All posts by Andrew Dwight

Young people are snubbing the construction industry – but why?

By | Apprenticeships, Builders, Business, Construction, Estimating, Estimators, PlusSpec, Software, Technology, Trades, Uncategorized, VDC, Waste reduction | 5 Comments

Does the construction industry have a disconnect with GenY?

Many of us wrongly think that the new generation of young adults entering the workforce are afraid of hard work and physical labour. However, statistics show that they’ll go to the gym, jog, and do more sport than we ever did. So if it’s not laziness, or the fear of getting their hands dirty that is disenchanting our younger generation from entering the construction industry, then what is it?

 

Workplaces have changed significantly, yet the construction industry has not. Most of us in the industry still think that technology is a luxury, or that it has no real benefit. There also remains the ‘apprentice’ culture. Even I was guilty of this. In our industry, I think that we tend to bark at newcomers. It’s probably not even intentional – it’s just the way we learned (as well as an opportunity to let out some stress!). However, things have changed. This kind of workplace does not stimulate or encourage the new generation. It’s simply not the way that any other industry teaches new staff, and I believe that this is one of the main reasons why we are seeing a steady decline in new construction employees.

 

Students and apprentices thrive on technology. It is what they are brought up on. And yet, the construction industry, as well as the Educational Institutions (based in construction) are not embracing construction technology as much as they need to. In fact, most apprentices are still learning in the exact same way as our grandfathers did.

 

Education in other industries has been transformed because they understood that the old methods of communication didn’t work. They understood that they needed to embrace technology. However, the Construction Industry is yet to find a solid solution to newer, more innovative ways to teach a declining wave of our industry’s participants.

 

Could the answer come down to training? The prioritization of technology, training and implementation (instead of merely barking orders and blindly following the ‘old ways’) may just be the solution our industry needs. And guess what? It’s an easy fix.

These guys do not realize how much they know about our industry, it's amazing.

These guys do not realize how much they know about our industry, it’s amazing.

I can only assume the rationale for the UK considering to call on the British Army to plug the skills gap in the skills-starved construction industry is that the construction industry in general needs more tech-savvy recruits, who also possess the fundamental skills and background needed for a successful career in construction? We all know that the army are at the forefront of technology, so it makes perfect sense to me that military leavers are an incredible, yet largely untapped resource that could help advance the construction industry and propel it into the future.

The army helping construction design and implementation

They might be tougher yet we all have to learn the fundamentals.

Technology holds the answers to encouraging our current and future generations of construction professionals.

Designing virtually on a computer and communicating construction methodology in a different environment is the answer. I’m convinced of this. I’ve been working with the “new generation”, “our future”, and it made me change the way I do things. I’ve  introduced technology to new employees for some 10 years now, and I find that this enables young people to actually understand construction, as well as why different construction methodologies cost more money and why some projects are more difficult to build than others.  

 

It took my hands-on experience to learn these things, yet to convey this experience to a new employee takes a lot of time, frustration and hard work. For me, the writing was on the wall, and I knew that I needed a better, more intuitive and appropriate system to teach my new employees. I drew a line in the sand and started a technology arm to our design and construction based company. My skills and resources were now being channeled into technology development and computer programming. These skills had to go into an existing platform that was proven to work for the next generation.

 

Plusspec for SketchUp is the result of my continuing work, and my experience has been rewarding and fruitful for the industry. Thousands of students and apprentices are using PlusSpec, and I am proud that it is helping them to better understand and prepare for their careers.  

 

When students/apprentices understand (and see) why they are doing something, they make less errors and gain confidence very quickly. With less error also comes less frustration, and ultimately less barking from the leader. This creates a friendlier and more productive workplace.

 

My generation (I’m 41) is not traditionally good with technology, yet my children adopt and embrace new technology without batting an eyelid. Working to their strengths instead of to their weaknesses is the obvious and easiest choice. If we ask ourselves why we barked at newcomers to the industry, was it due to their inexperience? Would we bark at someone who understood more in the beginning? Well maybe because we are old school, but nowhere near as much! A better, more informed generation of employees enables more efficiency and will encourage more workers to our desperately understaffed industry.  

 

If the UK decides to utilize their armed forces, they will also need training – and they will expect technological solutions, such as PlusSpec. We need to think outside the square and implement better technology today.

 

If you are interested in learning more about Plusspec you can contact my office on (02)9679 2429 during business hours or visit the PlusSpec Website. I am looking forward to a more productive and youth inclusive design and construction industry.

