Working together and playing nicely is easier said than done when it comes to architect and contractor interaction on a project team. Thankfully, in recent years, we’ve come a long way in implementing new technology, roles, and processes to create an efficient and conducive environment. I had the privilege of presenting “Can We All Just Get Along?” with ZGF Design Technology Manager Philip Rothey at the AIA CAP Collaboration Series. These talks focus on this common struggle and the technical issues we face, along with best practices and future trends in both design, construction, and building management.
WHAT DO ISSUES DO WE CURRENTLY FACE?
- Contracts don’t focus on digital deliverables.
- Resistance to new technologies and perceived risk of new workflows.
- Poor knowledge of platforms.
- Cover-my-%@# mentality.
- Lack of understanding about what to model and draw.
- Inefficiency of modeling multiple times.
- Ineffective BIM Execution Plan and LOD Matrix.
- Reliance on 2D printed documentation.
WHAT WORKS + WHAT DOESN’T? CASE STUDY
By looking at a project case study, Philip and I shared tips/tricks and best practices for greater collaboration as well as the lessons learned [albeit, shared at a later presentation after the project was completed].
The project: Fast track, tight budget, tenant improvement for a large tech company in the Seattle Metro area. 160,000 square foot corporate office interior remodel; one year to design and detail and six months to build; goal of 20% cost savings over standard overall; design-build contract with early procurement packages; existing MEP modeled by the GC; Project Engineer colocates to architect’s office 2/5 days per week; design models are on same server and can be accessed live by both GC and designers; GC is regularly part of design critique providing design assist and constructability assistance.
Philip and I shared various challenges/problems with the audience that the project team overcame together including ceiling height and MEP coordination, lighting + logistical issues, and respecting the integrity of the design while maintaining budget.
- Quality of as-built modeling.
- No major unresolved MEP conflicts.
- Project BIM kickoff meeting.
- Implementing new technologies [AR/VR].
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES…IMPLEMENT NEXT TIME
- Use a live model for MEP.
- Implement alternative solutions such as Reviszto [soft clash + issue tracking]; Navisworks [hard clash]. Should the GC be performing clash detection rather than the MEP subcontractor? This requires further exploration…as well as changes to how the contract is written.
- Reduce the amount of design drawing by relying on partnering subs to assist in detailing.
- Use an Integrated Design Engineer or BIM lead on the entire project.
- Encourage more client integration with the team.
OVERALL LESSONS LEARNED | HOW TO PLAY NICE
- Teamwork: use expertise of each chosen field at the appropriate time—helps enforce partnership.
- A General Contractor must know when to sit back and breathe…let the specialists perform their work; no micromanaging!
- When clients struggle with decision-making, potentially delaying useful subcontractor early engagement, try implementing tech innovation [i.e. AR/VR]. It may help with communicating the information they need to make the decision.
- Work packages conflicted with adequate design development.
WHAT DO WE DO NOW? WHAT CAN WE INTEGRATE?
Common practices on many projects includes:
- Schematic Design [napkin sketch]
- Design Development [SketchUp]
- Construction Documents [2D prints]
- Construction Admin [fix mistakes]
Take it up notch! Improved partnering looks like this: “big room,” IPD, integrated networks; improved design: use VR, iterate, simulate, validate and quantify; and improved making: prototypes, AR and robotics.
Want to get ahead? Simply improve your technology skills! Learn the evolution from drawings to CAD and CAD to BIM. Familiarize yourself with clash detection and prevent redoing things in the field. Implementing new technology and becoming proficient with the latest trends allows for rapid change and response. Get involved by initiating dialogue with the software industry. What tools do we want and need to shape our industry rather than be handed a solution?