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Modular project built without construction drawings

Tim Bates, Head of Coins:Fulcro, recently featured in The BIM Hub™, an online resource for BIM professionals.  In his article Tim looked at why our client, FC Modular in the USA, doesn’t use construction drawings…

Roger Krulak, Senior VP for Modular Construction at Forest City Ratner Companies, visited the UK in October and gave a presentation at the Digital Construction Week event in London. Roger’s presentation covered some of the key benefits of modular construction and how BIM processes are helping to deliver their B2 Pacific Parkproject in Brooklyn – the world’s tallest volumetric modular construction building.

One comment from Roger’s presentation about how the processes work in the factory particularly caught my attention…
“The whole of the building is modelled in 3D – it is integrated, it is federated and our production drawings are created out of that federated model. This is important since we don’t actually use construction drawings, we use manufacturing drawings. We know where everything goes – every screw, every stud – its size, its shape and we can’t really manufacture it unless we do that.”

For as long as I can remember there have been discussions around how the construction industry is different from other manufacturing based industries. Colleagues who have moved into construction from these other industries are amazed at how disjointed and potentially confrontational our processes are.

For example, automotive manufacturers typically don’t manufacture, they assemble components, sub-assemblies and assemblies in a rigorous process fine-tuned to maximise throughput, productivity and certainty. If there is an issue with a component they not only know who in their supply chain produced it, but almost certainly which machine it was manufactured on (or, hopefully, which workstation the embedded firmware was developed on!).

The construction industry will always have different challenges to other industries, but I also believe that we are only just starting to address these challenges by understanding properly where we can learn from other industries to rethink our processes. It is frustrating that it has taken so many years for this to happen.

Roger’s final slide in his presentation was about “Rethinking the Process” – which reminded me of the Egan report to the UK government in 1998 entitled “Rethinking Construction”. One of the key conclusions of the report highlighted the need to learn from other industries -

“The Task Force's ambition for construction is informed by our experience of radical change and improvement in other industries, and by our experience of delivering improvements in quality and efficiency within our own construction programmes. ”
Rethinking Construction" – The Egan Report, November 1998 

Admittedly modular construction is not the answer for every construction project but the recent focus by Forest City Ratner Companies and others on a radical rethink of processes being used on real projects is giving our industry the opportunities it needs to properly validate totally new ways of working together.

Ben Haldin, Managing Director and founder of Fulcro, added a footnote to Roger Krulak’s presentation -
“The biggest challenge we have is the change in the process. The business that Roger represents, Forest City Ratner Companies, is not only the manufacturer and the designer, they are also the client and the developer. It gave us a great opportunity to speak to a client who understood that we could have done it in a traditional sequential way of designer, mechanical engineer, structural engineer, separate teams - or instead we could do it in a concurrent, simultaneous way which will be quicker – and with better quality – so faster, better, for less. The client was able to affect that change and act on those things.”

Fulcro continues to be a key partner to Forest City Ratner Companies in delivering the B2 Pacific Park project. The Fulcro team is based at the factory and has used a range of BIM and Virtual Design and Construction processes and technologies to ensure that the design and manufacture of the modules in the factory is fully coordinated and to a high level of accuracy so that the work and disruption on site is minimised.

More information on the B2 Pacific Park modular construction project, as well as the complete recording of Roger Krulak’s presentation at the Digital Construction Show event, can be found here.