Andrew Dwight Designer Builder

Andrew Dwight: Designer & Builder.  PlusSpec creator.

Architects & builders: Communication is key!

By | Architects, Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, Designers, PlusSpec, Sketchup, Software, Uncategorized, VDC, Waste reduction | No Comments

communication-builders-architects-technology-collaberation

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.

What are you waiting for? GET IT NOW!

https://www.plusspec.com/downloads.html

Construction Estimating and Quantity Take-off

By | Architects, Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, Designers, manufacturers, PlusSpec, PlusSpec Updates, Sketchup for Construction & Estimating, Uncategorized | No Comments

3D model with structural timber Steel, HVAC, and trusses for 3D BIM, VDC & Estimating

 

What is the best estimating software to use in residential and commercial projects?

Estimating a project can be hit and miss, and it takes a long time to ensure you are accurate. There are a lot of programs available on the market these days, and it is tricky to know which one will work for your business.

 

It is hard for a custom builder to actually sit down and do a complete quantity take off by themselves. Honestly, it is very expensive. Larger volume builders offset these costs by building from set plans, which will be used hundreds of times. Moreover,  custom variations are how they make money on each project.

 

The same cannot be said for small building companies. Every hour spend quoting, is an hour of free work. Small builders do not get paid to prepare a quote, so they are forced to spend tedious hours after work, compiling their quotes for free. I remember those days very well, and I will never go back.

 

Many custom builders send plans to a quantity surveyor and pay a premium, with no guarantee on accuracy. Others get their partners to help. I must say sitting down after a day on site to work for free is not something that I would wish on anyone. Cracking a beer, having a game of golf (or any other leisurely activity), and spending time with friends and family is what we should be doing when we get home.

 

Nevertheless, quoting is part of our work, so we need to do it quickly, accurately and efficiently within working hours.

The largest majority of errors when quoting/estimating stem from a 2D plan. Simply tracing over a floor plan may allow you to achieve easy measurements like flooring, plate lengths and approximates on square meters (for internal linings, etc) – but may be fraught with error and oversights. The truth is that most cost estimators and builders can easily miss combining elevations, sections, window layouts, plumbing, electrical and engineering plans. It is difficult to say the least – especially when you have a plan set of 40 or more pages, which is a common occurrence on many small to medium projects these days. We assume that more detail would create more accurate estimates, yet there is a point where over detailing will actually equate to more time and a higher chance of error.

 

Estimation and quantity take-off error, can also be attributed to the fact that builders do not get paid to quote (especially in the residential market). Most builders know from experience the approximate price of a job, by simply looking at the plans. However, this is hubris and should never be relied upon. I guess this is the reason why many builders do not even bother submitting a formal price? Either way, it does not do you or the industry reputation any good.

 

I was browsing through an industry magazine today,  and I read advertisements from 5 different programs, each boasting that they had the best software for estimating and quantifying from plans (4 of them had to be wrong, right?). Some even preached that their software produced 3D.  However, as soon as you dig a little deeper, you realize that you either you need a degree to run the software, or that the software simply does the easy stuff (which you could more easily do with a ruler, calculator and paper).

 

Estimating software needs to produce more than square meter, cubic meter and lineal meter calculations. Estimating software also needs to show you potential issues, so that you can accommodate for them and associate a cost to them. In my 25 years of construction and estimating, I know firsthand that the majority of mistakes were due to inconsistencies in plans, or the unforeseen details that were hiding within the lifeless 2D lines. 2D plans were a necessity once, but not anymore. We now have the technology to be able to watch sport live on our phones, video chat for free with someone on the opposite side of the planet, or perform complex tasks with the click of a button. And yet we still use endless pages to communicate complex structures. This has to stop. It is increasing the costs of construction as well as the risk of error.

 

Some programs come with pricing pre-installed, and it is a big help – particularly for the Design Industry. However, if a builder was to quote off the standard prices, how would he or she know that the prices are geolocated to the project? I am sure we all know that a project in a densely populated area would be less expensive than a project out in the country… If manufacturers are on the East Coast and projects are on the West Coast, common sense tells us that the delivery cost will have a substantial impact on the project cost. Sure the quantities and labour rates may be right, yet the delivery costs will be well short. Furthermore, many of the specified products may not even be available.

