2D vs. 3D Is Irrelevant

Data-focused design is becoming the future of modern construction

Data drives efficiency, saving both money and time. The jobsites of today are literally bursting with data, but without a data strategy, raw data can create more problems than it solves. Data only delivers results when it’s accurate, contextual, timely and accessible.

Whether you receive that data in 2D or 3D is up to you; but the accuracy and relevancy of data is still king. The challenge now is improving how construction data is accessed, processed and distributed to stakeholders where, when and how they need it. “Buildings today are no longer being built by people; they are being built by people empowered by data,” explains Bluebeam Community Development Program Manager Lilian Magallanes.

During a roundtable led by Magallanes at BILT North America, that challenge was addressed by key influencers and professionals within the industry.

Roundtable Participants:

  • Tammy Adolf, Associate & Integrated Design Data Manager Stantec Canada
  • Heather Skeehan R.A., AIA., LEED AP BD+C Design Manager GLY Construction
  • Robert Beckerbauer, BIM Coordinator RDG Planning & Design
  • Kristen Ambrose, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C Principal Director of R&D RATIO Architects
  • John Bund Sr. Associate MG2 Design
  • Joseph Kim, Architectural Design Manager, The Escape Game

In discussion

“There’s a huge want and need to connect spreadsheet or PDF data into the 3D model so it flows throughout the project lifecycle, so the result would allow us to think with the end in mind of how we want to use that data to leverage it,” explains Magallanes in kicking off the discussion. Adolf concurred, offering that when working with certain jurisdictions, PDFs and stamped paper copies are still legal requirements for insurance reasons. Current requirements and workflows are creating silos and barriers to model data integration.

“We still need something that is going to look good on a piece of paper and could be built from that piece of paper, but more people are saying, ‘But couldn’t we just build it from the 3D model and fabricate?’ We are expected to produce both and it’s not the same use case and can be more effort,” she says. “We are contracted to the PDF drawings and specifications,” adds Skeehan. “The problem is that specifications are often not managed well.”

Specifications add an additional, bulky layer of information that can be tricky to integrate. “When it comes to specs, we struggle with that level of information, most times it’s divorced from the model and is separate, so you have way more chance of error in having to update things in multiple places. It’s not intrinsically tied to the drawings,” says Skeehan. This often yields cookie cutter data, as opposed to actual spec data that is useful for the specific project.

Spec expectations can also affect the model data relevancy on the architect side, according to Beckenbauer. “As an architect, you get paid to space model elements. In this way, the pain point is that you can spend so much time designing, building and modeling a staircase, but stairs are a specialty consultant’s responsibility; so why are we not just putting generic staircases? The money at the end isn’t justified, and it’s a waste of time since there’s not an industry standard that supports you to just draw the staircase. Instead, we should share the model to the right discipline and have them build the data in.”

Looking ahead

The great news is that’s changing. Digital providers and partners are starting to build databases that can plug data directly into the model. The concept of digital twins is emerging, and firms like Skanska are committed to completing a build project in 2023 with no hardcopies at all.

While pain points still currently abound, data-focused design is becoming the future of modern construction. The industry is hard at work on making this future a reality; reinventing the way building data gets accessed, processed and distributed to project stakeholders in ways that were impossible only a few years ago. To make this happen, we as an industry need to think about models and PDFs differently within the perspective of data to break down the silos currently associated with data formats.