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Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction

Published on July 16, 2012, by in Symposium Review.

 The Second Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction was held on August 15, 16 and 17, 2012. The symposium was organized by faculty members Burcin Kaplanoglu and John Jurewicz of Northwestern University’s Master of Project Management Program as a means for researchers and professionals to interact with regards to new technology deployments in the fields of design and construction. The first symposium, which was held in August 2011 was in Evanston Campus, This year the event has moved to Chicago downtown campus at the law School’s Thorne Auditorium.

Of the 100 attendees, approximately 40% were from architectural and engineering (A/E) design firms, 40% were from general contractors (GC) and construction management (CM) firms, 10% were faculty, and the rest was from other players of the industry like software developers, subcontractors, suppliers etc.

fig.1 fig.2 fig.3

As the keynote speaker of the symposium, Stéphane Côté director of Bentley Applied Research Group, described how by registering and anchoring models onto a 3D panorama, his group solved a larger problem  of accuracy when viewing with augmented reality. The next challenge his team conquered was with spatial recognition. A model can be accurately overlaid onto a trench dig so that the viewer understands they are looking into the earth (fig.2). He then moved on to describe how in the near future dat will be embedded into what we see in more useful ways, dissolving the border between what is proposed and what is real, and how virtual reality is becoming even more real than reality with data accentuation. This technology will help perform more accurate trench digging when working between existing utility lines, the simulation of demolition before sending in workers to perform dangerous activities and quality control during erection using model based information.

Howard W. Ashcraft Jr. from  the Construction Group of Hanson Bridgett LLP, spoke on the legal aspects of using augmented reality and how owner’s are growing to require more intelligent up front investigations in the next level of construction cooperation, with integrated Project Delivery methods. He explained how the integrated delivery systems increases the production and success through improved communication.  He also described the risks of clearly defining who is responsible for keeping the data  up to date with integrity during the various project phases and the methodologies of handing off information between each team member.

David Ladek from CH2M HILL, pointed to the importance of the information management during and after the design & construction process. He explained how the handling of the information is a real challenge as it affects the management of facilities as well as the construction of it, and why and how the facility management should get involved in the process from the beginning. He stated the rate of change is changing and that we, (as an industry), need to get better at changing more quickly. The role of the CIO in preserving and managing large data mandated by building information modeling was emphasized.

Fig. 4 Point cloud scan image of Thorne Auditorium courtesy of Precision Midwest

 Fred Cardenas from Trimble/Meridian, gave a rather imaginative presentation using a high resolution point cloud scan of the auditorium where the event was held. He demonstrated how easily scanned information can be brought into a design concept tool, where studies can be made, structurally analyzed,  and how a model can be developed into fabrication data rather easily by simply re-using data. He explained how through closer integration of survey data and model information, cost options and with much more accurate information can be visualized for better decisions. The Last speaker of the opening day was Craig Larson from Oracle. He began by describing the new sensor capabilities with automating point cloud data allows large processing servers to map terrain with point cloud scans taken from aircraft. This large data can then be distilled for use in civil infrastructure projects. Larson described the vision of open standards and how the GIS data, his firm manages on large a large scale, is reshaping the world for geo referenced infrastructure. Several challenges face the industry in managing geo-spatial databases, namely billions of spatial points must be transformed into useful geometry (the fusion of aerial imagery with vector based models), and your dealing with terabytes of information (see fig. 5) Larson showed examples of spatial data being used for large, infrastructure projects such as the Crossrail project in London, which featured underground tunnel excavations modeled with spatial information provided by his firm based on the Industry Foundation Classification system (IFC). He also announced that Oracle will take a more active role in participating on with the open standard initiatives of NIBS (National Institute of Building Sciences and the Smart Building Alliance.

Figure 5. Sensor scans from plane deliver automated photogrammetry of terrain -courtesy Oracle spatial







Fig. 5 Bridging the informational gap between two dimensional CAD, GIS and BIM


The second day began with Peggy Yee, who is the change agent within the U.S. General Services Administration, one of the largest property managers in the world. Peggy pointed to the importance of standardizing data transfer to facility managers and how data, if made available earlier in the process can save the investigation trip, that typically is required for projects where BIM is not used. By organizing repair information more clearly up front, time can be saved on the maintenance effort of managing properties. Yee had 9 projects underway and results were just beginning to come in that substantiate reduced work orders through the repurposing of BIM data throughout the life of the project.

Figure 8 Mortenson’s digital plan room

Andy Stapleton from Mortenson Construction, demonstrated how digital plan rooms make it easier for contractors to understand and access the model and drawing information. They use this for both bid opportunities and after subcontractors are brought on board to distribute information. It includes large screens to view a project with three dimensional visuals at the same time reviewing two dimensional contract drawings. Andy described a case study for the University of Chicago Administration Building where As-built coordinated models tied information back into the owner’s facility management system, Maximo.  In working closely with a third party integrator, Model data was pushed from the coordinated models into the owner’s FM system using a viewer from Navisworks.