 

One way to counteract this, is to add in provisional allowances, to cover the medium price of a product. It gives the client an indication of the amounts that they have to spend on bricks, or finish items. However, we all know it would be so much better to have the finished product in the original estimate. This way, the price is fixed and administration staff can be better used creating a full set of purchase orders according to the quote. So why can’t we simply insist on this?Clients need to see how the products you have estimated will look together. Clients need to see how things go together. It is very unusual for a client to have a full finish schedule before the builder quotes a job. Traditional estimating software does not allow this. However, PlusSpec does.

 

SO, what’s next for PlusSpec? Well, I am pretty confident that we can cover the quantities in very little time, yet real power is achieved when products can be ordered and automatically added to accounting software. Estimating software is one thing, and accounting software is another. A great estimating program is not a great accounting program, and to work well, they need to talk together. The Take-off needs to go directly to the accounting software, and orders need to be able to be placed on site.

 

I am pleased to announce that PlusSpec will soon export orders directly to Xero. You heard it here first!

 

PlusSpec = Design > Engineer> Present> Estimate> Account> Purchase> Deliver> Construct.
‘The future of Estimating Software is here.

Design & Construction efficiency reduces waste and makes industry more profitable

By | Architects, Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, Designers, manufacturers, PlusSpec, Sketchup, Uncategorized, VDC, Waste reduction | 5 Comments

Improving  construction efficiency.

After 24 years in the design and construction industry, I sit back and look at how much money is thrown away due to waste.  There are many things that contribute to waste, and I have observed it first hand in large companies, as well as in my own custom design & construct company.  Sadly, I believe that we waste 30% on every project and construction efficiency from the start is where we all could improve.

 

Waste is more than what we throw in the bin.

Where are we wasting money, and where could we improve construction efficiency? Firstly, it is important to look at where waste create is created. Many assume that waste is simply due to design process inefficiencies, or over-orders. In fact, most of us conclude that the rubbish that is thrown in the bin on site is the largest percentage of waste. However, it’s simply not true. In my experience, over/under-ordering & incorrect order-waste, accounts for merely 5% waste for volume builders & 10% waste for custom home builders. Although the percentage is small, this waste is still not acceptable and can easily be halved with the right technology.  

 

Too many plans.

I believe  a large percentage of waste (10% to 15%) is due to communication, documentation and time management inefficiencies.  A set of plans with 40 or more pages is waste,  it wastes design & drafting time,  estimators time, the builders time, and the engineers time. Moreover, it dramatically increases the chance of error. So why do we do it? Unfortunately, our industry does not adapt to change or embrace technology. We (the design, construction  & manufacturing industries) are all guilty of doing it the same way over and over again. The mentality is: if it kind of works, why change it? And without a feasible, hassle-free solution, most would tend to agree. However, I will never be okay with waste – we have the capacity and technology to evolve for the better. Now is the time to look at the possibilities, and change our industry. I believe that 3D Virtual Design and Construction, BIM models, is the answer to construction efficiency.

3D VDC model for construction efficiency and communictaion of structural intent.

 

Waste is included as contingency. Why?

Before I discuss how we can reduce this waste with Virtual Design and Construction & BIM , there’s a large percentage of waste that’s yet to be discussed. A large portion of waste is derived from the way that we perform a Bill of Materials. Smaller builders can spend 40 hours (or more) of unpaid work to undertake a BOQ. Once the take off is compiled and a final figure is reached, it’s presented in the form of a preliminary quote or price. The price is either accepted or rejected, and for the lucky tenderer, the job proceeds to a contract. However, an average project has up to 3 to 5 builders tendering on the job, for free.  That is approximately 200 hours of unpaid work. Now that is some major waste.. Moreover, if the successful tenderer gets a contract signed and proceeds to construction, all of the information that was compiled for the quotation must now be added to a project management application, and also an accounting program. Believe it or not, this is not a click of a button, and in the majority of cases, a builder will spend another 40 to 400 hours to finish this work. Is anyone seeing my point here? This is direct waste, it cannot be recouped, construction efficiency it’s not. It’s also worth noting, the client essentially pays for this wasted time, as it’s add as  contingency into their margin, to cover some of their losses. This is a global problem, and it’s costing our industry trillions of dollars.

 

It is true, the design Industry and  Construction Industry are beginning to embrace Building Information Modelling (BIM). In fact, some governments across the world have now  mandated BIM on public infrastructure. However, large construction project case-studies have shown that BIM has resulted in less than a 5% saving.

 

We need more than just BIM.

