Layton’s Approach to VDC
The demand for BIM and VDC solutions is growing stronger every day—and builders need to continue to innovate and evolve to keep up. Join Public Relations Manager, Bryan Packer, as he discusses Layton Construction’s unique approach to BIM and VDC with the company’s virtual design and construction team: Jeff Metcalf, Vice President of Information Systems, Jon Ferguson, Director of Visualization, and Tim McLachlan, Director of BIM.
Bryan PackerFormer Public Relations Manager, Layton Construction
Jeff MetcalfVP of Information Systems, Layton Construction
Jon FergusonDirector of Visualization, Layton Construction
Tim McLachlanDirector of BIM, Layton Construction
Welcome to Building Conversations, a construction podcast powered by the STO building group. On today’s episode, Public Relations Manager at Layton Construction, Bryan Packer, discusses Layton’s unique approach to virtual design and construction with the company’s VDC team leaders, Jon Ferguson, Director of Visualization, Jeff Metcalf, Vice President of Information Systems, and Tim McLachlan, Director of BIM.
Bryan Packer (00:48):
Welcome to Building Conversations, the STO Building Group podcast. I’m Bryan Packer, Public Relations Manager at Layton construction. And today I’m joined by a few members of Layton’s virtual design and construction team, Jon Ferguson, our Director of Visualization, Jeff Metcalf, Vice President of Information Systems, and Tim McLachlan, our director of BIM. So first let’s do some introductions. If you guys don’t mind, I’d love to have you introduce who you are and what is your role and what do you do and how did you get into VDC? So, let’s start with you, Jon.
Jon Ferguson (01:19):
Hey, Bryan. My name’s Jon Ferguson, I’m the Director of Visualization here at Layton Construction. I primarily help with kind of the pre-side of the VDC bucket. I got into VDC – I actually started in the architectural side of things, so I started as early as drafting getting into modeling, and then into kind of the design pursuit side of things and then made my way over to Layton Construction.
Bryan Packer (01:49):
Great. Thanks Jon. Tim?
Tim McLachlan (01:53):
Yeah, my name’s Tim McLachlan. I’m the Director of BIM at Layton Construction. I got started at a large electrical contractor firm heading up their department. And then we got into really the 3D side. About a couple years into it, really was forced by an architect to get into it, and then we took it from there and grew that department. And then I came over to Layton Construction about six years ago and everything’s from there.
Bryan Packer (02:21):
Jeff Metcalf (02:21):
I’m Jeff Metcalf. I’m the Vice President of Information Systems here at Layton. I inherited these groups as part of our overall technology initiatives here at Layton. My background is actually in accounting, but I have a lot of history in managing project risk, especially financial risk, visualization in terms of data, visual reporting and that kind of thing.
Bryan Packer (02:47):
Perfect. Jon, why don’t we start with you – why don’t you describe Layton’s approach to VDC? How does it differ from other companies and why did we decide to go with the approach that we did?
Jon Ferguson (02:59):
Yeah, so Layton Construction has been a heavy investor in VDC for a long time. I started with Layton about 10 years ago, and about 10 years ago, we already had kind of an established BIM process, but it was very basic. It checked the boxes of BIM coordination and that was about it. And so, one of the things that we dove headfirst into was how do we give a predictable outcome to our owners? And the way to do that is to utilize technology through VDC and to implement that as early in the process as we can. So, our differentiator is we’re implementing VDC practices pre-award. We’re building buildings, we’re scanning, we’re using drones, we’re capturing as much digital data as we possibly can, even before we’ve won the job so that when we’re interviewing, when we’re trying to win new work, our clients have a very clear picture, a predictable approach to how we’re going to build their project from day one. And that rolls pre-award into pre-construction, and it just gets heavier in the BIM and VDC as it goes through the operations process. And so, we decided to take that approach because the technical IQ of our customers has gone up. And so, we’ve had to kind of match that, and it starts early in that process. Design-build is becoming one of the norms. And so, we had to step up our game kind of in that pre-side of things in construction.
Bryan Packer (04:33):
Great. Any of the others – Tim or Jeff, either of you want to add to that at all?
