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Virtual Design and Construction with BIM

Building information model (BIM) has been gaining popularity in architectural design and construction since its formal introduction by Autodesk in 2002, although the concept can be dated back to the 1980’s. The architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry utilizes various 3D modeling programs to provide a computer-aided model in order to improve overall project delivery. This process of using BIM in construction is known as virtual design and construction (VDC.)

In virtual design and construction, the architects and engineers provide 3D models of various building components – structure, architectural details, PME systems, fire suppression, etc. The design team and the builder can then run clash detections – a computer function that analyzes how the systems interact – to determine design errors before any construction materials are purchased. This process allows the design team and client to make project decisions proactively instead of reactively and has been proven to save innumerable hours and countless dollars over the course of construction (i.e. fewer change orders.) Schedule integrations and the ability to download real building component specifications into the model aid in scheduling and phasing exercises, as well as estimating and budgeting, which takes the three-dimension model to the fourth (time) and fifth (cost) dimension. The model is also a great visual aid for builders and tradespeople on site to better understand how an architectural detail should look, as well as providing a visual aid for the client before construction starts. Textures, patterns, light, and space no longer need to be imagined; with high-quality rendered images, the client can see their building before it exists.

This method would be implemented on every project in an ideal world. Counterintuitively, however, VDC is not prioritized due to design schedule restraints (less design and more production), lack of resources (trained and experienced personnel), and cost (higher upfront costs that end up saving money overall.) It is also common for only a portion of the input to be provided, which does not help with the overall constructability of the project. To combat some of these natural pitfalls within the industry, CT Wilson Construction has hired an in-house 3D modeler with over 25 years of construction experience. Field experience of a drafter is crucial when trying to determine how architectural designs will be interpreted and built in real life. This position bridges the information gaps to better serve the client long-term, which is the reason behind everything we do at CT Wilson.