Final Issue of 'Cool Architects'

Thank you to all of the architects who worked with us on this, and the previous issues of Tocci Today 'Cool Architects' - so amazing.

This issue features two of the presenters from the last BIMForum, Morris Architects and Gensler along with two local firms using BIM in interesting ways.

More from the BIMForum

If I keep putting off blogging about the rest of the BIMForum meeting long enough, I won't have to do anything except post links.

Here is Vela's take on it, interesting thoughts...

BPM: Building Prettiness Model

I am waiting for images from Christof Spierler's presentation before I post all my notes, but it was a great presentation that kicked off the BIMForum with energy. In it, he coined a new acronym 'Building Prettiness Model', described in further detail here.

BIM Claims

One of the most interesting presentations at the BIMForum was Gregg Bundschuh's (of Ames & Gough) presentation on "BIM Claims and Insurance Cover: A Survey of Recent Developments".

According to Gregg's presentation, there have been about 30 claims arisen from BIM utilization to date. The claims group into about 6 categories and generally relate to delay and cost overrun claims:
  • 2D -> 3D Conversion Where the contractor performs a 2D conversion and makes an assumption about design intent in the conversion process
  • Versioning When firms "mix and match" versions of the same software, inconsistencies result between models of different versions.
  • Default Settings When firms use the default settings of software, errors can occur.
  • Model Reliance No surprise here; this issue is the most prevalent and occurs when someone over-relies on a model.
  • Interoperability Three claims have come about when conflicts occur between design and fabrication models; although, those were mostly in structural steel.
  • Standard of Care The most interesting claim by far comes from an arbitration that was resolved about 2 months ago, in the midwest. The design professionals only created 2D documents (per their contract requirements). After the contractor did a 2D conversion, they published clashes to the architect, who "ignored them". The architect's argument was that they weren't paid to go above the standard of care. However, the arbitrator said that the architect should have resolved the issues, once advised. It was determined that the architect did not meet standard of care and the contractor was awarded several million dollars. (By the way, I don't claim to have gotten all details correct here..just the jist of things.)
The implications for changing the definition of Standard of Care is quite interesting. As Gregg said, "when the Standard of Care changes, it is more of a rear-view thing, but when it does change, where on the road do you want to be?"

No Excuses

Mark Mergenschroer, from TME Inc, presented yesterday morning on the "current state of MEP Modeling for Engineers". He described the current state simply: behind. (Although TME is fairly advanced.)

In preparation for his presentation he reached out to his counterparts across the country to see what they are saying about transitioning to BIM.

"There isn't enough MEP-specific BIM training available." Mark's response: That may be true, but it's not an excuse. You can get general training and then think outside the box to apply it to your workflow.
"There isn't enough MEP-specific BIM training available." Mark's response: That may be true, but it's not an excuse. You can get general training and then think outside the box to apply it to your workflow. 
"It's too expensive." Mark's response: Yes, software and training can be costly. But there is value. BIM has kept them busy in the slow economy because architects want to work with BIM-enabled engineers. They haven't had to cut any people and had a very profitable year last year.

"There isn't enough MEP content." Mark's response: Make your own. There isn't enough of ANY content out there.

"There is so much that you can't do with BIM." Mark's response: So use BIM for what it can do, rather than complaining about what it can't. You can contort many software programs to get done what you need to get done. And most programs are advancing.
Whether you're an engineer, contractor, architect, or owner, the bottom line is this: There are really no excuses!

So, what excuses have you heard about BIM? And how do you respond to them?

State of the Art: Holding Tolerances

After Tri-City, we ended up at Kovach to see their prefabricated specialty exterior wall panels. We spent most of the time discussing their process, which is based around laser scanning the erected and framed building.

Before Kovach adopted their BIM-enabled process, they would have to hand-measure an entire building before fabricating panels. One past project required 7000 panels - 650 unique size/color combinations. About 600 of those panels had be remade due to fit problems. The problem is the tolerance of their panel is tighter than the tolerance of prior trades.

Since adopting their new workflow (which I will describe in just a second), they have completed 10 full projects. On those projects, they lost zero panels to fit problems (a few panels were lost due to damage) and have seen zero punch list issues on several of those projects. A 2-man crew is able to place 85 panels/day (compared to 10/day previously). They aren't to the point where they have figured out the exact dollar savings, but are compiling data so that they can consistently reduce pricing.

Okay, so their process.

Rather than hand-measure the building, Kovach laser scans the exterior. The point cloud data is converted to a wire frame model representing the as-built conditions. From there, they model and layout the panels and required substrates. The information is exported to CNC, as well as to a set of 2D panel maps - all dimensioned to the nearest 1/1000". (Why..because they can)

These were the kind of metrics I wanted to hear and a very unique process. The CNC part of the process was almost irrelevant (although of course, it wasn't). The concept of using laser scanning to document as-built conditions is certainly out there, but I haven't seen a subcontractor (or anyone, really) transform their process with it so significantly.

