July 11, 2005
Demand for IT in Construction May Link Architecture and Construction
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Welcome to AECWeekly! In January 2005, I wrote a story on "
5D for Construction" about Graphisoft's Virtual Construction suite of technologies which makes use of 3D modeling for construction processes, plus adds the components of time and cost to the model (5D).


Seven months after that product shipped, I revisited Dominic Gallello, CEO of Graphisoft, who spoke to a gathering of 150 architects at the recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada on the need for 3D modeling in construction.


Find out what architects think of 3D modeling for construction and what that might mean for them in this week's Industry News.


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Susan Smith, Managing Editor



Industry News


Demand for IT in Construction May Link Architecture and Construction

by Susan Smith


In January 2005, I wrote a story on "
5D for Construction" about Graphisoft's Virtual Construction suite of technologies which makes use of 3D modeling for construction processes, plus adds the components of time and cost to the model (5D).


Seven months after that product shipped, I revisited Dominic Gallello, CEO of Graphisoft, who spoke to a gathering of 150 architects at the recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada on the need for 3D modeling in construction.


"The crowd that can take advantage of building modeling is construction companies," claimed Gallello. If architects are interested in providing construction building modeling for their customers, what do they need to do and what do they need to begin thinking about?


Generally, Gallello said that the model an architect would make if they were making a model to collaborate with their ecosystem of consultants, structural engineers and mechanical engineers, etc. may be different than what a construction company may have to collaborate with their ecosystem, which can include subcontractors and fabricators.


A trend he mentioned is that owners are starting to demand construction companies prove how the construction company can apply IT to keep costs in line.


Gallello presented the following facts: 1) there is emerging a strong need for models, for owners and construction companies, as modeling is proving that it can dramatically lower the cost of a building project. It can take a lot of cost out of waste on a project, and add clarity in terms of accuracy on drawings to avoid expensive errors. 2) The model will allow a user to prefabricate everything in their shop and then bring it and plug it in, rather than having to prefabricate it in the shop and then rip it up at the site and then modify it or just give up on the shop and put everything together on site.


The subcontractor would love to have the confidence that their bid isn't going to be ripped up. Secondly, the subcontractor "gets killed" by starts and stops on projects. "If you can have better tools which tie together design changes with cost and schedule, if you have better data, you can definitely help the subcontractor in terms of clarity of what they're doing and thirdly, there is less chance of start and stop," concluded Gallello.


"I try to talk to architects in the audience about how the 5D solution is really working for general contractors and subcontractors," said Gallello. "Because of that, now construction companies are now demanding models." Since January, the company has garnered 10-15 new customers of the Virtual Construction suite.


Of course, most architects want to know what they would have to do to change their process in order to accommodate the needs of the construction company. "If you have a 2D workflow today as an architect, there's two things you can do. 1) insert a process which you can do yourself or outsource which is classic 2D workflow - make the design, documentation, and then provide all the coordination during building process. You can insert a construction modeling function, meaning you can produce drawings, you can build 3D models for constructability purposes and estimating purposes, etc. I think that's unlikely," said Gallello. "What's really happening in 2D workflow is the architect does the 2D
workflow design documentation and the construction company is inserting construction modeling into the process. The construction companies are either doing it themselves (and more of them are), or they're outsourcing it for their work. So that's one way to work."


"2) If you're an architect and you have 3D workflow already, you're doing design, documentation and coordination in 3D, then theoretically, you're all set. But what I showed the audience is how your model really matters. You may have to change how you model," warned Gallello, adding: "Fortunately it's not dramatic. Maybe it's a five percent change, but if you really understand how to model for what the downstream processes need, you can provide tremendous value. For example, if I'm an architect, if I model for 3D design the best shape of the building, and then for production, meaning get the drawings out, really fast, I'll model a certain way. But if I know that in addition to my purpose
for modeling is to make sure there are no interferences, or ready it for estimating, or for driving sequencing, I'm going to model a little differently. The modeling time is the same but the result is dramatically different."


Construction customers have asked Graphisoft to provide guidance for architects on 3D CAD guidelines. Currently, 3D modeling guidelines don't exist. 3D modeling guidelines will be determined by what level of detail is needed at certain phases of the project. Graphisoft can help customers with these issues as they use their software each day for real world projects in their services work.


"I think there are going to be a few architects, a few principals and partners in architectural firms who know they want to play," said Gallello. "For some, it is a fascinating subject of how to make buildings more constructible as an architect, and we're getting a very warm reception as we're sharing knowledge with them on how to really address this subject."


Owners and construction companies tell architects that they need a model but what does that mean? asked Gallello. They really need to be careful what they wish for.


Attendees wanted to know:


1) Could you train your current staff or would they have to come from schools? Some but not all of the current staff can in fact be trained and of course the schools will provide the next generation. Schools are generally not working on real life projects and it's difficult for them to keep up. Still, the schools are starting to transform themselves to prepare the next generation.


2) How long does it take to make models? If I'm not being paid for this, can I afford to do this? "We've already proven if you're a construction firm, you can model for estimating in the same amount of time it takes them to manually estimate and you get all the benefits of accuracy, reusability, knowledge database etc. once you've built your database of concrete parking structures, for example, doing the second or third one is just a huge benefit as a result of it," explained Gallello.


In most companies, one-third of the team is ready to change, 1/3 is of the attitude, "show me" and 1/3 is "never." "We have customers who have changed their process. They've trained the 1/3 who really get it, who have the mentality to want to do it, and they make it a matter of course as they get new people in," Gallello claimed.


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