4D BIM for Construction

The Concept of VDC Stages

Posted by Tom Dengenis on May 31, 2016 9:00:00 AM

The concept of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) Stages is an important tool when gauging progress towards claiming a company or project to be deemed a modern, 21st century digital construction operation.  Viewing the maturity process as stages in a journey, will help the industry move from  the 2D CAD files, plan racks, and Gantt chart’s that clutter and wallpaperladder-to-keyhole-2.jpg jobsite offices, to computer graphics, structured project data, information transparency and, ultimately, into the integrated systems of the digital age that is driving enormous production gains in industries that construction serves every day.

Client Organisations have recognised that the process of moving the construction industry to full digital construction operations will be progressive, with distinct and recognisable milestones defined within that process, in the form of Stages. These have been defined within a range from Stage 0 to Stage 4, and, whilst this follows the same concepts of the BIM Stages work done in the UK Digital Construction the VDC Stages outlined herein are clearly different. The Digital Construction Stages have a broad concept as follows:

“The intrinsic relationship between people, process, governance and technology creates the foundation for successful project delivery that achieves optimum performance through the use of VDC and visual scheduling. VDC bridges the gap between design data and construction execution in an integrated virtual Space-Time environment built on a well-formed visual- data rich model, enabling robust planning to continue throughout the project delivery lifecycle.”

Jon Berkoe, Director of Project Delivery Services, Synchro Software Ltd, Berkeley, California USA

The objective of the VDC process is to ensure the success of construction project delivery through the use of integrated digital technologies that provide scheduling and project management capabilities for the dynamic construction operations environment. VDC’s real time visualization emphasis adds new and exciting ways for project participants to plan - by enabling all participants the ability to see into the future, to understand the past and to know current conditions as they happen.  VDC is an essential contributor to clear communications and shared understanding amongst the entire project delivery team.  VDC enables performance on a much higher level across all aspects of the delivery process, from safety, work space utilisation and productivity, quality and reliability, to project cost competitiveness.  All aspects of performance improve without compromise and the typical constraining trade-offs between time, cost and quality. The inherent defects of the status quo, which has constrained the industry’s ability to improve, are no longer the rule. No longer are time, cost and quality a zero sum game or a puzzle for the people, process, governance and technology too complicated to overcome.


In recent months, the industry has concluded that increasingly isolated and separate “specialization in design, construction and operations and maintenance has reinforced silos to the point that the silos have grown to become more like self-contained worlds.” It is recognised that these new specialised systems and technologies often are used to enhance performance in each project phase, for their own isolated purposes without consideration for the overall project lifecycle.  The status quo of silo working “encapsulated within a world among worlds erodes vision, purpose and project oriented passion. It insulates stakeholders from each other and presents a major barrier to realizing productivity improvement.”



VDC’s objective is to provide transparency, a common understanding, insight and above all, integrity.  Integrity in people, integrity in the process and integrity in your project data; project performance is  enhanced to a level unimagined by the status quo systems that first began serving the industry in the early 1980’s and have since held the industry in a state defined by these silos. VDC Stages help the industry understand the journey to integrate people, process, governance and technology that enables the industry to transform into high performance, digital construction operations.

Stage 0

In its simplest form, Stage 0 means no planning and scheduling for construction site operations.  The best description for Stage 0 is the current planning and scheduling status quo.

Stage 0 Case Study: https://www.planacademy.com/delay-claim-primavera-p6-lessons-learned/


Today, individuals read and interpret 2D CAD drawings and project specifications to understand the scope of the project.  They use project management software created in the early 1980’s to type in project plans and schedules based solely on their individual experience and understanding of the documents; the typical output being a Gantt chart. This process has not improved over the past 30 years. Historically, the idea and practical implications of involving the wider delivery team has always led to fewer participants and less usefulness in the project schedule for site operations.  To meet contractual requirements, many projects complete a baseline project schedule, however its’ use in daily construction site operations is rare.


Stage 0 is best characterized by the recognition that involving more people to participate in the project planning process is counter-intuitive and very quickly complicates critical project planning efforts. The result is limited participation, low understanding and declining efficiency.  It is widely recognised that the construction industry has not improved project delivery performance over the past 30 years and that project failure continues to define the reputation of the industry.  It is expected that construction planning at Stage 0 adds no planning and scheduling value to the project, except as a means of creating a baseline for measuring monthly progress for payment requisition, and ultimately, may serve as a historic record of the actual activities as recorded by the project controls audit processes that provide evidence of the events that lead to claims for delay damages and cost recovery in disputes between parties in the project supply chain.