I believe, if BIM is to truly change our Industry for the better, it needs to be combined with Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and EstimatingImagine if Builders could quote directly from a comprehensive 3D Virtual Design and Construction model? This would be the ultimate in construction efficiency and a huge advantage to industry as a whole.

 construction efficiency startes with a 3D model with structural timber Steel, HVAC, and trusses for 3D BIM & VDC

The technology is available.

We already have the technology to create a 3D model (in various iterations). However, for some silly reason, we return to antiquated practices by spending endless hours converting it into 2D, just to print it as a huge plan set. This is where the waste percentage rises again & construction efficiency suffers. The tail-end contractors may not have seen the 3D model or understood the project’s complexities. And in many cases, even the engineers will not see it in 3D. In my opinion, Project Stakeholders, as well as the trades should be able to analyse the 3D model at any time (especially on site). I believe that this would lead to far less errors, waste and increase construction efficiency by up to 30%.

 

More than Just a 3D model.

I’ve trouble understanding why 3D models are used as nothing more than a new way to create 2D plans! I can only assume the designer has IP, or liability concerns. If there is a problem, and if the latter is indeed the reason, this leads me to Integrated Project Delivery: ‘IPD’  (stay tuned for our upcoming IPD article). Essentially IPD is where the Designer, Engineer, Client and Builder, all assess the 3D model and collaborate on the best outcome. The main thing to be taken from this is that the liability is now spread over the participants, and not wholly and solely placed on the designer.  It also gives contractors the ability to be up front and charge for all work done instead of adding it as contingency in their margins. Most importantly, 3D  allows project stakeholders to truly understand the design intent, and easily accommodate for specific complexities.

Virtual Design and Construction VDC saves waste and improves construction efficiency

BIM by itself is not enough.

If our Industry is to reduce waste, we need to incorporate construction efficiency via 3D Virtual Design and Construction, BIM & Estimation, in a Design and Construction Delivery Model:

 

  1. Designer preliminary design 3D. (Paid)
  2. Designer uploads model to cloud & sets permissions for access. (Paid)
  3. Client agrees/ comments on design.
  4. Engineer has a preliminary preview and comments. (Paid)
  5. Tendering builders & or Sub Contractors have a preliminary preview and comments. (Paid)
  6. Designer compiles and replies to tagged comments, which have been saved in the draft 3D model. (Paid)
  7. Client agrees on aesthetic changes due to feedback (if any).
  8. Engineer adds in structural detail. (Paid)
  9. Builder & or Sub Contractors A,B,C etc. receive model and perform 1click quantity take off’s, and associate prices. Comments if required. (Paid)
  10. Builder agrees model is complete, or comments. (Paid)
  11. Builder submits tender price.
  12. Authorities are informed of development application and also view model: shadows and neighbouring properties notification. Basic model is shared and approval is given, or objections are sent to designer.
  13. Designer & client choose winning tender.
  14. Builder adds 1 click take off to accounting software.
  15. Builder builds from model, and a small 2D set (if required).

When a Design and Construction Delivery Model, such as the above, is implemented on all size projects, the industry will see huge cost savings and massive reductions in waste (of all kinds).

 

The Results.

As we get more technologically advanced,  time will being freed up and not chewed up in retrofits and last minute plan re-issues.  2D document delivery is ‘old hat’. It’s time to embrace the future by actually utilising the 3D model at every stage of a project.

 

On a closing note, here is the icing on the cake: When a project is delivered in such a way that it has all of the information saved in the 3D model, ongoing facility maintenance and alterations will no longer require redraws (as-builts) or structural adequacy reports. These are the number one contributing factors when it comes waste in the renovate extension sector of our industry.

 

A 3D model has the capacity to be the communicator of past and present design and construction information. It is the vault in which all  information can be stored & found efficiently, at any point in time.

 

I have spent the last 9 years of my life creating a solution for  construction efficiency. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

 

All the best for 2016.

Andrew Dwight, 

🙂

3D Construction Details for Communication

By | Architects, Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, Designers, PlusSpec, Sketchup, Sketchup for Construction & Estimating, Software | 2 Comments

Traditional 2D construction details are inherently difficult to understand. Why? Because they are not a natural way of viewing the world. Until now, they were simply the only way to represent complex ideas, in a way that could be deciphered.

 

When I first started out in construction I was overwhelmed by 2D plans, let alone 2D details – and it took me years before I acquired the skill set and became confident in my ability to read and draw them.

 

3D construction details are the future – and now that I can easily produce and communicate with them, I hope that I never see another 2D detail again.

