BIM Like Braveheart (feat. Chris Wilocki)


Are you training? Feta. Randy Collins Construction Brothers

Listen now or check us out on one of these platforms!

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

Google Podcasts

Overcast


SHOW NOTES


Chris Wilocki joins us and makes us feel right at home while we talk BIM. Chris is the Operations Manager at Sturgeon Electric and we just get to be BIM Nerds with him. We chat through the pressure points of a recent project Chris was on, how to leverage data, and how he views BIM in a value-add. We talk about the importance of time when working with revisions and issuing drawings.


If you have anything we missed, feel free to text us! - 478-221-7009

RELATED LINKS


Chris’ LinkedIn

Sturgeon Electric

Denver Airport Expansion


Please consider subscribing to our podcast!


SUBSCRIBE!      

Like us on LinkedIn!      

Like us on Facebook!    

Follow us on Instagram!

Eddie's LinkedIn      

Tyler's LinkedIn      

(Our day job)   



TRANSCRIPTION


Tyler: (05:43)

But so the guy that we were talking to this week is Chris Wilocki. Chris is a BIM guy from Denver and he has been at Denver International Airport working with an electrical contractor out there. And he has got some stories to tell about that project. Successes and failures and coordination stuff. It was really fun for us to dig into with him, seeing that we're both making our living off of BIM. And we see some of the flaws in logic that people use especially general contractors. And we want to try to talk about that realistically and try to give some feedback. So you guys understand better what you're getting and what you can use it for.

Eddie:

Yeah, definitely a kindred spirit here. Enjoyed being able to just relate on something that we all knew and knew well. There was a lot of just like common pain, not the least of which was having to check that box, get in front of yourself. That's the whole BIM like Braveheart thing. Listen for that. You'll kind of hear the tie in there. But just all of the different problems he was looking at from logistics to how to integrate kidding, QR coding. Just, there's a lot of stuff in here that was really good fodder for conversation.

Tyler:

They did a really cool thing on this airport. And so yeah. Applaud them for that good job guys. I mean, getting out there and trying out new stuff and trying to keep pushing that envelope a little bit. So I think we need to get into this conversation because it is stinking great. So here is our conversation with Chris Wilocki.

Eddie:

All right, Chris, thanks for joining us today. Why don't you tell us who you are and what you do?

Chris: (07:48)

Hey, thanks guys. My name is Chris Wilocki. I'm operations manager at Sturgeon Electric, Denver. I oversee our BIM manufacturing, logistics, and project controls group.

Eddie:

And that means that we're going to have a good old-fashioned conversation about BIM today with a bunch of BIM guys, BIM nerds. Well, Chris, when we spoke with you, you've got a lot of background in BIM and that from the electrical standpoint, but you also have one particular project that has become, we'll just say, near and dear to your heart that you have been slaving over for a little while. So why don't you tell us a little bit about that project?

Chris:

So the project is the two Concourse expansions at Denver international airport, Concourse C East and Concourse A West. Concourse C East contains, and I might get this number wrong, 14 gate expansions and Concourse A I believe is 12-16. Like I said, I might be off on those gates. Both occurring simultaneously, so both under construction at the same time, both BIM efforts are under construction at the same time. So essentially what would that equal out to be 28 something gates over a million square feet of airport and a whole lot of fun.

Eddie:

It sounds like it. So, I mean, logistically there are some minor challenges to all of that because the airport is operational still during this whole period of time. Right?

Chris:

Yeah, so one of the big challenges we face as a company is how do you get materials and men and equipment to an airport while there are operational taxiways, runways? You have an operational airport it's not as easy as just calling up your vendor and saying, "Hey, I need some material this week." So we really had to put forth a big effort to figure that out. It was a lot of work. Yeah.

Eddie:

Yeah. Well, the smaller jobs, you kind of, you have that drive up moment. You go out to the job site and you're like, "where do I go in? How do I get to the site?" I would imagine this is a mildly large site with some pretty set traffic patterns, just little things like how are we going to route people and make sure they arrive at the right place?

