How to Streamline Construction Projects with Virtual Design and Construction

Virtual design and construction (VDC) is changing the construction industry. By integrating virtual modeling, design, and construction techniques, stakeholders can coordinate, visualize, and simulate construction projects before physical work begins. This, in turn, can enhance collaboration, minimize errors, and maximize project efficiency.

Hexagon’s Building Solutions, a leading provider of reality capture analysis solutions, offers a platform that automates the comparison of digital design models with on-site construction progress. This article will delve into VDC. We’ll start by outlining what VDC is and what VDC techniques are in construction. We’ll then touch on some strategies and tools construction managers can use to implement VDC. Lastly, we’ll cover how Building Solutions fits into the VDC process and how our capabilities can help make the construction process more efficient.

What Is Virtual Design and Construction?

Virtual design and construction: workers using a tablet and a VR headset

Virtual design and construction (VDC) is a process that utilizes digital tools and technologies — including Building Information Modeling (BIM) — to enhance collaboration, communication, and coordination throughout the entire construction lifecycle.

Essentially, VDC integrates 3D modeling, data analytics, and project management techniques to optimize the lifecycle of a project, from pre-construction and project planning all the way through construction and facility management.

VDC starts during the preconstruction phase, where design teams create a 3D model of the project using BIM software. This allows for early clash detection, identification of design conflicts, and optimization of construction sequencing and logistics. In addition to using the 3D models in preconstruction, site logistics and work sequencing takes place leveraging reality capture technologies such as laser scanning and drones. This allows for the building information model to contain the most current as-built information about the site or location for planning purposes. The BIM is much more than just the 3D model.

During the construction phase, VDC techniques help improve project efficiency and reduce errors. 4D modeling adds the dimension of time to the BIM model, allowing stakeholders to visualize construction sequences and identify potential conflicts. Clash detection tools analyze the BIM model to detect clashes between different building elements, such as mechanical, electrical, and structural systems. This enables early problem resolution, reducing costly rework and delays. Building Solutions take this a step further in construction and run clash detection between the 3D BIM model and the as-built conditions as captured in laser scans, effectively clashing the model to the real world.

VDC also extends beyond construction completion. The virtual model created during the design and construction phases can be leveraged for facility management and maintenance. Since Building Solutions creates an updated as-built model of changes to the coordinated model along the course of construction, your deliverables upon project completion will be accurate and ready for operations. By incorporating data on building systems, equipment, and materials into the model, facility managers can use the digital twin produced as a valuable tool for asset management, space planning, and maintenance scheduling.

What VDC Techniques Apply to the Construction Industry?

The use of virtual design and construction has grown tremendously on construction sites. Below are a few of the most common VDC techniques currently being used by project teams:

  • Building Information Modeling (BIM): BIM is a central component of VDC, enabling the creation of a digital model/representation of a building or infrastructure project. It includes geometric information, spatial relationships, quantities, and properties of various building components.
  • Clash detection and coordination: VDC tools allow for clash detection, which identifies potential conflicts between different building systems or elements early in the design process, reducing rework and improving coordination. VDC’s clash detection tools can be particularly useful for mechanical, engineering, and plumbing (MEP) subcontractors.
  • 4D and 5D modeling: VDC incorporates time (4D) and cost (5D) dimensions into the BIM model, enabling construction professionals to visualize the project’s schedule, simulate construction sequencing, and estimate costs accurately.
  • Prefabrication and modular construction: VDC facilitates off-site construction by leveraging digital design models to precisely plan and prefabricate building components. This technique improves construction efficiency, reduces waste, and enhances quality control.

What Are the Best Tools to Maximize VDC?

The benefits of VDC are endless, especially if paired with other construction technologies. Below are some of the best tools that you can consider implementing into your building project to help get the most out of your VDC efforts.

