24 ELECTRICALCONTRACTOR | AUG. 17 | WWW.ECMAG.COM
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dinate the complete jobs without having an actual building to
coordinate around,” Nieman said.
To do both, structural models were used, which were
provided and worked around. The lead contractor in the coordination effort used the 2-D architectural plans and extruded
walls so they could have walls in their models as well.
Some contractors use a model to construct a physical mockup
of a part of a project. Those mockups can be large or small.
On a project for the University of California, Merced, Collins
Electrical Co. created a model of a 10-by-24-foot section of the
project, then created a physical mockup based on the design. It
was basically a full-sized structural model built to scale chiefly
for study, testing or display. The project included three different types of roofing with different finishes. Samples of each
were included in the physical mockup.
“What we prefer when doing a mockup is to begin with
a computer, get all the dimensions and boxes we need, put it
together in a model, then take that data and tell the guys in
the field, ‘This is what you need to build that mockup,’” Nie-
man said. “Once the mockup is created, we can see if there’s
anything we missed and deal with remarks or concerns. For
example, dimensions or finishes the owner doesn’t like. Then
we can change our model to match exactly what the owner
wants, what the architect wants. We were able to take any cri-
tiques related to rooms or areas in the mockup, fix anything
quickly, then enter that data into our models and just run from
there. We could then build the rest of the project and know the
quality was there because of that coordination.”
A new, virtual reality mockup makes the experience even
“We are starting to virtually model the computer project with
software that projects the space on a green screen,” Ayars said.
“Wearing goggles, you can come in and virtually walk through
the room, feel like you’re actually there. It’s cutting edge.”
Use of BIM also can escalate the process of a project by making
prefabrication of project elements easier.
“When we use the BIM process, we get 3-D representation to
make sure everyone’s materials, for example, a piece of switchgear or a panel, to fit,” Ayars said. “Then our prefab department
can make assemblies. The guys in the field can look at our drawings and know exactly where to put those assemblies. It’s what
we do to stay up with schedules, which get very aggressive. On
job sites, especially in downtown Los Angeles, we can’t store a
lot of material, so when I deliver material, I have to get that job
installed that day. Knowing exactly what’s needed and where it
will go makes that expedited installation possible.”
The word “expedited” is heard on most projects. Because
processes that previously weren’t computerized now are accelerated, BIM can speed up the schedule.
“With BIM, we’re able to preplan and install quicker
because the problems have been solved earlier,” Ayars said.
“In the past, though, I used to have a month on the floor, and
I now have two weeks. I have to have time to do the BIM
modeling and coordination before construction starts, but
sometimes the two schedules start squeezing together. I have
to move some of my efforts from the construction schedule
over into the coordination, preplanning and prefab side of
things. I’m modeling the information from the owner, the
designers and the engineering team. If they don’t have that
information, it can delay the process, though, it doesn’t extend
the schedule. It just compresses it.”
There’s the rub. No matter how helpful the model is or how
well the construction team coordinates, at the end of the day,
the most coordination is required just to get the job done on
time, just like it always has been.
CA SE Y, author of “Women Heroes of the American Revolution”,
“Kids Inventing!”, and “Women Invent!” can be reached at scbooks@
Top: BIM model prior to install Bottom: Conduit installed in field