 

With the advent of new technology, it is now possible to even create 3D details that animate the construction sequencing and step by step instructions. You will see an examples of such 3D construction details on the RubySketch library. If you download the models, you are able to simply click on the scenes at the top of the page inside of SketchUp. PlusSpec for SketchUp is the perfect balance between design and construction. It allows the user to use the PlusSpec parametric framing and structure, which dramatically reduces the time to draw, and then use the native SketchUp tools to free-form model the custom details. This is Virtual Design and Construction at its best.

 

3d construction detail for BIM VDC in Sketchup Plusspec

This is an example of a construction detail that I drew last week. If you would like to view the model, you can download it, and others, from the RubySketch library, by typing in Pronto in the search:

https://3dlibrary.rubysketch.com/
PlusSpec and Sketchup VDC BIM detail of pronto panel

Creating 3D details like the ones shown in this post can be a time consuming process. However, one model can contain dozens (or more) of individual construction details. And once you have created a 3D detail, they can be used on future jobs, and can be quickly and easily adjusted to suit the requirements of each project – saving countless time and money.

 

However, there are still builders, from all over the world, that are spending tens of thousands of dollars to create real ‘mock-ups’, with real products – simply to explain to their trades how a project is to be constructed. The thought-process behind this is to mitigate future onsite error, by gaining understanding of the potential issues, clashes, and implementation strategies. However, it is my belief that physical mock-ups are no longer necessary, if everyone has access to a 3D model and 3D details. Comprehensive 3D details would save these companies a fortune!

 

3D details are the catalyst for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Building Information Modelling, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the 3D details on RubySketch, that have created with PlusSpec for SketchUp. I would also love to see any examples, if anyone would like to share any work that they have done.

 

Click Here to see a YouTube Video of one of our 3D construction details.

 

The Design and Construction Industries are changing rapidly via the use of 3D technology and new innovation. 2D plans are antiquated; they are slow, and dramatically increase the chance of error. 2016 is a year that should be all about efficiency and communication via BIM and VDC. I urge everyone in the design and construction industry to embrace 3D details (not just 3D modelling) as quickly as possible. Don’t get left behind.

 

This will be my last post for 2015. We hope you have enjoyed our blog, which will only get bigger and better in 2016.

Have a happy Christmas and a safe New Year.

See you in 2016!

10 Tips to Becoming Successful as a Design & Construction Company

By | ArchiCAD, Architects, Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, Designers, IFC, PlusSpec, Sketchup, Sketchup for Construction & Estimating, Software, Tradies | No Comments

successful design construction for builder architects effective
I have been designing and building for 24 years. Integrated Design & Build firms are a different animal to the traditional Client + Architect + Builder scenario. They are more profitable, but they usually have a larger staff ratio, which can be a bit of a handful and a trap for ‘inexperienced’ players. Essentially the responsibility of a project, from start to finish, resides solely with one company alone – and the blame game does not come into play for clients. This is why reputable design build firms are much sought after.

Not everyone can design, yet most of us can, and the longer you have been in the industry, the better you get at it. There is real job satisfaction to be gained when you build your own designs. I recommend it highly.

It took me some time to get used to the in-house design and in-house build workflow, and there were many things that I needed to do to flourish and become profitable. When I look back and ask myself what the key ingredient to success was, I always come to the same conclusion: Communication.

Here are 10 steps that I took to make my design & build company more successful. After implementing these simple rules and improvements, I reduced waste by over 20% I am not just talking about leftover materials, I am talking about time by becoming efficiency. The end result was clearly displayed in profit margins.

The 10 Steps to success:

  1. Employ youth straight out of School as apprentices. Once they become qualified pay them what they are worth, and reward them when they do the right thing. Young brains can be trained to do things the way you like them, so spend the time needed to train them correctly. Start small, as the biggest killer for new companies is too much work. However, most think it is not enough work.

  2. Concentrate on communication with the client. We all know that out of every 10 people you meet, you are inevitably going to clash with one. That is life. Try and ‘pick and choose’ customers. If it feels bad, gracefully decline the job. Life is too short! It is easy to keep clients onboard when you explain what you are doing, and in a way they understand. Clients do not understand 2D drawings, but they do understand 3D. We were all born seeing the world in 3D, and we only learned 2D because that was the best way to communicate before the advent of modern technology (like 3d CAD software & iphones).

