How to create successful construction bids using 3D modeling

January 30, 2020 Sumele Aruofor

Frostburg State University Education & Health Science Center construction sequence created from a Barton Malow SketchUp model. 

Executing fast-paced construction projects requires expertise, clear communication, and the right software tools. On most projects, construction firms need to navigate the highly competitive bid process to win and deliver value from the estimation, pre-construction, and procurement phases, all the way through to project delivery. Learn how Barton Malow uses construction project management technology to demonstrate a thorough logistics plan, win bids and deliver value to multidisciplinary teams.

The role of technology in VDC

In response to the typical inefficiencies and challenges inherent within the construction industry, Barton Malow’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) team employ technology to enhance communication, collaboration, and clarity across its diverse project teams. By selecting and deploying the right tools and processes, they enable better decision making, deliver project value, and work to become better builders and partners. In this article, we use two large educational facility projects to illustrate Barton Malow’s workflow.

How to win a bid: Frostburg State University Education & Health Science Center

A SketchUp model showing the Frostburg University Education & Health Science Center project.

A SketchUp model showing the Frostburg State University Education & Health Science Center project.

Technology’s impact is felt well before Barton Malow is awarded a project. When the University of Maryland - College Park/Frostburg State University solicited construction bids, the team was required to showcase its expertise with a shortlist of key talent, experience, and a clear proposal for how they would deliver value on these new projects. 

There were some challenging obstacles to overcome in this project. First, part of the site would remain occupied during construction. Second, the construction completion date was fixed, with an influx of students due at the start of the academic year.  

Speed, accuracy, and clarity of intent are crucial for delivering a sound proposal with reasonable material and cost estimates. The estimates made at this stage determine how Barton Malow measures up against competing companies, and more importantly, the numbers signed into the contract determine the profitability of the project. 

Using SketchUp, they quickly developed 3D models for both projects early on in the process, exporting a series of images to showcase the proposed build sequence, as well as stunning 4D animations for additional impact at the in-person interview stage.

Barton Malow’s VDC team helps overcome unique project challenges by leveraging the right technologies and bringing tailored value to owners. Using SketchUp, they quickly developed 3D models for both projects early on in the process, exporting a series of images to showcase the proposed build sequence, as well as stunning 4D animations for additional impact at the in-person interview stage.

Visualizations of the Frostburg University Education & Health Science Center project created (in other 3D software) by project architects, Ayers Saint Gross

Visualizations of the Frostburg State University Education & Health Science Center project created (in other 3D software) by project architects, Ayers Saint Gross

Another secret arsenal the team deploys is a live walkthrough of their approach in SketchUp. Using SketchUp Scenes, they illustrate the proposed build process; communicate phasing, sequencing, safety, and logistics plans. This is important for projects that will maintain occupancy during construction. Using the model as a focal point, Barton Malow can confidently respond to questions raised by the project owner. 

Keeping pace with an efficient workflow 

Both contracts were Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP). This means the owner is assured that the project will not exceed a certain price, regardless of changeable factors like material costs or economic fluctuations. By modeling in detail without sacrificing speed, the project team can ensure early estimates are as accurate as possible, leading to cost certainty and project profitability.

SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse is also a great resource for accessing 3D components required for construction and in some cases, essential massing context around the site. When available, this can save the team a day of work and ground the proposal in a real-life context. 

SketchUp’s material palette and the ability to import real-life textures, add depth and clarity to the project. These assets are saved on 3D Warehouse in a virtual ‘library’ accessible to the VDC team. This library also contains curated landscape models, and Barton Malow-branded SketchUp components such as site trailers, standard cranes, and trucks. Being able to save these resources within an editable and accessible virtual repository saves the entire team a considerable amount of 3D drawing time and helps in maintaining consistency across projects.  

SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse is also a great resource for accessing 3D components required for construction and in some cases, essential massing context around the site. When available, this can save the team a day of work and ground the proposal in a real-life context. 

Adding value during pre-construction

Pre-construction is critical for scoping out the project, developing and refining the schedule, and for creating detailed estimates. The VDC team works closely with the wider team to pull together the drawings and construction documentation required for successful project delivery. 

