PCL develops Revit add-in “PartsLab,” enabling true BIM construction detailing, and saving about 150 hours per project on design changes
by on November 11, 2019•
PCL Construction is a group of independent construction companies that is 100 percent employee-owned. With more than 100 years of experience in the industry and offices across the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and in Australia, PCL “celebrates the past and builds for the future” through true dedication to the PCL family and the industry as a whole.
To stay competitive for over 100 years, a construction firm like PCL must always look to the future. The ultimate promise of Building Information Modeling (BIM) solutions for construction was to keep all stakeholders aligned during every phase of the project. PCL was fully bought into using digital solutions to achieve this kind of project efficiency. Though many Autodesk tools worked well on PCL projects, teams continued to be challenged by design model updates and making changes in Revit. By creating their own add-in to Revit called PartsLab®, PCL smoothed out a key aspect of the model validation process—helping to meet the BIM solution promise.
A key function within Autodesk® Revit® is the Parts feature. This tool allows users to detail the linked design model and check individual components of a model, revealing potential design modeling errors that could lead to rework during construction. The use of Revit Parts allows the linked design to be truly validated during the detailing process without modeling the structure from scratch. This kind of check is essential, but users at PCL often found the process of creating and checking individual parts was tedious. The effort required homing in on each part and clicking it manually. As a large firm, PCL was often building complex structures with multi-layered components, and finding the right part could be highly challenging within the 3D model.
For example, if a user wants to create Parts for 400 design objects that require detailing—and possibly modifications for pour breaks, block-outs, sleeves, or embeds—clicking those linked model objects and creating views required to see those objects can take a significant amount of time. This makes the Parts feature challenging to use, even for seasoned experts. If one click takes one second, selecting hundreds of linked-model objects quickly adds up. If a user mis-clicks, all selections are lost and the process has to start over again, adding even more time to the workflow.
If a user wanted to view and validate a selection of 400 parts in the model, there currently is no process in Revit that displays design conditions that can’t or shouldn’t be built. Traditionally, users would simply skip the use of Revit Parts, and use other manual methods to find design discrepancies. Typically, this meant users spent time recreating design models in order to detect errors early.
PCL knew that its business was not the only company experiencing this frustration. Despite the challenges, the company saw the vast potential that the Parts feature could have for solving existing industry detailing challenges and have a sustainable design update process. PCL wanted to devise a method that would make Parts easier to use for better design error detection.
“PCL PartsLab provides an enormous jump start to our project planning and coordination efforts. We’re able to consume geometry from design updates while continuing to add the level of detail needed for construction. In the early stages of a project, this is particularly beneficial as we break the building into concrete pours. We can then visually communicate our plan to our trade partners using the 3d model for shared understanding. When change occurs as the design progresses we can react quickly and communicate our new plan accordingly.”
- Matt Glassman AIA, Virtual Construction Manager, Seattle, PCL Construction
The principle behind Revit Parts is simple – the goal of the feature is to allow detailing of individual components of a complex object, without disturbing the complex object. PCL wanted to solve for the process of creating and visualizing those Parts within the model. With this goal in mind, PartsLab was created.
PartsLab on a basic level is a dialogue box that appears when the user wants to enhance the Parts function. With this dialogue box, users can now select the types of building components that require Parts creation. Certain aspects of constructability can also be viewed from a checklist while filtering out any conditions users don’t need to view. This removes the messy process of attempting to click the correct part within a congested 3D model.
The PartsLab add-in takes what is working in Revit Parts – highlighting constructability issues – and makes it easier to use effectively. PartsLab also automates the process of managing dedicated views that display these conditions by project level or Revit category.
Large construction companies like PCL often work with multiple stakeholders across a variety of disciplines. For these different teams, the ability to quickly and easily view even the smallest model updates is hugely beneficial. Now teams can more easily work together, collaborating effectively to ensure early design alignment.
“When PartsLab was first introduced it gave me peace of mind knowing that the structural model I created wasn’t going to be modified by those developing our lift drawings. Parts gave us the flexibility to quickly and easily organize and develop our lift drawings. It reduced the number of hours spent developing those lift drawings. Overall, it has been a huge step in the right direction for our team.”
- Emberly Valgardson, Superintendent, Nordic PCL Construction, Inc.
With the PartsLab add-in, users have completely changed their process for updating construction models and checking delivered design models. On one of PCL’s major tower projects, the team delivered an accelerated concrete project schedule—saving six weeks on the entire project. On an average, large-scale project, one round of parts creation can take six hours to complete. With PartsLab, this set up takes just 10 minutes. Additionally, a single design update on a project previously can take three hours to complete. With PartsLab, these updates can be completed in 30 minutes—a welcome savings when updating designs on tight deadlines. Scaled to the entire project lifecycle, PCL now sees an average savings of 150 hours per project on design changes alone.
“There is a point on every project where you have to decide when to begin your construction and coordination model. If you pull the trigger too soon, you have to model all design changes going forward in your construction and coordination model. If you wait until the design models are substantially complete, you often don’t have enough time to create your lift drawings and properly coordinate your systems. PartsLab has been a game-changer for PCL. It allows us to reuse the design models to begin our lift drawings and systems coordination early, and easily incorporate new iterations of the design model. As the complexity of our projects increases, and our timeframes decrease, the value PartsLab brings to our process continues to grow.”
– Bill Bennington, National Quality Manager, PCL Construction
Since the use of the add-in began, 1,325,343 parts have been created by PCL teams. Because of the improved usability of Parts during the design documentation phase, PCL now easily saves thousands of dollars by avoiding future rework costs. The previous method of manual clicking to find these issues could take hours to view the parts in a model. Now, users can view any combination of targeted parts in a matter of seconds with perfect accuracy.
On any major construction project, design issues and modeling errors can occur as different stakeholders make updates and changes to the digital model. Issues occurring in the design phase can lead to rework during construction if missed and can cost the team anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars and a week or more delay. Just as valuable, not needing to communicate delays to the owner is a huge win. With the addition of PartsLab, it is much easier for users to find and catch design errors early, helping to avoid time and money spent on rework.
PCL’s president and COO of US Operations, Deron Brown, was recognized by Engineering News-Record as one of the Top 25 Newsmakers for giving PartsLab away for free to the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) community. PartsLab now has over 2,500 downloads and isn’t slowing down. The company is making the add-in freely available to other businesses in the industry, knowing this tool can improve collaboration across the board. If all businesses in the AEC arenas have access to this add-in, it will mean all Revit users are operating at the same optimal level, and a new standard of excellence can be achieved throughout the industry.
“When it came to making parts, we knew others in the industry had the same problem we were having. That's part of the reason we’re giving PartsLab away. We can't get the industry to move forward with a better process if we're the only people that have the ‘easy button.’ We’re giving it away because we’re hoping it will change the industry.”
- Daron Denton, VDC Manager of R&D, PCL Construction North America
To learn more about PartsLab, visit PCL Construction on YouTube.