Suffolk Construction


Suffolk Construction had already completed work on the $40-million Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies.  The 108,000 square foot four-story research building with tilt-wall construction, pre-cast joists, cast-in-place eyebrows, and text coat finish was already occupied by doctors and research teams hard at work studying AIDS,  infectious disease, pain management, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other important issues.




Caption: This project was fast-tracked due to its economic impact to the city of Port Saint Lucy.  When the city challenged the Suffolk team to break ground, they only had a GMP based on four sheets of designs.  Seen here after the opening in November of 2008, the facility holds 189 researchers.


One month after Suffolk handed over the keys to the building, they decided to perform a post-mortem on the project.  With the owner happy with results and the field team satisfied with the building pace, safety, and quality, the Business Development Team and the Project Manager wondered if there were any areas for improvement.   "When we were awarded Torrey Pines, we knew that the project would be a great opportunity to utilize BIM," stated Daniel Finch, vice president of business development at Suffolk Construction.  "Our focus was to quantitatively discover if there was a payoff to the BIM investment - would Suffolk be able to say that the cost of performing BIM would actually provide overall project savings as compared to past and current methods.  The answer was without a doubt, yes."



Suffolk Construction turned to Vico with the question: could we have done it any better? This was a high bar to surpass because there was only one change order issued on the whole project: Suffolk returned the check for the $1 million contingency...and they finished four months ahead of schedule.


Vico set up a comparative analysis for this project - a "look-back" to see if there were any opportunities to do better.  This was a tall order and a very interesting challenge to model the building (in five dimensions) from the exact documents (the Design/Development phase) Suffolk had used.


Vico set out to identify the benefits of 5D modeling by comparing the data points from the virtual construction model to analogous data generated by the actual construction.  This included constructability issues, scheduling issues, identifying quantity differences, any discrepancies with the estimate, and coordination issues.


The first step was simply to convert the 2D drawings to 3D.  This is actually a relatively easy process with Vico's "snap-to" tracing function.  Trace referencing includes "smart cursor" technology to quickly translate paper drawings to a model.


The second step was comparing schedules.  Vico converted the original schedule into a line of balance schedule.  This gave the team a clearer picture how the work and trades would literally flow through the job site by location.  This is an optimized sequence of crews which can be adjusted to perform at the most advantageous pace.


Even though Suffolk shaved four months off the schedule, the Vico analysis saw multiple crew congestion points.  This crew density can lead to slow downs.  Sometimes it actually makes sense to buffer trades to keep the flow.  For example framing needs to occur before drywalling before paint.  Also, adjusting crew sizes can help maintain productivity levels without overcrowding a location.  It was also the goal to eliminate starts and stops for crews.


The third step was to compare the quantities and the estimates.  By utilizing the precise geometries afforded by the 3D model, the Vico team could build a very exact construction-quantity takeoff which results in a more accurate estimate.


The fourth step was documenting the constructability issues with 2D and 3D references.  The constructability report identifies where the collision occurs, the drawing sheet name and number, the assumptions, and the severity.  Finally, with the 5D model, the team investigated the constructability issues and performed a change order analysis.  Suffolk then took Vico's constructability issues and assessed an approximate cost. 


Vico compared the virtual results to the real-life actuals to prepare the statistics:

• Project Cost was $43,000 for the 5D model and the analysis

• Vico found 700+ constructability issues -- 240 of them with high severity; market
   experience allowed Suffolk to price these

• These high severity RFIs represent $132,000 - $268,850 in cost avoidance

• This represents a 306 - 625% ROI and suggests that BIM has tangible benefits


It's near impossible to improve upon such a great project.  With this post-mortem analysis, Suffolk proved that BIM can push their efficiencies even further.  "This was a pilot project in which we learned a lot about BIM and the advantages it can provide on a project," stated David BuShea, the project manager on the Torrey Pines building from Suffolk Construction.  "It proved to be a useful tool and we hope to use this method on many projects to come."




Looking forward, Suffolk and Vico will also work together on Green projects.  Torrey Pines is a LEED silver project and incorporating the energy model and daylighting studies is another capability for BIM.  Vico can help GCs with green scorekeeping - being able to keep current LEED status on materials.  Because every building element is linked to the database, GCs and Owner can link LEED certification information, as well.


Additionally, IPD contracts will promote project success and profit/risk sharing for the GC and the subcontractors.  5D BIM is a natural precursor for IPD contracts.


About Suffolk Construction

Celebrating more than 25 years of transforming city skylines, Suffolk Construction Company, Inc., is one of the leading privately held building contracting firms in the country, with main offices on the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and West Coast regions of the country.


Suffolk provides preconstruction, construction management, design/build and general contracting services and has a strong reputation for delivering challenging building construction projects in the assisted living, commercial, education, entertainment, healthcare, hospitality, public work, residential, restaurant and retail sectors.  For more information about Suffolk, please visit the company's Web site at