Jeff Metcalf (04:37):
Yeah, I would say Bryan that especially in the pre-award, pre-construction phase of the project, I think being able to have that visual from the owner’s perspective is incredibly valuable. I look at it as a difference between looking at maybe sheet music and actually going to a concert and listening to the music being played. It’s that stark of a contrast and that much of a leap in terms of the way an owner can experience what their project is going to look like and how it’s going to be built. And so that’s really powerful for an owner to see, and it helps us all be on the same page in terms of expectations and setting those expectations for a successful outcome for us and for the owner.
Bryan Packer (05:31):
Now let’s move on to the process. Jon, how does the process begin? It typically begins with your team, doesn’t it?
Jon Ferguson (05:37):
Yes, typically it starts with the visualization side and we’ve really kind of intertwined ourselves with our marketing and business development teams at Layton Construction. So, when a new request comes in from all across the country, I get a copy of that. And so, it starts with kind of gathering that source information as early as everybody else on the team. So as soon as they start pursuing a job, I’m getting those drawings, I’m getting those documents and really starting to create a strategic approach to that project, using the tools that I have access to, the technology that VDC has. And so, it gives us that different perspective that the marketing teams or pre-con, or even business developers, you know, they rely on us to use those tools to see the project. And so, it starts very, very early in the process. And we’re kind of creating the storyboard of how we’re going to build that job using VDC.
Bryan Packer (06:40):
When we’re in the pursuit process, is your team brought in on every project or is it just for select projects?
Jon Ferguson (06:47):
We’re becoming involved in more and more projects as we, you know, with the word of mouth and the successes have started to come out, we’re being involved in more. There is definitely a level of effort analysis that’s done. There are certain projects that don’t warrant a full court press on VDC, there’s things that we can do coming up with some of the strategy, some of the approach to logistics and schedule. We can still have a little bit of impact, but we’re not involved in every single project just because the level of project differs. There’s some that have really, really fast schedules to turnaround, there’s repeat clients that we already have that established relationship with. And so, it varies, but we try and we’re available for all projects, but it’s kind of up to them if they want to use that resource or not.
Bryan Packer (07:40):
Great. When the pursuit portion is done, is your team still involved?
Jon Ferguson (07:44):
Yeah, we are. We have a couple of projects right now that we’ve actually been working through preconstruction. So, we gather all this information pre-award and then we’re kind of sitting on it. So, we have these long-term projects, primarily early in the healthcare sector that have very long preconstruction schedules. We’re talking two, three-plus years and so there’s a lot of stakeholder meetings. There’s a lot of user group meetings where our team has to present our approach and our phasing. And so, we’re constantly updating those as the new design packaging comes out and updating that as our subcontractors give us new information. We’re creating new presentation to our owners, those user groups to keep them informed and keep that information flowing until that first shovel hits the ground. And so, we’re pretty heavily involved in preconstruction, but once that hits, there’s kind of that fine handoff to Tim’s group with the BIM coordination and the operations approach.
Bryan Packer (08:50):
So Tim, at what point does your team jump into the process and start doing the BIM side?
Tim McLachlan (08:55):
I would say every project’s a little bit different. Sometimes we’re on the project way early, maybe even pre-award of a project. We’ll be doing a design review and seeing what we’re going to be up against, see where the pitfalls could be, where are the issues just so we can get in front of it, get in front of the owner design team on that. And then, a standard project, if we’re getting it, after CDs come out, right after Jon’s done with this thing and we get awarded, that’s when we’re jumping in there and starting to fly through it, seeing what we have and getting all those trade partners on board.
Bryan Packer (09:31):
Do you guys rely on any of the information, any of the data, this stuff that Jon’s team puts together to help you?
Tim McLachlan (09:38):
Oh, yeah, for sure. So, we’ll definitely take his models. They’re going to go through some different iterations of what the project could be. I mean, we want to take those into account.
Bryan Packer (09:47):
Tim, what is BIM? Tell us what BIM is.
Tim McLachlan (09:50):
So BIM, it means multiple things, I think for different companies, but for Layton Construction, BIM for us is the BIM coordination. And really what we’re trying to do and focus on here is to get this project to run smoothly, find all the pitfalls, the issues that we could run into out in the field and capture them and catch them and fix them before it becomes a real costly issue for either us or the owner, our design team.
