Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., an Arkansas-based design-build contractor, recently announced Gene Kitsmiller as its first director of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). Construction Dive spoke with Kitsmiller about the wide adoption of building information modeling (BIM), the holes that can still be filled in the technology's use and the difference between the perception and reality of VDC.
Construction Dive: BIM is becoming more widely adopted in U.S. construction. Are contractors utilizing it correctly?
Gene Kitsmiller: I think there's still a lot of missing parts and pieces that people do not use correctly. Of course, that has to do with the talent you have in house and how well those people understand the programs they're using. There can be a lot of data there that can be utilized, but there can also be a lot of data missing.
A lot of times we'll go through and take a look at the model and see what parts that we could add. Studs are always a good example. Every time you put in a door, there should be two studs that lead all the way to the next floor of a building. We need to see those, especially if we're doing clash detection.
So, that's something that we'll have to go back in and add to the model. A lot of times we're using programming to do it for us. So the programming can go in and find every door and put a stud in that's the width and height that it needs to be in order to match that door.
How do you see BIM evolving?
Kitsmiller: I believe it's the future. I believe it's the present right now. And I think that what we're seeing is the rapid advancement not only in design, but in construction as well. Especially looking at visual programs, and even developing the software to do a lot of extra work for us.
And I think as trust comes along — I think it has to do a lot with trust at the end of the day — are you trusting the people that are making those innovations and are we back checking ourselves to make sure the things we've come up with are helping?
In terms of using BIM with other applications, it's all data, right? And there are a lot of ways to share data between different applications. It can be as simple as an Excel database that you're pushing and pulling data from into another application.
How are contractors doing in terms of data collection and sharing?
Kitsmiller: I still think within construction companies, there's some disconnect between the VDC process and some of the other departments where they could be using the data more. I think a lot of people do it really well, and some people are just now touching the tip of the iceberg. You've got to find a way for the data to interact with every department internally to make sure it reaches its best utilization beyond just the VDC department.
How do you bridge the gap between traditional 2D mapping with modern 3D technology?
Kitsmiller: Between the 2D and 3D world you’ve got to think not only is our industry changing, but the design industry itself is changing. A lot of things are done in 3D now, and the drawing should be a reflection of that. In other words, they should be made from the 3D model.
Everything that you're putting out should be coming from those models. But we shouldn't just be developing 3D models for the practice and development of 3D models. They should be the drawings that are used in design, fabrication and on site.
What is the difference between the average contractor’s perception of VDC and how it really works?
Kitsmiller: Sometimes the expectation is understated, and the amount of stuff that we can do and can help out with is probably a lot more than what's being utilized. The understanding is not quite there yet.
I think that a lot of people think it's just fun to sit here and play around with video games basically. And it's not always that way because it's a lot of time trying to get certain programs to work. It can be frustrating at times, but at the same time, it is very rewarding.
There's still just a lot to learn every day. And keeping up with the technology is not necessarily getting harder, but you really have to do your homework on a daily basis to see what's out there and know what's going on.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity