I practice VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) and I love it! 😃
In this article, I look at what “Virtual Design and Construction” means to me, the 9 main benefits I see from using VDC, and the types of VDC software tools I use in my work! 🥸
1) Definitions – VDC and BIM Basics
Let’s start with the boring part! 😃
VDC is a term often heard in the construction industry but may not be fully understood by everyone.
The VDC acronym simply stands for “Virtual Design and Construction.”
But, you’re probably wondering exactly what is Virtual Design and Construction? 🤷♂️
Let’s see if I can break it down:
- “Virtual” indicates the use of computer-generated digital deliverables, the most frequent of which is 3D Building Information Models, or “BIM” for short
- “Design” refers to the process of developing a project plan or blueprint
- “Construction” refers to the actual process of building something according to that plan
So putting these three together, virtual design and construction is the use of advanced technology to help with both the design and construction project phases.
Where does BIM fit in with VDC?
VDC is often used in conjunction with Building Information Modeling (BIM).
BIM provides a digital 3D representation as a backdrop for projects that may be used to visualize, control, track progress, and even manage a building throughout operation.
The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) defines VDC as a process that uses advanced BIM technologies to collaboratively design, plan and manage projects before they are built.
VDC vs BIM – they are not the same thing!
It is important to note that virtual design and construction does not always involve building information modeling, and BIM can happen without it being part of virtual design and construction.
Possibly, you could say that VDC is a little more general than BIM? But some may argue the other way around 😅
However, both are ways of working together to plan and manage design and construction projects.
Ok, now we know the basics of VDC. Let’s look at where VDC started.
2) History of VDC
VDC is actually not a new concept – it’s been around for decades in various forms.
Since then, three-dimensional BIM software has revolutionized how architects, engineers, and construction professionals design and collaborate on projects.
The term VDC originated at CIFE (the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering at Stanford University) in 2001, when BIM, or Building Information Modeling, first started to become popular. Martin Fischer is potentially the godfather of VDC!
The application of digital models to all aspects of the project lifecycle, from pre-design through post-occupancy, is what’s more recent.
Nowadays VDC can include anything from creating virtual models of a project for coordination/clash detection to using BIM software to manage resources, track progress, and also the handover of a Digital Twin for operating a building.
3) 9 Benefits of Virtual Design and Construction
I’ve seen many benefits to using virtual design and construction workflows – both for me as an individual and for the projects I work on.
Some of the main benefits that I’ve experienced include:
1. Enhanced Collaboration
VDC helps improve communication among everyone on the project – from the owner to the architect to the general contractor. I’ve noticed that my project’s designers and engineers have formed closer relationships throughout the process! The project team just seem to spend more time talking about more significant issues. Improved coordination between project stakeholders leads to a more efficient and effective construction process overall.
2. Greater Project Clarity
We can more quickly achieve greater clarity around the project scope and timeline. This happens when we have all project stakeholders work from the same virtual model can avoid miscommunication and errors that can often occur when working from paper drawings. Projects that use VDC tend to have fewer instances of miscommunication and be more successful overall.
3. Better Resource Management
VDC also allows for better management of construction resources – both in terms of material resources and human resources. For example, I can use BIM software to track the delivery of materials to the construction site and virtual reality simulations to train construction workers on how to install those materials effectively.
4. Increased Efficiency
VDC technologies help to optimize processes and reduce waste throughout the project life cycle. For example, by using virtual simulations, we can test different construction methods before actually building anything on the project site. This helps avoid costly mistakes and delays that can often occur during construction.
5. Improved Sustainability
VDC can help reduce construction projects’ environmental impact. For example, by using BIM software, we can create virtual models of a project that enable us to optimize the use of materials. We can also use VDC technologies to simulate different construction scenarios to find the most sustainable option for the project.
6. Reduced Risk
Errors and omissions can plague construction projects. Our VDC processes allow me to more easily identify potential risks and hazards on a project and plan accordingly to mitigate those risks. This can range from something as simple as double-checking the dimensions of a column before it’s installed to conducting a virtual walkthrough of the site to identify potential safety hazards.
7. Improved Quality
By catching errors and discrepancies early on, VDC can help improve a project’s overall quality. This improved quality can be achieved through clash detection and coordination workflows, enhanced collaboration among project stakeholders, as well as improved transparency around the project scope and timeline.
