Vico Blog Forum

10 Reasons Why Project Managers Should Champion 5D BIM Software

Posted by Itay Lapid on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 @ 04:18 AM


Project Managers have only one goal: bring home a profitable project with a predictable cash flow.  So why should they want to incorporate 5D BIM into their task list?


1. PMs help organize the project schedule and budget during preconstruction.  So the more scientific information they can capture from a 3D BIM model, the more accurate their schedules and budgets will be.  And the smart PMs know that the model-based schedule and model-based budgets don’t get thrown away as precon moves to the field.  An integrated 5D BIM model immediately updates both the schedule and budget when any design change occurs.


2. Speaking of design changes, the Project Manager needs to work well with the Design Team to help keep the project on track.  The Model Progressions Specification keeps everyone organized and providing information at the correct level of detail.  And by using the integrated 5D BIM model to visualize and explore the impact of changes, s/he can keep project scope in check and become a trustworthy liaison between the designers and Owner.


3. The PM is also responsible for hiring the Subs on the job.  So having a handle on clash detection and coordination plays a key role in keeping Subs’ work predictable.  And utilizing a flowline schedule based on locations, quantities, and crew productivity rates helps ensure the Subs there won’t be stops and starts.  This all adds up to getting the best pricing from Subs: you know the quantities, you know the schedule, so you can double-check the Subs’ bids and negotiate. 


4. RFIs and Change Orders can bring a project to a halt.  By starting the coordination process much earlier utilizing Coordination Resolution in preconstruction, these numbers can be brought to near zero.  This means more off-site prefabrication and streamlined installation on-site.  This means no surprises for the Owner.  This means a predictable cash flow.


5. Lean construction techniques like flowline scheduling give PMs a project dashboard instead of a rear view mirror.  By continually monitoring Subs’ performance (actual productivity rates on-site), the PM and Super can automatically get a two week look-ahead schedule that give alarms when a crew late start or delay is likely.  By applying location management techniques to the problem, these schedule interference points can be averted and the schedule kept on track.  And when the schedule is on track, the budget is on track.


6. The GC’s reputation is confirmed by word of mouth referrals and repeat business.  And it’s the PM’s responsibility to optimize the Owner’s experience and satisfaction.  There is no greater influence on satisfaction than a project delivered on time and on budget.  In addition, the Owner received a big injection of confidence in the GC when the PM showed him/her how design decisions impacted cost and schedule.


7. Project closeout, including operations and maintenance, offers another opportunity for BIM to help the PM exceed Owner expectations.  New reporting capabilities and light-weight model presentation modes allow the PM to present a 6D BIM – a facilities resource with information on warranties, specifications, maintenance schedules, and other valuable information.  (Even more “I” in BIM.)


8. Let’s be honest. Profit margin is incredibly important in this economy.  Balancing the need for the best bid with the margins required is very hard to do.  But BIM works in both a hard bid and a GMP setting.  And by thoroughly understanding the project in 5D, the PM has more tools at his disposal to keep tight reins, and more reports to monitor progress: cash flow reports, work in place reports, look ahead schedules, and even earned value analyses.


9. Who wouldn’t want to be on the A Team?  Who wouldn’t want to run the most exciting projects?  Progressive Owners are mandating BIM on their projects: museums, hospitals, stadiums, and skyscrapers.  Becoming the BIM expert, in both preconstruction and out in the field, makes the PM invaluable and a key player.


10. To the victor comes the spoils.  The project’s success with 5D BIM means the opportunity to grow the firm’s reputation and helps the corporate team win new business.


discussing project


Sure, the Project Manager has a lot on their plate.  But BIM software and methodologies are creating a whole class of tools with which to control project success.  PMs should be the champions of 5D BIM and help speed its adoption throughout the estimating and scheduling departments and out into the trailer.


Vico Community, what’s your experience implementing BIM tools throughout your organization?  Post your comments on the blog.

What Does the American Revolution Have To Do with 5D BIM

Posted by Holly Allison on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 @ 04:17 AM


Veterans’ Day holiday is November 11 in the United States and we are celebrating with public ceremonies and private remembrances of the war dead, those retired from and those currently serving in the military. 


At Vico’s Salem, MA office, we are right in the heart of the Revolutionary War map. Salem’s own Timothy Pickering (his family’s house is across the street from my own) led a march of local Minutemen to cut off the British retreat from the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the “shot heard ‘round the world.” 


The weapon used by the American Minutemen in 1774 was a modified hunting rifle – typically known as a Pennsylvania or Kentucky rifle.  These rifles had a long barrel which made them spot on in their accuracy.  The British troops, had the shorter barreled muskets and bayonets which were notoriously errant in their firing.  The Minutemen were able to hide in the forest as the British marched in formation and use their long rifles with deadly accuracy. 


minutemen of the revolution
















Caption: The Currier & Ives print, "Minutemen of the Revolution," shows the volunteer soldiers and their long rifles. 


