Riku Laiho leads VDC to apply model-based information as widely as possible
Updated: Jan 27
VDC refers to Virtual Design and Construction, a way of working in construction that utilizes building information models as an effective collaboration platform for all project parties. Riku Laiho is the VDC team leader at NCC, the Finnish construction company building Trimble’s new offices in the Oasis of Professionals (OOPS) campus in Espoo.
For NCC, building information models are a natural base for all project parties to engage in effective collaboration. VDC is not for the specialists only but for all working in the project and participating in its processes. Digital information is being gathered and procedures developed throughout the lifecycle of the project. This collaboration takes place across the design and construction disciplines, addressing communications, planning and decision-making and striving to create more effective ways of working for the building and construction industry.
“VDC is more than BIM and includes many tools,” says Riku Laiho. “The building information model is a good base, but VDC is a larger entity that includes NCC’s Project Studio concept, weekly scheduling in a Big Room, design supervision, and contractor meetings on site. Data exchange practices must be agreed upon among the designers and contractors as early as possible. In this project, we also use the Last Planner ERP method."
Trimble’s office project is an awesome opportunity to apply new digital solutions in practice
Laiho says NCC's VDC team is continuously sounding new tools and figuring out if they could provide solutions to the challenges of the project.
“This is a very special project in the sense that it involves a uniquely large stack of new technology, meaning tools that we haven’t applied before, and we’re implementing many new ideas. My role as the VDC manager is a great opportunity to cut loose and bring in new solutions. The implementation process involves plenty of challenges and is a big deal,” he says. Many programs have been in preparation for the action for years in advance.
“An extra challenge is the vast number of disciplines involved, and Trimble Connect, for example, is useful only if it’s being used widely across the project parties. Our own people use it to manage design, and the contractors use it on site. Moreover, it’s important to get the component suppliers to play our game in the same environment. Using the new tools in their intended purpose requires internal sales and supervision,” Laiho notes.
“The best thing about this project is to see all of Trimble’s strengths, the entire BIM universe, including laser scanning and drone scaling, taken on site in practice, and at the same time, bringing the site conditions in the model by using advanced digital surveying equipment.
"One of the best things about this project is to roll out Trimble’s strengths in BIM tools and digital surveying equipment in practice. We can bring the models to site with Trimble’s mobile applications, total stations and virtual reality solutions like never before. On the other hand we can also take site conditions back to office by using drones and laser scanners. To me it’s groundbreaking to witness how digital and physical world meet and go hand in hand at the site. At the moment we’re figuring out how to utilize the structural model in the frame phase. This project is also a great opportunity to test how Trimble Connect and other applications work together in practice.”
“Furthermore, this project is a chance for us at NCC to develop our ways of working, and for the software provider, a chance to closely follow up on how their new functionality is being applied in action and to react to and fix potential shortcomings. We are highly motivated to make all this work in a new way, and we hope to transmit this mentality to our partners; we’re doing something new and unique here.”
A dedicated engineer to supervise digital and virtual construction on site
Although Laiho visits the construction site frequently, a second engineer will be appointed soon to supervise and coordinate the use of model-based design on site.
“In order to develop, one needs to be part of the process hands-on,” Laiho says. “In this project, my role as the VDC manager has included functioning as the software specialist and trainer on site, but soon we’ll have another engineer on site to see that the new tools are being applied as extensively as possible throughout the project. In an ideal situation the contractors are all aboard since the very beginning when laying out the VDC objectives for the selected tools.”
Laiho says it’s not enough to train the use of digital tools once in the beginning of the project. Their use must be monitored continuously as the project progresses and new people join it. Employees come and go, and their basic level and interest in software varies, so work on site involves constant orientation.
“Our staff all have the model on their smart phones, tablets or laptops, and our contractors and suppliers all have access to Trimble Connect. We strive to maintain the project status real-time in the model and solve, for example, CIP and installation problems in the shared model. Current mobile technology enables this on a sufficiently detailed level.”
The gap between virtual and real is narrowing down to close up entirely in the future
Riku Laiho has worked on various construction projects since more or less six years and knows the technical side of construction thoroughly. The role of the VDC manager is more comprehensive, however.
“In practice, I run the VDC team and its operations a bit like a football coach would run the team,” Laiho says. “Once the decision is made to implement a new tool, I test it first myself, then pass the ball to the next guy in order to have it genuinely implemented. My continuous effort is to get all parties do as-built follow-up, which will boost their own work as well as the coordination of the entire project.”
“In the background, we sense the paradigm change and the tight schedule. It’s important to ensure we don’t drift back into the old way of doing under pressure. In the design meetings, we need to talk about the degree of completion, not only about drawings. On site, we can check the model on a mobile device instead of running back to the office with a bunch of drawings. For a digital builder like me, it’s fantastic to witness how the gap between virtual and real narrows down to close up entirely in the future and how others, too, see the light of
technology and the great opportunities it provides."