Tyler:

I can think this is like gonna turn into a Mr. Bean moment where you're like driving along in your little Fiat or something. And then you've got like a 747 taxing right behind you. You're like, "Oh, I went the wrong way. Wait a minute."

Chris:

Yeah. It's a lot, there's a lot. You actually have to take a pretty extensive test in order to even drive out there. And I did not get that badging, but a lot of our guys did get that badging and it's pretty, it's something else to drive out on an operational taxiway. It's pretty scary. And what a lot of people don't know is there are regular painted lanes and stop signs out there, but there are no stop signs. Like you see in your neighborhood streets, everything's on the pavement. So when it snows, you can't see anything and they don't just plow those roads. So it's a very scary place to be. It's very unnerving to be out there.

Eddie:

It doesn't snow in Denver at all though.

Tyler:

Yeah. Not at all. Yeah. We're Southern boys. We wouldn't know what to do with all that. So one of the things that we kind of came across when we were talking to you before is that you guys were really leveraging the I in BIM, right. Trying to pull out as much information as you can to aid the project along. I wanted to kind of pick your brain on that. What were some of the things that you guys did to leverage information, to make the job go smoother? Just tell us a little bit about that.

Chris: (11:34)

The first part was kinda taking a step back and identifying just how much work on the BIM side the project was going to be. Not only just the modeling aspect but the I that you're speaking of. So how are we going to get that information to our manufacturing team and to our project teams? And the first self-realization was our internal team, our BIM team was 10 people at the time. So the first thing that we realized was 10 people weren't going to cut it. And so what we did is we partnered with a company called Viatechnic. We did a whole, actually, a whole year prior to even starting in the Concourse we were using them. We kind of integrated them into our processes and standards, and they essentially were the backstop for the rest of our team. So we were able to expand and contract and use their modelers and their managers to help us in that I portion of the effort. And so the one thing we did is we created a program called the logistics box. Without getting too in depth with it, essentially we were able to compartmentalize portions of the building. Just draw simple room bindings around areas that our foreman said, "Hey, this is going to be on the schedule. We need to install in this area and this area." We were then able to use that program and only pull out the material information for those areas and the plug-in that we created worked with assembling systems. And it was kind of our way to say, "this is what we've modeled. We're going to pull all this information out, package it pre fablets in those areas, and then schedule it on from there." So it was a pretty extensive effort that took a lot of different people and it was pretty difficult.

Eddie:

Yeah. What role did prefab play in this whole thing?

Chris:

So our manufacturing team did a great job in just taking the set and standard items that we wanted to prefab as a company and label those based on our shop drawings and essentially deliver those on time to sites. So they handled all the packaging of carts, all the management of carts, worked with those field teams on, "is this the kind of car you want?" We really dug deep into that to make sure that everybody understood what was happening throughout the whole process. There are hiccups along the way. Right. We'll kind of identify those later.

Tyler:

Well, speaking of hiccups, I guess let's talk, let's talk about QR codes. Cause I know you have had a love and hate relationship with that. So just kind of dive into that for us. A little bit

Chris:

Ya know, the one thing about QR codes is like, it's such an easy thing for people in industry to be like, "we use QR codes" or "look at them, we put a QR code sticker on this thing." And I think what a lot of people don't realize is the sticker and the scanning of the sticker is such a menial task of the whole process. There is a backend software of that QR code that you have to figure out, or you have to find, and then you have to manage and you have to feed information into. I always laugh when you just see these easy marketing quips of "look, we put a QR code on our rack" and that doesn't tell the whole story. And so we really, we spent a good month in finding a piece of QR coding software that is easy and cost-effective and doesn't make you hire another human. And then really kind of working through that process. What do we upload to there? How do we get information out of there? And it was more work than printing the QR code. Like that's the easy part.

