Before taking his current position, Lou Varni, the assistant VDC manager worked in the field as a concrete project engineer on multiple projects. He and his colleague, Senior BIM Manager Luis Perez, know first-hand what to look for when you need technology to use for improving a contractor’s operations at the office and on site. Pankow achieves better cost and schedule control by self-performing. Using Tekla software helps them to deliver meeting company’s core values, and because of utilizing information-rich visual models and software powerful's management tools throughout their projects, they can provide superior value to their clients.
“We consider ourselves a builder, not just a general contractor.”
“I think one of the things that makes Pankow special is that we self-perform heavily. It means that we perform trade work for our own projects, the ones that we manage. We make sure that we go above and beyond to ensure our buildings are high quality. Part of that is self-performing concrete structures in our projects. We build and pour our own concrete,” explains Luis Perez. “We do other things as well, but concrete is definitely our bread and butter.”
Doing the concrete work helps control overall costs and schedule. “If you can control concrete frame, that's really setting the tempo for the whole job. Pankow specializes in design build delivery method and integrated project delivery, which allows us to perform at our best,” Luis Perez says.
Estimation the Pankow way: Staying confident with complete information
“We try to get reference models from the design team to bring into Tekla, but often times they tend to be inaccurate and full of coordination issues. By modeling the concrete ourselves using Tekla, we can catch these issues during the preconstruction phase resulting in fewer RFI’s during construction and a more accurate estimate for the owner,” says Lou Varni.
To benefit even more from the model as the source for accurate, complete information, Pankow has created their own object property templates: They have added so called user-defined attributes (UDAs) into the 3D objects in their Tekla Structures models. “When we load those templates, they bring in all of our estimating information into that particular 3D part in the model. And with Tekla Structures we can sort and filter all that information in the model.”
Anyone can create custom fields like these in Tekla Structures - you don't have to be a programmer. You can use existing ones or do what Pankow has done, set up tabs by themselves.
A tighter connection between budget and costs
Pankow works in a similar way with their cost codes. “We organize our information by our header code and then add subcategories of our point codes. We just select point codes from the Organizer tool in Tekla and it will highlight those in the model and shows you exactly what's associated to that code. And the quantities are pulled out simultaneously,” Varni enthuses.
“The old way with an onscreen digitizing tool and spreadsheets was kind of tough. Take offs were color coded but it was just a lot of information on the sheet. It was sometimes difficult to understand how exactly the quantities were calculated and information coded,” says Varni. “But when you select the take off item in Tekla, it highlights it in the 3D model. It's basically a visual representation of the estimate. And in project changes, we're just adjusting parts and pieces of the 3D model, and it updates all information automatically. In old way you really needed to start over.”
With model-based takeoffs you can easily see that everything is included and thus always be confident that the quantities are accurate and up-to-date. “We deliver this type of quantity information from pre-construction to operations and to the field. They will know exactly where to code their work in the field. And they know what we bid. There is a tighter connection between what's being budgeted and what's being spent, and a lot less estimation and quantity errors,” concludes Varni.
Construction modeling: Fact check
After you win the project with a successful bid it's time to take the model to construction. At Pankow, VDC team is responsible of pre-construction. They hand the project off to project engineers who continue working with the model. Operations team does not need to start from scratch as they are literally receiving the estimation model and continuing to add more information and details into it.
"We confirm that our Tekla concrete model is fully coordinated by reviewing the contract drawings and pulling in reference models, and 2D CAD backgrounds from the design team and subcontractors. Tekla allows us to pull all this information into one area to look for discrepancies,” Varni explains. “We’ll often find multiple issues once all of the trades and design disciplines are overlayed in the same model.”
“We internally try to model everything that will affect out concrete. This often includes the embeds, misc. steel, and construction joints. Having this information in the model really helps our coordination and planning efforts for the project,” Varni elaborates. “Once we’ve coordinated our concrete and embeds and made sure everything is right, we bring in our rebar subcontractor, which uses Tekla to model rebar into our concrete shapes,” says Varni. “With the model you reduce misinterpretation of the drawings between us and the rebar subcontractor. It's really clear where we have coordinated the concrete to be, and they put the rebar in there.”
Information translated into actions
None of the planning matters if you can't translate it into actions for the people on site. So once everything is coordinated, Pankow starts extracting field drawings from model. “We can pull in properties that we set in the model, sort pour-specific material quantities and utilize the pre-defined settings in Tekla to automatically create drawings for the people in the field.”
“And once we have that coordinated information in the model, we can create layout points directly in Tekla, export those to our robotic total station, and then start laying out in the field, Varni tells.
“We very quickly realized that using Tekla provided tons of value for us and implementing Tekla allows us to deliver on our core values,” says Senior BIM Manager Luis Perez.
Pankow, as an innovative company, is always looking for better ways to use the information in their models for things such as production, or implementing new features that Tekla is constantly developing.
“The fact that we can identify potential issues early on and constructibility reviews have been proven extremely valuable. Effecting also on safety, these are one of the key benefits of using Tekla,” says Perez.
And when it comes to customer service Pankow’s entire technical workflow allows them to deliver superior value, regardless of whether the client is their own project engineer taking over the model in the field, or the owner, or the rebar sub-contractor. “I think it's huge that we can deliver this type of superior of value to our clients,” says Perez.