From architects and engineers to subcontractors and owners-developers, it is imperative that the many players involved in construction planning and execution must coordinate to ensure smooth project delivery.
The worst time to learn of conflicts—such as the planned route of the mechanical ventilation system being blocked by a structural element—is during construction. These conflicts can bring work to a halt while the team goes back to the drawing board. And, as we all know, time equals money.
To avoid costly setbacks, document coordination is critical long before hard hats arrive on the scene. At our firm, coordination starts by using software such as Autodesk Revit or BIM 360. BIM is a 3D modeling tool that allows for collaboration across many disciplines. Our approach opens lines of communication and ensures consistency across drawings, designs, and specifications. The goal is to make sure there are no clashes or conflicts between consultants’ plans.
Executed well, document coordination can increase quality and reduce questions in the field. At Tiscareno Associates, we adhere to a rigorous process to make sure project documentation is well coordinated:
1. Develop a Team Plan
Create a road map with all team members, including the developer team, that establishes by what means and how often coordination should occur between project partners. This means having a regular schedule for face-to-face or online meetings. It also means setting deadlines to keep all project partners focused.
Checklists for each phase of documentation are an easy way to ensure there is a meticulous review process. They can be used to check for consistency of items such as building materials and systems across many disciplines’ documents, as well as ensure milestone submission requirements are met.
Be sure to start early and follow through. Document coordination should begin as each team is brought on to the project. Once on track, it should continue with several cross-disciplinary reviews at predetermined intervals. Specification writers and those creating the designs should regularly review each other’s documents to ensure coordination.
One person should be in charge of overall coordination and review to make it holistic. But the entire team should be educated on the value of continual coordination and potential costs if it is not carried out.
2. Make Cross-Referencing Easy
Document coordination is all about making sure all disciplines’ documents are in sync. That requires consistency in the language used.
Technomes, or technical abbreviations, are a tool that can help keep cross-referencing simple. Items across many documents are defined in one location, thereby reducing the possibility of conflicts. These technomes take the place of descriptive notes on individual project drawings and are cross-referenced in the specifications.
This process ensures consistency from drawing to drawing and facilitates coordination throughout development of the project, making in-progress updates easier to complete. The architect need only revise the technome list in one location if products need to be swapped due to issues with availability or cost.
3. Take Advantage of the Technology
Employing BIM (e.g., Revit software from Autodesk) or Bluebeam technology is helpful because it offers overlay features and the ability to run scenarios as changes are proposed. Ensuring all disciplines are contracted to use BIM at the project start can shave time off the coordination process because everyone is working within the same model and able to see changes with each coordination update. BIM 360 in the cloud is an even more powerful tool. With many people and disciplines working remotely across many locations, BIM 360 allows for all to have access in real-time to the same information, thereby allowing for real-time updating.
The use of Bluebeam or similar programs with an overlay ability offers a cost-effective way of seeing conflicts. This route does require more dedicated time for review and the timing of the review can cause work to have to be remedied out of sequence—although it is better to detect conflicts at the computer than at the construction site.
At Tiscareno Associates, the senior architect takes the lead to make sure this comprehensive collaboration happens from start to finish—when the final, fully coordinated set of construction documents is issued.
A fully integrated plan increases efficiency behind the scenes, avoids errors in the field, and has the added benefit of saving time and money. Clear and concise documents lead to more predictability, less product waste, and improved quality overall. It can also lead to lower bid pricing, quicker product delivery, and overall speedier project completion.
The end result should be a new development that all can take pride in.