The project team of Dimeo Construction Company – CM/Builder; Symmes Maini McKee Associates – architects, engineers, & interior designers; and Virtual Building Logistics – full BIM services, modeling consultant; embraced a process of multi-disciplinary virtual design integration for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Headquarters project. The result will be the construction and occupancy of a new 327,000 sq.ft. 13-story LEED-certifiable corporate headquarters completed in 17 months.
Owner: Blue Cross Blue Shield
CM/Builder: Dimeo Construction Company
Architects & Consultants: Symmes Maini McKee
Full BIM Services: Virtual Building Logistics (VBL)
The challenges confronted by the team in achieving an integrated design process included:
Design Phase Challenges:
• Integration and model accuracy
• Overseeing an accepted process for collaborative model use
• Integrate 3-D Rivet Architectural model with the 2-D structural, mechanical and electrical documents into one comprehensive model
• Develop model to be flexible and adaptable with other platforms (ie. structural steel fabricators “connection model”)
Construction Phase Challenges:
• Coordinate Architectural, Engineering, MEP/FP design by SMMA with the structural design
• Integrate model developed by Canatal with the MEP/FP model with added structural intelligence developed by VBL
• Converge varying systems platforms
• Coordinate MEP and subcontractors into one model
• Bridge various design and fabrication disciplines into a model that the team had full confidence in
• Provide early answers for fabrication of steel precast and elevators prior to buyout of MEP trades
• Coordinate multiple subcontractors’ modeling formats to integrate fully with the BIM model
• To better lead and apply the talents of the subcontractors in productive fabrication and installation methods, including streamlining organization between the subcontractors and the design team.
• Enhance various deliverable schedules for design and building materials.
Blue Cross Blue Shield and Dimeo Construction’s integrated solution began with the engagement of Virtual Building Logistics, a full BIM services, Design Document Production, Modeling and Facilities Management Integrator. VBL served as third party supporting the team working with the CM, the architect and the in-house structural/MEP consultants, construction subcontractors and vendors. VBL became the master integrator, updating and guaranteeing the accuracy of the building model while providing continuous support to all design and construction entities involved. While SMMA designed the project in a full architectural CAD platform with BIM integration, the Blue Cross Blue Shield and Dimeo Construction project teams were intent to carry the process through the subcontractor and field construction levels. VBL played a key role bridging the gap between the actual field, subcontractor, design and construction processes.
On the A/E side, SMMA’s Principal Architect/Project Director, Mark Spaulding, AIA, LEED AP, recognized that the design team would need to move from design intent to constructability earlier than typical. This occurred as the design team was increasing theit skill with BIM tools. One early challenge was steel. The client’s selected site was prepped for construction and the platform was placed by the developer. Steel needed to be ordered immediately. But, SMMA’s structural engineers were not facile with BIM software. In the interests of time and quality, SMMA designed the structure using standard tools, which VBL subsequently incorporated into the full model.
Full BIM services really got started at design development documentation. Early in design development, VBL cross-platformed a fully virtual model, including structural and MEP/FP. This model proved to be the team’s “collaborative prototype” from which all parties could collaborate on deficiencies, analyze clash detection and work towards identifying ways of making the design more efficient and constructible. As the design evolved, VBL translated and integrated the various file platforms, updating and maintaining the project’s virtual model. At each point the CM and design team benefited from working within the model to continue to improve building spatial relationships, constructability and MEP coordination.
Early in the project, SMMA also experienced attitude adjustments. Project Manager, Gordon Brewster, PE, is a 30-year veteran. He was accustomed to embarking on project relationships with, as he says, “my guard slightly up,” expecting to defend design intent vigorously. The first meeting that involved full team interaction with the 3D model dramatically altered his thinking. “It was exciting, truly collaborative. BIM is transformational. If you have a builder who embraces the full application of full BIM services, you have a whiz-bang opportunity for a great project; if not, you just have a 3-D model.”
As a part of full BIM services, VBL created a 3D construction phasing model to facilitate a better understanding of site logistics and subcontractor coordination. While viewing the phasing model, Dimeo Construction’s VP of Operations, Paul Aballo, noticed a potential issue with the curved glass curtain wall. At one point the curtain wall stood away from the building at over 16’ leaving plenty of room to work between the building and curtain wall. Upon further review, the same attachment process could not be applied for the other end of the curtain wall because of the close proximity of the wall curving back into the structure. This issue caused for an entirely new approach to curtain wall construction before an issue in the field arose, saving time and money.
Near the completion of the construction document phase, SMMA and VBL produced a fully coordinated structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, engineering design. This enabled Dimeo Construction to develop and issue highly detailed, complete bid packages. These were far more extensive and advanced than typical. The integration process resulted in a high level of pre-coordination, ensuring major time savings by avoiding traditional issues such as: identifying steel penetrations for MEP/FP systems; and MEP/FP trades not having to coordinate themselves. Also, the traditional preparation of shop drawings, subcontractor shop drawings and coordination completely changesd. VBL provided assistance to the selected MEP/FP and subcontractor, further refining shop drawings and design documents. This also facilitates computer-aided materials fabrication in the areas of structural steel, duct work and plumbing, saving valuable time and enhancing the model for actual as-built locations and installation conditions.
Brewster attributes the project’s success to the team’s weekly on-site meetings. Architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors and construction coordinators sit in front of a monitor, going through the building model floor by floor, item by item. Meetings encourage discussion and resolution on the spot. Brewster points out, “There are places where some system design elements don’t look at all like our original drawings, because of the quality of information available.” Spaulding agrees, noting “the ease of dialogue among architect, engineers, general contractor, and sub-contractors… (there is) a change in the tenor of the conversation.”
In all projects, theory and practice occupy two different realms. Subcontractors with great field performance but lacking in areas of understanding of BIM integration were mentored through the VDC process by Dimeo Construction and VBL. Subcontractor software formatting issues were satisfied by converting and bridging platforms developed exclusively for the project. Weekly project meetings encouraged an integration of theory and practice and the experiences gained between the CM/BIM teams. Meetings also addressed communication issues amongst project teams. These weekly team meetings included representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dimeo Construction, VBL and Subcontractors, which led to the project’s success and overall owner satisfaction.
Positive results in team collaboration are significant over traditional coordination methods. Collaboration assures accurate and complete integration of MEP and structural disciplines prior to the award of Mechanical and Electrical contracts and the start of on-site construction. According to Dimeo Vice President of Construction Paul Aballo, “Much of the time traditionally spent (typically 22 wks for 15 levels vs. 12 wks with this process) early in construction to develop and approve shop drawings and coordinate drawings is instead used to refine design, conduct pre-installation planning, enhance quality control, and conduct earlier materials fabrication. In effect, we are improving the project’s overall schedule and eliminating potential cost exposure.”