Tyler:

Man, that resonated with me when you were talking about that because you see it and you're like, "ah, man, that's going to just be amazing. That's going to work just seamlessly. There's going to be no problems." And then you get into it and you're like, "ah why, dang it, it was one of those, it was one of those." I try to stay clear of those things, but yeah, that reminded me of so many times that I've done that. I've just, I believe the marketing to a fault.

Chris:

Yeah. It does seem very like just put a sticker on it.

Tyler:

Yeah. No, nothing ventured, nothing gained though. What other things were you guys experimenting with during this project and how long did the project last or how long has it lasted?

Chris:

We started modeling in October of 2019 on both of the projects and they're still ongoing now. So I'd say we're about 95% complete with just the modeling portion and the reason why it's gone out so long, obviously COVID was a major impact for everybody. And just the sheer amount of changes on the Concourse. So there have been significant multiple rounds of bullets and changes that were the biggest challenge for everybody.

Eddie:

So what kind of things have you experimented with since starting in 2019? I mean, there's a lot come down the pike just since then, the way of what's available and what we can do. What have you guys played with out there that has been successful or otherwise?

Chris:

So the one portion, the one kind of capstone or foundation of our team was getting those BIM modelers shoulder to shoulder with our field guys. And the biggest kind of detriment that happened to the whole process was obviously COVID and the inability to be with our field personnel. And so we tried to figure out how do we bridge that gap and how do we somehow communicate without it being an eight hour zoom call. So we implemented Revista, which was a great program for us. It allowed some people to make those markups in the 3d model and to have us in real time, kind of change those things very quickly. Once again, that's another thing you think, "well, I just bought a piece of software and it's just going to fall into place." And it took an extensive training. We had six different training sessions. Sometimes there are one-on-one ongoing, but those things are heavy lifts, but we had to do it at the time and it worked out pretty good.

Eddie:

Yeah. I mean, we keep going back again and again to how we're marketed one thing, and then the realities of that are something else. But I mean it's good to step back sometimes and make that investment so that you can move forward and do so on a better foot. So with Revista, like, I mean, why that platform, like, why'd you go that route?

Chris:

Well, two things, a lot of guys have iPads and not laptops. And that iPad/laptop, how seamless it is between the two is very important to us. The second thing is we wanted to make it easy for our field guys so we're not burdening them with extra work. And so as a BIM team, we can just quickly create those stamps and those issues, and then they can just go bounce around and place those. So we thought just the process was going to be easier for them, which essentially made it easier for all of us to work through it. Nobody really had to do that much heavy learning of the program. So it worked really well.

Tyler:

It strikes me that since you have so many people involved in this project, that this would have been a massive team effort, as far as your BIM department goes to get this thing done. What were some of the things that you did logistically to bring people together and allow them to sit around the table and talk to each other? I mean, tell us a little bit about that.

Chris:

So as a company, probably about five months prior to things really kicking off we kind of used the lean method of a big room. And so we section off part of our warehouse. We had both projects teams attend meetings once or twice a week. So essentially a room full of 25 people. And what we did was we created kind of a roadmap of what are the things we need to plan for before this project? And all of them had the same relation to logistics. How do we get people tools, material, and information to the project team? So that took five months of day long meetings every Friday, and then people during the week working out what we came up with in those meetings. And essentially they helped us standardize both concourses.


So the tricky part of both the concourses was two separate GCs, two separate engineers. So standards and specs were different. It is the same airport, which we always joked around about, which is funny. So we had to somehow, as a company, try to standardize our material because if we're fabbing and ordering material differently on two different concourses, it's just going to add more complexity to the whole thing. So we worked on standardizing what we were going to fabricate, standardizing what we were going to model, and the materials we're going to use. And it sounds so simple, but the work to go through your specs to submit things that are the same to try to get them approved is a really large, large task.