  3. Get with the times! Technology can be a distraction, so take my advice and delete LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter from your phone. These are social apps that the marketing people in your business should use. I am not saying that you shouldn’t use them, just use them at the right time and place, as they can be very distracting. You need to get the technology that works for your business, not the other way around. Checkout www.plusspec.com. PlusSpec was made for what we do – nothing else!

  4. Never employ friends or relatives, and try not to do their work either. Christmas will be so much more enjoyable. Believe me.

  5. Insist on quality. Good enough is not considered good in my book! If you would not have it in your house, do not put it in one of your clients. You will find that your clients will tell their friends when they are happy. I found that for every 1 happy client, they told 5 friends. Recommendation is the best way to get more work. It cuts down on marketing expenses, and more often than not, the client will not bother seeking another quote. People trust their friends, and what they can see firsthand.

  6. Make sure your office is close to home. An hour each way in traffic is 2 hours out of each day that you could be doing something productive (or dare I say relaxing?).

  7. Buy Cheap, buy twice! We have all been guilty of going to the local hardware and buying the $40 drill. If you will use it more than twice, then you should buy quality gear that is reliable. This is the same for every facet of your business, including computers, chairs and desks. If you only need it once, then rent it.

  8. Do not rent equipment. Buy everything that you need, as soon as you can afford it. If you are buying specialised machinery, you should charge it out to your clients at the same rate that you would pay to rent it.

  9. If it looks and sounds too good to be true it is! 95% of the time unbelievable deals are unbelievable. Trust your instinct, not the sales person. Their only job is to get your hard earned cash by selling you their goods. Unfortunately, integrity is becoming a thing of the past for many salespeople, which I find disappointing. Get used to negotiating better buy prices from the people that are trying hard to sell to you.

  10. The biggest advantage I gained was by using 3D modeling and PlusSpec. It sounds difficult yet it is not. I created PlusSpec, and as I developed it, I improved it with the profits I gained from the results. At first, I never told a soul; it was my secret, my advantage, and I kept it to myself. Now PlusSpec is in over 80 countries around the world. Yep word of mouth did the trick.  These days, I really only design and build 1 or 2 homes per year, and the prerequisite for doing the job is that the project must be with 15 minutes from my home.

Take the time to work on your business, and not in it. Do this as soon as you can. Learn better things that will actually help you grow. Technology will boost your sales through communication, decrease your errors via clear plan interpretation, lower your design time, increase accuracy of your quotes for design, and quotes for build.

If you want to know more about PlusSpec, you can check it out here. I am very proud of the achievement, and the improvement it is making to businesses small and large. It is the pinnacle of design and construction technology to date. Yes, it is subscription based, yet the truth is you stay up to date with the latest technology, every minute of the day. And for less than $20 per week you will never look back! I guarantee it.

That is it from me, I look forward to hearing your stories of success.

Revit Imports How to use a Sketchup Model in Revit

By | Architects, IFC, Revit | No Comments

This is the easiest way to get a Sketchup model into Revit

Many architects and building designers use Sketchup for mass modelling and concept work and then export the Sketchup model and import it into Revit. Up until the release of Sketchup 14, 15 and 16 there was an issue with triangulating. I won’t go into the reason for this all you really need to know is it looked terrible  and was difficult to work with.

This is how to Export to Revit from Sketchup without any bother.

Select File menu top RHS of Sketchup, hover over Export  in the menu, select 3D model, go to the bottom of the dialogue box and click the drop down next to save File As,  you will see IFC File (*.IFC) and a list of other export formats. Select IFC and then click export.  Remember to save the file in a location you can easily find.  NOTE This option is only available is Sketchup Pro. Sketchup has 2 versions, Sketchup Make and Sketchup Pro. You can download them both for free here http://www.sketchup.com/download/all

Select File export 3D model IFC for Revit import

Select File export 3D model IFC to Revit

Once you export your IFC model you can import in Revit

This is what it looks like in Sketchup Pro 15

 

Sketchup pro has a free 30 day trial so you will be able to export IFC, DWG and many other file formats that come with the pro version.

IFC is by far  the most accurate method although the textures you use will not come out in Revit.

If you want to test or find a Sketchup model that is low in poly count you can get a good quality model from RubySketch here Get a Sketchup model here these models are also free.

Once you open your model in Sketchup  you can simply go to File export 3D model IFC and then import the IFC model into Revit. Depending on the version of Revit you are suing you can also import Sketchup files.