Bryan Packer (10:17):
Great. Tell us a little bit about then how does your team handle that BIM coordination process throughout the project? Kind of just give us a rough idea of from that start there, what are the steps that you guys do take?
Tim McLachlan (10:28):
Yeah, so we kick off the meeting with our trade partners and kind of get them to understand our BIM process and how we go about it and how it differs from other projects that they’ve done in the past, get everyone on the same page. And then once we start working in those coordination meetings, we try to get that design team involved in our meetings, that definitely improves this process. They can answer our questions right on the meeting and then we don’t have to do so much back and forth with the RFIs and then that taking the longer process to get things done and coordinated.
Bryan Packer (11:01):
The involvement with the design team and the different trades and subs themselves—how is that a day-to-day thing? Or is it a weekly thing? Talk a little bit about that process.
Tim McLachlan (11:11):
So again, every project can be a little different, you know, a warehouse is going to be ran a little different than a hospital. On a lot of projects, there is communication between the trades and us daily. And then, we have our standard coordination either once or twice a week, or depending on what the schedule of that project’s going to be and the speed that we need to go. But yeah, there’s definitely a lot of communication. We want everyone talking because that collaborative approach is what’s going to get things done and get that project to run smoothly.
Bryan Packer (11:42):
I hear the word clash a lot, clash detection within BIM. What are some of those things that you guys are looking for or that you may run into from time to time?
Tim McLachlan (11:51):
I think some of the bigger examples are any of the system main. So, like with plumbing waste or storm pipes that are routing through the building those clash against or trying to get those routed around ductwork is where we really see a lot of clashes, because they’re going to have those large duct mains going down corridors, and then you’re going to have these storm pipes that have to cross and get to the perimeter of the building and those are slopes. So, we have to make sure we can get those two systems into or passing each other without causing the conflict. Then it’s not just that, but I think the major issue that the owner and design team are looking at is making sure we’re still giving them the design that they came to us with, that they wanted, making sure they have those ceiling heights, the height that they want them and then make sure we don’t have access panels in those decorative ceilings that they have.
Bryan Packer (12:42):
Right. I was going to say that that can be a key thing when it comes to the design and I’m sure our architects are very involved in this because they don’t want the end look to be different than what the owner agreed and what they’re excited about.
Tim McLachlan (12:55):
Yeah, definitely. The owners want one thing and then our MEP contractors want another. They want the ease of install and the owner and design team want it to look beautiful still.
Bryan Packer (13:07):
So as your team, the BIM team, then you guys are involved in the process pretty much through to the end, aren’t you?
Tim McLachlan (13:13):
Yep, for sure. Because there’s always things that they want to look at later, maybe change something, maybe a new piece of equipment that the owners decided to go with instead of what was originally specked. So, there’s always little things that we have to come back around and make sure it’s going to fit and work. It’s not going to cause a bigger issue than expected.
Bryan Packer (13:33):
So probably similar to Jon’s side, with the visualization side, that BIM may not be used on every project. It’s probably selective projects. It’s something that the owner decides that they want to have added on.
Tim McLachlan (13:47):
Yes, the owner is a big deciding factor in that. And then also the size of project and the speed of the project and that’s feasible. You know, a small little remodel project isn’t going to need that BIM coordination to where a large remodel project is definitely going to need that BIM coordination. And that’s where we get into doing the 3D scans and verifying what’s up above that ceiling space and what we have to work around in the future.
Jeff Metcalf (14:11):
From my point of view, I think BIM really helps us and our owners save money in this process of making these design decisions before construction work is put in place. It saves us time because you can do that redesign without having to do rework. It saves us time in the schedule. It saves us dollars in the budget. We’ve analyzed projects that use BIM versus projects that don’t use BIM within just our company and consistently those projects that used BIM had fewer RFIs and fewer change orders. And so, I think it’s really helpful to understand that there’s a real cost savings to the owner by using this method. And again, going back to the VI discussion, it just helps to visualize what we’re putting in place and getting everybody on the same page so that when we talk about delivering a predictable outcome, we all can agree what that outcome should be. And we’re all working towards the same goal. Having all this data in a 3D model helps us to be able to put our plans into a visual medium that’s so much easier for everybody to understand and digest.
