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Posted 5/4/2017

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By Jonathan Boone
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Information Technology Laboratory

The days when cutting edge technology was not being used to its fullest potential on a construction project are over.  Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “Time is Money” as he mentored a young tradesman in 1748, and it is ever more prevalent at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in 2017, as it relates to the ERDC headquarters building construction by prime contractor Yates Construction.  

As ERDC delivers innovative solutions for a safer, better world, investments are continually being made to ensure that its facility infrastructure meets the demands of future generations.  The most recent investment includes the ERDC headquarters building that is nearing 60 percent completion.  Yates Construction has implemented the use of Building Information Modeling to enhance the traditional construction drawings, designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, with 3-D computer models.  

Through the use of BIM technology, Yates’ project teams use information contained in the models to perform a variety of complementary tasks including visualization, construction simulation and ultimately improving the accuracy of as-built documentation.  Yates Construction’s leadership team finds great efficiencies are gained when they build a project twice.  By virtually building the ERDC headquarters building using BIM modeling software before physical construction started, Yates’ project teams were able to create information rich models that contain valuable information regarding the building’s design, potential constructability issues, as well as subcontractor logistics (Figure 1).  

This preconstruction effort leads to more efficient field construction schedules, reliable costs, and reduced waste due to rework.  During a recent site visit by members of the Information Technology Laboratory’s Computer-Aided Design/Building Information Modeling Technology Center team,  Yates Construction’s Project Manager Mickey Lane said BIM technology provides too much of a benefit for their company not to use it.  Lane referenced the clash detection tool as an important and integral part of their BIM modeling process.  

In BIM modeling of the ERDC headquarters building there is not just one model created by the Yates Construction team, but several that are integrated into a composite master model (Figure 2).  Each discipline including structural engineering, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering creates a model independently of all the others, based upon the Mobile District’s original contract plan set, which is the starting point.  After each of the disciplines has finished their work, the next step in the BIM modeling is clash detection, identifying where the models clash when elements of separate models occupy the same space.  Finding these inconsistencies before construction starts is vital to the project.  

This technology has added great value to the three-phase control system, which is the core of the USACE Construction Quality Management System, according to Mobile District’s Lead Inspector Jon Beasley.  Inconsistencies during the field construction impact construction progress, potentially causing delays, design changes, potential escalation in material costs and other issues.  Lane remarked that clash detection is not new, it’s just that in the past, clash detection took place on the construction site.  For example, a structural steel beam designed by one engineer can end up right in the path of a major plumbing line designed by another engineer using traditional two-dimensional design methods.  BIM modeling helps engineers and architects as they work together and can ultimately reduce project costs and schedule delays.

With project schedules only second to employee safety on a construction site, Yates Construction continues to push the technology envelope by incorporating 4-D BIM into their management scheme.  The fourth dimension incorporated into BIM is project scheduling or time.

The construction of 4-D models enables the architect, engineer, contractor and customer of a construction project to visualize the entire duration of a series of events and display the progress of construction activities through the lifetime of the project (Figure 3).

This BIM-centric approach is highly promoted by the USACE CAD/BIM Community of Practice and has proved to be one tool that Yates Construction always bring to the job site.

bim Boone building information modeling ERDC ITL USACE