State of the Art: Mechanical In-Sourcing

After Schuff, we moved on to Tri-City Mechanical who has an interesting relationship with Omni-Duct Systems. I'm not sure how long ago, but Tri-City is partnered with Omni-Duct, who does the prefabrication of ductwork. Tri-City used to do their own, but they could only process 75 lb/hour. Since Omni-Duct can achieve 130 lb/hour, Tri-City can offer a competitive advantage by using Omni-Duct - who is located in the same building as Tri-City. (I found this especially interesting because I just reread Tom Friedman's World is Flat for my 'Managing Collaborative Relationship class. In this he talks about one of the major 'flattening' strategies, insourcing.)

Tri-City spent some time reviewing their 8 step process (from modeling to installation). Although their process was very interesting (especially automatic nesting, where pieces are placed on sheet metal in a way that minimizes waste), one of the best parts of the came up during the Q&A.

We started discussing the workflow from engineering to fabrication, and John Tocci asked the presenter what he would do with magic fairy dust, that could change the engineering process in any way they wanted. Tri-City wants to have their tradesman sitting next to the engineers, as they are design and laying out the systems. Ideally, the engineer would work in CAD-Duct (their vertically integrated software used for just about everything), but to make that valuable, they would have to use Tri-City's database and bring them on early enough.

This of course, forced the question - what is the competitive advantage to bringing subcontractors on board early? Although I agree that there is value to bringing subcontractors on early, we need to prove to owners that they aren't losing the perceived competition of hard bidding. Tri-City said that this was the case, but couldn't supply metrics of any sort.

Which leads quite nicely into our next and final stop: Kovach.

State of the Art: Steel Fabrication

Today was a BIMForum first. We added an optional day to the conference, went off-site with 60 attendees and saw a few of the workflows that we've been discussing for the past few year. The first that my group visited was Schuff Steel's 1/2 mile long fabrication facility.

Because there was so much to see on the "shop floor", we didn't spend a lot of time discussing Schuff's model requirements and up front process. However, Chris Fischer explained that their detail group models in Tekla, no matter the data source (which still ranges from pencil drawings to Revit models).

The data in Schuff's Tekla models feeds into their full range of CNC machines - everything from the plasma cutters to the robotic welder. CNC is so much more efficient than traditional fabrication methods that Schuff puts in additional effort to use it - there is a 50" length requirement for CNC, so when Schuff has to fabricate smaller pieces they actually stitch them together to leverage the efficiency.

Schuff has built automated processes into their workflow to gain efficiencies and avoid downtime - a sensor is built into the feeder wire. When the spool runs low, an email is sent to the shop manager and the supplier, so that it is replaced before the welding machine runs out.

We ended the tour with an opportunity to really visualize the connection between the model and the fabrication process:

Next stop: Tri-City Mechanical

Filling Out the Team

We are looking for team members to join what we are now referring to as our 'World Series championship' VDC team. I have posted the two position descriptions here and here, on
our website, but here are a few key points about the positions:
  • Currently there are two positions available - one VDC Modeler and one Coordinator; however, we anticipate hiring two additional modelers once we have filled the other positions.
  • The Coordinator needs MEP experience, to take our coordination, optimization and prefabrication processes to the next level.
  • We'd love for the VDC Modeler to be a Registered Architect or PE.
  • All positions require the emotional engagement with Tocci and its projects. That means an understanding that you are working on something bigger that yourself and the willingness to dedicate yourself to it.
Send resumes to me.

Coordination Requirements

Wow, am I so behind the times that I didn't even notice when the BIMForum website published the MEP Requirements...that I contributed to!?


It's a great starting point for MEP coordination for any project - and helpful for designers and builders alike! (How good am I at advertising this..)

Next Gen of Model Navigation

I really want something like "location-based model navigation", to use on site, but this is pretty cool too.

Houston, thanks for sending me your post.

(Link updated)

BIMForum Next Week!

I can't believe that the BIMForum is next week - in my mind, we were just in Philadelphia. I'm really excited about this meeting because we're starting a day early (optionally) to tour BIM-enabled prefabrication facilities of several subcontractors, local to Phoenix. Although we are noticing a few more BIM-enabled subcontractors in New England, there are so many more sophisticated firms in Phoenix.

I think the actual meeting content will be excellent as well - practical, good presenters sharing lessons learned and best practices.

If you aren't registered yet, there are a few open spots left...and plane tickets are still fairly reasonable. Presentations won't be available to those who don't attend, so if you can swing it, you should. I'll try to take good notes for everyone, but you all know how that goes!