How Can a Firm Digitize Construction? Ask PARIC
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on January 19, 2018 |
PARIC introduced digitization tools like BIM to its construction and preconstruction process to impr...

“If you look at any statistics, we’ve all seen reports that suggest that relative to every other industry—except for hunting, the construction industry spends the least on technology,” Jim Lynch, vice president of construction products at Autodesk, told “Manufacturing, of course, spends a great deal on technology. Traditionally, the construction industry has not.”

But he says he is seeing a change taking place, as construction firms are starting to embrace new technologies and methodologies to bring architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) into the 21st century and increase efficiency. If you’re reading this website right now (I’m assuming you are?), one of those technologies is building information modeling (BIM).

PARIC using Autodesk BIM 360 Glue to host BIM models in a central location. (Image courtesy of PARIC.)
PARIC using Autodesk BIM 360 Glue to host BIM models in a central location. (Image courtesy of PARIC.)

St. Louis–based construction firm PARIC is one of those companies, which adopted BIM and other approaches less than a decade ago and shortly began seeing the benefits. spoke to Andy Leek, director of virtual design and construction (VDC) at PARIC, to understand how a firm like PARIC was able to make the digitization shift.

From Traditional to Modern Construction

As a commercial construction company, PARIC performs construction management design/build, consulting and general contracting with a focus on vertical projects, such as high rises, hospitals and office buildings.

According to Leek, the company has had a progressive and technology-friendly culture since it was founded in 1979. When implementing a given technology, Leek says, PARIC focuses on those developments that are meant to bring greater efficiency to project teams in the office and in the field.

When he joined the company six years ago, Leek says that PARIC was more traditional, operating largely on a paper-based workflow, aside from digitized accounting and project management tools. Like most contractors, the firm was using FTP sites to download and share drawings, but BIM wasn’t in use and the cloud was not being fully exploited.

“When I came on, we very quickly started performing modeling and clash avoidance sessions for our project teams to the point now where all large projects that come through the office all go through BIM coordination,” Leek said.

Now, all members of a project team, from the owner to the architect, subcontractors and field foreman, have access to the project’s assets, including drawings, models and spec sheets. Models are leveraged for clash avoidance, and the entire project is laid out with BIM. To further increase efficiency, PARIC also encourages all of its subcontractors to prefabricate everything they possibly can, including wall assemblies, plumbing, heating, AC and ductwork.

“Our approach is that we want to do as much offsite work as possible in controlled environments where quality can be maximized, and when it comes to the jobsite, it literally goes directly into the building,” Leek explained. “It doesn’t sit on the jobsite, where it can be damaged by weather or work-related incidents.”

Implementing a new way of doing construction at a previously traditional firm takes work and the proper tools. On the one hand, Leek says that he needed the proper coordination tools to unite project team members around a “single source of truth.” 

There are numerous options when selecting BIM coordination software. For instance, Trimble offers Tekla BIMsight for combining construction models, clash detection, and data exchange, as well as Trimble Connect for sharing all details of a project, from design to construction, with everyone involved. Other options include Revitzo, which connects with popular modeling software to allow team members to check models from a single source, and BIMReview, another option for sharing models and performing clash detection. PARIC turned to the Enterprise edition of BIM 360 from Autodesk.

With BIM 360 Glue, PARIC is able to host models for everyone on a given team to review, coordinate around and perform clash avoidance. BIM 360 Field is used for cross-project reporting and analytics, punch lists and issue management for safety and quality. BIM 360 Layout and BIM 360 Docs are used for BIM-driven layout and construction document management, respectively.

Leek relayed a number of benefits PARIC has gained from the use of BIM coordination software, though he said that it can sometimes be difficult to quantify. “In general, when we utilize the software and fully coordinate a project, we easily reduce RFIs by more than 50 percent (one project had less that 50 in 14 months),” Leek said. “We also substantially reduce the amount of printed documents and checklists, since all that information is available on the teams’ tablets.”

He continued, “We have substantially reduced our layout time and, more importantly, mitigated layout issues, which has prompted better field layout and alignment amongst all our subcontractors. Of course, the more we do with BIM and Layout, the more prefab our team is able to support, which again mitigates design issues, therefore eliminating RFIs and change orders. The ability to rely on BIM360 in the field, with mobile access, is by itself a huge reduction in the amount of time spent wasted walking back and forth to the job trailer.”

Getting Everyone on Board

By giving everyone shared access to project data, Leek says that teams can build the confidence necessary to ensure that all modules are prefabricated accurately, allowing proper installation and a reduction in material and labor waste.

“The whole idea of doing BIM coordination and sharing documentation with the field in real time,or as close to real time as we can, is to mitigate requests for information, construction errors and change orders and things that really just eat up time on a project,” Leek said.

To ease the transition to these new tools, Leek said he would host individual project kickoff meetings with each team, during which point the project execution plan was discussed, including a rundown of how the software works and how it would be implemented.

“The whole idea was that we were democratizing the process,” Leek explained.“In lieu of a very systematic and rigorous approach to managing projects, we tried to free things up so that the project information was available to everyone on a team. People could contact one another.”

Once employees saw the benefits that such tools would bring them during day-to-day work, such as the ability to more easily coordinate with one another, even the more senior superintendents became attached to the technology. According to Leek, 30-year veterans grew to love walking around a job site with iPad in hand and drawings and documents easily accessible via the cloud.

The Future of BIM at PARIC

Now that BIM has successfully been implemented at PARIC and is used more and more everyday, Leek believes that the use of technology for the firm’s construction and design work will only grow.

Specifically, through partnerships with companies like 3DR, the company aims to expand its work with drones and 3D scanning. With Beck Technology, PARIC is working on a new model-based estimating platform that is being rolled out as of this writing.

The use of Autodesk’s recently released Forge platform will help fuel some of these tools, as it can help connect PARIC’s BIM 360 data to apps developed for Forge.

“There are so many opportunities to leverage BIM data on a jobsite or in the office for analytics,” Leek explained.“The AEC industry for the longest time didn’t have all the tools that we really needed in an integrated platform. Autodesk has provided the platform not only for us as end users that can benefit from the common platform, but also for the market at large to develop tools based on that infrastructure.”

As new apps are added to the Forge platform and an increasing number of construction firms adopt new technologies, not only will PARIC evolve, but so will the industry as a whole. To learn more about PARIC’s VDC division, visit the company website

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