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Beyond the Box

Innovation is the root of change, the engine that propels growth as an industry as well as a company. It can change the course of a project or a process and ignores the idea that "this is the way it has always been done." It is the key to sustaining success — the way we got to where we are today — and will influence the path we take tomorrow.

In an environment driven by growth and inspired by advancement, MMC Contractors encourages all its employees to push the envelope and to bring innovative ideas to the table at every phase of every project. VDC Supervisor Brian Muggy recounts some on-the-fly modeling that trimmed months off the project schedule. "While on site, our superintendents worked directly in our client’s installation drawings using Revit and applied them to prefabricate some of our equipment. We could still get close enough to scale it off and make it work; as a result, we got through our BIM phase in weeks as opposed to months," he said.


Using virtual modeling is not new, but its uses are changing — and the industry is evolving along with it. A recent confidential client reflects on how the innovative application of 3D design has drastically changed one of his current projects. "We were condensing a 24-month project into 13 months, so we had to find ways to shave time off the schedule. Members of the MMC Contractors team function as the mechanical detailers, under the direction of the design engineer. They set up in a jobsite trailer and worked on the model there, with full access to existing conditions and information from craft foremen. This allowed the team to fabricate and begin installations long before the design was complete. The 3D model became the main tool used by all trades used to determine sequence of installations. They developed work layers and coordinated the trade sequences, rather than establishing horizontal zones like we typically see," he said.


The blending and overlap of design/detailing responsibilities led to yet another original idea on the same project. The MMC Contractors team prefabricated the primary pipe chase in their Omaha shop during the structural steel fabrication. "Because of the 3D model, MMC Contractors could plan for the pipe installation and accurately detail and fabricate it in their shop. They dropped the 54-foot pipe chase in the building during the steel structure erection. This saved two weeks of field labor hours, freed up valuable floor space, and improved quality. Developing the building in the virtual model before the physical labor begins enabled success on this project," he said.


While some innovative ideas come from applying technology in new ways, others are sparked out of necessity and the application of everyday items. The West Point Army Academy, New Davis Cadet Barracks project included the installation of more than 35 miles of PEX tubing in 260 cadet rooms with 10 different room layouts. To account for the variances in each room, Senior Project Manager Mark Couret took indoor/outdoor carpet, cut a template for each unique room, and scored the PEX tubing layout into the carpet. "Once we had the carpet down in each room type, using multiple colors, we spray painted the template onto the floor surface of each room. We then removed the carpet to reveal the pattern of where to install the PEX tubing," he said.

Faced with installing the PEX tubing in the middle of winter in New York, the team had to think outside – or inside – the box. "With temperatures near zero, the plastic tubing not only became difficult to manage, but it also increased the risk of leaks, cracks, or kinking," said Couret. "Our site superintendent, Jason Tilton, came up with an idea to keep the PEX warm enough to allow for a more problem-free installation. He built a heated box to go over the PEX decoiler and mounted a halogen light inside of it to generate heat. This kept the tubing warm and pliable, so we were able to staple it down and complete the installation without losing any time on the project."

The genesis of an idea can be unpredictable, its evolution unplanned, but the end result can add consistency and quality to a project. Fueled by the need to adapt, innovation constantly drives the construction industry in a new direction, altering its course for the future — because it’s not just about getting ahead of the curve, but rather setting it.