Eddie:

Well, we experienced a little of that here. I mean, whenever you're looking at a set of documents and you are trying to do things that are best for the subcontract layer of the project, you're dealing with specifications, you're dealing with notes on the drawings and requirements of details on the drawing. And you need to conform. And so sometimes the path of least resistance leads you to...I'll just lose the battle through attrition and just throw my hands up and just do whatever's SPECT, even though it's not really what's good in the project. But when you're dealing with two concourses in a large airport, that's not an option, is it? I mean, you got to drill and you got to go after that thing that's going to allow you to actually get through it.

Chris:

Yeah, absolutely. And some, we did lose some battles, some things as simple as your receptacles in wall rough materials had to be different. And it was tough. Some were more expensive than other concourses. Light fixtures were completely different.

Tyler: (21:44)

Talk about the, so you guys put together these carts, which I loved, and I didn't really think about this prior to our conversation, but putting together a little cart that you could go and place in different areas. Tell us, how did you put that together? Utilizing Revvit is what you guys primarily used. Right? How did you put that together?

Chris:

We were proposed with the problem is how do we identify exactly what we needed in the area and get it to a project that has working runways and stuff like that. So we kind of started with that challenge and then we thought, well, what can we do inside of Revvit? We're going to model everything. And so that was the other thing is the den-standards are pretty high. You have to have, it's not LOD 500, I'm kind of over the LOD talk, but it was essentially, we decided as a company, we're going to model everything that had to be installed. And the reason was, is we're going to have a lot of people. And also our BIM team was modeling for all of our MWB subs. So we had a large number of subcontractors that had to do different systems; telecom, one line, communications, stuff like that.


So we were modeling for them also. So we were saying, if we're going to be modeling all this stuff, this is the perfect platform to be identifying what we need to purchase, how we need to package it, and put it where it needs to go. Then we worked with our teams to say, "Hey, does this cart work? Does it have wheels? Is it just a bin?" Because then if it's a bin, I got to take stuff off the top to find stuff on the bottom. So we just used a kind of two or three different carts. That one was for conduits. One was for fabricated materials that we didn't have to pile on top of each other. And then the third one was kind of like a specialty cart for stuff like cable trays and larger junction boxes and stuff like that.

Tyler:

Is that something that you guys usually do? Or did you feel like because of the scale of the project, you needed to do something like that to stay organized?

Chris:

We usually talk about it and it's a pretty easy thing that cart works, whereas this was a little bit more challenging. Cause it was so big and we had to fit a certain number of things on trucks because we didn't want too many deliveries coming out. So we did kind of specify it. And then what we realized was due to the challenges of the project and the schedule and a lot of things that happened on a project we were like, "Oh, eight carts is enough for each Concourse." Well, then the carts were sitting too long, and then we would go, "well, we need eight more." And then it just kind of...going through that where it was like, "everything is going to go great. We're going to just in time and we're going to unload it and we're going to send it back" and then schedules happen. And they kind of, hang out, we're not able to install what was in the cart. And next thing we know we've doubled and tripled the amount of carts we need. So it's part of, you go in with that, that gung-ho, we need eight and then reality kind of comes and they're like, yeah, we need to get more.

Tyler:

I feel like it's just it really stinks when you have these high hopes and these plans and then everything just kind of falls short. And I'm sure that it happened a number of times for you guys during this project. Like, are there any examples that you could give us of plans you made falling short?

Chris: (24:56)

Just the timing and schedule of work was the biggest challenge. The timing to coordinate an area and produce those shop drawings to get them out to the field was the biggest, biggest hurdle. And without getting into too much depth or bringing up things that we don't need to talk about. But, when you have a challenging project where a general contractor's field team is not aligning with the BIM effort is just ripe with conflict. And so when people are saying, "I need to be in this area," and as a BIM team you're going "well, we're still coordinating that area." There was a lot of that stuff happening. And it makes sense, people wanted to get the building built. They want to get up prior to weather or whatever. But it was very difficult in that sense that this Herculean BIM effort was going on. But then we're like being told, well, we got to get in front of insulation and why isn't this coordinated? So it was difficult on that aspect to line those efforts up.

