How S&P is Gaining Speed and Transparency in Precon to Win with Owners

September 30, 2019 Samira Tily

Owner expectations are changing faster than ever for how firms communicate and collaborate. Speed, accuracy and transparency during preconstruction have become critical to winning and maintaining owner relationships. 

Owners expect precise and clear supporting data for changes in scope and costs, in large part because the technology for meeting these expectations has made it feasible to do so.

Assemble, an Autodesk software solution that enables construction professionals to condition, query and connect BIM data to key workflows throughout design to construction, has and continues to produce big wins for firms in delivering on these expectations.

One such firm is Satterfield & Pontikes Construction (S&P). Founded in 1989, S&P now averages $500M in annual revenues and is a market leader in K-12 educational construction in Texas. As an ENR Top 400 Contractor and Top Green Builder, the firm’s scope spans general contracting and construction management for multiple commercial market segments as well as other select services.


S&P’s in-house Select Services team leads 3D coordination, production tracking, and project schedule tracking. The team integrates with both internal project stakeholders and external contractors to ensure speed and collaboration during precon and construction. 

The team made big strides in helping S&P to win more work and secure long-term relationships with owners. With implementation of Assemble they have:

  • Increased estimator efficiency through iterative model-based quantification and estimating 
  • Provided owners better visualizations and transparent project details to remove any doubt and enable faster decision-making
  • Enhanced construction workflows with work in place tracking and percent complete time management

Assemble is facilitating faster, more accurate iterations during all precon phases at S&P. 

The firm tackles the iterative nature of precon by tracking its rapid process of changes and proactively communicating with designers and owners.  Change management is made more seamless by automatically tracking changes from iteration to iteration. This enables the team to monitor and quickly illustrate how scope and budget are impacted. 

The data is also translated for construction. To improve collaboration, schedules are built by project phase and sequence, then shared visually with the entire project team during precon. 

The transparent communication with all downstream stakeholders helps ensure timelines and reduces the likelihood of any painful conversations with owners down the road.

All of this translates to winning at the interview with a new owner, as the firm is able to have a well-defined game plan that an owner can quickly understand and justify.


Efficiency Gains in the Preconstruction Process


Robert Pleasants, a BIM/VDC manager with S&P Select Services, states “we use Assemble from the moment we receive the model to quickly estimate quantities and do a virtual 3D takeoff.”

Model-based takeoff supplements S&P's traditional 2D estimating methods. By breaking down certain scopes of work and identifying installation location, the team can create a more accurate estimate with the combination of the 3D models, 2D sheets and project inventory all within Assemble. Besides the increased time savings that results from model-based takeoff, an additional benefit is a faster QA/QC process.  The team can easily identify discrepancies or omissions between the model and sheets to address issues early in the preconstruction phase to reduce change orders or delays downstream.

BID packages are then created and conditioned for internal and external reference, isolating certain scope of work to provide validated and only relevant detail for subcontractors. Pleasants notes, “the ability to group, sort and filter the model and quantities the way you want allows for an efficient process to assign things to bid packages and greatly reduces time and effort in validating subcontractor bids.” 

Additionally, if the team sees a discrepancy in a bid versus the model, it’s standard process to sit in a room with the subcontractor to walk visually through the model. Pleasants notes this is a relatively quick effort compared to previous process. It is also flexible, “as you can have the 3D model on one screen and the 2D sheets on another, so that communication is easier with subcontractors or owners more familiar with 2D.”

For subcontractors this is a big time saver, as they get ahead of any RFIs they would have otherwise discovered in the middle of construction. 

As design progresses, the team can instantly quantify and visualize all changes in new design iterations to perform variance analysis. 

For example, a team illustrates changes using color coding by material and change type. A visual can show detail as particular as an iteration example in which 2500sq ft of one type of wall is removed and 4600sq ft of another added. Key decision-making data is illustrated as well, such as cost and schedule impacts to assist in a trade-off discussion with an owner.


The firm notes the value of this is seen by any owner, and especially helps in scenarios like the K-12 market. For clients that are public entities with responsibilities to tax payers, transparency is key for building confidence and navigating the breadth of stakeholders. 

Pleasants states, “When we can break down areas by floor types, wall types, per area and per phase, and show visually the cost and quantity and schedule implications of the various options - this goes miles for an owner who is trying to figure out how to manage costs and time.” 

Tracking decisions made as the model evolves also improves collaboration when “people get amnesia” after the VE exercise. Key decisions and supporting value engineering criteria are documented inside the model in Assemble creating an audit trail for later verifications. Thus, stakeholders can be reminded of iterative changes through the VE exercise by simply sorting and filtering the model in Assemble to look at cost impact. 

Finally, the firm uses Assemble to layer in sequencing Information. One such example breaks down a six story office building and parking garage into several different phases. The team is able to dive deeper into each phase and look at bid packages and quantities associated with each phase.

This carries into downstream benefits as the firm easily exports inventory in Assemble to Navisworks to create 3D schedule simulation.

Project management uses these reports to track on site production by percent complete throughout the whole project. Not only does the firm produce progress reports in this manner, it also creates ‘three-week lookaheads’ in Assemble to anticipate scheduling variances before they occur. 

S&P says there was initial hesitation at the launch of Assemble for such purposes. However, after the first illustration of potential project tracking reports were introduced, the practical value translated so easily they quickly became a need. “Now scheduling is coming to us early on to see if we can provide them a production rate report, as it has become a necessary part of project management,” states Pleasants.


Translating Efficiency into Strategic Differentiation at S&P

s-p-precon-body-3Mike Diehl, Senior VP of Pontikes Development, summarizes the efficiencies gained in precon at S&P into the following strategic benefits for owners.

  1. Speed
  2. Quick Feedback
  3. Change Management
  4. GC Vetting and Subcontractor Bids
  5. Transparency

He notes there may still be an old paradigm perspective out there that such transparency could be a perceived risk for contractors. He says, “this will hurt contractors in the long run, because their competition is leveraging the technology that we have today to better their position allowing them to do more negotiated work with owners.”

Diehl illustrates a picture of an owner who is really busy and under deadline and budget pressure. For such a stakeholder, very quickly being able to know what changed as the design progresses is priceless. 

“As an owner, I can’t wait until the final GMP bid pricing to know we’ve gone 10% over on glazing and now the price is up by $1 million. I need to know that now, and how the design can address my concerns before we spend all this money to finish the design.”

As partners, S&P’s commitment to transparency is an effort to erase time an owner might have previously made to vet their GC and his or her subcontractors. This transparency, notes Diehl, is of greater value than any competition who may operate by throwing out lowest numbers to win the work.

“Owners don’t have time to go figure out what is being hidden. They prefer to work with those willing to say I am going to give you every detail upfront.”

Mike Diehl, Senior VP, Pontikes Development

S&P has proven that visually rich data, conditioned appropriately for the audience, builds confidence for owners and speeds up precon significantly. This translates not just into winning a project, but maintaining a long-term relationship built on trust. Trust that comes from proactively illustrating iterative changes, and clearly and easily vetting estimates from contractors and subcontractors. 

This efficiency created in precon coupled with earned trust and better collaboration with owners has become a proven win for S&P.

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