4D BIM for Construction

Does Your Construction Schedule Work, or is it Merely Artwork?..

Posted by Eric Olsen on Nov 7, 2013 1:45:17 PM

Your new construction schedule just spit out of the large format printer.  The work breakdown structure is smartly segmented by bold company colors, the name of the project proudly stated at the top.  The thousand plus activities gently flow top to bottom, left to right, until that final activity, Project Turnover.  You piece the multiple sheets together and pin them to the office trailer wall, take a step back, and admire your work.  It looks awesome. 

But, is it tenable?  Can your team depended on it? 

Or, like so many other project schedules, will its primary function be to cover a piece of barren wall? Will it be ridiculed and / or ignored by the very people whose mission it is to make it work? 

Consider the following common sense points to ensure projects are planned and managed well and to help keep your project schedules from becoming wall paper or another modern art exhibit in the construction site office:

  • Talk to your friendly superintendent, even if they are ornery.  The superintendent will be running the job, not the project planner or scheduler.  Listen closely when they lecture you on the finer points of working construction and how things get done.  Think about it when they tell you why your schedule is always useless.   He knows that the local asphalt plant closes on December 1st and that there is a snowball’s chance in Death Valley that final inspections will take place the day before Christmas. Bury your pride, and keep in mind that the Super has forgotten more about delivering construction than most will ever know.  The Super’s expertise, knowhow and direction is crucial to establish any hope of success for the project schedule.
  • Solicit accurate lead times.  Don’t find out too late that the 8 weeks you plugged in for custom doors is really 12 weeks, or that the Architect was not kidding when he stated that the submittal turnaround time was two weeks.  Find out how long an item shipped in from overseas will be tied up in customs.  
  • Do some investigative work in reference to the local authorities.  Every locality has its own rule book.  Know if the final fire alarm test needs to be conducted at 7 AM on the 3rd Sunday of the monthl.  Know that your Certificate of Occupancy paperwork will take a month to be processed, starting the day after the check clears.
  • Keep your activities to a reasonable duration.   Look for natural breakpoints in the work that can be easily identified and tracked.  The rule is schedule what is going to be tracked and track what is scheduled; sounds simple but this forward and backward relationship on progress monitoring task process is often overlooked. The 2 or 3 week time frame of a typical “look ahead” schedule utilized in weekly project meetings is an acceptable target for maximum task duration.  It serves little purpose to have a single activity run on from the start to the finish of the project.  Conversely, scheduling activities at a time unit or duration that cannot be effectively tracked is equally useless.  Note that tasks are scheduled in sequences driven by certain rules, such as gravity, that are unyielding or project choices such as installing left to right or from front to back.  In both cases the durations are determined based on what fits to get the job completed within the start and finish constraints controlled by the scope and measure of the task and all available resources to complete the task.  Lastly, when determining the project schedule watch out for discreet situations that create resource conflicts especially within work spaces.  Project schedules that fail to consider discreet spatial conflicts for all simultaneous operations will create chaos on the job and be the first reason why schedules are not followed.  No superintendent will ever allow unsafe work space conflicts to exist in the field and will rip up any schedule that ignores this critical issue.
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  • Do not neglect Murphy’s Law.  What can go wrong will go wrong.  Don’t be surprised by weather delays or task performance variations. We all work to deliver the future as planned but calendar delays will be suffered and crews will perform faster or slower than planned.  Monitor task activity daily and track real progress and estimate remaining durations.  The earlier the schedule is updated the quicker the implications can be discovered.
  • Get technology that helps the project right from the start and works for you every step of the way.  You are living in a digital world. Your project A/E is utilizing the digital power of design systems by using advanced 3D CAD. Whether you want to call it BIM or just business as usual, these system exist in the digital world and are transforming how great designs and engineering ideas are captured and communicated to builders.  In today’s complex world, digital designs generated in modern systems cannot simply be used to print 2D drawings then handed to the builder as if we still lived in Rome when Pantheon was built.  Upgrade your scheduling tools and practices to create 4D Construction Models.  Show your project team, in crystal clear virtual reality, the construction sequence as you envision it. The vision that previously resided in your imagination can be a shared vision that the entire team can understand, analyze and optimize.  See clearly, day by day, the construction activities as scheduled. Little to no imagination required!  Lastly, ask your small tool vendor to give you a few free posters and calendars.  In today’s modern construction offices you will need something to cover up the walls. 

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