ArchiCAD Insights: The New Heroes in the Building Industry

14 Jun, 2005 By: Clay Freeman,Dominic Gallello Cadalyst

Construction modelers can save time and money for your company

Today's newest construction industry heroes are a group of individuals that may total less than a few hundred now, but their numbers will grow dramatically. We call this new breed of building professional the construction modeler. The construction modeler fulfils an entirely new role in the construction process -- creating 3D building models that are accurate for construction purposes.

So why is this important? Money! According to our estimates, this new profession promises to remove 2-3% from the cost of every building project and generate further savings by reducing project schedules. How? The efficiencies will be gained through constructability analysis, faster and more accurate estimates, sequence and procurement optimization and improved data flow to fabrication.


A New Profession
Construction modelers must consider every intended use of the model when planning the creation of each building element. Planning constructability analysis requires insight into how an element is assembled, including the space requirement of the equipment needed for its assembly. Estimating requires knowledge of the properties of each building element on which the estimating formula relies. Sequencing depends on an understanding of the possible sequences involved in constructing each element. Fabrication requires knowledge of shop drawings and the CNC machinery involved in the fabrication of each element. Modeling for fabrication also requires an understanding of acceptable tolerances for each element to reduce fabrication costs and improve the ease of assembly. Ultimately, construction modelers must also have an extensive knowledge of the technology used in ArchiCAD's Virtual Construction.

However, the skill set of estimating, scheduling, means and methods and technology is rarely found in any single individual in the industry today. Construction modelers do not have to be experts in all of these fields, but they do have to develop a medium depth of knowledge across a broad range of specialties.

The Architect's Fit
Construction modelers are very different from the typical definition of an architect today. Architects also have a broad range of responsibilities. They must be able to convert a client's requirements into a safe, useable, energy efficient and aesthetically appealing design, while staying within the boundaries defined by the client's budget and local building codes. The knowledge and experience required to successfully perform the duties of an architect have prevented the profession from also adopting the construction modeler role. In addition, compensation models and liability issues in many parts of the world entirely prevent the architect from even trying to assume that construction modeler mantel.


Historically, however, architects served this function. Architects were previously master builders with full responsibility for the design and construction of a building. But the increased complexity of building structures -- due to the development of new materials, the addition of mechanical and electrical systems and other refinements -- also increased the complexity of the architect's role to a point where new specialists had to emerge. This fact, coupled with the architectural profession's desire to reduce exposure to the extensive liability issues surrounding construction, has resulted in the formation of general contractors and construction managers.

The Construction Fit
Project managers, project engineers and site managers within general contractors all have either a depth of knowledge in one subject or a broad understanding of all subjects related to construction modeling, but with the exception of modeling technology. The additional necessity of a clear grasp of modeling technology presents a barrier for existing team members to also take on the responsibility of creating construction models. So expect the emergence of a new job function and a new breed of specialist that will surface across the industry.

Who Will Construction Modelers Work For?
Today, construction modelers work primarily for construction companies and design/build companies. This allows them to work very closely with estimators, schedulers, project managers, project engineers and site managers within their firms to provide the required support that these disciplines need. Will an architectural firm ever assume the role of construction modeler? Maybe. Construction companies would definitely prefer that the model, along with all of its changes through the design process, comes directly from the architectural firm, as opposed to recreating it. However, architectural firms would need to assign specialists to develop the knowledge required to achieve this role. It should not be assumed, however, that learning construction modeling is a 3-day workshop -- it is an avocation. Additionally, the architectural firm would have to make significant changes to its business model to deal with the compensation and liability issues.

The Transition has Started
For the new George Lucas corporate campus in the Presidio, at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a construction model was created from a set of 2D drawings to help to communicate to the general contractor and the subcontractors what needed to be built. How successful was it? To quote Tom Brady, the construction manager who spoke at the ASC Construction Management Conference in February 2005, "I believe that in 5 years, every major project will employ a building model." Kajima in the United Kingdom also took 2D drawings and turned them into a 3D construction model. The result? It eliminated many coordination problems, and saved

About the Author: Clay Freeman

About the Author: Dominic Gallello

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