Inside the Big Room 1 featured

Inside the Big Room

Buildings 27 August 2010 | 10.00am

This is the site of the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay in San Francisco. The contractors have been there for over a year and there’s not much to show for it on the ground. That is because since April 2009 the client, contractor, sub-contractors and consultants have been inside a room – a very big room – on the edge of the site creating a full digital pre-build of the hospital. The room’s title reveals its ambition -

Inside the Big Room 1

Inside the Big Room 2

This project came onto our radar during the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) research we did with the University of Melbourne. I took Digital Innovation on tour to three of our American offices in June and during my stay in San Francisco my itinerary included a day at Stanford University’s Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) Summer Program and a site visit to UCSF Mission Bay.

The two link nicely as much of the thinking about how IPD fits into the construction sector in California has been developed at CIFE with Martin Fischer and John Kunz. This year’s CIFE Summer Program was focussed on IPD in practice and Atul Khanzode and Dean Reed from DPR presented. DPR is the contractor for UCSF Mission Bay. Arup is the MEP services consultant on the project.

Inside the Big Room 3

Its not a full IPD project, as it is not operating under a multi-party agreement. Rather, it is a full integrated design financed by the client in order to achieve some of the rewards on offer through shifting the design effort earlier in the project. There are similarities in operation with IPD. The contractors, sub-contractors and consultants are a multi-party network responsible for determining specific project targets in alignment with the client’s project goals.

There were early stage workshops at CIFE to develop what metrics were appropriate for this project, and they are broadcast to the team from displays all around the room. At a glance anyone can see what quantities of a particular wall type are on the job or how many clashes remain to be resolved.

Inside the Big Room 4

Inside the Big Room 5

I visited the site with Raj Daswani and Reid Senscu from our San Francisco office. We were talking with Chris, the plumbing sub (above), when the steel sub came up to discuss plumbing bracing and coordination with steel. The level of trust and immediacy to decision makers is the key to the current success of the process. In the early days, the ‘big room’ referred to three rooms that were set aside for regular review meetings however they are not used much now. People know each other and negotiate with other disciplines one on one.

Throughout our visit we were told there was scepticism when this process started, but uniformly people said they didn’t want to work another way from here on.

Inside the Big Room 6

There is full commitment to the process. The architects, including the firm’s principals, are in the big room working on the architectural model and not far away the plumbing sub-contractors are modelling details right down to bolts in their own software. One of the architects told us they had lost their seats back in their office.

We’re going to hear more about this project. Already they are estimating considerable savings from this investment in integration. What more will they reap when they start construction?

Many thanks to John Griffiths, Raj Daswani and Reid Sensecu from Arup San Francisco.

Andrew Maher

Melbourne, Australia

“I lead Digital Innovation and my role is to develop new ways of working, delivering and communicating our services using the latest technological capabilities ranging from the way we engage with digital data, through to the use of new interactive design media.”

View all posts by: Andrew Maher