Tim McLachlan (15:36):
If I can add to that. I mean, we’re really, what you’re speaking to Jeff about is we’re moving that curve of where those cost impacts are earlier, and the earlier you can capture them, it’s definitely lowering that.
Bryan Packer (15:47):
Yeah, definitely. And the owners at the end of the day, if they can build that project and have some savings benefit, then that’s an exciting thing for them that we’re able to help provide for them. Let’s talk a little bit about, you know, with reality capture programs and how this fits into our process. What are some of the technologies that we use and some partnerships that we may have, Jon?
Jon Ferguson (16:11):
Yeah, so reality capture is starting to become a norm in construction. We’re really fast-paced and capturing that work put in place is becoming very critical. So, from an aerial perspective, we’ve really started to utilize drones company-wide. We’ve had a lot of initiatives from our executive team down in our Arizona office. They now require every single job to have a drone on-site. And so, we’re really starting to see that impact to keep people accountable, keep people on schedule, track progress when you’re on a large-scale site. These things are very, very valuable. The time savings, you almost can’t even compare how fast it is to fly a drone in a couple of minutes to somebody going out and actually visually inspecting, walking on foot on some of these jobs and then also just the transparency it provides to our owner.
Jon Ferguson (17:06):
We’re scanning, we’re taking really high-resolution photos and videos and sending that progress update every single week to project teams and the owners, and even down through our subcontractors. So, everybody involved, every stakeholder knows exactly what’s been put in place every single week. And we even have some jobs that are flying multiple times a day and sharing that just because the pace of construction is so fast. And so, we have that side of reality capture and then we’re starting to really get deep in inside the buildings. Now, we have technologies like StructionSite where a PE can take and walk with your 360 camera and document as if you were walking through the building yourself and be able to inspect and look up and down, side to side and see that work put into place and then be able to go back historically and see the progress and where things were put and installed.
Jon Ferguson (18:02):
And so, it’s really providing a transparency to our owners and keeping us accountable for what we’re building as well as with Tim’s group, we’re utilizing the laser scanning. So, we’re going into these spaces using a scanner, sending it up and getting millimeter accurate scans of existing spaces, tracking and seeing what’s there when we need to build. And then Tim’s team can go and coordinate their design models right on top of what’s actually there. So, reality capture is a huge part of what we’re doing and it’s really catching on and becoming a norm that we have to keep working towards to keep on pace with our projects.
Bryan Packer (18:45):
Tim, do you want to add anything to that at all?
Tim McLachlan (18:48):
Yeah, I guess I’m mostly heavily into the point cloud 3D scanning of it and that has become a very big thing for us. I remember the days of when we didn’t do scans and train and you’d have contractors out there taking measuring tapes and trying to get that pipe back into the model and it’s never correct. It’s always off by inches to feet, but then when we can get those scans in our models, it really speeds up the process of what we really know we’re up against and we know what’s going to be remaining, what’s been removed and this is stuff we’ll even do earlier on and get this 3D scan and give it to the owner. I was on a project recently where there was a whole bunch of waste pipe that was going right through middle of rooms that the design team didn’t take into account. And we were able to give that back to them and get in front of it and figure out solutions to work those pipes, either move them to another wall or figure out a new room layout to get those in there.
Bryan Packer (19:45):
How does the point cloud work? What do you do to establish all of that?
Tim McLachlan (19:51):
So, with the point cloud, you can either use just the point cloud. We bring it into a program called ReCap, and then we can bring that into our Navisworks coordination or into those Revit files. But then we’ll also hire out a team or we’ll do it in-house, to transfer that point cloud into a Revit file for them and also makes it easier to do the clash detection and find those issues.
Bryan Packer (20:16):
I can imagine that being so much easier than in the past where you’re like you said, you’re out there on-site with tape measures and doing it by an older way. So Jon, did you have something to add to that?
