Q&A: An Owner’s Thoughts on Digital Design Review and 3D PDFs
A construction project owner discusses paperless design review and viewing models in PDF format.
When completed, the Woodward Lincoln Avenue Campus in Ft. Collins, Colorado will consist of over a million square feet and house the only industrial turbomachinery systems (ITS) manufacturing facility of its kind in the world. Project owner Woodward will then call the building home for its company headquarters. Jennifer Ray, Project Manager for Woodward, shares her experience of collaborating with Mortenson Construction and architectural engineer, Ghafari and Associates, to complete the unique and complex project on budget.
Can you briefly describe your role on the Lincoln Campus project?
I interface with the general contractor, Mortenson Construction, and the architectural engineering company, Ghafari and Associates. It was a design-build approach, so I helped facilitate our requirements for the architectural, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical work that was done by Ghafari. Then I worked with Mortenson to tie it all together.
What makes this project unique?
This manufacturing facility is ITS. We’re producing gas, steel systems, liquid fuel systems and control systems for the energy market. We’re the only site in the world that is doing this—creating these fueling systems and control systems.
Previously you said, “Beta information is how we interpret success. Our customers ask us to demonstrate our value, and we try to drive the same things with firms we work with to determine quality and process indicators and to meet deliverables, cost points, typical analysis and financial evaluation.”
It sounds like the bar is very high for what you expect from general contractors. How can general contractors prove their value to you?
We have a very unique relationship with Mortenson because transparency has always been key and critical to us. From the point when we were doing [Woodward proprietary methodology] collaborate to cost (CTC), value engineering to get to our target budget, we all worked as a team to make sure Woodward was going to get the building that we wanted, with the quality that we expected, that met our budget requirements, too.
How did Mortenson leverage Bluebeam Revu for project communication? Did you collaborate with them using Revu?
Yes, absolutely. If we were going through mechanical and electrical and an RFI came through, and if there were new requirements and input put in there, they would email us the link to a Bluebeam Studio Session, and we’d have a meeting around 3D PDFs of the model. Other times, we would just give our input and markups back through Revu. That way, all the information was saved and archived in the system.
As an owner’s rep, are you familiar with using models? Are they daunting for your team to work within or markup?
When you don’t use it every day, it’s hard to get back to the point where you can use it. But some of our power users, Abby Mumford and Hunter Nelson, two of our Integrated Construction Coordinators, could show me at any point what things looked like on the model until I got familiar enough with the tools where at least I didn’t have to bother them. But models could definitely be a little easier and more intuitive for a novice user.
At any point did Mortenson send you guys 3D PDFs? If so, was that a different experience than looking at the models?
Yes. All the time. Mortenson would send us snips from the 3D model in PDFs that would show us what the building image was in 3D. They were able to show us everything from the underground utilities to where walls were. The team could do markups, comments, and provide feedback to the design/construction team through the Bluebeam Sessions. I was able to review documents in PDF and 3D PDFs with comments. It’s funny, because now when I have to go open something in my old PDF program, it’s an arduous task for me, because I like the Revu markups so much—and I like the archives, to be able to just cloud things, to be able to just drop pictures on top of it and save it in the way that the view of the room was, how I was zoomed in, was very helpful. That whole Bluebeam Revu piece of it has just been awesome—I love it.
What was the experience like from the owner’s perspective on using non-linear review processes, where collaboration happened between designer, GC and yourselves more simultaneously?
Empowering. It helped us make decisions quickly and get information to the design teams to move forward in an efficient, documented, revision-controlled fashion. I appreciated that the team was open and honest with us during the entire programming experience (and still ongoing). If they were seeing issues that needed to change, they would instantly communicate that perspective. The advice and collaboration with the team continues to help me be more comfortable in decisions we make.
Watch: How Mortenson and H+L Architecture exceeded owner expectations by executing one of the fastest hospital builds every in the US here.