Vico Guest Blogger Series

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

Posted by Holly Allison on Wed, Nov 10, 2010 @ 12:34 PM


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. 


If you're interested in this topic, you'll also want to research:

Blog: The BIM Washers Versus the Real Deal

Blog: Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk with BIM

Blog: Differentiating Your Firm with 5D BIM

Blog: BIM Doesn't Come in a Box

Blog: 5D BIM Versus 50-Yard Line Tickets

Webinar: The BIM Master Class Series

Webpage: The D's of BIM

Webpage: The 5D BIM Checklist

Tags: American Revolution, 5D BIM, conceptual estimating, Webcor Builders, long rifles, flowline scheduling