The construction industry is constantly evolving to leverage new technologies, skill sets, and the structural and functional demands of growing businesses worldwide. With so many businesses depending upon successful outcomes, design and construction firms are developing new systems that streamline the entire project delivery process, from architectural renderings to facility turnover, which ultimately can deliver a cohesive high-quality, cost- and time-saving project.
VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) transforms 3D/BIM and advances the entire delivery process, creating collaboration with various parties on the construction. It makes it possible to streamline the process of design preparation and review, as well as to detect design issues in the early phases and correct them before drawings are sent to the construction team. Further, VDC for steel, an innovative application of VDC technology, seamlessly integrates steel design, fabrication, and erection, thereby delivering exceptional quality with reduced cost and within a faster schedule by combining design services, steel detailing, procurement of materials and the fabricator, and steel construction management.
Typical Issues for Standard Delivery Method
Critical path schedules…fluctuating material prices and availability…significant investment…a complex path from engineer to general contractor to detailer to fabricator to erector — Each step adds cost. Each step is an opportunity for error. Other clearly defined inefficiencies in the standard delivery processes that prove to be detrimental not only to design and construction partners, but most importantly to the client, include the lack of utilizing a fully detailed 3D model for clash detection and interdisciplinary coordination, the general sequential series of events in the steel delivery process, rather than concurrent, which leads to longer than needed project schedules. The combination of these factors makes structural steel installation one of the most critical factors in project success. Is it possible to detect design issues in the early stages of a project and correct them before drawings are sent to the construction team?
Streamlined Workflow Equals Fast Turnaround
The VDC for steel process involves the creation of fabrication-ready models and documents that can be created quicker and earlier in the construction workflow, eliminating the time usually required to develop these drawings. As a result, the schedule can arrive much earlier at the point when steel — the long lead item on any construction project — can be ordered.
The VDC for steel process moves the timing of steel detailing to coincide and be congruently developed with the structural design portion of the project. By overlapping the design and detailing efforts, additional time set aside for shop drawing review can be significantly reduced, resulting in faster turnaround from fabricator award to steel delivery to site.
Design cost is minimal compared to the potential revenue generated by an earlier start of a manufacturing operation. In one case, the project used the VDC head start to generate enough revenue to equal 400 percent of the design fee.
Project Planning With VDC
Recently, a food manufacturing plant project involved the fabrication and installation of two process decks — a sugar deck and process equipment deck — built from stainless steel components that included piping, ingredient bins, and storage. SSOE, a design firm utilizing VDC for steel capabilities, was able to schedule fabrication of the components to arrive at the site in a precise installation sequence. For example, a hopper had to be supported before the piping that would feed into it could be put into place. Through coordination on the front end of design, through the design phase, and utilizing early detailing associated with the VDC for steel process, the project team saved 2.5 months on the construction schedule.
At the food processing plant, it was necessary to allow the process piping and equipment to be run at optimal locations for lean manufacturing means and methods. The process plan changed multiple times during the design phase to develop the precise design required by the client’s process needs. Piping that carries raw materials and ingredients and electrical trays had to pass through structural framing and supports, such as roof trusses and new platform framing. Since elements cannot fit in the same space, much attention and coordination was required to facilitate accurate, clash-free fit up. The project team’s VDC model that utilized fabrication models revealed these issues in the design phase, long before they became a costly field change to the client.
The existing sugar deck of the food processing plant would not conform to OSHA headroom requirements. Specifically, piping had to be run under the deck, but the deck could not be raised because the raised deck would not allow enough headroom to comply with OSHA requirements. In the model, project team analysts could see that some of the pipes would hit some of the framing because it was too low. Because they were able to discover the issue early on, the team instructed the fabricator to accommodate an opening for process pipes. They found a different way to frame the platform that could carry the load without compromising the structure or the headroom standards. This solution saved the manufacturer considerable amounts of time and money that would have otherwise been spent for a field-installed change.
Design, Detailing Makes for Compressed Schedule
In addition to allowing a more visual review process — one that catches issues like the sugar deck described above — VDC enables detailing completion right behind the design time, and it gets drawings approved for fabrication in-house before giving them to the owner or fabricator.
At least seven time-consuming steps were used in the standard procedure. (1) The fabricator hired someone to create drawings. (2) That firm sent the drawings to the general contractor for a cursory check. (3) The drawings were sent to the project design team for a check. (4) They went back to the general contractor. (5) The next trip was back to the fabricator, (6) who then sent them to a detailer to scrub them and clean up comments. (7) Finally the drawings were issued for fabrication. Today by comparison, a 300-ton project that utilizes VDC can save two to three weeks on the procurement of the shop drawings and raw materials and another two weeks average on review time.
For another food manufacturer, the need became urgent to repair the existing wood joist roof of a freezer warehouse. Ponds were accumulating on the roof where the joists were sagging due to age and loading. The repair consisted of removing the existing wood joists and adding new steel purlins to be installed on top of existing steel, as well as edge angle for the deck seal of flashing areas. Critical path schedules…fluctuating material prices and availability…significant investment…a complex path from engineer to general contractor to detailer to fabricator to erector - each step adds cost.
Using the VDC process, the project team completed fabrication drawings for the project in just four days. Normally, such a contract would have taken three weeks, but two weeks of review time were saved because the reviewer was an in-house member of the VDC for steel team. Additionally, due to the scope being completely clear and not competitively bid with room for outside interpretation, there was significant cost savings on top of the schedule compression.
The project team was able to base its design for this project on existing drawings. On their field visit, they discovered an irregularity in the middle of the roof that was not on the existing drawings: a vertical step of 10 inches that was discovered when the existing roof membrane and framing were removed. Accordingly, they made a last-minute design correction, in-house, and because of the intimate involvement of the steel detailer in VDC for steel projects, the fabricator was able to rework the material in the shop before it was delivered to the site and became a field issue. These modifications to the design requirements, and the coinciding detail drawing changes, were performed in a 24-hour period, and the schedule was not impacted.
Collaborative Procurement Efforts Speed Timeline
Because of its collaborative nature, the VDC process is most beneficial when the construction team is already on board during the design process. The team can procure a fabricator, and a construction group can work out multiple contractual relationships. Project teams with expertise in VDC have learned valuable lessons from every new contract: what works and what doesn’t and how construction phases can be overlapped so they are at least partially concurrent instead of totally sequential. The teams have also been able to improve coordination with subcontractors to minimize the number and severity of field errors.
Time is a precious commodity in the manufacturing arena. Managers are constantly on the lookout for new technologies that streamline the project delivery process. Is it possible to detect design issues in the early stages of a project and correct them before drawings are sent to the construction team? VDC for steel technology answers this question by seamlessly integrating steel design, fabrication, and erection with reduced cost and within a faster schedule by combining design services, steel detailing, procurement of materials and the fabricator, and steel construction management. Other benefits include compressing schedules, focusing early attention on order items with long lead times, and rendering as-built drawings to preserve important data for use in future expansion. Eliminating steps in the process translates to fewer opportunities for error, and thus a more efficient and effective outcome.