The quest for better construction productivity through the lenses of BIM and modular construction cannot be limited to just those two tools, explained construction innovators at a recent Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) conference.
Brent Mauti, the global director of design technology for IBI Group, kicked off the MCAC April 16 panel session in Toronto with a wide-ranging discussion that included references to smart cities, information fusion and process control using blockchain, and later presenters incorporated integrated project delivery (IPD) and lean construction into the mix.
Mauti was asked whether any one of those strategies in particular might emerge to take the sector beyond the stagnant productivity gains identified in a much-quoted 2017 McKinsey Global Institute’s report on industrial productivity. McKinsey found that global labour-productivity growth in construction has averaged only one per cent a year over the past two decades, compared with an advance of 2.8 per cent for the world economy and 3.6 per cent in manufacturing.
“My personal belief is that IPD will be the spark that propels us,” said Mauti. “Because that will remove the transition of risk, the fear, the inability to work together and force a collaborative nature, and if IPD is really done properly, BIM, modularity, lean construction and everything in between will all follow suit because it’s all being done for the direct benefit of the designer, contractor and owner in a collective whole.”
Mauti served as panel moderator and the panellists were Troy Galvin, manager of the PCL Agile offsite construction group in Toronto, Susan Keenliside, lifecycle program manager at the House of Commons and Branden Kotyk, B.C.-based regional manager at Victaulic.
When executing change, Kotyk said, managers in the construction sector need to set a direction, get stakeholders in alignment and then ensure there’s commitment to reach goals.
With standardized designs and repeatability we can better focus the skillsets of our people
“I challenge those upstream in the construction process, the owners, the general contractors, to set the direction that modularity and BIM strategies are important to them,” he said.
Modularity will be an important part of a more efficient future, and it’s easy to figure out why, said Kotyk, presenting a slide depicting a traditional field-run project.
“I would venture to say they are five or six different entities, and seven or eight or 10 phone calls were made to get them there, and five or six trucks and a whole host of field connections to make,” he said. “It’s leading to a high degree of variability in outcome.”
Galvin noted off-site manufacturing of modules had inefficiencies years ago but the sector is now mature and ready for widespread adoption.
“We believe this market is ready for the off-site movement,” he said. “It was challenging five years ago to say that. We need it, it’s mandatory for us to succeed.
“We are all here to make money. Manufacturers, subcontractors, GCs, clients and designers, this will improve our bottom line.”
Modularity means building faster, said Galvin.
“With standardized designs and repeatability we can better focus the skillsets of our people,” he said. “Through more standardization we can focus our efforts to get better at how we do it.”
Keenliside, a BIM specialist, said the various renovation projects being undertaken on Parliament Hill are highly complex with many different players participating over a long period of time. The prospect of using CAD instead of BIM is unthinkable, she suggested, even just considering how technology changes over a 10- or 12-year period and different agencies have to access documents at different times.
“As we move from CAD to BIM for facilities management or asset management, how is it that our shared templates can make life easier for delivery?” asked Keenliside. “How is it we can give this industry a kind of plug-and-play standard so that each time you have a new client you are not trying to relearn new standards?”
Mauti, an architect, said one question he hears a lot is whether modularity is an impediment to design. Kotyk responded that Elon Musk does not have to re-evaluate whether the wheels should be round or six-sided as he designs his new electric cars.
“We don’t have to reinvent the whole project every time” said Kotyk.
Mauti later commented, “As an architect, I think my ability to design is not hindered by modularity. The trick is to take your design aspirations and your ability to design and use modular components to actually enhance and convey your design intent. Don’t view the modular components as a barrier.”