Jon Ferguson (20:26):
I was just going to say, we throw out a lot of acronyms in the BIM/VDC world. And so, laser scanning, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You’re setting a laser scanner in the space and it’s shooting out millions of points and tracking where things are. So, you’re getting an accurate digital, we call it a digital twin, you know, an actual copy of that space that has been built for years and years and years, we have an actual scan of that place using a laser scanner that’s tracking millions of points in that. And it converts that into a file, a 3D file that we can use with our design models, from the architect and subcontractors.
Bryan Packer (21:12):
Awesome. Jeff, question for you. Why do we invest in these programs? Why do we invest in VDC?
Jeff Metcalf (21:18):
Because it may lead to a different design decision from the owner’s perspective. Once they know that some kind of a conflict like this, when those things are caught later in the process, it may be too late because work’s already been put in place and dollars have already been spent. So, it overall adds tremendous value for our customers.
Bryan Packer (21:41):
Great, final question. Where do we see VDC technologies taking us next? What are you guys envisioning? If you’re looking at crystal ball, what are we looking at down the road?
Jon Ferguson (21:51):
I mean, I think a step that it’s starting to go towards is automation. A lot of these processes that become kind of tedious in the technology world, the processing, the developing of models, I feel it going kind of to the automation side, whether it’s using scanners, drones, they have the robot dog that walks down the halls and creates this data. So, it’s really moving towards automation to where we have the data faster at our fingertips with less work up front to gather that data. So, where that time savings and automation is going to make VDC a more cost effective solution for owners, because we’re going to be able to gather your data super quick. It’s going to all be automated. We’ll run through the clash detection and do all those other processes. It’s just going to speed it up. And I see that being something that’s in the near future.
Bryan Packer (22:45):
Tim or Jeff, anything from you?
Jeff Metcalf (22:46):
Yeah, going back to the point we established earlier that these tools and these technologies help us in delivering predictable outcomes to our customers – quick point on reality capture from my perspective. We sometimes work in spaces that are existing facilities or maybe 50-60 years old. And the level of as-built information that we have to work on is sometimes non-existent and sometimes very poor. And I think from a facilities management perspective, what this type of data that we’re capturing during our processes help the owner down the road be able to know what’s behind that wall or know where the pipes are running, or the ductwork is running and be able to make construction alterations down the road. I mean, that’s real value to our owners, but all of these technologies we look at as helping us deliver predictable outcomes and helping our owner have a successful experience with us and be able to manage their facility once we turn it over to them. That’s great value for them and we see that as a key investment strategy for us.
Bryan Packer (24:12):
Great. It’s interesting because I think if we looked back five or ten years ago, if we took ourselves back, we probably may not have guessed a lot of the stuff that’s happening right now. Some of it – yes, but maybe not all of it. So, it’ll be interesting to jump ahead again, another five to ten years and see really what has changed and what has developed within the technology within this industry. So pretty fascinating stuff.
Jeff Metcalf (24:33):
Yeah. And I think overall, the future of all this, we didn’t touch on prefabrication, but prefabrication is dependent on having all this information designed in a 3D environment. And to the extent that we’re industrializing some of the construction processes that usually take place on-site, this is going to lead to more capabilities of industrializing that manufacturing process of some of the prefabricated elements that we’re putting into our projects and that results in dollar savings to our owners. Also, I think when you add artificial intelligence on top of all of the vast amounts of data that we have in the BIM world and in the cost accounting world and the scheduling world, I could see some benefits down the road of being able to analyze and even do estimates based off of artificial intelligence data, it can see what types of things were built in previous projects and how much they cost. And then it can infer what that would cost on a new design, on a new project that we have model for. So those are a couple of things that I think we could see in the not too distant future.
Tim McLachlan (26:00):
To add to that, I think that it’s going to be a verification to make sure that when they’re actually going to install that, it is installed in the correct spot and isn’t going to cause an issue down the road. I think that’s where this automation’s really going to kick in, at least for my side of things.
Bryan Packer (26:16):
We’d like to thank VDC team, Jon Ferguson, Jeff Metcalf, and Tim McLachlan for joining us in today’s episode of Building Conversations, the STO Building Group podcast. I’m Bryan Packer with Layton Construction and we hope that you have a great day.
Thanks for listening to Building Conversations. For more episodes like this, you can find our podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or the STO Building Group website.