BIM, 3D PDFs and digital collaboration

What does it take to meet the complex demands of modern projects?

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Designing and building a 77,000 m2 hospital in 30 months is no easy feat. In fact, the Denver Saint Joseph Hospital project, owned by SCL Health Systems, is actually one of the fastest hospital builds ever completed on US soil. Innovative methods of design, construction and collaboration among project partners throughout all phases of the project, from planning through defect inspections, were critical if the team was going to open the hospital doors on time.

“The document management was tough—a million square feet of anything is going to generate a lot of documentation,” says Dale Clingner, an Associate Architect with Davis Partnership Architects, who partnered with H+L Architecture and ZGF Architects on the project which was built by Mortenson Construction. To avoid the type of document management confusion that can slow progress, all project partners tacitly agreed upon a BIM execution plan that incorporated digital design review in live collaborative sessions to successfully meet the condensed timeline on or under budget.

The nature of designing a hospital means there is a lot of MEP (Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing) coordination that goes into the initial planning process. So the Mortenson team built the entire hospital in 3D and utilised BIM and VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) to design and model every single part of the overhead rough-in and one-hundred percent of the enclosures.

In order to share the vast amount of detailed information they had with teams in the field, the Mortenson team decided to use 3D PDFs within Bluebeam® Revu®. “We needed to bridge the gap between what’s in the computer and what the guys are actually doing in the field. We decided to try 3D PDFs, which had just come out. We would take the users out into the field, do a box walk, do a mock-up and actually let them touch and feel the space when it was still under construction. Box walks are great for letting them visualise where things will go to understand spatial relationships, but they don’t give people a good idea about finishes or what the lighting is going to look like in a finished condition,” explains Nick Pfenning, an Assistant Superintendent at Mortenson.

He continues, “What we were able to do after that was take a tablet out with a 3D PDF open in Bluebeam, isolate it for that one room and we could fly around that PDF and look at how different things were going to interact. We had 3D models of the actual equipment that we could have in there, so where we had a big cardboard box in the room, we could hold up the model in 3D PDF to show them, ‘This is what this equipment is going to look like, this is where the head of the bed is, this is where the patient is going to be, this is where the family is going to sit.’ They can see what it’s really going to look like in the finished state.”

Ultimately, digital design review collaboration and 3D PDFs significantly contributed to the Saint Joseph Hospital project teams’ ability to successfully deliver the finished hospital a full 17 days ahead of schedule.

“They had a process where they didn’t have the clutter you might normally have in a project this size,” says Bain J. Farris, President and CEO of Saint Joseph Hospital. “We think the process cut as much as a year off the construction time for this project.”

Read more about Mortenson’s unprecedented speed of completion on the Saint Joseph project.