Technology in Construction • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Technology in Construction

In the current economy, contractors are looking for ways to control costs and reduce overall construction schedules without sacrificing safety or quality. Over the years, Tonn and Blank has adopted new delivery methods to address the problems inherent with traditional building methods. Beyond the traditional design-bid-build process, we have embraced construction management, CM-at-risk, design-build, computerized design, fast-track construction and critical path scheduling to name a few different approaches.

While these methods have helped to reduce waste and inefficiency in the construction process, we have turned to a new technology – Building Information Modeling (BIM) – to improve project coordination by virtually assembling the complex systems at the heart of a new building before these systems are actually fabricated or installed.

Using BIM is the latest construction industry strategy focused on enhanced coordination of the overlapping components of a construction project, including the structure itself as well as the mechanical and electrical systems that must coexist within it. On every large or sophisticated project, a contractor must work together with a unique combination of designers, consultants, subcontractors and vendors; very seldom is this combination duplicated on the next project.

BIM is an innovative tool that requires input from all of these disciplines and results in a comprehensive project resource that not only elevates construction coordination, but also renders a digital as-built document of the facility, as well as a marketing and public relations tool for the building owner.

BIM creates a digital 3D representation of a facility, providing valuable insight for the customer and contractors. Using a 3D model, the entire building can be virtually viewed from any angle. This digital model of a facility allows us to design, study, analyze, adjust and document the project – resulting in our ability to easily optimize design and make modifications at a time when changes are still inexpensive.

An example of BMI 3D model rendering from Tonn & Blank

We recently used BIM on a large new hospital project in conjunction with a joint venture construction management partner. We witnessed several advantages of BIM on the jobsite, including:

  • Subcontractors were able to confirm available space and clearances relative to other trades, then prefabricate more MEP systems off-site than with traditional 2D coordination plans.
  • The clash detection capabilities of BIM identified potential conflicts well before they could occur onsite, sparing much lost time and added cost.
  • Our project team used BIM to determine when and where one trade would be working and coordinate other trades' schedules.
  • Concrete lift drawings were used for each concrete pour on the project, which resulted in higher quality and less rework. Penetrations through foundation walls could be modeled and sleeved ahead of time, rather than drilled in afterward.

Using such technology intelligently will improve the ability to complete a project on schedule, reduce waste, coordinate labor and materials more efficiently and ultimately, satisfy our customers. In this economy, there are many things that we cannot control.

However, as we improve coordination, we will better control waste and schedule, and BIM makes that easier.

Jon Gilmore is the president and CEO of Tonn and Blank Construction.


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