Six Steps to Creating a Virtual Jobsite

Picture an expansive, blacked-out banquet space in a Las Vegas hotel, illuminated by a colorful laser light show and vibrating with the sounds of techno music blasted from a DJ booth. Surrounded by more than 10,000 people, you can feel the buzz of their anticipation, enthusiasm, and excitement.

You may assume this scene is a concert or a party, but what if I told you it is actually a tech conference?

This was the scene I encountered recently when I walked into Autodesk University 2017, a tech conference focused on virtual design that attracted the architecture, engineering, and construction industries’ top tech professionals from all over the world. Not only did I have the opportunity to attend the conference as part of Brasfield & Gorrie’s Virtual Design + Construction (VD+C) group, I was also privileged to be asked to present.

For this presentation, I was lucky to have support and involvement from our partners at HKS Architects and Uzun+Case Engineers. We discussed the all-in virtual design involvement during the preconstruction phase of our showcased project, the $400+ million Piedmont Atlanta Hospital Marcus Tower expansion. Representation from both the design team and construction team helped us elaborate on how we used models and Autodesk’s cloud-based products and services to collaborate on multiple aspects of the project. (To learn more about leveraging building information modeling (BIM) to drive a collaborative construction process, read the previous blog post here.) We also discussed the steps we took during the preconstruction phase, as well as the lessons we learned for workflow, full-team integration, and training for the all-in approach. The presentation was titled “Diving into the Deep End: Creating a Virtual Jobsite.”

Based on this presentation, I’d like to share six important steps that will help guide your team in taking your model from a 3D representation to a fully virtual jobsite:

  1. Establish Your Communication Strategy – Designating clear boundaries for the use of Autodesk’s cloud-based products and the members who will have access them is crucial to a seamless team integration.
    • Because of the real-time access, having clear communication can help avoid modeling issues or duplications. Using the cloud-based shared model as a centerpiece for conversations and work sessions creates a better product for all the teams involved on the job. Once the team is on the same page and working through issues inside the models, the next step is using them for jobsite-specific needs.
  2. Identify Your Biggest Need – Sites have needs, from safety to self-performance. Planning is better than reacting.
    • Our team focused first on self-performance estimating and construction. Once we completed that, it was time to move to a more integrative interaction with the rest of the jobsite.
  3. Outline Your Workflow – The workflow should create the framework for creation, utilization, and success across all team members, including the design team, construction team, subcontracting team, and any others.
  4. Cross-utilize Resources (drone scans, parametric cranes, and shoring models, for example) – Ensure that your resources can be used by members of the team for a variety of purposes.
    • On this project, we used our resources widely, including modeling the structure quantities and sharing this model with the construction team; flying the site with a drone to review surrounding conditions, such as overhead utilities, roadways, and pedestrian routing, which helped in planning the site safety logistics; using in-house parametric tower crane models for determining crane placement and safety; and reviewing constructability using virtual reality technology.
  5. Share Information – Having information is great, but if no one uses it, what’s the point?
    • We tried to get everyone on the project team, including superintendents, project managers, the safety team, etc., on board and into the software and virtual environment as early as possible. In the long run, they will be the end users, so ideally, they should be involved from the beginning.
  6. Focus on Continuous Improvement – Train everyone! Some things will go well and some things won’t. Discuss the ups and downs, share lessons learned, and repeat. Checking in continually will strengthen the team. Every lesson learned is crucial to success, even if the lesson reflected a pitfall instead of an appreciation.

Excited about doing something similar on your project? Check out our presentation in its entirety here.

 

This video shows how to take drone scan data and turn it into a point cloud for segregation of site areas. The point cloud is then overlaid into Navisworks with internal and design team 3D models for safety and constructability discussions, as well as sequencing and site logistics such as pedestrian routing, laydown areas, and crane placement.

 

About the Author:

Contessa Hayter graduated from Auburn University College of Architecture, Design, and Construction with a Bachelor of Science degree in building science. After gaining valuable experience in the field as a project engineer, Hayter joined Brasfield & Gorrie as an estimator on healthcare, commercial, and self-perform projects. As a senior virtual design and construction coordinator in Brasfield & Gorrie’s VD+C group, Hayter specializes in total-project integration of 3D modeling from preconstruction through completion, focusing on self-perform work and virtual site logistics for safety planning. A green building enthusiast whose projects span all market sectors, Hayter is passionate about the transformative potential of sustainability. When she isn’t working, she maintains and spreads her positive energy as a dedicated yoga teacher and travel aficionado.