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Placing a Value on VDC


The VDC process may not be an exact science, but it provides predictable results — an accurate model construction teams rely on for project success. It has become an integral part of the preconstruction process, a phase that can set the project up for success by providing a roadmap for each trade to use while navigating the complexities of each project.

While it’s easy to put a price on the implications of inaccurate drawings that result in costly redesigns, measuring the actual cost and potential savings of an efficient VDC process is much more difficult — until now. The MMC Contractors VDC team is working to showcase the value of modeling each project, to measure the once immeasurable. Jason Steele, manager of the Virtual Design and Construction group, explains why the team took on the challenge. “In talking with estimating, it became clear that it is really difficult to put a number to what BIM/VDC did for a project. It’s clear there’s a value, but we had never figured out how to quantify it. We brainstormed ways to do this, and the idea to create a historical reference on each task of every project was born,” said Steele.

Steele and his team began the tedious work of creating a record — down the granular level — of each task to create a catalog organized by work phase and separated by project. “We created a structure within our internal software system where we break everything out, allowing us to drill down to job, phase, level, discipline, and task. Using a number system, we can quickly identify a specific project and task and see — down to the building floor — how much time it took us to complete that task. This really allows us to dial in and identify exactly how much time it took us to complete that phase, from drawing, coordinating, spooling, etc.,” said Steele.

Having historical data at a moment’s notice not only makes a modeler’s job easier, but it also benefits clients during the design and estimating phases of the construction process. “We’ve never had such precise information, broken down in this way, available at our fingertips, so it absolutely leads to more accurate estimates,” explained Steele. “With a history of comparable projects that have notated project flow and data, for all partners, we are able to compare apples to apples when estimating, and we can plan for — or avoid — potential issues on future projects.”

Brad Runyan, project manager for Brasfield & Gorrie, has worked with MMC Contractors and states that this process is important. “Putting a hard figure on savings derived from virtual coordination is nearly impossible. The biggest sell is that it reduces field labor costs dramatically if the VDC process is managed efficiently. VDC allows components of a project to be fabricated offsite in a controlled environment; reduces field labor overages from stopping work to resolve clashes; reduces re-fabrication of wasted material; and allows the project to fast track. Our VDC department works hand in hand with our preconstruction teams during estimating, providing realistic virtual design expectations for each project so we can account for the time and the costs associated,” said Runyan.

“Working with MMC Contractors’ VDC team has been a pleasure. The team I worked with were all skilled tradesmen that have taken their knowledge to the computer. By having that field experience, they understand the value in designing for efficiency. Almost anyone can move two components in a 3D model. However, to design efficiently to benefit field installation, it takes intricate knowledge of the systems they are designing. MMC Contractors’ team exemplified this experience, and it showed,” said Runyan.

The quest to put hard numbers to the benefits of VDC has led to much more and extends beyond the VDC team, clients, and partners. “It’s really a living document that has taken on a life of its own. It’s evolved to include operations, accounting, and other departments, so everyone can reference it and pull information suited to their needs,” said Steele. “Now that we’ve got the information in there, we’re figuring out how to make it more user friendly to save even more time, making VDC that much more valuable.”