Tyler:

So just to clarify, the big room that you were talking about, where you guys went through your lean process, that was internal, right?

Chris:

Yes.

Tyler:

Okay. So, you still have to go back and you still have to coordinate with your GCs in this case. And so, yeah, I can definitely see how that's challenging. And we do see that on our end too. It's, you have your own set of schedules as a BIM guy or as a modeler, as a drafts person, it's going to take us this long to get your shop drawings ready. But if you can't convey that back to your, to your GC, they're tapping their foot, and they're wondering why in the heck, you can't complete your task on time. Well, you never talked about it. And so that conversation doesn't happen and it just, you, yeah, exactly what you talk about it, it can be ripe with all sorts of beating up on each other. If you're not careful

Chris:

Exactly. Like, the industry is moving in this direction of using them and utilizing them. But there's kind of a result in that. The result is you can't just go after areas. If you're to rely on this coordination piece in this whole process, you can't just be, "well, that area is open. Let's go over there." It just doesn't work anymore. Whereas in the past, when you didn't have to do all this coordination, you could. You could just be like, "Hey, we're done building that area, go over there." And so when you kind of fall back in that behavior, it's difficult.

Eddie:

We've talked about taking a tactical pause in previous episodes. Planning is hard and the reason it's hard is that planning equals waiting. Planning does not look like action. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel good for the moment.

Tyler:

You struggle with this too. I'm gonna call you out. You do struggle with this.

Eddie:

I do. I always envision the whole movie Braveheart, when the guys are charging the line and he's just yelling, hold, and you just feel everybody just pressing down on you like "here they come, they're coming." And you know they're not going to let up, but that if you, if you don't wait for the right moment that it's not going to work. Like all of the planning and firepower will come up for not because if we don't finish the drill, if we don't completely coordinate, if everybody doesn't get on board and buy in, well, then half of the process is not good for half as good a result. I mean, it doesn't work that way. It's like, no, we might as well, probably not done this.

Chris:

Yeah. That's hard. That is a beautiful analogy. And you're right. That is hard for people to do that hold. If I'm standing in that line, I'm like, "come on, let's go." But yeah, saying, no, we're going to wait. We're not going to go in, we're not going to do this, we're not going to do that. That's hard for people. And for a number of reasons, there's fear. There's not knowing what the whole thing needs to be. There's a lot of things that drive people to jump the gun and just kind of like throw the plan out the back window.

Tyler:

What we're seeing too is that owners in a lot of cases, some of their faults can be that they press down these schedules that aren't realistic and the GCs don't push back against it. Nobody pushes back. They just say, "yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Yes. Ma'am thank you ma'am." Like, they just say "we did this aren't we good?" Like as a result, they don't allow us to take that tactical pause, right? Because they're demanding results. They're demanding that they see something, but there needs to be some reassurances there. "Hey guys, if we just plan this through a little bit more, we're actually going to get you opened quicker and we're going to save you more money because we're not going to have to go and sue each other as a result of this, this is going to go way better." We do want to do a good job, right? Our intention is to not screw up your project. Our intention is to make your project go as smoothly as possible. And so we realize sometimes you just gotta let the arrow go and let it fly. Like I get that. But man, it is really demoralizing as a team. I'm sure you guys dealt with a lot of that where it's just like, "man, why now if you just gave us two more days, this thing would be so much better." I want to clarify something too. Were these concourses going at the same time?


Chris:

Yes.


Tyler:

Oh, bless your soul. You need a hug. Oh my gosh.


Chris:

Yes. Same, same exact time.


Tyler:

Oh man. Cause you got two GCs coming in from both sides saying...


Eddie:

Competing priorities. "We got to get our side done. No, we gotta get our side done."


Chris:

Ooh. Yes. And that definitely happened. COVID started happening. So yeah GCs were vying for resources. And a lot of the trade partners were on both concourses. So, I get it. If you're a GC, you want to get the steel guys over on your side first.


