Ecobuild 2012 Recap

The 2012 Ecobuild Conference got off to a fast start for the Federal Design and Construction Outlook track on Tuesday (December 11) morning.  The General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Department of State’s Overseas Building Operations (OBO) gave us a glimpse into their future.  There was a common theme among all of the federal presentations: budgets are shrinking and federal agencies need to do more with less money.

Dorothy Robyn, newly appointed Commissioner of the GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS), pointed out that the GSA has been moving away from new construction and that is reflected in their budget; PBS’s budget for renovation is six times more than new construction.  The GSA is also focusing on moving tenants from leased space to existing government owned space.

Mila Kennett, Architect/Senior Program Manager of High Performance Integrated Design Research Program at DHS, shared with the audience how DHS incorporates risk analysis into their building process.

Joseph Gott, Chief Engineer and Director of Capital Improvements at NAVFAC, led off the second session of the morning with a review of their FY13 budget.  Joseph anticipates that the NAVFAC budget will continue to shrink through the fiscal cliff into the $1-2 billion per year range, down from $2.5-3 billion in previous years.  Joseph emphasized that in order to procure business with NAVFAC moving forward you must show that your product and/or service leads to a lower total ownership cost for NAVFAC.

Dennis Milsten, Associate Executive Director, Office of Programs & Plans, Construction & Facilities Management at Veterans Affairs, provided an overview of the $6 billion in projects currently underway that will not be complete until 2024.  He indicated that this will keep the organization busy, as the budget for major projects will decline in 2013.  Due to the slight budget increase for minor projects, the VA will be focusing much of their attention in this area in 2013.  Dennis stressed one of the major challenges that the VA faces is the age of the facilities – on average they are 60 years old.  In the coming years the VA will invest in master plans for several locations to better understand what changes need to be made to meet the needs of today and tomorrow.

Joseph Toussaint, Deputy Director for Program Development, Coordination and Support at the U.S. Department of State’s OBO,rounded out the morning session with an overview of the U.S. Embassy program.  OBO currently has a budget of $7 billion and a portfolio of 70 million square feet.  In 2013, OBO will continue to shift their focus away from the Standard Embassy Design towards Design Excellence.  As part of this shift, OBO will award multiple IDIQs for both renovation and new construction geared around the Design Excellence program.  Joseph also indicated that OBO will likely start shifting away from Design Build towards Design Bid Build.

 

In addition to the 2013 outlook for federal agencies, Ecobuild also had a wide array of sessions focused on how practitioners are utilizing technology in practice.  One such example was a presentation during the healthcare BIMStorm with Kimon Onuma, FAIA (Onuma, Inc.), Renee Tietjen (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), Brent Pilgrim (Beck Technology, Ltd.) and Gary Lundgren (Leo A Daly).  This overview of the VA’s Macro BIM Pilot Project illustrated how technology can successfully be integrated into the master planning process.  According to Renee, the VA selected Beck Technology and Onuma to be part of the Macro BIM Pilot with the goal of assisting the VA in reducing risk and better predicting cost.

Gary Lundgren provided an overview of the traditional Master Planning process that his firm has utilized successfully on numerous VA projects.  He pointed out that this process includes lots of drawings and reference documents.  Utilizing Macro BIM tools allowed the VA to begin to integrate this data into a single model.  Kimon Onuma and Brent Pilgrim walked the audience through numerous examples of how Macro BIM tools were used in a live charrette setting.

Their presentation from Ecobuild can be watched on YouTube here,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uRUBRNdpZY.

The Macro BIM charrette included live modeling based on the concepts from the Leo A Daly team, along with live cost, energy and site analysis of the various options.  Brent Pilgrim brought up an excellent point, one that I think is often overlooked – he reminded the audience that as practitioners we take for granted that we can look at a 2D drawing and view/understand it in 3D, perhaps even view it as an intelligent 3D model.  By utilizing Macro BIM as opposed to communicating via 2D drawings, it allows practitioners to engage clients in the process with the same level of understanding.

It was very interesting to hear how the project evolved.  Gary indicated that there was initial reluctance about utilizing new tools due to their tight schedule.  After integrating the technology into the charrette, it became clear to all involved that Macro BIM has a place in the master planning process.

One thing that became very clear to me is that the use of Macro BIM in a charrette was not about the tools.  It was still about the people and project.  A successful project will always require a talented and knowledgeable architect/engineer and an engaged owner.  Macro BIM will ultimately allow more options to be analyzed in less time.  The end result?  A successful project and everyone can head out early on Friday.