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3D Modeling: What it really means to developers

Posted by Draftech in Concrete    07/13/2011


Managing risk has now become easier

Most people have heard of 3D Modelling and Building Information Modelling (BIM) but far fewer understand that these tools transform the development process and substantially reduce risk.

Currently, to put a development together, you have to coordinate with many different people and efficiently process large amounts of information. As this information travels through the development process it is often replicated, resulting in inefficient workflow and the need for large contingencies. We have all worked on new and exciting projects which turn out to be a frustrating pain due to poor documentation.

Now 3D Modelling creates a whole new approach whereby everyone works together to create a virtual mock-up of the development. This mock-up contains as much information as possible and any changes to the project reflect first in the model and subsequently in the detailed documentation. The model can be viewed as videos, slides, drawings, schedules or walkthroughs. So, now an efficient link exists between the developer, consultants, contractors and future owners. This makes the project more accurate since information is no longer replicated but repeatedly checked without sorting through hundreds of documents.

This process is used largely in Scandinavia, the UK, the USA and now also in Australia. The benefits are being appreciated by some well known players; Scott Hutchinson of Hutchinson Builders said “Co-ordination is everything and BIM is the way it is all going”. The most recent project by Hutchinson’s is Cooroy Library; this has the Mechanical Services and Steel Modelled in 3D.

Some developers are taking it further and using 3D modelling to minimise waste by creating services modules and fabricating offsite.

In his book ‘Technology, Design and Process Innovation in the Built Environment’, Robin Drogemuller of QUT provides some interesting results of projects and their return on investment using 3D Modelling, otherwise know as ‘VDC’ (Virtual Design and Construction):


Type of Project, organization

Project cost

VDC model cost

Savings from using VDC


1 Music centre





2 Office complex





3 Retail complex





4 Large campus





Table 16.2 Measured/estimated return on investment (ROI) from VDC (CIFE)


1, 2 and 3: General contractor, VDC used, costs and savings were realized

4: Owner, VDC not used, cost of VDC not incurred but estimated, potential savings, costs

 Some may question legal issues relating to 3D Modelling and fortunately, 3D modelling has no more legal implications than 2D. Agrita O’Mahony, Senior Associate of Clarke Kann Lawyers says, “We cannot foresee that the use of the 3 Dimensional Building Model will give rise to any legal issues compared with the use of any 2 dimensional model. Given that the objective of the 3 Dimensional Model is to supplement, not replace, the 2 dimensional drawings the use of such a model is ultimately a risk management tool used to detect errors earlier in the construction process. Consequently, any disputes which arise as a result of conflict in designs from a number of disciplines should be identified much earlier. This technology has the potential to assist in reducing the scope for disputes thereby reducing costs that would be incurred if the errors were identified later in the construction process.”

Certainly the benefits and potential of 3D BIM modelling means that it is here to stay so ask your professionals what they are doing about it.

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