July 1, 2020
Editor's Note: This post was updated on Sept. 8, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left few industries or individuals untouched. Construction companies have reacted by adapting workflows to continue to deliver projects for their clients. From pre-screening all who enter to requiring masks and social distancing once on-site, the jobsite of today looks much different than it did a mere six months ago. Many companies, including DPR Construction, are leveraging virtual design and construction (VDC) methods to navigate workflow constraints resulting from disruptions.
“Site logistics and visual planning have taken on even more critical roles,” said Hannu Lindberg, national VDC leader at DPR. “With the ongoing necessity to maintain a healthy distance from other team members, an extra layer of planning has become vital to ensure predictable outcomes on schedule.”
As ever, the devil is in the details. Any successful construction project is built on layers of well thought out planning for every scope of work. Leveraging data from the model to inform workflow planning inevitably leads to other adjustments in work methods to keep projects going.
Building Projects in the Cloud
In any circumstance, teams employ virtual models to solve problems before moving into the field, as well as to respond to changes that arise once work has begun. Using the model to preplan allows more efficient work planning and reduces rework. While important in any situation, it is critical when managing limited crew sizes such as the ones seen on jobsites today.
VDC, by nature, is extremely compatible with a remote working environment. Across the country, DPR teams are virtually building projects using cloud-based solutions like BIM Track and Autodesk BIM 360 in conjunction with web platforms like StructionSite to seamlessly collaborate, share ideas and create content to navigate constraints posed by the pandemic.
One large healthcare project in Southern California successfully transitioned from on-site co-location to remote meetings during preconstruction and design as a result of high engagement and reliance on the VDC process. By leveraging an Integrated Project Delivery approach, the project team can complete design and coordination simultaneously, with trades working alongside design partners in the model to problem solve in real-time. The process has been so efficient that the project received California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) approval on first review, where typically, multiple rounds of review are needed to solve issues flagged. As the team moves into construction, VDC will continue to play a heavy role for as-built verification, among other needs.
Planning for Limited Exposure
While defining locations isn’t a new concept, creating specified work zones is critical in a heightened environment to maximize efficiency while maintaining distance.
“Needs related to site logistics; ingress, egress and wayfinding; and the deployment and use of different work zones can be better addressed by using data obtained from the model,” said Lindberg. “With this data serving as real-time feedback, it’s possible to adapt to changing field conditions and meet new environmental, health and safety requirements while still maintaining productivity.”
Having those needs top of mind has been key to keeping one DPR project on track: an office tower being constructed in the booming downtown of Austin, Texas. The 35-story, 590-ft. tall high-rise has a total area of more than 1,500,000 sq. ft. and includes 1,390 parking stalls in both above and below-grade parking. It’s the largest vertical high-rise concrete structure that DPR has ever built and its largest self-perform (SPW) concrete project to date—thereby necessitating better planning to meet increased distancing protocols. Prefabricated components include restroom plumbing assemblies and the iconic, sail-inspired, unitized curtainwall system.
Luckily, a VDC-enabled workforce has incorporated a high level of building information modeling into nearly every aspect of the project, from the detailed model used to coordinate and construct the exterior curtainwall, to DPR’s best-in-class SPW concrete team using VDC to optimize planning and sequencing.
“From top to bottom, the team has embraced VDC tools on every aspect of the work,” said DPR Central VDC leader, Jacob Skrobarczyk. “We are intentionally focused on using VDC for self-perform concrete to improve communication, plan production and ensure we hit our targets while keeping our craft safe.”
“The more planning and prefab we can do the less exposure our teams have in the field. As we transition from the structure to the skin to the interiors, clear communication on where and when each team is working in an area is more important than ever,” Skrobarczyk added.
One thing is certain: more real-time data flowing into and out of the model allows teams to execute with a greater level of certainty. Above and beyond delivering projects that are technically sound and built right for customers, these methods also ensure teams do right by their people in the field too.