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VDC: behind the buzz


VDC is not SFX.
VDC [Virtual Design + Construction] is the application of multiple digital tools—from the tried-and-true to quickly emerging technologies—to graphically represent a building while imparting it with intelligence. In the right hands, it is not smoke and mirrors but a substantial, meaningful and effective way to execute higher quality buildings.

Everyone agrees that the models look good. What we cannot see amid the rainbow of the virtual sketches is that there is a wealth of intelligence held within the model. Intelligence that can not only help us build to the highest quality possible, but can remain useful long after the building has opened its doors.

In the early days of VDC, clash detection was the low-hanging fruit. Accurately representing and locating the MEP systems within the 3D model allowed us to vet the placement of MEP equipment and infrastructure to eliminate hiccups in the field. Once the information is verified, the MEP subconsultants use the model for fabrication. Considerable effort is spent up-front, but benefits are realized downstream through automated fabrication, reduced conflicts in the field and maintaining the construction schedule.

But it does not begin to scratch the surface of the model’s true capabilities. There are tens of thousands of different components within a building.

MEP Systems Section

Provides powerful building intelligence.

3D Model

Drives collaborative engagement.

GLY does not have a centralized BIM department. We do not have software experts creating our BIM and Revit models – and there’s a very good reason for this. The power of VDC lies not in its computing power, but in its ability to visually represent how the building will come together.

The model is not a replication of a drawing, but rather a repository of the detailed coordination and close examination of means and methods we undertake to ensure smooth construction in the field. The people closest to the work—those with deep construction experience—must be the ones informing the model. In their hands, the model confirms the examinations and reflects the decisions made by the entire construction team, including subcontractors. It reveals potential impacts and issues so we know the building will work before we set foot in the field.

All GLY Project Engineers are expected to be as conversant with VDC tools as they are with Microsoft Office. Our modeling programs are embedded in our culture. VDC is inherently scalable and we use it to inform every project we work on, regardless of size.

The greatest impact of VDC on GLY is the creation of circumstances for a higher level of collaboration between design team members and the owner.

We enjoy a far more engaged relationship with the architectural design team in the early phases of the project, one in which we are able to support them as the design evolves by suggesting alternative ways to do things and identifying and resolving constructability issues.

GLY has several Integrated Design Engineers on staff who leverage multidisciplinary knowledge and expertise of both the design and construction processes to seamlessly incorporate the use of VDC into the workflow.

This collaborative engagement allows us to digitally deconstruct the architectural design model and reassemble it, to conduct a sort of digital autopsy, to ensure that everything will work in the field.

We can then pass the benefits of this process on to our subcontractors. Once we have resolved any discrepancies, we can distribute the information back out to the subcontractor community so they can begin their shop drawings with the confidence that all details and dimensions are fully resolved. This is a much more efficient way to work as we eliminate the stop/start nature of incomplete or missing information, asking the question, then waiting for the answer before completing the task at hand.

VDC: behind the buzz Image

3D Model

A VDC approach allows us to do everything right the first time. It should be a given that the process allows us to guarantee the building will be delivered on time. But there is no question the results produce a much higher quality building—that the client pays for once. Successful VDC eliminates the possibility of rework. Before the hole is excavated, the entire team should have every confidence that the building will be executed and meet everyone’s expectations.

To date, the use of VDC is benefitting the industry by maintaining construction schedules, eliminating expensive rework, and raising the quality of the final building. But the real power of VDC is the use of information to guide effective decision making for ongoing building operations and maintenance. Just as our collaboration with the design team yields great benefits to building quality, maintaining schedule and reducing cost, we are beginning to explore the benefits of greater collaboration with our owners and clients.

The model is only as good as the information embedded within, so GLY is working with building owners to help them identify the information that would be most valuable in assisting with ongoing operations and maintenance.

Identifying the types of data that will be most useful is challenging. The owner must be able to articulate data requirements in such a way that the design and construction team can incorporate them as the model is populated. Cost is also an issue when inputting data retrospectively after the model is complete.

As an organization, GLY has a wealth of expertise and knowledge associated with the underlying concepts of building operations. We are collaborating with owners to establish their needs early on and working with design teams and subcontractors to ensure that essential information stored in the model is readily accessible by the building’s operators.

Our goal? Building management data needs assessment to become an integral part of the program. The framework is there. We are always exploring new ways to leverage its potential.

Bluebeam: GLY worked with the developers of Bluebeam to improve the functionality of their hyperlinks and SharePoint environment. The result is the ability to post as-built drawings in a PDF format to SharePoint. With each change, a revision tag with an embedded hyperlink can be added to the affected drawing. The corresponding RFI is then accessible by clicking on the revision tag. The result is a constant up-to-date set of documents. Everyone on the project team has access when connected to the internet.

GetThePoint [GTP]: Before GetThePoint was acquired by Autodesk and rebranded as Autodesk Point Layout, GLY established a close relationship with GTP’s owner and lead developer. Solicited for improvements, we were instrumental in software enhancements such as its Slab Analysis feature and ability to export and import points based on an origin used by the field for layout purposes.

Integrated Design Engineer [IDE]: GLY’s employees have varied backgrounds—we’re trained architects, structural, mechanical and civil engineers. We realize this experience and expertise in both the design and construction realms provides unique insights and tremendous value to the entire project team that doesn’t always fall into the more traditional roles within a construction company. The rapidly changing process in the building delivery industry warranted a new role capturing these strengths: the Integrated Design Engineer.

“GLY takes an ‘All In’ approach with precon and MEP coordination … allocating necessary talent, time and software resources to each job. On-staff coordinators are capable of building the model, clash detection, and managing the process. Each project achieves increased field productivity, less re-work, minimized ASI/RFI turn around and enhanced product delivery and quality.”

| Ron Denson, VP Design Department, Valley Electric

IDE and DM

GLY Integrated Design Engineer + Design Manager.


BIM: Building Information Modeling [BIM] is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations and information associated with the physical and functional characteristics of spaces and buildings.

CAD: Computer Aided Design/Drafting [CAD] is the use of computer technology for design and documentation. CAD software replaces manual drafting with an automated process that is recognized for quick and seamless edits and changes to drawings.

COBie: Construction-Operations Building Exchange [COBie] is an open, performance-based specification for facility asset information delivery. The goal is to define the delivery of a consolidated electronic O+M manual that will interface seamlessly with the building operator’s CMMS and asset management software.
REVIT: Revit building design software is specifically built for BIM, empowering design and construction professionals to bring ideas from concept to construction with a coordinated and consistent model-based approach.

CMMS: Computerized Maintenance Management Systems [CMMS] are utilized by facilities maintenance organizations to record, manage and communicate their day-to-day operations.

NIBS: The National Institute of Building Sciences [NIBS] is an organization that brings together appropriate representation from the AECO industry to identify and resolve problems that affect construction. They are leading the effort to establish an open BIM standard to build detailed models that deliver accurate products and information to use during the commissioning and operation of a facility throughout its entire life.