 2002 VBR workshop held in DPR's offices, an elite group of invitees saw and responded to presentations about five recent or current projects:
> Experience Music Project (EMP), Seattle
> Walt Disney Concert Hall (WDCH), Los Angeles
> Bay Street Emeryville, Emeryville, California
> Genentech Founders' Research Center (FRC) II, South San Francisco
> Good Samaritan Hospital, Phoenix
These diverse examples demonstrated the usefulness of 4-D modeling in:
> Projects with complex geometries and tight construction tolerances
> Conventional buildings with site constraints, time constraints, or both
> "High-content" projects (such as research labs and hospitals) with mission-critical construction tolerance requirements for essential trades and building services; and/or a need for continuous operation throughout construction
While this list doesn't cover every possible type of building, it does show that 4-D is worth using on a wider range of building types than previously believed. Among the common threads and lessons learned in these five project examples of virtual building, the following items stand out:
> The more trades, components, and services represented in a 3-D/4-D model, the more effective the model will be for collision detection, sequencing, and so on
> Modeling to appropriate levels of detailincluding 3-D shop drawingsis important in order to minimize time-consuming manual resolution of complex 3-D conditions
> Creating models prior to issue of construction documents (CDs) allows incremental design improvements by reflecting sequencing and collision effects in the design.
> Given current skills, the people most likely to make models are not likely those with the greatest understanding of construction or design issues; some knowledge continuity may be gained by bridging the same model team across both the design and construction teams
> Up to 75%-80% of the cost of a 4-D model is in creation of the underlying 3-D model; if the design team works in 3-D, that cost becomes a project benefit
> Even within current limitations, 4-D modeling may enable the project team to avoid 40% of potential change orders
> Model costs on large projects may run as low as 0.05% of the project budget, yet be returned 50-100 times over in project savings; the benefits do not always accrue to those who paid for the model, but future competitive advantage does.
Part II: Real Profits Through Virtual Building