Big-D Construction Wins with Tekla Structures
In 1967, a 30-year-old carpenter named Dee Livingood sold his blue Volkswagen for a thousand dollars and risked everything he had to start his own business. His nickname “Big-Dee” inspired the name for Big-D Construction. Today, the company is one of the top builders in the U.S. with 85 successful concrete pour projects per year. Employing 345 people, the Big-D concrete business boasts one of the largest crews in the Western United States. Big-D is well known for its general construction and contracting work, but also pours concrete for its own projects.
Trent Murray, preconstruction manager for Big-D’s concrete business, started his career in the field and knows firsthand the difference the right tools can make in estimating and on the jobsite. Big-D relies on Tekla software from Trimble for competitive concrete estimating, project planning, scheduling and tracking. Using Tekla software enables the company to more accurately estimate and execute concrete projects, in less time and with fewer errors.
Accurate Concrete Estimating
With any construction project, estimating is one of the most important and critical activities. Timely and accurate quantities are the heart and soul of every estimate. Yet for many, preparing accurate and reliable estimates remains time consuming and challenging.
Prior to Tekla Structures, Big-D used on-screen digitizing for estimating, which was cumbersome and lacked 3D capabilities, making it difficult to identify issues or conflicts during estimating. With 2D digitizing, the logic of concrete isn’t built in, meaning quantities can be duplicated and objects can be drawn that are not constructable.
Today, Big-D estimates every concrete project in Tekla Structures, regardless of size. Tekla Structures’ unique concrete pour technology eliminates duplicate quantities in overlapping concrete and takes pour breaks and other elements of concrete modeling into consideration.
“It was surprising how much faster Tekla is than on-screen digitizing,” said Murray. “We win more projects because we are able to generate accurate quantities much faster and, with the 3D model in Tekla Structures, we can identify and easily make changes in design during the bidding phase.”
The 3D Tekla model allows the project team to visually evaluate constructability and determine, “can we build this as it is designed” or “is there a better way to build this?” –benefits that on-screen digitizing methods don’t offer. With Tekla Structures, Big-D can also add details such as elevation, cost codes and pour dates, which increase the constructability and accuracy of their models.
“Tekla Structures has greatly improved the accuracy of our models and given us alignment between quantity take-off and the estimates we provide,” said Murray. “The ability to integrate cost estimation with 3D modeling has helped us visualize, win and successfully execute projects.”
Big-D uses Tekla Structures to add in-beds, architectural features, formwork layout, pouring and hoisting to shop drawings. They also use it to combine information from many sources like design drawings, shop drawings and RFIs, so that field personnel only need to reference one easily accessible drawing. These drawings are generated from information contained in the Tekla Structures model.
“It is a very seamless process and crazy how fast it is,” said Murray. “There is very little work to do once the drawing is created.”
Seamless Project Planning and Tracking
The task manager in Tekla Structures allows Murray and his team to set up detailed project schedules based on accurate quantities and estimated production rates. When a project officially begins, they input the planned production rates, along with custom task types they’ve created based on crew size. Tekla Structures then automatically pulls the quantity, does the math and shows Big-D how long the project should take to complete.
This is a vast improvement over traditional scheduling methods that require a new traditional take-off and manual input of that quantities in order to calculate durations based on quantities and production rates. Because quantities are inherently part of the Tekla Structures model, they are automatically kept up-to-date and if the model changes, the planned duration, based on the quantity, changes.
Big-D also tracks pours in Tekla Structures. Tekla BIMsight, a free professional tool for construction project collaboration, takes that information into the field, making tracking a closed loop process. Custom menus created by Murray and his team allow field-based concrete superintendents to easily enter information from pour slips. With each project, Big-D crews can instantly see exactly what has been poured, at any given time. This has replaced the need to manually share the same information with pen and paper on the job site. They know exactly what the pour quantity is at any given time, and can quickly spot any variance between the estimated and actual quantities.
“Tracking pours in 3D has proven to be a great asset that we can share with owners,” said Murray. “The ability to go into a meeting and show an owner where we stand on a project is incredible.”
This has helped Big-D with pour planning and forecasting the final cost of projects. Comparing the Tekla Structures report of what has been poured with what still needs to be poured, gives the project team a percentage complete, as well as a remaining cost based on current production rates.
“To be successful in the concrete business, you need two things,” said Murray. “First, you need the right information, in the right hands and in a timely fashion. You also need a really good handle on the work that’s been put in place. Tekla has made that possible for us.”
Increased Production Rates
Using Tekla Structures to track production has increased Big-D’s production rates across the board. Since implementation, footing rates have increased three percent and wall rates have increased 15 percent. Moreover, the ability to benchmark and share weekly production rates with the teams has created healthy competition between crews, an unexpected benefit of Tekla Structures.
On a recent project to construct a parking garage for Logan Regional Hospital in Utah, the team was tracking production in Tekla Structures and noticed that at 25 percent complete, the PT slab forming was only 74 percent of the estimated rate. Murray and his team made the necessary corrections, allowing the crews to increase production rate by 50 percent. In the end, they even beat the estimated rate by 10 percent.
“Our numbers are so fine-tuned that we know exactly where stand on a project timeline,” said Murray. “If there are production rate issues, they are recognized in real time. By tracking production in Tekla Structures, we can correct problems early in the project, which saves us a great deal of time and money.”