Now that we’ve all had our history lesson for the day, here’s the point: just as the Minutemen and long rifle changed the rules of combat in the 18th century, so too has 5D BIM changed the way new business is won in commercial and institutional construction.  The Minutemen used a disruptive technology to turn the tables on the greatest Army in the world.  And now today, visionary GCs are changing the way deals are won and performed with 5D BIM.


Better aim.  The Minutemen had an extensive network of spies in plain sight.  News spread quickly about British troop movements and the Minutemen were able to piece together their plans quickly.


The power of a 5D BIM model is its flexibility.  Even with just a massing model and reference projects, estimating teams can start to build out conceptual cost plans and clearly show the Owner which decisions carry the most impact on schedule and budget.  By harvesting the cost and time elements from similar projects, GCs are able to hone in on  the project cost...even before all the details are known.


Better accuracy.  The long rifles were a product of necessity.  Farmers and hunters needed a reliable weapon for hunting and protection.  The barrels were lengthened and thus the bullet obtained maximum velocity. And the engineered long rifle could fire three shots from the same amount of powder and lead – giving it a distinct advantage over the British musket.


The 5D BIM schedules and estimates aren’t tossed in the trash after the pursuit presentation.  They are taken out to the trailer and used by the PMs and Superintendents to control the work on-site.  With look-ahead schedules based on actual productivity rates, Supers can clearly see where crew interference will happen.  With two weeks notice, s/he can address the problem rationally, not just throw manpower at it.


Lay of the land.  Because the Minutemen worked the land as farmers, they knew where the British would camp and how their supply lines would be routed.


Knowledgeable GCs with 5D BIM have their own long rifle in the battle to win new business.  Not only are their teams able to pursue more bids, but they are also able to adjust their risk portfolio by hand-selecting the types of projects to pursue (and win) aggressively.


Building the right team.  Minutemen were friends and neighbors.  They shared a property line, shared resources and shared supplies.  They could drop their work quickly and pick up their arms in defense of their property or town.


Many of these GCs retain a few 5D experts who are able to quickly ramp up for each bid and respond quickly.  By tying the 3D BIM model to their estimating information from past projects and even subs’ bids (which also include crew productivity rates), the team can quickly turn around a powerful presentation.  This pursuit presentation offers the visualization that the Owner craves, but then takes it to the next level by showing how a change in design or materials impacts both the schedule and the budget; the team can now show the Owner the impact of adding additional parking; the impact of converting more office space to retail space; the impact of LEED points in terms of installation and material costs; and the list goes on and on.


5D BIM is changing the way that construction projects are won and performed.  In the July 2, 2010 technology edition of ENR, Webcor Builders delineated their strategy for the $1.6 billion San Francisco Transbay Transit Center.


According to Webcor senior manager, Frank Haase, “Using Vico…we implemented a true multi-dimensional BIM process by adding productivity and crew composition data to every labor component of our cost database. This integrated process ties the project schedule to the model based estimate. A change in the model updates the estimate and the schedule, and a change in the estimate is reflected in the schedule and vice versa.”


The interactive model relies on a cost database which includes crew productivity rates. Jim Bedrick, Webcor’s vice president of Virtual Building and Design, adds, “Our process supports the Lean Construction practice of target value design, enabling the team to proactively guide the design toward optimized cost and schedule.  In short, we can make better decisions.” 


Disruptive technology is a powerful differentiator.  Just ask the British.  Or ask  Webcor.

10 Things Every BIM Manager Should Know

Posted by Holly Allison on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 @ 04:09 AM


There’s no denying it – it is very exciting to be in construction today.  Projects are going up around the world that are pushing the envelope with design, materials, and sustainability.  And technology is keep pace: new BIM software makes these massive projects doable – from 3D visualization to construction-caliber quantity takeoff and even Lean scheduling with flowline theory and evolutionary cost planning.


It’s a great time to be a BIM Manager, too.  It’s a chance to carve out strategy with your firm and help everyone with the tools that they need to win new business and successfully execute profitable projects.  It’s a chance to combine your love of construction with the latest technology…and add your own common sense and expand your business acumen.


BIM Managers play a key strategic role for GCs


Too often, though, we’ve seen BIM Managers stumble when they try to introduce BIM to other departments. 


