The inefficiency traps that are derailing design success

Autodesk’s Lynn Allen identifies five areas where the construction industry can improve.

The construction industry is in a state of flux. 54% of the world’s population already live in urban areas today, a figure that is set to increase to 66% by 2050, according to a UN report.

To accommodate our growing population, governments and private project owners are challenging the industry to provide housing, schools and health facilities more efficiently, as well as the essential utilities and transport systems.

Add to this the fact that costs for many of the natural resources used in construction, such as petrol, natural gas and timber, are increasing, and it’s clear to see why demand is growing for more sustainable design materials to be used.

Plus budgets are constrained and project managers are being forced to drive down the cost of building as a result.

At the same time, projects are growing ever more complex, with research showing that 93% of building owners report delays and 85% of projects exceed their agreed budget.

Poor communication is often cited as one of the greatest hurdles to improving productivity, yet the nature of much of today’s design and engineering work requires multidisciplinary teams to work together remotely.

With increasing pressure from these macro-economic factors, as well as industry constraints, project managers are facing growing challenges.

Below are five areas that need to be addressed if productivity and efficiency are to be increased throughout the building industry.

Two-dimensional designs

While 2D CAD tools have their place, a designer can’t fully rely on them for concept design or rapid prototyping, which makes it difficult for them to explore the range of design options available.

Using intelligent 3D modelling enables designers, engineers and other stakeholders to quickly test the viability of different approaches early in the design phase so that errors can be spotted and corrected before they cost them down the line.

Isolated designs

Poorly coordinated drawings waste time and money – the components of a building project only make sense when they come together, so why design them separately?

Collaborating with team members across various disciplines at the earliest phase of the project ensures designs are feasible from the outset, and taking advantage of the cloud provides one central location to work through the design.

Progress and feedback on projects can be shared in real-time with all stakeholders, ensuring that everyone is focused on the right detail.

Designs divorced from reality

Solely designing the building isn’t enough, as the owner will need to see the project in the context of its surroundings. Conventional topographic surveys take time, while inputting this data into design programmes can take even longer.

Using light detection and ranging (LiDAR), “reality computing” enables designers to directly capture spatial information about the physical environment of the project. Through the use of photography, laser scanning, existing geospatial and survey data, designers and engineers can integrate this data into the design model to improve the quality of the project deliverables.

Uninspiring presentations

In a world where 3D gaming and CGI movies are commonplace, 2D drawings can appear lacklustre if presented without environmental data. But detailed 3D renderings create more compelling visualisations of the design, providing an interactive experience to better showcase what the final design will look like.

3D designs can be overlaid on models of existing conditions to create a realistic depiction of what the building will look like in-situ. Taking this one step further, virtual reality technology can be used to walk contractors through the design prior to construction, enabling them to work out the most cost effective and efficient way to approach the build.

Miscommunication with stakeholders

Without close communication between all parties, project managers run the risk of delivering low-quality projects that run over time and budget, which in turn could damage their reputation. By using collaborative tools, designs can be communicated from every angle, enabling stakeholders to solve problems early on in the design-build process.  

Research shows that 81% of US companies consider BIM capabilities when making their selection for project teams and UK government projects must now use BIM Level 2 as part of an initiative to cut capital costs, delivery schedules and carbon usage.

Those firms that transition to more efficient, model-based workflows will be those that are able to respond to the changing market conditions, as well as remain ahead of the competition, win more bids and be more profitable.

Lynne Allen is an Autodesk customer evangelist

Image: Antikainen/Dreamstime

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