Occasionally, team members favor different visualization software, leading to a variety of sometimes misaligned 2D and 3D assets. SketchUp’s interoperability the ability to import and export diverse assets makes it much easier to pull the required information together.

“Bloated over-detailed families and too many planes and polygons in imported models meant that the team had to find robust extensions that make it easier to import the architect’s models. SketchUp’s Extension Warehouse has been a great resource to search for, test, and select the right solution,” says Nataschu Brooks, VDC Engineer at Barton Malow.

From the various models and drawings provided, the VDC team pulls together a more detailed logistics model that can be revised and leveraged as the project progresses. 

Collaborating for success: Coppin State University Percy Julian College of Business

Another task for the VDC team is to facilitate clear communication and effective collaboration with key project stakeholders such as the Owner, design team, and trade partners. On the Coppin State University project, discussing strategy using open-source maps, site photos, and street views helped each project team member identify opportunities and constraints of the existing context. 

A SketchUp model of Coppin State University Percy Julian College of Business

A SketchUp model of Coppin State University Percy Julian College of Business

Synthesizing their joint strategy before design development begins helps drive early decisions and reduce unnecessary rework downstream.

Ideas are sketched out over the site plan and the VDC team works in concert with the design team to consolidate the agreed schematic building design in SketchUp. Synthesizing their joint strategy before design development begins helps drive early decisions and reduce unnecessary rework downstream. As the project develops, detailed logistics animations are exported from this model and rendered in Enscape or Lumion, saving time and delivering high-quality outputs. Project engineers and managers are also trained to use SketchUp to make updates to the model. 

Barton Malow office team member and site personnel collaborating on-site. Courtesy of Barton Malow

Barton Malow office team member and site personnel collaborating on-site. Photo courtesy of Barton Malow.

Once construction kicks off, it becomes essential to transfer this information to site personnel. Site plans that map out key areas such as access points, storage, and waste disposal facilities are exported from SketchUp and optimized for display on site. The illustrations act as a single reference for the site’s layout, a focal point for safety training, as well as a navigation tool for site visitors and deliveries.

 Logistics plan showing traffic flow and key location across the site at the Coppin State University project. Courtesy of Barton Malow

Logistics plan showing traffic flow and key location across the site at the Coppin State University project. Photo courtesy of Barton Malow.

Value for construction practitioners

“The primary responsibility for the VDC team at Barton Malow is to insert technology into everyday workflows and to challenge old, stagnant processes to find better ways of driving safety, quality, and productivity throughout the organization,” said Matt Hedke, Barton Malow’s Senior VDC Manager. 

A simple but powerful tool such as SketchUp, that flexes to suit every stage of the construction process, is vital for Barton Malow to keep pace with the speed of new project opportunities. Also, it equips the team to maintain a competitive edge during estimation and procurement, reduce risk, and stay profitable as a business.

Furthermore, connecting subject-matter experts with on-site personnel through 3D and 4D assets has helped to bridge the gap that exists between the office and the construction site. Barton Malow’s VDC team can clarify the sequence of work, cut down waste, and ensure safety on-site.

Leveraging SketchUp for VDC purposes sets the business apart from the competition, as David Coleman, Project Director at Barton Malow shared. “During a kick-off meeting with the University of Maryland - College Park/Frostburg State University, the owner’s Project Manager indicated that Barton Malow’s use of high-quality technology on the logistics plans was setting a new standard. They indicated that our VDC Engineer, Nataschu, needed to do all future logistics plans for the project as they didn’t want to see the typical 2D plans that they are usually provided. Thanks to her efforts and use of all of the resources within Barton Malow’s VDC group, we’ve been able to demonstrate our use of technology to innovate and deliver great projects!”

About Barton Malow

Barton Malow is consistently ranked among the top construction firms in the United States. It delivers new construction, renovation and expansion projects, specializing in markets such as healthcare, sports, and entertainment, industrial and higher education facilities. It is a 100% employee-owned company, with 2,000 team members and 14 offices. Barton Malow heads toward its next century of success to reimagine the construction industry through innovation.

 

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