4D BIM for Construction

BIM and VDC Defined, The Mortenson Perspective

Posted by Ricardo Khan on Jun 18, 2015 7:12:08 PM

We’ve all heard the terms BIM and VDC before.  But across the industry there are varying descriptions for each.  They are not the same. Well let’s take a moment to level set on what BIM and VDC means to Mortenson Construction.  

Objective: level set the terminology and definitions to drive a consistent starting point for a BIM/VDC conversation.

BIM or Building Information Models
From our perspective, BIM is a 3D model or the “noun”. BIM has two attributes. The first is the geometry or 3D object. second is the associated data of the object, like the manufacturer specifications, size, location.

Together, they form smart objects that are "parametric" in nature.  So if the data changes, the geometry changes with it.  AND Vise Versa. 

BIM Example: Here is the model of the door.  What makes this BIM is the attributes like the length, width, and height, manufacturer, etc.   the 3D model + the information = smart objects or BIM.  When the information changes, the model changes which also means that it is parametric (for us nerds).  Our design partners develop a building information model in order to extract 2D contract drawings or the design intent.

Wikipedia Definition of BIM  The term BIM was popularized by Autodesk.  It is interesting that even in this description, the term is used as both noun and verb. The origin of the term is in form of a noun.

When BIM is described as a process, it translates into VDC.

VDC or Virtual Design and Construction
VDC is a “verb” or taking action on BIM.  From Mortenson perspective, VDC is simply a visual management methodology using BIM as part of our proven construction analysis and work processes. 

Design teams use BIM and Construction teams use VDC right?  Wrong...

The design team utilize VDC as part of their work processes such as lighting or engineering analysis. The construction team core work processes are scheduling a project, estimating a project and analyzing the design for constructability. 

Wikipedia Definition of VDC. VDC, the management process was developed through the CIFE organization at Stanford University.  Note this definition is clearly a process using BIM as a key component.

VDC Example
Work Process: Planning and Scheduling
Every project is built from a construction schedule.  Here is a traditional view of a critical path (CPM) project schedule. Each row you see is a set activities that has a start and end date.  In a project, there maybe 5,000 – 30,000 activities required to build a project.  

Makes perfect sense right?
Now let’s look at what VDC does with this construction schedule…  Play the video of the 4D visual plan. What would you rather build from?  Get the idea?

Now let’s look at what VDC does with this construction schedule…  Play the video of the 4D visual plan. What would you rather build from?  Get the idea?

BIM / VDC Analogy
Let’s look at these terms in another way.


So why do we perform BIM and VDC? 
It allows the project team to develop a virtual prototype similar to automotive, aerospace industries to drive increased certainty of design and building process!  

Plan the Work, Work the Plan 
There are two areas of focus for VDC.  One is the use of BIM as a virtual prototype to plan work. The other is using the output of VDC process to execute the work.  Getting the information into the field is a critical success factor!    This is where we leverage new technologies like machine grade control,  robotic solutions, reality capture with mobile devices to bridge the gap between the trailer and the field. 

The overall objective of BIM and VDC is to improve communication through the visual medium. This leads to effective team collaboration. 

The outcomes of effective BIM and VDC use by the project stakeholders are earlier, better informed decision that lead to higher predictability of time, cost and quality of the product or customer value.

In conclusion, our stance is that BIM is a 'noun' and VDC is a 'verb'.  What do you think.  Something tells me that our stance will stimulate a healthy series of comments.

In the end of the day, BIM and VDC are just a few of the tools in our toolbox that our team members leverage on a day to day basis to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

For more information on building a strong VDC program see this other post.

To experience more of our VDC journey, please visit www.mortenson.com/vdc-journey

Rick Khan
Director of Integrated Construction

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