Stage 1

The first step to the new world of digital construction is not taken from better design input but from the project team’s ability to work digitally avoiding the standard analogue based information exchanges that interrupt the flow and speed of the digital inforMazen_still.jpgmation of the project. When planning and scheduling a project, it’s critical to identify, through cooperative engagement among the project delivery team, a delivery approach that clearly captures the team’s vision and that provides competitive advantage to the team and value to the client.  The delivery approach must be clearly communicated to a wide variety of participants, individually with varying levels of relevant skill. Stage 1 teams seeks to close the skills gap to gain improved results. Each team member must understand and participate in the process of planning and, must cooperate and work for a common approach to ultimately delivery of the project.  The approach must be easily understood to win the support of the workforce, subcontractors, specialty suppliers, the client, government, investors and the public. The Stage 1 team will plan, schedule and monitor performance intent on clearly demonstrating the project delivery story through time-based 3D images (known as 4D visual planning. Four dimensions: three dimensions of space (x, y, z or f1, f2, f3) and one dimension of time. Both space and time are measured and controlled by the 4D system and will accurately create and measure the approach of delivering the project by design). The Stage 1 team will ensure their ideas and approaches to delivering the project through the space-time are sound and clearly understood in time-scaled accuracy and, will close the skills gap, facilitate instant cooperation and full participation by all project stakeholders.

Stage 1 Case Study: https://synchroltd.com/case-study/Synchro%20Case%20Study%20Sacrameto%20Intl%20Terminal%20B.pdf

Stage 2

Construction project delivery demands high degrees of certainty and detail to manage risk.  Stage 2 teams seek continuous institutional improvement and real innovation throughout the planning and delivery of the project. The Stage 2 team seeks to identify uncertainty in their determined approach and to bring a collective focus to problem solving and the exploration of innovative solutions with rapid, iterative processes. Once solutions are finalised, Stage 2 teams monitor actual measurable progress daily and provide (near) real-time model updates in both space and time to the entire project delivery team with confidence in the value of transparency as a means of encouraging performance improvement through problem recognition at the earliest moment. The team ensures broad communication and encourages effective participation through increased awareness and understanding.  Stage 2 provides a team environment for workforce practice or ‘digital rehearsal’ to ensure common understanding before inviting the workforce to the site where conditions must be safe, productive working conditions for all.  Stage 2 teams work from one master model to bring focus and a single mindedness to the project participants.

Stage 2 Case Study: https://synchroltd.com/case-study/Synchro%20Case%20Study%20-%20Oakwood%20Engineering%20-%20Gravesend%20Station%20Remodelling.pdf


Stage 3

The Stage 3 team has a progressive vision for the project and sets goals that inspire real value creation, not simply to plan a project to repeat well-worn traditional project delivery approaches or avoid making the same mistakes.  Goal setting for a project delivery team is focused on setting out a delivery challenge that drives innovation and competitive advantage.  Real examples from the industry include “70% off-site prefabrication” and “50% less active construction site time”. Stage 3 teams require a divergent approach to planning the project from the beginning as no single approach has been proven to converge on as a team.  When the team wants to find an approach swiftly, decide alone. However, when the team wants to create competitive advantage over the status quo then explore options together. A divergent approach decomposes the project planning process into iterations that match up with the project design processes, from concept to contract to production design and as-built and commissioning documentation.  Divergent approaches are best used when the team needs to explore new ideas that solve a challenging problem. This process of looking for options, new ideas must not be explored in words alone but ideas backed by verifiable validated design in full complete context to the overall delivery approach and goals of the team.  The Stage 3 teams will engage appropriate planning processes from the earliest concept design deliverables in order to provide constructability assessment and project delivery approaches that inform the design and that avoid rework or waste in the design processes.  Continuous iterative contributions to the design are necessary to avoid unwelcomed constraints when forming the project delivery plans and schedules for construction site operations.  At all times during the planning process certainty in the planned approach for safe productive construction operations for all participants must be omnipresent. When unique vision and uncertainty increase concerns, more delivery options are required (divergent approach), not less (convergent approach).


At Stage 3 teams have the appropriate time and opportunity to cooperatively expand design and delivery choices that impact the construction site environment. Suddenly, the Stage 3 team becomes an essential participant to the design processes that can lead to greater certainty in the project delivery approach and its’ feasibility; creating confidence through lower risk when decision makers provide investment capital to the project. The Stage 3 team involves more participation from the entire team, more ideas and a clear logical route to higher value, certainty and project delivery success.

Stage 3 Case Study: https://synchroltd.com/case-study/Synchro%20Case%20Study%20CNCC.pdf

Stage 4

Supply chain integration is the ultimate objective and a necessary condition that drives continuous improvement into industry; early supply chain integration is the main goal of the Stage 4 VDC team. Its’ absence in construction, is the root cause of many project delays and site interruptions. Stage 4 teams are operating at a Stage of logical integration of every subcontractor and major supplier on the project, along with the demands and requirements of the client. Supply chain integration requires support on both sides of the contractual relationship, to plan and schedule activities and to track progress, as well as to identify and isolate risk at the task Stage of the schedule.


Stage 4 teams have unlimited ability to identify project delivery approaches that create greater certainty and that are more immune to performance issues, delays and shutdowns. The Stage 4 team will achieve parity of construction site operations, scheduling detail and quality, as well as a single, integrated plan throughout the entire supply chain that focuses on delivering value in the project works performed every day for the client. Stage 4 Case Study: https://synchroltd.com/case-study/Synchro%20Case%20Study%20Ryan%20Companies%20Marina%20Heights.pdf

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