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BIM, VDC and the Post-Pandemic Construction Site

July 8, 2021
In this Q&A the CEO of Zelus, Ken Smerz, talks about how new technology will transform the construction environment.

CONTRACTOR: Both BIM and prefabrication have become more and more important to mechanical contractors in the last few years. Are we now starting to see the convergence of the two?

KEN SMERZ, CEO of Zelus: We are starting to see the convergence of the two, however, it is still early in the game. The use of BIM is increasing, but in most cases, it’s rare to see it used all the way through to prefabrication. For instance, general contractors are still primarily using BIM to understand where to run the mechanical elements and gain a visual understanding, but they won’t use it to prefabricate. We are seeing prefabrication in larger, more complex construction projects like hospitals because of the amount of mechanical and electrical that they have to run through such limited spaces. 

It’s becoming more apparent that technology can achieve a lot more than what the current labor force can get done. And I believe we will start to see the two used more in tandem, not only to address the labor shortage but also because of the high degree of accuracy BIM brings to prefabrication. It will just require the industry as a whole to prioritize BIM education.

CONTRACTOR:This past year has raised a lot of new concerns about job site safety. How does VDC help to reduce risk and lower job site density?

SMERZ: VDC helps reduce risk in a number of ways. For one, it helps with orchestrating schedules across multiple teams and trades to eliminate having too many individuals on-site at once. Any time you can cut down traffic on a job site, especially when heavy-duty vehicles are involved, it dramatically increases safety. Using VDC and BIM technology for prefabrication also reduces job site density and also moves the work to a controlled environment, which is safer than building on site.

CONTRACTOR:Most of my readers are sub-contractors and on large projects clash resolution between the trades is a major concern. Can you talk about the advantages of VDC for scheduling and clash resolution and what it means for overall operational efficiency?

SMERZ: One primary advantage of VDC is the reduction of rework, which is estimated to hover somewhere between 5%-13% of construction costs. Before BIM, any time a set of architecture drawings needed to be revised, it created a lot of back and forth and it often wasn’t visible to all stakeholders. You ran the risk of possibly operating from an older version of the drawings. Now, teams can be on a BIM coordination call together, make those changes in real time and because the file resides in the cloud, all stakeholders have access to the most current and accurate information. In other words, everyone is on the same page, which improves operational efficiency and reduces the back and forth between architects and contractors.

Using VDC, we can also gain insight into the supply chain and have a more accurate understanding of the materials we need from the start. This line of sight helps with scheduling and material coordination. With the clash detection capabilities of BIM, any time you can see what potential issues you’re up against before the design and build phase, the more you will reduce rework which massively improves operational efficiency and reduces the financial impact.

CONTRACTOR:As technology improves, 2d and 3d models are becoming more and more accurate – but also more functional. Now I’m starting to hear about 4d – modeling the actual operations of systems as they would happen over time. What are the implications for designers, installers, and facility maintenance?

SMERZ: There are seven dimensions of BIM, which cover all aspects of the entire lifecycle of a building. The 4th dimension, or 4d, is known as the time element. Essentially, it optimizes scheduling. This piece is incredibly valuable in our world, especially with the nuances of the various construction stages and the number of stakeholders involved. It helps establish clear deadlines and gives everyone visibility into what’s happening and when. This enables every stakeholder to plan appropriately and know when they slot into the timeline. It keeps projects on track, generally accelerates the construction process, and helps keep budgets on target. 4d is the last basket of anything that could be caused by a human to slow down a construction project.

Ken Smerz is the CEO of ZELUS, a digital as-built service provider. The company delivers Virtual Design Construction (Building Information Modeling) services as well as 2d/3d digital documentation using the most advanced, latest technology.

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