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Software speeds up construction

Post Time:Jan 10,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:342


Building information modeling — using several types of software to create 3D models of new buildings, down to the pipes and wires — is helping Boston University shave months off the construction of its new student center in Kenmore Square, in order to have it ready for next fall.


The 122,000-square-foot building, which will have restaurants and space to sit on the lower floors, and classrooms and offices above, comes with a $48 million price tag for construction, which began last May and is scheduled to wrap up in June.


Robert Murray, president of Everett-based construction company Bond, said using BIM technology speeds up the construction process by 10 percent — or about 2.5 months for the BU project.


“That two and a half months is the difference between getting it done for the fall semester or not,” he said. “In academia, if you miss that date, you might as well not have it for six more months.”


BIM has picked up steam over the past three years, Murray said, and lets construction companies design and build parts of a building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems ahead of time.


“In the future, we’ll build the whole building in sections, not just the systems,” he said. “That’ll be the standard, almost like Legos.”


At the project office next door to the site on Commonwealth Avenue, Bond superintendent George Antonucci sat at a desk with five computer monitors running software such as Revit, NavisWorks and AutoCad that chelp model the building’s components. An iPad running an app called Vela Mobile lets workers take the 3D model onsite.


All of that technology makes it possible for workers to map every duct, pipe and wire in detail beforehand, instead of fitting them as they build.


“It’s a hell of a lot faster than doing it in the field,” Antonucci said.


With the BIM software, each component — walls, floors, ceilings, steel structure — can be hidden to reveal an image of what’s underneath. Clicking on a room gives you a 3D view.


“We used to hand a guy a set of drawings, but it’s just a bunch of ink on paper,” said Christopher Fogg, virtual construction engineer at Bond. “It’s so dense you can’t see the ground.”


Using BIM, the planners even make sure to leave headroom for some future maintenance worker to access an electrical box hanging from a ceiling otherwise packed with ducts and snaked with wiring.


“It allows us to bring the architects, engineers and subcontractors together to coordinate the building months before anything gets installed,” Fogg said. “The visual aspect is worth its weight in gold.”


Next door at the site, workers were loading a room-sized, metal air-conditioning unit. The BIM process also helped make sure the giant module could physically be moved where it needed to go, on the opposite side of the building.


“We analyze every piece of equipment to make sure there’s a path for it into the building,” said project manager James Wrisley.


That can make a big difference on the bottom line, since construction workers can make $75 to $100 per hour, Wrisley said.


“Every hour that guy’s sitting there scratching his head wondering what goes where, the company is losing money,” he said.


Bond has been using iPads for about a year and a half — every superintendent has one.


“The big thing was the iPad2, because of the camera,” Fogg said. “A guy can take a picture and mark it up without going back to the office.”


Fogg said the process didn’t take long for Bond to assimilate into its routine, with most of the effort going toward creating protocols for naming files and deciding what certain colors meant in the models.


“We try to remember the software is a tool to help the process, not change the process,” he said.


While the system is helpful, it does have one drawback.


“It’s like letting the cat out of the bag,” Antonucci joked. “Now that owners know you can do it faster, they want it done even faster.”


Source: http://www.usgnn.comAuthor: shangyi

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