Design Professionals, Engineers and the Construction Industry need to foster strong relationships. However, I know that this is not often the case.
I have been observing communication breakdown for the last 25 years, and I am still unable to put my finger on the exact reason why this happens time and again. At first, I could only assume that it was due to cultural differences between an ‘office’, and ‘onsite’.
I often hear Design Professionals lament that the Builder has not read the plans correctly – and that Builders are too hasty to criticize. And on the opposite side, I hear Builders conclude that the Design professional has probably never physically built anything, and therefore, that even though they have drawn lines on paper – they do not adequately represent actual construction assemblies.
It is true that Builders are often brash in their verbal communication, and often dismiss the time and detail that has been put into the plans. And this leads to the most common complaint from the Construction Industry: no matter how much experience one may have, 2D plans are difficult to read, and difficult to find information quickly. Big document sets are daunting.
3D CAD and Building Information Modelling (BIM) Software has been seen as the answer to many of the problems faced by the Design and Construction Industries. However, I do not believe that it has solved the communication breakdown at all. The truth is that current BIM software has innumerable complexities and constraints. They are incredibly difficult to learn, cost you a vast sum of money to purchase and up skill staff (which is why the majority of companies do not even provide sufficient training), as well as prolonged periods of unproductiveness. And most importantly, although they allow you to visualise the project in isometric 3D, they are merely a slightly more efficient way to produce 2D drawings.
SketchUp is the first program that has made it easy to visualise and explain detail in an affordable and intuitive fashion. Everyone who uses SketchUp at an intermediate level would agree. Because SketchUp allows you to model in true 3D, it enables the design intent to be easily understood: you look at it on screen, in the same way that you would look at something real. The trouble with SketchUp is that it is often derided for being too simple (missing those much needed parametric, BIM features), and considered as simply a great communication and visualisation software.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a program that did all of the cumbersome things and automated the process? SketchUp is the ultimate free-form 3D software, yet even SketchUp can be simplified – and that is exactly what PlusSpec for SketchUp has done. I believe that everyone should be able to design complexities without being a computer wiz or spending 9 months learning a software, just to be considered intermediate (which, I understand is the case for programs such as Revit and ArchiCAD).
I believe we could all be collaborating on a model very early in the design phase. I am not just talking about the architect and builder – I am talking about: architect, builder, client, engineer, estimator, interior design, authorities (council), the manufacturers, and even the subs. YES, everyone needs to be included!
I have been in this industry for 25 years and I still shudder when I have been presented with a document set of 50+pages. With technology, we have access to better communication tools, and we have the capacity to use them. And yet we still use 2D. The fact that the Construction Industry is working from 2D documentation onsite is ridiculous. I hear Design Professionals saying that the Construction Industry will not open a 3D model. I hear Engineers saying that 3D software is not viable (unless it is a multi-million dollar job), as it is too difficult and time consuming to model. I hear the Construction Industry say that 3D software is simply too expensive, and that the available software may be good for design, but that it has not been made to suit builders also.
They are all wrong.
I held a demonstration last week with one of the country’s largest Design-Build companies, to showcase how PlusSpec for SketchUp is transforming Design and Construction Software. To showcase PlusSpec, the Design Build Company requested that I model one of their projects within their office. However, their concern was that I would make PlusSpec look easy (due to having over 25 years experience), the same way that Kelly Slater makes surfing look easy. I totally agree with them. There is nothing worse than being sold something that has been made to look easier than what it actually is (did someone say Revit, or ArchiCAD?).
To prove its simplicity, I advised them that I would have a 20-year-old intern (who works for me) model their design, instead of me. He has no degree, or certificates – but already had a little amount of SketchUp knowledge. The project that they presented him with was one of the most difficult designs that the company builds. The brief was to view an existing plan set of 6 pages, and then create a model that had all of the design detail, structural detail, pipework, bathroom layouts, site contours & shadows – as well as a 2d documentation set.
I was told that one of their technicians using their current BIM software (which will remain nameless) could do it in 3 days – but minus the structural detail and pipework. Using PlusSpec, my 20-year-old intern did it in half of that – and it included a full structure analysis and pipework integration + a full Material Take-off!
So big deal I hear you say. How does this help communicate and resolve conflict between architect, builder, engineer and the rest of our industry?
This is Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). A VDC model contains and conveys all of the aesthetic and design intent, as well as the structure, details, MEP, white-goods/products – as well as a full BOQ. There is no room for miscommunication of plans, as everything is there at your fingertips and ready to go into construction. The drawing is a master model/plan, so it also means that the time that has been spent creating the model can now be used over and over, and can easily be amended: eg. Changing layouts, materials, products, etc.
PlusSpec for SketchUp is communication at its best. It is the catalyst that will result in reduce waste, higher profitability, better design, and better and built outcomes.
PlusSpec is Simple, Powerful, Professional & Affordable.
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