You can also find more information here http://www.revitcity.com/forums

There are also Sketchup Plugins that can automate the IFC classification

You may also be happy to know that Sketchup has Plugins. I am not sure if you are aware of PlusSpec? PlusSpec it is a parametric modeller that automatically attributes individual items, walls, roofs, stairs, windows and structure so that when you bring your model in to Revit it will automatically be classified which essentially means you can extract vital information that will optimise your workflow.

 

 

Behind The Eight Ball: Architects and Builders/Contractors need to communicate with more 3D & less 2D

By | Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, manufacturers, PlusSpec, Sketchup, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Behind the Eight Ball

What is going on with the design and construction industry?  It’s time to start talking the same language!

 

Residential design and construction are two ‘peas in a pod’, yet the communication between them is rudimentary at best. Coordinating a project that runs on time and on budget is a rare occurrence. But where does the breakdown occur?

 

Let’s first ascertain the key stakeholders that get a project from concept to completion:

  1. Client/End User (Catalyst)
  2. Architect/Designer (Communicator)
  3. Builder/Contractor (Constructor)
  4. Engineers/Consultants (Technical communicator)
  5. Manufacturers of construction products (Contributor)
  6. Authorities (Approvals and regulatory bodies)

In a perfect world the 6 main stakeholders would have a clear understanding of what is involved in each aspect of a project, and be aware of exactly what needs to be communicated. They should understand the client’s needs and expectations, the design intent, the constructability of the design, the cost associated with the design, the products that are required to enable the successful construction of the design, the regulatory conditions on the land, as well as the costs associated with putting all of the pieces together, within a reasonable time frame.

 

We all know we don’t  live in a perfect world, but improving communication across the 6 main stakeholders is the key to better design, better planning, waste reduction, cost reduction, time reduction, and better built outcomes.

 

Communication breakdown is perhaps the leading cause of all Project failures. We NEED to improve the way that Design Professionals, Consultants and the Construction Industry communicate and coordinate with each other. To put it simply, the most important ingredient of a successful project is communication.

 

The Architect: The architect needs to understand the client’s requirements, and then clearly convey the design intent to the client. Subsequently, they must communicate the design along with the constructability aspects of the project in a clear and concise way, by producing detailed drawings, such as: plans, elevations, sections, and details.

 

The Consultants: Consultants, such as Structural Engineers, need to decipher the architect’s intent and determine what structural elements need to be associated and calculated according to the relevant authorities, standards, and building codes.

 

Manufacturers/Suppliers: Manufacturers need to ensure that the Architect, Client and Builder/Contractor all understand their products, so that they are used in the correct manner.

 

Regulatory Authorities: Regulatory Authorities need to decipher the architect’s intent and understand how the project will fit into the landscape and how the design will impact the environment and neighbouring properties.

 

The Builder/Contractor: Builders/Contractors have to decipher the architect’s and client’s intent, and translate these drawings into the built form, on time and on budget.

 

The flaws of 2D Plans

The problem resides in the fact that a majority of projects are no longer simple. Complexity and architectural expression is a good thing, yet the communication of these designs can quickly become cumbersome. Even small residential projects can blow out to A1 paper format and/or have 15 or more sheets to sift through. It is easy for the builder to miss details or annotations if the plans are not studied thoroughly, or executed in a concise and easily understood manner.

 

Believe me when I tell you that twenty (20) A1 plans are difficult to quote from. If the builder/contractor misses one detail, this oversight has the potential to drastically impact the builder’s profits, or even make the job completely unprofitable. This kind of error, as well as inadequately explained elements of the design, forces the budget to be blown out further, with the builder having to recoup costs by charging the client for over-inflated extras.

 

Many would simply say that the builder should study the plans properly. However, we all make mistakes, no matter how diligent, or how much experience we may have. Moreover, Builders/Contractors do not typically charge for a quote. Imagine spending 40 to 80 hours going through a large 2D documentation set and compiling quantities, liaising with subcontractors and putting a quote together – and at completion, all that they have to show for all of this work is a couple of pages with a dollar figure on the last page.

 

Understandably the first thing the client wants to see is the dollar figure. They have no concept of the time involved to quote, and will happily send the plans out to ten builders. This equates to approximately 400 – 800 hours of unpaid work! Unpaid work is not good practice for anyone in any business, and it is evident that this part of the system is broken and in a big way.

