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Virtual design and construction (VDC ) is being used by companies around the world to improve business performance objectives like keeping projects on time and on schedule.

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) is a service that uses digital tools to create virtual models of buildings. These digital models
are then evaluated before ground is even broken, allowing project teams to optimize the way a building is constructed. This advanced
technology provides opportunities to greatly improve the construction process throughout the project’s lifespan.

 

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.

 

CAD, or Computer Assisted Design, is the oldest methodology. This is a design and documentation tool that uses computer technology to arrive at the most accurate, comprehensive and information-rich model within its parameters. It is typically used for designing and engineering complex projects, from mobile phones to aeroplanes to buildings, which include multiple precision parts and components.

 

CAD utilizes both 2D drawings and 3D models. 3D CAD has been standard in manufacturing since the 1990s and has benefited the industry enormously in terms of allowing more complex design work to be executed quickly and more efficiently. Its widespread adoption was largely driven by the need for businesses to remain competitive, as 3D CAD enabled products to be delivered to market a lot faster than before, and so any company not using 3D CAD would inevitably lag behind. 3D CAD has been increasingly used for the design of buildings.

 

While CAD is a technological tool, BIM (Building Information Modelling) should be understood as a process of collaboration that is facilitated by the latest digital technology. By providing a holistic approach to construction that unifies design, building and documentation across a project’s lifespan, BIM has caused considerable positive disruption to the construction industry in recent years. The key difference between BIM and 3D CAD is that a BIM file is much more information-rich, and includes details of performance characteristics, specifications, and other non-physical data embedded in a shared 3D digital model of the project.

 

A BIM representation will involve a digital model of the project that includes all functional systems and aesthetics, such as electrical wiring, air conditioning, doors, windows etc., as well as geometric features. It is a shared multi-disciplinary resource allowing all those working on a project to share information and working processes in order to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness. BIM encourages and facilitates communication and collaboration by using the latest digital technology. The design-to-construction workflow is significantly overhauled as a result, and the BIM model will remain in place once construction is completed, as a vital one-stop reference tool that can be continually updated as required.

 

VDC is a combination of new technologies (BIM) with an adequate work and management scheme (PPM), supporting people working together on the project, in an integrated and simultaneous way (ICE). The scheme is focused on achieving the project’s objectives, which should help the client to achieve their goals while collecting data and tracking workflow progress.

 

But, although information technology will almost certainly be used, VDC like BIM is a process and a way of working that involves the management of integrated multidisciplinary performance models. It is a way of coming up with an ideal strategy for a given project that incorporates the right people and the right technology. VDC emphasizes collaboration and integrated working, and BIM is frequently a valuable part of VDC. BIM and VDC should not be considered analogous, however. Virtual design and construction need not necessarily involve building information modeling, and building information modeling can be undertaken without it being considered part of virtual design and construction. BIM is a much more specific process than VDC, but both are essentially methods of planning and managing a project collaboratively.

 

3D CAD is now seen as the minimum requirement in most design sectors. But where CAD is generally used for industrial design of objects and vehicles, BIM is fast becoming the industry standard for design within commercial construction. For instance, the building of schools, office blocks and transport hubs like airports or railway stations. Going forward, it also seems clear that VDC will become the standard methodology for approaching complex major projects, incorporating 3D CAD or BIM as required. These are complementary technologies and processes for the most effective sharing of information on any project, allowing for clearer understanding, stronger communication and a collaborative approach that will benefit the construction, design and engineering sectors across the board.

 

VDC includes three key elements here – the main ICE, which is supported by BIM and PPM:

The theoretical basis of VDC includes:

  • Engineering modeling methods: product, organization, process
  • Analysis methods – model-based design: including quantities, schedule, cost, 4D interactions and process risks, these are termed building information modeling (BIM) tools
  • Visualization methods
  • Business metrics – within business analytics – and a focus on strategic management
  • Economic impact analysis, i.e., models of both the cost and value of capital investments

 

ICE – Integrated Concurrent Engineering – is a method of conducting interdisciplinary meetings with the use of modern visualization technologies, where simultaneous design works are conducted. This makes it possible to introduce and approve changes during an all-day working session. Team X from NASA Propulsion Laboratory was the firs to develop this method in the mid-1990s and use it to organize space missions in a more efficient and coordinated way.

PPM – Product Production Management – a method to establish a production process. A process which defines the workflow schedule and the required resources. PPM employs tools such as the Last Planner System or visual planning methodology to manage processes that are essentially based on LEAN Construction.

BIM – Building Information Modeling – the basis of BIM has been extensively discussed in these two articles: BIM plays a significant role in VDC. Above all, it supports decision-making processes. Design challenges can be easily presented to the project team or the customer. Moreover, it is used for construction planning, due to additional schedule information, i.e. 4D.

 

Metrics

Above all, metrics are key to VDC. Taking measurements should be done daily or weekly in order to perform good result evaluation afterwards. The individual objectives of each of three elements should be controlled during the project. It allows making corrections leading to a better process.

Here we distinguish two types of data collection:

A) Production objectives – the objectives we can easily check. They help us to control whether the project is heading in a given direction. The person responsible for introducing VDC in a company can define such goals on its own.

It can be, for example, weekly checking of the number of collisions resolved between branches in one ICE session, or the number of model checks carried out in a month, etc.

B) Controllable factors– these are factors over which we have influence and can decide on them. As opposed to production objectives, we can plan them and decide whether to implement or stop them.Controllable factors should be directly linked to the production objectives of each element (BIM, PPM, ICE).

In this case, we can control, e.g. the number of days between the meeting and the sent agenda. The earlier the agenda is sent, the more branches will have time to prepare, and this will allow resolving more collisions in one session.

 

VDC advantages

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.

 

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.

 

In conclusion VDC is a completely new way of thinking. Method with modern approach of conducting the project, managing information, and organizing people and their working methods. It helps to achieve the project objectives to the greatest extent, as the whole work is based on them. VDC discusses how to cooperate in different disciplines, how to communicate, plan, and make decisions.

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://constructible.trimble.com/construction-industry/whats-the-difference-between-3d-cad-bim-and-vdc

 

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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