ArchiCAD Insights: Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

9 Mar, 2006 By: F. Rutson Fuqua Cadalyst

3D modeling saves time, effort and money in all areas of construction.

I can clearly hear the country song: "Wasted Days & Wasted Nights." It keeps playing in my head when I think about the 2D design procedures that are commonly used in the building industry today. As a contractor, each time I received a set of 2D plans for a building project, I thought, "My goodness, where do I begin?" The process of building is a daunting task, especially if the project is not conceived and produced as a virtual building.

The first task with 2D drawings is to prove that you can build the plans as documented. Proving constructability after receiving 2D drawings is a complete waste of the contractor's time and the client's money. It is a waste because it is a duplication of efforts: first by the architect to draw them, then the contractor's time to figure them out. The technology available today clearly proves constructability with the 3D model (figure 1).

Figure 1. 3D modeling shows the constructability of the plans.

Productive Days & Restful Nights
When construction documents are produced in a 3D BIM (building information model), the design is test driven, so to speak. Viewing the model in 3D, in section and in plan proves the concepts and designs before the contractor receives the plans. The building process is actually simulated in the computer with the 3D model. When the contractor receives an ArchiCAD's Virtual Building model from the architect, he no longer has to waste his time just to prove its constructability. Because the plans are models, and models are intelligent objects, the contractor receives quantities and specifications of materials through the information contained in the model.

Just The Facts!
3D drawings are considerably faster to produce than 2D drawings. 3D drawings are more accurate than 2D drawings, particularly when considering coordination of plans, elevations, sections and details. 3D drawings produce elements that contain intelligence that is absent from 2D drawings. Software can analyze 3D models to find problems in the design, but a computer cannot effective analyze 2D drawings.

For example, if you needed a table or a list of numbers, would you rather receive the numbers through the fax machine or an email with an Excel file? The answer is crystal clear! Your computer can easily analyze and manipulate the numbers in an Excel file. You can sort them, make a chart of them or even create a line graph with averages and percentages. On the other hand, it is impossible to analyze numbers with the fax machine. If the numbers were received by fax, you would have to prove the numbers. To do this, you would have to either first find where you had stashed your old adding machine, then run three tapes to check your entries. Or you would have to enter the faxed numbers into an Excel file yourself. Therefore, wasted days and wasted nights. Digital information is the only logical process in our world today. What does digital modeling information mean to everyone in the process?

Faster, Cheaper and Better
Here is the cool part, but it is somewhat hard to grasp. The contractor, subcontractor and consultant fees must go down. Why? Because, they have less work and less time in their processes when presented with all of the information provided by a virtual building solution. Is this a good thing? Absolutely, it is a great thing for everyone involved! When they have less time involved in each project, they can work on more jobs. More jobs mean more income to the contractors, subcontractors and consultants in the long run. Reduced fees result in a direct savings to each consumer.

The BIM modeler will actually have more work involved to produce the level of detail that is necessary to simulate the construction on the computer, which does result in a higher architectural or modeling fee. However, this fee is more than offset by the computer simulation that will eliminate construction problems, speed construction and produce a much better product. BIM will abolish the need for subcontractors and contractors to add contingencies to their bids because the BIM demonstrated and defined every part of the model.

In 1983, Harley-Davidson experienced difficult times because of foreign competition and a poor, over-priced product (More Than a Motorcycle: The Leadership Journey at Harley-Davidson, by Rich Teerlink and Lee Ozley). They freely admitted that their product was inferior to their competitor's product and their cost to produce the bike was too expensive because of outdated technologies. Harley-Davidson completely overhauled the entire company with new technology and new business philosophies. The cost that Harley-Davidson incurred in research and development for retooling was a sizeable investment. But it was live or die for them. Through new technology, they reduced their costs, which enabled them to lower their prices. New tooling enabled them to produce a better product, and Harley-Davidson became a force in the market place again.

Whether it is construction or motorcycles, selling a product that is poorly and inefficiently built at too high a price just doesn't survive for long in the marketplace. Caveat emptor.

About the Author: F. Rutson Fuqua

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