  • Collaboration platforms: Cloud-based platforms enable real-time collaboration, document management, and issue tracking among project stakeholders.
  • Laser scanning & 360 Reality Capture: Laser scanning technology captures as-built conditions on-site and creates highly accurate point cloud data, which can be integrated with BIM models for clash detection and quality assurance. 360 photography and videos can track progress and provide access to a virtual version of the project, enabling more collaboration and enhancing safety through unnecessary or redundant site visits.
  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR): VR and AR technologies offer immersive experiences that allow stakeholders to visualize building designs, identify potential issues, and make informed decisions during the design and construction phases. Virtual reality allows stakeholders to see a virtual model, while augmented reality adds to the virtual model. As PC Mag describes, “virtual reality replaces your vision, augmented reality adds to it.”
  • Cloud computing: Cloud-based platforms like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services provide scalable storage, computational power, and data-sharing capabilities for large-scale VDC projects.
  • Automation and machine learning: AI-driven tools automate repetitive tasks, optimize workflows, and extract valuable insights from construction data, enhancing productivity and decision-making.
  • Robotics: Robots exist now for laying out the linework from the 3D model directly onto the floor to build from within one-sixteenth of an inch. Drones capture autonomously from the sky and from the floor level and feed data into the real-time BIM models. These can be used in future analysis. In select instances, robots can be programmed to drill, weld, or install certain pieces of work as dictated by the BIM models.

Building Solutions offers prominent technology to consider introducing to your job site and VDC efforts. Let’s take a closer look at how Building Solutions can help make the construction process more efficient.

How Building Soliutions Can Improve Construction Processes

Building Solutions specializes in automated construction monitoring and quality control. Our capabilities help construction professionals streamline the VDC process by automating the comparison of digital design models with on-site construction progress. Below is a breakdown of some of  Building Solution’s key features and how the technology fits in with VDC methodologies:

  • Automated monitoring: Building Solutions utilizes laser scanning technology and/or 360-degree photography to capture on-site conditions at regular intervals, creating a comprehensive dataset of as-built information.
  • Real-time insights: Construction professionals can access real-time analytics and visualizations through the Building Solutions platform, allowing them to reduce risk, monitor project performance, detect issues early, and make data-driven decisions based on these real-time feedback loops of data.
  • Quality control and issue tracking: Building Solutions enables the identification of construction errors and discrepancies, facilitating timely corrective actions and reducing rework.
  • Documentation and reporting: The Building Solutions platform generates comprehensive reports, documentation, and visualizations that aid in project communication, coordination, and compliance.
  • A single source of truth: Collecting all of your reality capture dates overlapped with your coordinated 3D BIM enables comprehensive review along the life of the project. This digital twin can be the single source of truth on your project to keep everyone up to date on the most current site conditions.

By embracing VDC techniques and leveraging the capabilities that Building Solutions offers, construction professionals can optimize project efficiency, reduce costs, improve quality, and enhance collaboration throughout the construction lifecycle.

Strategies That Add Value During VDC Implementation

VDC professionals can increase the value of technology investments for their companies by following these four strategies:

  • Prioritize integration: Ensure that the chosen technology tools seamlessly integrate with each other to facilitate data sharing and collaboration across different stages of the construction process.
  • Provide training and support: Invest in training programs to ensure that employees have the necessary skills to utilize the technology effectively. Additionally, provide ongoing support to address any technical challenges or questions.
  • Establish clear goals and metrics: Define clear objectives for implementing VDC technologies and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure their impact on project outcomes, such as cost savings, schedule adherence, and quality improvements.
  • Continuous improvement: Regularly evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the implemented technologies, and seek feedback from users to identify areas for improvement. Stay updated with the latest advancements and emerging technologies in the VDC field.

By following the four strategies outlined above, VDC professionals can increase the value of technology investments for their companies.

Virtual Design & Construction Can Improve Your Processes

Virtual design and construction: engineers discussing something

VDC is reshaping the construction industry by enhancing collaboration, reducing errors, and increasing project efficiency. When utilized properly, VDC efforts can maximize efficiencies in all stages of the project lifecycle, from construction planning to facility management.

Building Solutions offers advanced solutions that automate the comparison of digital design models with on-site construction progress. By leveraging VDC techniques and Building Solutions’ platform, owners and construction companies can streamline construction projects, save costs, and improve overall project outcomes.

Embracing VDC and investing in the right tools and technology partners like Building Solutions will undoubtedly pave the way for a more efficient and successful construction industry. Learn more about how Building Solutions can assist with your next project.

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