Tyler:

Yeah. Understood that just, Oh man, that brings a tear to my eye. Just thinking about that for you.


Eddie:

I want to be able to sit in your chair for just a moment. Cause I think if there's value for the general contractor listening, it's just like, hear our pain y'all, hear our pain because it's not an easy thing and we are working for you. Not in spite of you. Yeah. That's at least not how we want to do. How much as an electrical BIM guy did you deal with like, "Oh, it's just conduit." I mean like a lot of times we're working in big structural steel and many times clashing with steels, like, "okay, who's going to move it." Ain't going to be me. And I'm like, well, you got the conduit. I mean you just bend some stuff. Right. So how much of that are you dealing with

Chris:

A lot and most of it. And mainly for the fact that a lot of the...so, when you walk into a Concourse, especially at Denver International, you just walk on one level and it's this beautiful cathedral and it's super big and it doesn't look like there's much in there, but the levels below are where everything's at. And the funny part about the airport is the smallest level with the smallest amount of headspace is where everything is at. And so those areas are massive duct work, tons of mechanical piping, all of the systems for the baggage handling out of there, and then all the systems to feed the Concourse. So that's like the heavy lift. And yeah, we were moving around, everybody constantly. Another challenge of the project was there were so many bulletins and we were reissuing our shop drawings multiple times, which was causing confusion with our field teams. "What is this new drawing for what has been added" and as good as we color coded these bulletins. So every bulletin had a separate color on those shop drawings. We all have to think of like, just cause the foreman or the superintendent understand what's happening on the project doesn't mean, and I always refer to this, it doesn't mean that the 19 year old kid who just started being an electrician two months ago, understands what's going on. So if he's looking at that drawing, being confused, so are a lot of other people.

Tyler:

What's amazing to me is the ripple effect that happens when you start doing revisions like that. So you think about it. All right. So what we just talked through was that we get pressure from the owner to perform, and then we need to make sure that we're checking off a box. As a result we issue things too quickly that are not done. And from that, we end up revising drawings. Now you compound that out times I don't know how many drawings you guys had. How many shop drawings you guys had for this? Do you care to venture a guess? Do you have any idea?

Chris:

Each Concourse had over 3000 shop drawings.

Tyler:

Okay. So 3000 shop drawings. I'm sure all of those are perfect. Right? So then you have revisions being issued to the field or to the shop or whoever, just think of the ripple. Just by releasing a little bit later, how much you can minimize that confusion because more information is not better, especially when it comes to this stuff. More information is horrible. It bogs things down. It's more time to review. It's more time to coordinate with everybody else out there in the field and say, "Hey, no, not these, these." And from a GCs perspective or from a modeler's perspective, that is what I want the GCs to understand. Is if you're checking that box, you better be dang sure, dang sure you understand the ramifications of what you are about to do.

Eddie: (35:06)

Well, I want to dovetail into the megaphone question here. Man, if we could give you a megaphone and you could speak to the construction industry for 60 seconds, what would you have to say to them.

Chris:

Man. I think, and I've said this before is we've all started adapting a lot of this technology. We've relied on whether our BIM teams or our internal technology group teams. I think the next big step for the industry at large is the field teams becoming more in tune and understanding how this stuff works. You could easily hire a BIM guy off the street who knows BIM. You could hire a total station guy who knows total station, but the industry is going to have a giant leap forward once our field teams really start understanding how to use this stuff. And I think the megaphone would be, if you're a subcontractor, have a culture that brings those field guys up to the level or close to the BIM teams or your technology teams. Don't think that just because you have a BIM team and technology team like, "Oh, this is going to work. Cause we got to a room full of guys over." It is always going to be up to those field workers. No matter what we do. I've said it to people... Our BIM team could do the coolest stuff you've ever seen, but it doesn't matter. Is it going to help us install faster? Is it going to help us be more productive and safe on a job site? No. So until the culture of companies starts really working alongside those teams, I think that's when the big jumps can happen.