Here is a list of 10 things every BIM Manager should know:


1. Learn early that spinning models can only get you so far.  The true value of BIM has nothing to do with your laptop configuration and having a ripping graphics card.  Develop your communications skills and presentation skills, and above all, listen to the question.  Being a key member of the presentation team is an honor because you are representing your company’s history as well as future.  Treat the future BIM strategy with as much respect as you honor the past.


2. Speaking of strategy, articulate yours.  Many BIM Managers craft a mission statement, post it on the company intranet, and forget about it.  Just as the papers you wrote in high school look dated and antiquated now, so too will your original BIM strategy because the technology is evolving so quickly.  This doesn’t mean, however, that you update your strategy every time a vendor announces a new product.  Know how far you want to take BIM…and then push it farther.


3. You should know the pulse of Owners in your geography and the types of deliverables they need.  Your goal is to balance output: what deliverables will cement your relationships with Owners AND helps your firm deliver a profitable project? Our experience tells us it’s a model tied to budget and schedule so that the Owner can see how a design change impacts cost and time. It’s a constructability report showing the clash and resolution in 2D and 3D. It’s resource-loaded schedules to prove to Subs and the Owner that the schedule works. It’s a work in place report. It’s a cash flow forecast. 


4. Respect your elders and learn all you can from them.  You probably don’t have construction field experience, so learn as much about means and methods as possible.  All the BIM software in the world won’t help you if you don’t have building in your blood.


5. Where do you get your models now? And where will you get them in the future? In our experience, you’re starting to receive models from architects, engineers, and subs, but they are all at different levels of detail.  Start researching the Model Progression Specification and develop a plan for working together with outside firms and partners.  This is an opportunity for you to play a key role in leading these relationships.


6. You have probably defined your firm’s process for clash detection and coordination.  Consider taking it a step backwards AND and a step farther.  Implement a drawing check-in process and identify changes in construction drawing sets before you start modeling them.  Basically, you’ll be clearing up clashes before you ever model them.  Then consider learning about Coordination Resolution and how to run your meetings much more efficiently.


7. Speaking of taking coordination farther…now that you have coordinated models why don’t you use them for model-based quantity takeoff?  The more precise the quantities, the more precise the estimate and schedule.  For example, you could create a quantities by location report which could save your operations crew hundreds of planning hours.  This will help you drive BIM across departments and out to the jobsite.


8. And speaking of the schedule, you are probably asked to create sequencing movies for some pursuits.  Instead of manufacturing a movie to fit an artificial schedule, consider deriving a schedule from the aforementioned construction-caliber quantities by location and introduce a new Lean scheduling technique called flowline


9. So now you have the model geometry and properties from which you can derive the quantities.  Using this information and the model you can help the PM inspect the subs’ bids for accuracy.  Tying together these disciplines with BIM at the core will set your firm apart from others in your geography.


10. Designs and models change ALL the time, so don’t be misled by “linking” instead of “integrating.”  Your BIM information needs to be seamless.  Every time the model changes, your budget and schedule should update automatically.  You should not have to go back and manually update all the links.  That’s not strategy – that’s glueware.  See the big picture and evaluate your IT choices accordingly.


As you can see, there’s a lot riding on your role in the company.  It’s time to stop spinning models and cowboy up.  Buy yourself a copy of The Pocket MBA (or get the iPhone/iPad app) so you can learn how your BIM strategies impact the rest of the business.  Start forming your opinions over what will become commoditized and what you want to keep in-house.  Think about how you can do coordination better.  Consider the role that quantities play in both scheduling and estimating and take a stand.  Respect that adopting new technology is less about learning where to click than learning a better process and how to work in concert with other departments. And know that BIM is about winning new business and keeping the projects profitable.


Step up to the plate, batter, and knock this one out of the park.


Vico Community, what’s your advice to BIM Managers?  Post your comments to this blog below.

Topics: BIM, 3d bim, bim manager, 5D BIM, model progression specification, 4D BIM, construction-caliber quantities

How Swinerton Builders Deliver Virtual Design and Construction

Posted by Holly Allison on Sun, Jun 06, 2010 @ 03:15 AM

This week's Guest Blogger is Dan Gonzales, the Corporate Manager of Virtual Design and Construction at Swinerton Builders.  Our congratulations to Dan and his team - Swinerton Builders was just named the #1 Green Contractor in California by California Construction Magazine.



Q: When did Swinerton first become involved with BIM and what BIM capabilities does your firm have in house?

A: Five to six years ago we started doing 3D modeling using ArchiCAD.  We trained our estimators to do the modeling because at that time it was harder to do modeling and took longer.  We felt that by starting in preconstruction we'd have something available to us.  Three and a half years ago I came on board Swinerton and my first task really was to help coordinate the modeling effort with the Graphisoft team (who then became the Vico team).    