8. Enhanced Safety
Enhanced safety planning and execution is another benefit of VDC. By using virtual simulations, we can identify potential hazards on a project and develop safe work procedures to avoid them. We can also use virtual reality technology to teach workers to safely perform tasks before they even step foot on the job site.
9. Reduced Costs
VDC can reduce project costs by increasing efficiency and improving communication. These cost savings can be achieved through reduced material waste, improved coordination of construction activities, and less need for rework. Fewer errors and rework are big targets when we use VDC.
These are just a few of the many benefits that virtual design and construction can offer – I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t even thought of!
4) How I Use VDC Technologies
In my opinion, the advantages of virtual design and construction are quite simple: prototype your project virtually before spending money 💰 – this promotes improvements in the planning, efficiency, and sustainability of building projects.
However, we should remember that software is also a critical part of any virtual design and construction workflow!
In my work, I use a combination of VDC technologies to support project planning, execution, and delivery.
I use Synchro to help manage 4D sequences, construction resources and simulate different construction scenarios for safety planning.
These are just a few of the virtual design and construction tools I use – many more are out there!
5) Common VDC Questions I Hear
I get a lot of questions about BIM and VDC in my job. I’ve attempted to summarize some of the most common questions with some brief answers below that might be useful to you too:
What is Virtual Design and Construction? or What is VDC BIM?
Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) is a set of technology and techniques that help with the design and construction of buildings. It uses things like Building Information Modeling (BIM), Virtual Reality (VR), and 4D simulations to help make the process easier and faster.
What are the benefits of VDC?
Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) benefits include improved coordination between project stakeholders, reduced potential for errors and rework, enhanced safety planning and execution, and better management of construction resources.
How does VDC for Contractors work?
Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) workflows for contractors typically involve using advanced technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Building Information Modeling (BIM), and drones to create a virtual 3D representation of the project. This virtual model is then used to facilitate collaboration and drive efficiencies during the preconstruction and construction stages. Some typical applications include project coordination, clash detection, resource management, and construction sequencing. Also, virtual reality (VR) is increasingly used to provide immersive experiences for project stakeholders.
How can VDC improve collaboration on projects?
Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) can improve project communication and collaboration by providing a virtual 3D representation of the project that all stakeholders can use to coordinate their work. Additionally, virtual design and construction can lead to reduced potential for errors and rework, as well as enhanced safety planning and execution.
What technologies support VDC?
I use Plannerly to plan my BIM Execution Plan (BEP) and BIM scope, Autodesk Revit to create virtual models of projects, ACC/Navisworks to run clash detection, Assemble Systems, MTWO, and Autodesk Quantity Takeoff for quantities, Synchro to help manage 4D sequences, and both PlanGrid and Bluebeam Revu to manage the drawings.
Are there any challenges with VDC?
Some challenges with VDC include the high cost of hardware like “BIM computers” and VR headsets, the need for specialized training, and the lack of standards around data sharing and collaboration (although ISO 19650 is now really helping with that). Additionally, virtual design and construction initiatives can be disruptive to traditional workflows, leading to resistance from some project stakeholders.
What is the difference between BIM and VDC?
The main difference between Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) is that VDC encompasses a broader range of technologies and workflows. At the same time, BIM is primarily focused on the creation and use of a virtual model. VDC workflows typically involve more collaboration and coordination between project stakeholders, while BIM workflows concentrate more on the virtual model itself. Although, some may see this the other way around 😅
How do I become a VDC engineer?
A VDC engineer is typically a construction professional that also has experience in advanced BIM workflows, technologies, and tools. Some VDC engineers also have degrees in architecture, engineering, or computer science. To become a VDC engineer, you should learn as much as you can about using BIM and how it can help your organization and also consider pursuing opportunities and BIM certifications, as well as networking with other VDC professionals.
What is the future of VDC?
I think that the future of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) looks very promising! As BIM technology continues to evolve, we will likely see more widespread adoption of VDC workflows within the construction industry. Additionally, the use of Virtual Reality (VR) is expected to increase as the technology becomes more affordable and accessible.
So there you have it – my brief overview of virtual design and construction! 😃
I hope this has helped you to understand what VDC is, why it’s important, and how it can be used in construction projects.
Incorporating VDC can be a challenge so I highly recommend using a tool like Plannerly to help kickstart your planning, simplify your BIM processes and keep you organized! 🙏
If you’re not already using VDC on your projects, I encourage you to try it!
What do you think about VDC – can it help your company?
I blog for the Five BIM Bloggers series.
Every week we share different perspectives on important BIM topics!