 

Better communication between the stakeholders

2D plans are fast becoming antiquated. They are cumbersome, they get damaged, and they are not easily interpreted. If you give a comprehensive set of plans to multiple highly skilled and experienced Builders/Contractors, you will inevitably get a different built interpretation from each Builder/Contractor. Why? Because 2D plans require deciphering and interpretation. Cross referencing a large set of plans is ludicrous. And don’t get me started on the notion of viewing 2D PDF plans on a screen, as this is actually worse! Have you ever tried to take in every aspect of a building, or search for design errors from an A1 plan on a computer screen? I have, and it simply is not possible to do it correctly or efficiently.

 

Furthermore, not only is it difficult for a Builder/Contractor to accurately decipher 2D plans, but it actually costs Architects ludicrous amounts of time and money to create acceptable 2D plans. The process is a tedious waste of resources and efficiency, and a single page alone usually goes through dozens of iterations and countless hours before the line-weights and readability are adequate.

 

On top of this, the simple truth is that the majority of clients do not understand 2D drawings.

 

3D models need to be utilized to a fuller extent: less 2D and better 3D. In saying this, there is a lot to be done to change accepted standards, and governmental policies. However, there is no time like the present. I recently met with a  local politician to demonstrate the benefits of 3D software, and he enthusiastically espoused the advantages that 3D models would offer the government/regulatory authorities, before I even had a the chance to open my laptop.

 

3D is the key to better communication.


I am not talking about the 3D PDF’s, as they are cumbersome, and simply do not have the resolution, or the ability to interact and change from finished view to structural view (which is  where the majority of mistakes happen). Changing from 2D view to 3D perspective, in colour, with textures, is the pinnacle of communication. Associating information with the textures and the components is paramount. Adding 3D models into a 3D plan allows visual interpretation, clash detection and clear communication. I scratch my head every time I see a set of 2D drawings, even though I have over 24 years within the Construction Industry. Honestly, 2D plans are the bane of my existence.

 

Why do Architects spend so long in the 3D model, but present in 2D? The advantages of a 3D model are immense, as the client has a far greater understanding of 3D CAD drawings over 2D CAD drawings. I could not tell you how many times I have heard the client say ‘If I only knew that was the way it was going to look before we started construction’. As iterated above, 2D drawings require each individual to interpret them in their own way.

 

3D models also allow for better collaboration with Manufacturers. Imagine if Architects were able to design with real products from real manufacturers, and Builders/Contractors could send out purchase orders directly from the 3D model?

 

Even though we already have this 3D technology, it is being grossly underutilized. Because of this, I started asking the following question to my architect and designer friends: ‘Why don’t you deliver plans in 3D format?’ To my dismay, the following answers were espoused time, and time again: ‘It has to be in 2D’, and ‘You can’t deliver a project purely in 3D; it is not doable or possible yet’.

 

Design Professionals and the Construction Industry NEED to understand that it CAN 100% be done, and that it is easy to do. 2D plans are useless in comparison to a 3D model, which has all associated information, details, and 2D orthogonal on-screen plan generation capabilities.

 

If 2D plans were softer, I could think of a far better use for them (if you get my drift)! I recently conducted an experiment on a mildly detailed job, where I refused to provide my trades with 2D plans. I gave them a low-end computer, a BIM/VDC 3D model and a bill of quantities. And it worked better than I could have ever imagined! The feedback from the foreman was that they were very happy without the 2D plans, but the lack of paper meant that they had nothing to scribble on, or do calculations. This summary essentially reduced 2D plans from being a comprehensive document, to a mere source of on-site paper that they could doodle on.

 

How was the execution of the job you ask? The interpretation of the plans was brilliant, the execution of the job was above average, and the profit margin was 10% greater than estimated. Furthermore, the wastage on the job was almost nil (we had 25 bricks left over).

 

How would less 2D and more 3D impact the Industry?

Maximisation of 3D Virtual Design and Construction models would dramatically increase the speed of design and project deliverables, increase profits, and reduce error, for all stakeholders involved within a project. Why? A shared, comprehensive 3D model facilitates better understanding among all of the main stakeholders, and completely eliminates any deciphering/interpretation of a project.

 

Comprehensive 3D communication, in place of antiquated 2D, is the way of the future. Architects are not from Mars, Builders/Contractors are not from Venus, Engineers are not from Saturn, Authorities are not from Jupiter, Manufacturers don’t distribute from Pluto,  and Clients do not come from Uranus. We are all from the same planet, people. We have the capacity to communicate better.. And, the technology already exists!

 

 

If you want to know more about the technology to which I refer, see HERE. If you already have the software, and would like to be trained in how to maximise your 3D output, whilst minimising your 2D output, please see HERE.

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