Virtual construction: transforming the AEC industry with 3D technologies

Virtual construction technologies are transforming the AEC industry by eliminating many challenges of old, explains Javier Glatt

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 03 September 2015
Virtual construction: transforming the AEC industry with 3D technologies

This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of OnWindows

It was the summer of 2011 and I was sitting in the construction site trailer of a US$75 million office and laboratory mixed use construction project, working as an assistant development manager at the time. We were in our bi-weekly project coordination meeting when the site superintendent from the general contractor (who was the sharpest and most experienced person in the room) declared that the main staircase in the central atrium was not buildable as per the current design. I was still building up my experience in the world of construction at the time, but I must say I was shocked to think we were learning of this fact at the exact moment we were supposed to be installing the staircase! This coordination problem led to a massive delay on the schedule and an increase in the interest incurred on construction financing for the project due to a knock-on effect of delays to the construction project sequencing. This experience illustrated a recurring theme I experienced firsthand while working in the project management and finance functions of multiple large scale construction projects.

Shortly after that, in business school, I met my co-founder Nic Cantin, a mechanical engineer with an impressive background both in manufacturing at Bombardier and in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) with Gehry Partners and Hardstone Construction. I learned how he had spent the previous six years solving these very same problems by applying powerful aerospace technologies (Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA and ENOVIA solutions) and manufacturing best practices in a unique way to the AEC industry.

Spending that time in the site trailers, learning the challenge of coordination within design, construction, operations and maintenance of complex projects, and layering on Nic’s technical expertise and experience driving results with this methodology, provided the problem statement we used to develop the business plan of CadMakers Virtual Construction.

Fifteen months after conceiving CadMakers, we have grown from two to ten employees, provided fully integrated virtual construction services to twenty-one projects with a total construction value over US$750M and partnered with Dassault Systèmes, one of the world’s largest and most respected software companies.

Technology adoption in the AEC industry has been slow compared to other industries such as aerospace, and at an uneven pace. This uneven pace of adoption has created two fundamental issues in the current AEC marketplace: 1) some members of the design and construction teams are working in 3D and most others are still in 2D, making it even more challenging to coordinate with an uneven playing field from a technology perspective; and 2) this relatively slow adoption has led to a capability gap in the market for experienced 3D talent, as it is hard to be experienced when 3D is relatively new in the AEC industry.

CadMakers’ value proposition is to bridge those gaps in a fit for purpose way, deploying experienced engineers from both the AEC and manufacturing industries who are leveraging powerful technology unique to AEC.

We are often asked, why use CATIA? What is it that made you select a technology tool so little used in AEC? The answer is simple, maximum power and flexibility. When we launched as a start-up we needed to choose a technology tool that could tackle early stage computational/parametric modelling (automation included), extract precise bill of material takeoffs, generate 3D and 2D drawings (includes shop drawings), very accurate 3D geometries for direct CNC/fabrication integration, 4D kinematic modelling, direct, real-time modelling in the site trailer and fully cloud compatible for collaboration purposes. The only solution that can handle these requirements fully contained in one platform is CATIA and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

With this tool we can provide value to our clients from early stage design through construction and most importantly for the lifecycle of the building through optimising maintenance schedules and data compilation. By leveraging our technical talent, integrated approach and powerful technology, we can bundle our services and the 3DEXPERIENCE product into one value proposition. In the end, our clients realise value through reduction in margins paid on changing orders during construction, reduction of interest incurred in construction financing and reduction in total cost of ownership over the life of the building.

Javier Glatt is CEO of CADMakers

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