Today we've trained about fifteen people in the company to do modeling and we're doing the majority of it... Although on major projects (for example, Washington Hospital and Four Seasons Hotel project in Denver) we've used the Vico Construction Services, as well.  So we're pretty familiar with that but we're bringing much more of it in house.  In the past 3 ½ years we've done over 160 projects that range anywhere from a proposal to a full BIM coordination project.  We've modeled internally about 47,000,000 sq. feet and those 160 projects have a construction value of over $9,000,000,000.  So we've gotten a considerable amount of modeling done.


Q: What are some of the benefits you've experienced with Virtual Construction on the projects?


A:  I really think that what we're getting with Virtual Construction is better communication among the team members, design teams, and owners.  The thing I always talk about is everyone is looking at the same elephant.  And we're able to discuss problems, get to issues quicker, and as a result, get better answers and decisions by the owners because they truly understand what the issue is.  I think that there is a collaborative effort that happens among teams.  Watching our superintendents, for example, look at a model and then go out and talk to our sub trades in terms of being able to communicate what needs to be done in the next week makes things a lot clearer for everyone.  So I think communication and collaboration are the key benefits.


Obviously, I think that there are advantages that we get in being able to do continuous estimating so that we can actually see where the projects change over time. What was the issue or element that took something over budget if we're doing target costing? These are all real benefits to us.


Q: What are some of the benefits you are able to extend to owners when BIM is in the contract?

A:  What we're beginning to explore internally is something that we're pretty excited about which is the idea of XD modeling.  (Or being able to do analysis of the model.)  Doing energy analysis for example or doing daylighting studies, etc.  We're really big right now in solar and one of our major areas of development in the future is going to be developing solar projects.  So we're finding that being able to model those and figure out daylight hitting the panels, etc., is extremely valuable.


The other area that we're really excited about is that we have a recent project under construction right now with NASA.  And NASA is building what is going to be the most energy efficient building in the country right now at their Moffett Field Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.  We're part of the team there that's not only building it, but we're working with Berkeley Labs to actually sensor the building so that we'll be able to analyze not only the predictive side of it using energy plus, but we're going to then turn energy plus around and actually be able to monitor the building and see if it's working as it's designed to perform.  And so we're pretty excited about that... We're sort of saying that construction has finally entered rocket science and I think it's going to be a fun project that we're working on!  


I think we'll be offering many more services as well. Some people ask "well, who owns the model?"  I don't think that's the question, I think the question is "who manages the model?" and I think we'll be able to have longer term relationships with some of our clients.  So as we do future projects the work between construction and facilities management becomes more seamless.


Q: What advice would you give to owners who are looking to include BIM on their next project?

A:  Well, I think we're at a point where you can't go any day now without people sort of saying they're doing BIM.  I think the real thing now is to begin setting metrics.  If a builder can't say "here are the direct benefits that we're getting in time and cost"... for example, we've done metrics on savings of RFI change orders. We now know that on a major project like a hotel that by avoiding a change order we're saving $17,000 because that's the average cost.  We did some metrics where we found on ten major projects the average cost of the change order is $17,000.


On the Ritz-Carlton project we found over 450 change orders that we were able to avoid through the model.  So, if you do the math, that's about $6.7 million that we saved.  To learn more about this project, and three other Swinerton projects, please review the Swinerton Builders' Lessons Learned along the Path to 5D BIM Webinar.


The other savings that we're finding that we have metrics on is in terms of coordination efforts. We now know that we have saved over $185,000 on that same project just in reduced meeting time, travel and not printing all the paperwork we used to print in the coordination effort.  Our average coordination meeting has gone from 5 hours down to 1 ½ hours.  And very often with our sub trades we use GoToMeeting so people don't even go to the trailer anymore.  So everyone stays in their office and coordinates virtually which has tremendous cost savings and is a much greener way of doing it by not having all those carbon emissions by driving around or flying to sites for meetings.


Q:  Any closing thoughts?

A:  I really think that for those owners that are anxious to start this the thing to do is to be able to just start on a project and really look and assess what you see as the risk in the project and then model to that and resolve that issue.  And learn by experience... That's sort of what we did... As I said, we have 160 projects or so under our belt now and we really have the ability to do that but we started with one.  And I think that's what owners need to understand is that they got to get involved with this stuff.  And you've got to do it by either having Vico Construction Services do it for you and shadow them or start out really small and do a portion of the project but you've got to get started.


Learn more about Swinerton Builders' virtual design and construction group from their website, or hop over to the archived Fridays with Vico webinar, Swinerton Builders' Path to 5D BIM.  To see what's possible for GCs to offer Owners in terms of VD&C services, please read The 5D BIM Checklist.