Integrating Design and Construction With Digital Tools

  • May 8, 2019

By Rick del Monte and Jay Chung 

The shift from the AEC industry’s antiquated processes to today’s sophisticated digital tools and methods is gaining much-needed traction, and it’s proving downright revolutionary. Globally, the design and construction sector is one of the world’s largest industries but also one of its least efficient.

For anyone well-versed in the world of architecture, engineering, and construction, it is no surprise that projects regularly lose up to a third of their value to waste. According to the well-publicized statistic from McKinsey & Company, productivity growth in the industry averaged just 1 percent each year over the past two decades, compared with a 2.8 percent growth rate for the global economy as a whole.

At The Beck Group, we are fully aware of these challenges. For the last two decades, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the process. We started by integrating architecture and construction under one roof. Soon after, we also sought to improve our company, team, and projects by using innovative digital tools to enhance team communication, collaboration, and visualization to improve the design and construction process.

Here’s a look at some of the ways we’ve integrated digital tools in our design and construction efforts:

DESTINI® Profiler Aids Target Value Design Process Between Client, Architect, And Builder

In 2018, The Beck Group partnered with the Shraman Foundation to help achieve its mission to inspire people to learn about South Asia’s rich culture and history by designing a space that facilitates the celebration of art, culture, history, and community.

Based on the client’s budget and desire to work with a design-build team, we proposed moving forward with a Target Value Design (TVD) process. Rather than letting design drive the budget – which often results in the need to provide more “value engineering” later in the process – target value design allows for options regarding building size, program, and budget for consideration to develop a Guaranteed Maximum Price.

TVD is a unique method to design because it requires a collaborative mentality to be successful. Using this approach also allowed the team the freedom to create an outstanding design during the conceptual phase which can be built to budget and schedule.

In addition to budget alignment and team collaboration, one of the most important and useful tools in the process is using the right technology. At Beck, we use Beck Technology’s DESTINI® Profiler, the advanced 3D modeling, and pricing tool. D Profiler combines 3D modeling with costs tied to each design element. The software provides an easy way for estimators to evaluate the cost impact of various design and material options, helping owners make sensible choices that optimize the budget.

Our team, which included members of construction, led a collaborative engagement session with the Shraman Foundation’s stakeholders. During this session, we were able to iterate and refine many design ideas in D Profiler that fit The Foundation’s specific needs, all while having a clear understanding of the associated construction cost. Because DESTINI Profiler contains historical cost data, including design packages for various types of rooms, the team quickly created a model and a model-based room schedule based on various assumptions.

By the end of conceptual design, D Profiler was a critical part in helping our team develop three stunning design options for Shraman Centre.

BIM Tools Open The Door to Efficient Planning And Design Processes

Over the last decade, building information modeling or BIM has become the most effective practice for improving design and construction efficiency. A visualization of the structural and functional characteristics of a building project, BIM allows designers and builders to see a project virtually before it is physically constructed on a jobsite, causing the design and build phases of projects to move closer together.

This integration of design and build workflows saves time and money, especially as projects move from 3D concept to field. At Beck, we use Revit® software on every one of our projects to produce consistent, coordinated, and complete model-based building designs and documentation.

In 2018, First Baptist Dallas, a repeat-client, engaged us to design a new education space for its facility in downtown.  The new Horner Expansion, currently under construction, is a two level, 8,000 square meter addition that sits atop the pre-existing 5-story Horner Family Center and Parking Garage.  

The new floor levels expand the Horner Building, originally designed as space for children and youth, and provide a true family center with additional auditoriums and classrooms for children and adults.   Once complete, families can park and attend Bible study classes all in the same location – a significant convenience and positive experience for guests and members attending the urban megachurch.

The plethora of design complexities for an expansion of this type, in downtown Dallas and at a church that remains open, should be daunting but an arsenal of digital tools made the process manageable and helped facilitate the design vision.

The initial step was to capture and survey the space accurately. To do this, our design team used Beck’s in-house VDC team to capture aerial documentation in the form of photo and video of the as-built facility. The output was critical for site documentation, drawing overlays, 3D modeling, and overall team and owner collaboration. Next, we leveraged Revit for design development, as well as to aid the MEP and structural design, detailing, engineering, and construction teams who would be involved in bringing our design to life.

For renderings, we used Enscape, which easily and seamlessly syncs with Revit and effectively communicated the virtual spaces with the client for better understanding. The exporting process with Enscape is simple and saves time. Lastly, we used Lumion to create compelling videos of our designs. Video is one of the best tools in an architect’s toolbox. Often, a video more effectively communicates a complex design and design vision to a client more effectively than 2D imagery.

Virtual Building Tool Kit Provides Better, More Accurate Information To The Field

Virtual building has changed the way we design and build projects. Through our in-house Virtual Building Group, Beck can build a project before any shovel or bulldozer ever hits the ground. Virtual building allows us to analyze constructability, coordinate the process, address clashes, and schedule every step virtually before construction begins. It’s a proven approach that ensures efficiency, minimizes cost and prevents detrimental hits to a project’s schedule.

In April 2017, as we prepared to break ground at Dickies Arena, a new $450 million arena in Fort Worth, Texas, our VBG and field team was already thick in the throes of cross-collaboration with the client, architect, and a cascade of subcontractors working to virtually building the city’s newest cultural venue.

To effectively manage this project, which during peak construction, included upwards of 1,000 workers, we used a bevy of digital tools. From planning to coordination to construction execution, we relied on Autodesk Navisworks® software and Autodesk BIM software for model building and integrated team reviews, drones to capture aerial documentation on a monthly and weekly basis, and laser scanning.

We used Autodesk Navisworks to develop a virtual model of the entire building. Navisworks can aggregate models, better detect conflicts, create 4D schedules that link the building model to timelines, and more efficiently coordinate subcontractors. Another essential element of the software is that it enables communication through a visual medium, helping to reduce the need for interpretation.

Using BIM, we can push virtual design to the field through a model-based layout. This process allows for the placement of any modeled building component with significant accuracy, resulting in extreme precision and the highest levels of quality control when coordinating critical components and/or equipment.

Another key to the effectiveness of the BIM coordination model is the incorporation of detailed 3D elements directly from our subcontractors, which allows a higher level of coordination than is possible from using a consultants model

Laser scanning allows us to accurately capture as-built conditions by recording all elements of the building and translating them into point clouds. These point clouds are used in conjunction with our models to help understand the new design within its current context or to verify installed components.

Embrace Digital Tools To Achieve Success

The best strategy we have found is to embrace the opportunity and potential that digital tools offer. The plethora of software developed for design and construction is improving at a record pace. At Beck, we see value in its disruptive potential, and to explore its power to address many of the challenges at hand as we attempt to reimagine our antiquated industry.