Field Management Using A Virtual Model
Historically, the construction sector of the AEC industry has been slower to adopt new technology compared to similar industries such as manufacturing. As estimating and operations departments have begun to implement more advanced management tools, the most difficult place to implement the use of software is in the field where each subcontractor is quickly installing their components to meet an aggressive schedule. These are the tradesmen who have relied on their hands-on experience to coordinate on the fly and, to this day, many do not use advanced software in their personal lives outside the jobsite.
On the construction site, a well prepared virtual model allows field staff to better understand specific complexities of the project to ensure building systems are properly placed during installation. Field personnel for the subcontractors are often the most reluctant entities in the construction project to accept the value of the modeling software and they are the ones who can benefit the greatest. In a moment where even the most experienced subcontractors accept the aide of a digital model to visualize a solution, it is critical that the model is clear and even more important that the field staff can manipulate the model effectively to deliver a quick answer to the subcontractor. When the model is fully utilized by all field personnel, the schedule will accelerate, costly changes are avoided and a better product is delivered to the client.
Early in the construction phase on our current NJ hotel project, our Tocci team performed 3D laser scans of all underground utilities to identify potential clash locations where stub ups would not be properly located within future walls above the slab. Due to the complex methane venting system installed above the underground utilities and below the floor slab, it was extremely critical that rough-in aligned perfectly with the walls above. On this particular job, the 3D laser scan revealed only 1% of stacks were improperly located, however, if those locations were not identified until after the concrete slab was placed, rework and alterations could have cost nearly $75,000. Rough-in work at the first floor was later completed without a single coordination issue adding time or cost to the project.
According to the World Economic Forum, potential global savings for non-residential construction can reach upwards of $0.7 trillion to $1.2 trillion (7-12%) per year during the construction phase alone. Recently, on one of our projects, our team used a virtual, 3D model in order to clarify dimensions and confirm rough-in locations among all trades. On the upper floors, our Assistant Superintendent used the company issued portable device to confirm the locations of ductwork, piping and electrical conduits as they are installed. Most of the clashes that occurred in the field were a result of design changes issued late in the construction phase. In the hotel suites for example, ceiling heights were raised nearly a year after construction began and several sections of ductwork clashed with light fixtures. Trade partners and Tocci field staff were able to bring the model right into the suites under construction and manipulate the path of ductwork to resolve the clashes with all electrical fixtures.
Clashes will undoubtedly arise in the field regardless of the level of care applied to the building model prior to rough-in installation by the MEP trades. Using a model to avoid last-minute solutions improves the long-term performance of the building and controls construction costs. In the near future, field staff will likely visually identify conflicts first, but team members can use the available software to more efficiently and collaboratively resolve the issue with the trades involved.