July 16, 2007
Integrated Design Build
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Integrated Design Build

by Susan Smith

In late June, AECWeekly ran a
story about a pre-building information modeling offering from Trelligence.

From Beck Technology, LLC comes an integrated design build product called DProfiler to be used at the pre-design phase to build a simple sketch model with costs associated with that model in real time. In addition, Beck just announced that in partnership with FutureStone Partners, Ltd., a “green” assembly will be available in DProfiler with RSMeans, called a “Macro Building Information Modeler.” This green assembly is also subject to cost analysis in the conceptual pre-design and design phases, so that architects and owners can integrate green technologies and materials into their proposed buildings.

Beck Technology, LLC is a 97-year-old company that was originally a general contracting company. In the early 1990s, Peter Beck took over the company from his father and by 1996, had begun the move toward its current day status as an integrated design firm. The company merged with a large regional architectural firm called Urban Architecture, and since then, their architectural group has grown to about 100 employees.

“About 50% of our entire business is integrated design build where we are the developer, the designer and the builder,” said COO Stewart Carroll, who came to Beck from Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC). The Beck Group was founded as a way to integrate all the data across the development, design and construction phase and be able to sit down with an owner much earlier to commit to the budget, schedules and design quality.

DProfiler was created in 2004 and has been used in-house on about 400 projects. “It really enables us almost at the “charrette” or working session phase, when the architect sits down with an owner, to build a very simple model with the look and feel of a SketchUp type model,” explained Carroll, “but in real time we actually associate costs with everything that’s being drawn. We develop all the lease rates and pro forma that usually drives a project.” With the addition of the green assembly, within this SketchUp type model, DProfiler makes it possible to analyze what materials the building has, where it is located, its orientation, what is its
shading on the outside, calculate all the mechanical loads that are normally calculated during the design development phase, and then select equipment based on those engineering calculations. “Based off the equipment selection, how much energy does that consume? And based off the energy consumption, what is the lifecycle on operating expenses associated with the building? So our goal is really an integrated solution very much along the same lines as our Beck Group is integrated engineering, design, interior design, development, construction and we use BIM to solve owners’ problems,” Carroll said.

The concern of owners is to be able to build, operate and maintain a building over the next ten to 30 years. What sets DProfiler apart is that it addresses budget and lifecycle requirements, and sustainability.

How is DProfiler able to evaluate the financial impact at that rudimentary level? “When we start a project, we get two pieces of information from the user,” Carroll said. “One is where they are going to build the building, and we use the “where” to regionalize pricing. If you build a building a Dallas, the cost of concrete will be different in Dallas than it is in Chicago, so we use the zip code of a way of getting where they’re going to build the building and we use the zip code for regionalizing prices. There’s a cost database behind this application that has a 108,000 cost items in it, 20,000 assemblies, which cover everything from cost of
concrete to cost of a shrub. That zip code pulls out pricing and regionalizes it for wherever you’re building it.

“The second piece of information is what type of building will you start to sketch – what type of structure, glass, brick, roof, interior finishes, etc. We’ve provided 70 templates that are characterized around certain office types of which we have 70 - an office building, jail, courthouse, medical office building, hospital, hotel, retail. Within each of those templates, it maps what you draw to what gets priced, so on an office building, our rule of thumb for a slab is a concrete slab, our rule of thumb for columns is a concrete column, and it’s a certain size. Our roof is a certain type of roof, so these have already been mapped to costs in the database. As
you start sketching this building, you start to get a real time cost estimate running on the fly, and once you have completed drawing the building, you have a complete estimate.”

Prior to launching the product, Beck did verifications of their accuracy with side by side comparison. They did 5 exercises building five projects using DProfiler which took about 20 hours in total. They gave their preconstruction group plans and elevations along with the criteria document which comes out of DProfiler and tells how deep the foundation, what type of foundation, type of structure, type of cladding, type of roof, type of mechanical systems, and asked them to do longhand estimates. “What we were able to show was a 92% reduction in time using DProfiler with a 1% difference in costs, so you’re 92% quicker but you only get 1% difference in the outcome,”
Carroll pointed out. “We believe it’s as accurate as traditional estimating but it’s a lot quicker. Within our organization we have not put the time savings into our own pocket, but rather turn around and provide more options to an owner during the conceptual phase so it doesn’t cost them any more money, but they get many many more alternatives before moving into the design phase of the project.”

Carroll breaks down the design/construction process into two phases: the macro and micro views.

The macro view is the phase entered into prior to an owner making a decision to move forward with a building, when they usually get their financing. For that phase, there are products like DProfiler, Trelligence’s Affinity and Onuma Planning Systems to focus on the big picture views.

At the micro level, once they have their financing in place, the architects come up with their concept and produce the construction documents and ultimately build it. This is where products such as Revit, Bentley Architecture, and ArchiCAD come in. Architects use them to develop a building information model, produce construction documents, and build it in the field. It is a two-phased process with the data being able to move from the macro into the micro. Using IFC files you can move data from DProfiler into other BIM systems like Revit, ArchiCAD and Bentley Architecture. DProfiler contains objects plus all the pricing information, so when moving data forward to BIM, it’s not
just graphical data.

Carroll said that in the next few months, there will be three new pieces to DProfiler.

The first one will be a data set that has green elements developed by partners FutureStone. They have developed some assemblies to describe wall systems that have very high R-values. “When you talk to a mechanical engineer, the first thing they want to know on a wall is what is its R-value and when you start talking about glass they want to know what is the shading coefficient,” said Carroll. “The reason those things are so important is the lower the R-value, the lower the insulation, the more heat you’re building is going to allow through the exterior envelope of the building, so you need bigger air conditioning systems to cool the building. What FutureStone
has done is develop assemblies that have very good physical properties that reduce your energy consumption within the building, enable you to reduce the size of your equipment, and they’ve also built in all the pricing, so we have a library of building elements that are fully priced and are good for the environment.”

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