Figure 9 workflow to maximo.

Fig. 10. Sciquest’s dashboard for KBR.

Barrow Island courtesy Eric Zoetmulder, Sciquest, a division of KBR


Eric Zoetmulder from SciQuest described a case study his firm had done for KBR, for a large Industrial gas and oil processing plant on a remote island located in western Australia.  The dash board systems his firm developed are being transferred to KBR so they can continue to develop the code directly(see fig.10 above and Barrow Island Project- left).




Stan Pepper from Plansandspecs, emphasized the use of cloud technologies and information sharing for construction and facility management processes, after which Milin Trivedi from Autodesk, promoted and discussed Autodesk BIM 360 Glue. Many of the participants asked questions regarding how this software can be used to process large campus BIM projects and how this application is being used to break down the walls of information silos.

Figure 11. Plans and specs working with BIM 360

Raymond Topping from FIATECH, pointed to the silo problem about storing and accessing information, corporal hierarchies preventing effective cooperation and construction codes varying from state to state. He stated that there were more than 100.000 codes across the country, and their target project had review notes between less than ten and more than 150 in different states. He introduced an open source software, Autocodes, they were developing to prepare code loaded virtual models to be checked for code compliance


Fig. 13 Nuclear exposure –red is hot zone


The most interesting part of his presentation showed how Siemens, by integrating Microsoft’s Kinect with their  software, was able to overlay the motions of a worker changing a pump, onto a digital model where radiation dosages were a concern. Through this analysis, they were able reduce the exposure of radiation for workers providing service tasks inside a nuclear reactor. See figure 13.


Stuart Bull from Arup, as a guest from Sydney,  described the use of models for determining the conditions of existing buildings giving London City Hall, Sydney Opera House etc. as examples that he had constructed. He went on to explain the use of information modeling combined with collaborative efforts for producing coordinated construction documents.Bull emphasized the major challenges facing large projects when coordinating with models:

  • Revit limitation when detailing large frames compared with Tekla (35,000 elements)
  • Export functionality is limited with revit (IFC improvements needed) to fabrication
  • The term “clash free” isn’t necessarily a reality when dealing with mega projects
  • Creating and coordinating models takes more time than the Joint Venture Partners realized
  • Traditional CADD standards may not apply when extracting into models.
  • Early involvement of contractors to prove erection methods is needed
  • Some of the Mechanical Systems team needed improved skill training
  • Understanding Supply Chain integration was big step

See fig. 15-18 of HKIA midfield development courtesy of Stuart Bull of Arup on the next pages

Fig. 15 Constructability revi

Fig. 16 Midfield development Hong Kong International Airport 570,000 square meter expansion

Figure 17 showing new airfield ground lighting interfacing with AGL

Fig. 18 West Hall modifications

Mark J. Frisch from Solomon Cordwell Buenz, first emphasized the information moving in and out of portals from different offices and their interactions. He then drew attentions to the driving force of the industry, the clients, and market preferences of different levels of design, like iconic multi-family residential buildings, contextual higher education complexes, interiors that create impressive atmospheres or planning approaches that express forms. Finally he explained the route projects follow as “Model”, “Visualization”, “Analyze”, “Visualization” and “Virtually Building”, and moved on to alternative methods of project preparation and implementation.

Fig. 19.  Baggage system study.

Robert Snyder from Bentley, started with explaining the meaning of drawing projects as drawing attention. He expressed the importance of using detail that is correctly referenced to a larger picture that shows context of where the detail is taken from. He described the approach and why linking two dimensional detailing will always remain useful and that with hyper modeling, that attaches all the documents related to the projects, such as details, specifications, permits, AR photos, field notes; that these details become more relevant when viewed in the context of a virtual model. He finally explained how the model becomes more meaningful when the detail is linked with the proper location and the detail is more relevant when it becomes easier to find and associate. This makes the process of understanding technically complex details much more apparent and easier to understand.

He cited examples of hyper-linked models used for the Nemours hospital (fig. 20 next page), in Orlando Florida, just being completed, the massive Crossrail Project in London that is 50% underway and the experiments currently being conducted by his team to embed augmented reality into hyper linked models and even using sectional details to more accurately adjust the relationship between real world images and point clouds, to make digital models more accurate and data rich.

Fig. 20. Nemours hospital Orlando, FL courtesy of Rob Snyder, Bentley Applies Research group

Figures 21 and 22 courtesy of Rob Snyder of Bentley Applied Research Group










Cory Davis from Chicago Public Schools, started stating that there were 700 schools in Chicago, average age of which were on average 83 years old. He described the difficulties faced when repairing an existing infrastructure, refurbishing and modernizing the schools, and meeting changing environmental & educational standards. Finally he explained how CPS determined the needs of all these projects and the systems they have used to meet these renovation needs.

