Hawaiian Dredging Improves Quality and Efficiency With ‘Virtual Construction’

October 7, 2019 Kristen Thompson-Riley

Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc. (HDCC) is the largest and most diversified general contractor in Hawaii with a comprehensive service offering that includes, preconstruction, general construction, design-build, and design-assist. The 117-year-old firm, owned by Japanese-based Kajima International, Inc. has sustained its success through a culture driven by performance, innovation, and construction safety. With a portfolio that includes many of the State’s iconic civil and building projects, HDCC performs across the spectrum of commercial, residential, retail, healthcare, hospitality, education, infrastructure and federal/state/county projects.

The BIM team at HDCC has been long-time users of Autodesk Revit and NavisWorks, but up until about five years ago, had no streamlined solution for information sharing. So when Autodesk BIM 360 evolved to empower better collaboration and project management through a single-source platform for sharing model data, the team readily realized the potential. 

“The investment was a no-brainer as the enhancements made Autodesk BIM 360 an even more valuable construction management platform,” says Christopher Baze, BIM Manager at Hawaiian Dredging. “It removed previous barriers to model entry, such as having specific software knowledge and desktop access. Now, all stakeholders across the construction lifecycle can easily access powerful 3D visuals and data that is complete and up-to-date.” 


Reducing Errors and Headache with ‘Virtual Construction’

hawaiian-dredging-company-body-2The process of virtual construction has helped HDCC ensure quality and solve problems before they occur onsite


HDCC calls its BIM process 'virtual construction', which is their unique approach to constructing a building. "Unlike manufacturing, where products are mass produced on an assembly line, everything we do is unique,” says Baze. “The [BIM 360] platform empowers our team to prototype, virtually constructing and scheduling the project in the same sequence it will be built."

This process of virtual construction has helped HDCC ensure quality and solve problems before they occur onsite. Baze states that within previous work processes, the field workers received information through 2D model printouts. These layout sheets - lift drawings, shop drawings, etc. - would be the only deliverable they would receive from the BIM team. 

In the new process, field workers open the 3D BIM model via remote access - termed a ‘digital twin’ - that has been digitally constructed using the same simulated sequencing that will be used onsite. 

“This provides a better and more comprehensive understanding of the construction requirements,” says Baze. “The number of problems this is solving for us is countless.” 

He describes a pre-Autodesk BIM 360 environment where the trades would rush to “get their stuff in the ceiling first.” The process felt more like anarchy, as trades would compete for first access so that all of the other trades had to work around them. 

Now, using a collaborative modeling and sequencing process, preconstruction coordination includes subcontractors. This form of sequencing and layout are part of the benefits of virtual construction. Everything that happens in the physical world is also represented in the digital, and more importantly, shared across stakeholders. 

Other than reducing competition and headache between subcontractors, the greatest benefit of this virtual process is the rework saved through upfront problem-solving. 

This process evolution was well embraced and implemented in the field as the benefits are easily recognizable to all. “Instead of telling the subcontractors to login and access the project, I am getting calls from them proactively, sometimes before I even know about a project,” says Baze.

“The [BIM 360] platform empowers our team to prototype, virtually constructing and scheduling the project in the same sequence it will be built."

Christopher Baze, BIM Manager, Hawaiian Dredging


Improving Collaboration Between Design and General Contractor

hawaiian-dredging-company-body-1With BIM 360, stakeholders have 3D construction models visualized in easily shareable formats


Autodesk BIM 360 is also shifting how HDCC collaborates with designers, moving more projects into an intentional design assist collaboration using 3D visualization.

Baze notes this is becoming more common as architects recognize the advantages of getting a GC involved earlier to help find the best value and ensure constructability.

“We’ve been doing this collaboration for a long time via 2D drawings, following the typical white table process where you literally stack drawings and then look across them for depth coordination,” says Baze. 

With  Autodesk BIM 360, 3D model views make the process much faster and easier. Now that all stakeholders have the construction visualized in easily shareable formats, collaboration is focused on quality assurance and design optimization.


Ease-of-Use and Peer Mentoring Support Knowledge Exchange and Adoption

In discussing the implementation of new technology, Baze points out that “ if you put garbage in, you get garbage out.” In other words, if the people inputting the models don’t have a lot of knowledge about how it’s going to work, then you won’t get value downstream. 

The company thus realized from the start of implementing Autodesk BIM 360 for sharing model data, that an effective process needs a diverse group of people and knowledge involved in the creation. 

It’s possible, he notes, that some long-time employees might look at BIM-related technology as something that belongs with those just out of school or whose focus is technology in design. HDCC has overcome both potential downfalls with reverse mentoring. 

This peer-enabled adoption organically manifested with the implementation of [BIM 360] tools for project and construction management. Employees with an immediate level of comfort with mobile technology were placed in front of employees with 20-40 years of construction to facilitate knowledge exchange. 

Training on accessing model data for project management and field staff is informal, lasting maybe an hour. The long-time culture at HDCC has supported this exchange. Baze also notes that it was the ease of use of Autodesk BIM 360, requiring little investment in formal training, that has supported investment in adoption of the tool. 

“Our experienced staff don’t see BIM as more work, but as a problem-solving platform. Once everyone understood that, it became a default go-to, a no brainer.”

Christopher Baze, BIM Manager, Hawaiian Dredging


Ease of Third Party Integrations Supports Use

hawaiian-dredging-company-body-3Virtual construction frees people up to do high-value work instead of tedious mundane tasks


Another driving factor for adoption of Autodesk BIM 360 at HDCC is its seamless integration with third-party platforms to improve workflow. HDCC has integrated multiple solutions into the Autodesk BIM 360 construction management platform.

One such integration is with Pype, a specialty tool for submittal registers that saves time and tedious effort through enhanced automation. In some instances, it has reduced the amount of time required to review line-item requirements from one month to one week. 

The team is also using Drones to review construction site progress. “Drones fly in the morning and by lunchtime you have a set of deliverables,” says Baze. 

Tying the Drone imagery into the 3D BIM model has become standard process for teams when discussing progress at the job site. Instead of having to visualize in one’s mind and look at schematic sketches, having a current image and model of the job site to represent current work - and what is next - has improved job site organization and quality.


Time, Cost and Quality Improvements Headline Success

For HDCC, working smart with obvious solutions that save time is critical to success. Autodesk BIM 360 is in use across all company projects now, and more projects are adopting the construction management platform.

HDCC says the main benefits driving adoption in addition to Autodesk BIM 360 being an easy, organic evolution to working smarter are:

  • It frees up people to do more meaningful work
  • It saves rework
  • It improves collaboration through design-assist and digital construction sequencing

“Freeing up people to do high-value work instead of tedious mundane tasks has translated to benefits in time, cost and quality,” says Baze. “Adoption of Autodesk BIM 360 has holistically improved all of those project delivery aspects by which we rate our success.”

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