The Universal Language of VDC

Virtual design and construction (VDC) software might not seem like an equivalent to a smartphone translation app, but don’t tell that to DPR Construction’s Peter Schneider. Schneider and his colleagues are wrapping up work on a 10mW data center project near Zurich, Switzerland.

“Most of our trade partners speak Portuguese and Italian, most of the project management on this project speaks German or English,” Schneider said, “but everyone speaks VDC. Having a 4-D model of the project means everyone is looking at the same thing, no matter what language they speak.”

In fact, leveraging technology tools has yielded several benefits for the team on this 194,000-sq.ft. (18,000-sq.-m) facility for a global technology firm.

“In the data center sector, time-to-market is important,” Schneider said. “Often, the customer wants work to start before design is completed. VDC tools helps us get to a constructable design that can be built in a more efficient manner.”

Two DPR workers in a jobsite office review a digital model of their project on a wall-mounted screen.
VDC tools gave everyone the site a common language that increased efficiency. Courtesy of DPR Construction

For the Zurich project, VDC also enabled a more efficient sequencing of the building envelope, mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) elements and the structural steel needed to support that equipment.

“There was a challenge of getting a trade partner to perform his work within a certain time frame,” said Alex Hood, a DPR superintendent. “VDC visualizations helped the entire team buy into a sequenced approach that got each trade started as work areas were ready for them. It was a significant schedule savings and, again, VDC was the language that got everyone aligned.”

Two other tech tools have worked together to verify as-built conditions: laser scanning and StructionSite.

On this project, for example, more than 1,800 pictures of ongoing progress have been uploaded to the StructionSite platform in real time, a significant efficiency compared to old methods of file-by-file uploading. And, in 2020, there are added benefits.

“It really helped us with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schneider said. “People could have a look at progress while not being able to travel to the site.”

Two DPR workers in the field review pictures on a tablet computer.
Tools like StructionSite and other VDC software enabled more efficiency on site and remote collaboration. Courtesy of DPR Construction

Between StructionSite and laser scanning, the team was also able to check as-built conditions and identify if there were any issues with elements such as MEP penetrations and more. Another way it helped is to have an idea where the openings for MEP equipment in as-built conditions were vs. plan.

“Anyone who has ever put together certain pieces of furniture knows how visualizations make all the difference,” said Schneider. “VDC served that role on this project, creating alignment among every project partner that language alone couldn’t have.”