On the final day of the symposium, Bryan Jurewicz from Textura Corporation, began the day by explaining the mapping processes of information flow in construction industry. He described the electronic management of pay applications and showed clear demonstrations about how this process can be improved through improved routing of electronic information. He demonstrated improvements in the process of managing sustainability goals for LEED credit management.

Figure 23. Courtesy Sandy Damasco Lend Lease

Sandy Damasco from Lend Lease, started his presentation defining the metadata management from concept design to as-builts. He stated the levels of BIM as “Basic CAD”, “2D/3D Modeling”, “3D modeling+4D”, “3D+4D+5D+6D+7D”. He pointed to interoperability as possible but hard to figure out. He finally stated why and how the industry needs to redesign the information handling and storing processes.

James Park, explained the importance of as-built field validation and how his firm is using intelligent points pushed back into the model as amore streamlined workflow over messing around with point cloud files which are often cumbersome and difficult to work with.  The sharing ASCII data  with the surveyor for validation. He emphasized how the laser scanners can be used for matching as-built and design data.

Fig. 24 courtesy John Jurewicz, 12th floor Farcroft.

Figure 26. Adjustment of trash chute.

Figure 25. Farcroft ACSII point intertion into revit.

Note orbs indicate field survey shots pushed into the model to reflect existing structural conditions

Ville Kyytsönen from Tekla BIMsight, first described his company Tekla and gave general information. He produced the different solutions for various players in the industry, like Trimble for BIM & build, Meridian for project management, Tekla for BIM collaboration. He went on explaining the process with a case study in Westminister, Denver. Finally he pointed to open BIM and integration through IFC.

Kirk Olson from Synchro Ltd, defined how BIM was being used in other industries for years and pointed how through linking the data of schedules costs to a model, how planning processes can be improved to make better decisions. He explained how clash detection studies are even more meaningful when associated with key schedule activities time and how reality checks are even more meaningful when animated. He demonstrated a case study at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Outpatient Care Pavilion Project being built a few block away, where a critical dig for a connecting tunnel had numerous concerns. Concerns that were addressed with a detailed, 4D model where the Lend Lease field team working closely with model coordinators, used a time scaled-linked model to improve the routing of ambulance traffic and pedestrians during construction through virtual simulated scenarios:

Fig. 27 image courtesy Kirk Olsen, Synchro showing NMH tunnel dig.

Finally, Deke Smith from National Institute of Building Sciences, concluded the conference by  summarizing key lessons from each presentation; pointing to the importance of training high performance. Cross functional teams and encouraging open standards among the technology providers. He defined the importance of repurposing and reusing information being received from various threads of the industry. He explained how the standards were formed step by step from local level to national, to international, and finally to ISO. He described what his organization NIBS (National Institute for Building Sciences is doing to promote improved interoperability. He closed, emphasizing the importance of building the model, and building the building according to that model:

7 Responses

  1. John B

    Looks good John. Good effort and may the force be with you …or was that Star Wars? :-)

  2. mika

    For further reading on GIS:
    Bentley Cadastre PostGIS vs Oracle Spatial and Graph, IIT (Illinois Inst of Technology-India) had this to conclude in comparison:

    “From the experimental results that we saw, we can conclude that Postgres performs better than Oracle 11g both in the Cold Phase and Warm Phase. Though in few queries Oracle 11g performed better but on the whole Postgres overpowered Oracle 11g. In the warm phase in 3 out of 4 queries Postgres performed significantly well, from this we can conclude that Postgres has better automatic memory management capabilities and page replacement policies… On the whole it is the open-source that wins the game!”

    Notes: 1.Oracle database was on Windows while the PostGIS was running on Linux; 2. neither database was tuned, they were both were tested with default parameters. 3. The two slower tests used the touches relationship, which is not optimized in PostGIS using a prepared geometry approach. 4. The non-optimized predicates in PostGIS are quite inefficient, they calculate far more topological information than is strictly necessary to answer a true/fale question about a single topological relationship.

    Thanks to IIT for carrying out and sharing this research.
    The action in Oracle Spatial is with SharpMap in France. Devart built on .NET Framework 2.5 (Entity Framework version 5)

  3. Hi John,
    I have attended the symposium and there are couple classes I would like to get the slides so I can further promote within our organization. Could you, please, post the *.ppt/*.pdf of the following presentations: “Advancing the World’s Infrastructure Delivery and Operations through Innovation and Technology”, Raymond Topping; “Hong Kong International Airport Project”, Stuart Bull; “Hypermodeling”,Robert Snyder; “Owner’s Use of the Cloud”, Stanley Pepper.
    Many thanks

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