How McCarthy Building Companies Leads the Way in Virtual Design and Construction

April 19, 2019 Kristen Sylva

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, is over 150 years old and is a top 20 Engineering News-Record (ENR) general contractor, top 15 Building Information Modeling (BIM) contractor, and top two healthcare builder. The firm is a leader in innovation, construction technology, and lean construction, leveraging Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) tools and pushing towards the ultimate goal of becoming the “Best Builder in America.”

McCarthy's work on the Washington University in St. Louis East End Transformation Project officially started construction May 2017 and will extend into late 2019. The project features eight components — six buildings, one parking garage, and one landscape feature — and at over $240 million, is the largest project on the Washington University Danforth Campus in recent history. The university prides itself on its academic mission of groundbreaking discovery, research, and teaching. The new addition will reflect this mission.

From the start, McCarthy worked with the project team to develop a project-wide Building Information Modeling (BIM) Execution Plan to address the needs of this complex project. Leveraging Virtual Design and Construction software, the customer was able to improve communication and execute project elements seamlessly.


The Challenge: A Large, Complex Project


McCarthy’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) process began with an early BIM execution plan involving all project stakeholders. Early scoping documents communicated the overall process to design team members and trade contractors alike, intending to clearly lay out the expectations of McCarthy and the project owner. The unique East End Transformation is a massive project, and with so many components, there was little room for error.

Many of the new building designs include high-end architectural features and finishes, requiring great precision and high attention to detail. The team at McCarthy knew the success of this project would require seamless communication, with all team members fully buying into the concept of the model being the Single Source of Truth. By keeping the focus on up-to-date models and design, McCarthy laid the groundwork for highly optimized collaboration. They knew that, with the firm’s core drive to be the best builder in America in mind, they must continually lead the way in the “Virtual” aspect of BIM integration. McCarthy’s approach to construction technology has always been pragmatic – technology must add value or it has no place on the project. With a consistent focus on using the best tools to deliver the best results, their achievements highlight the power of construction software and VDC as key elements of an integrated digital workflow.


The Solution: Construction Software Purpose-Built for Virtual Design and Construction


In bringing construction software tools to the project early on, McCarthy was able to fully leverage its relationship with Autodesk and give all stakeholders access to the best digital solutions. Open conversations between the teams led to a more proactive partnership and a definitive strategy for building on that relationship between McCarthy and Autodesk.

For this complex project, McCarthy chose a robust combination of software tools, including Navisworks, Point Layout, and BIM 360 Design. The prime mover driving the integrated workflow was McCarthy’s push for collaboration, and a desire to seamlessly connect project-wide team members across different regions, with a single source of truth.

At the completion of the design phase, McCarthy onboarded 15 team members to prepare for successful trade coordination across multiple platforms and workflows. BIM 360 Design was central to the Virtual Design phase, used to connect project team members across the country in a collaborative environment. Navisworks gave onsite McCarthy team members the ability to seamlessly manage trade collaboration across multiple disciplines. Point Layout was crucial in the dynamic process of model-based, concrete placement.


Success: Virtual Design and Construction Tools Save Time and Improve Quality


For this project, McCarthy employed their own internal Concrete Placement Drawings (CPDs) process to ensure a coordinated and effective concrete placement effort. Utilizing BIM 360 Design, multiple project stakeholders were connected to the concrete detailing process prior to the review and approval of CPDs and concrete placement. With this method, McCarthy created, modeled, and detailed a total of 87,810 tons of concrete—or 43,363 Cubic Yards.

In tandem with concrete modeling, McCarthy utilized Point Layout to drive their model-based layout process. This VDC tool transformed the layout process from a time-intensive, manual effort to a seamless digital workflow. McCarthy saved eight man-hours per day with digital point layout processes.


Conclusion: Construction Software Drives Better Results


As McCarthy planned for BIM execution, the 3D trade coordination process was critical to the delivery of the project’s schedule and quality assurance needs. By implementing this process from the beginning of the project, McCarthy was able to increase value through effective leadership, facilitating collaboration among multiple project stakeholders. These specific workflows gave McCarthy the ability to anticipate potential issues proactively and outline communication strategies for effective resolution.

With improved collaboration and coordination using Autodesk applications, and leading with a Virtual Design and Construction workflow, McCarthy was able to connect design and construction team members to information in real-time. By leveraging engagement with the Autodesk team, McCarthy improved the overall workflow of trade coordination and avoided potential setbacks. This proactive approach to testing new concepts in real-world scenarios enabled the team at McCarthy to make meaningful improvements to its effective delivery of BIM execution. Without access to the full range of Autodesk solutions, and without complete buy-in from project stakeholders, this would not have been possible.

“As a national builder, we know there are a lot of eyes on companies of our size and what we’re doing. We are very passionate and intentional about what we put out there for the market to see. We’re not putting stuff out there just because it’s cool. We’re truly trying to test the latest and greatest applications that we believe are most beneficial for us to deliver value to our clients at a higher level…On the Wash U East End Transformation Project, I look at how we leveraged BIM 360 Design, Point Layout, and Navisworks. Without these tools and workflows, our BIM Execution on this project would not have been as effective.”  

– Alex Belkofer, VDC Director, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

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