“Lean”ing VDC Meetings

By: Lana Gochenauer, VDC Manager

On a list of cool things happening in virtual design & construction (VDC), running effective meetings isn’t the flashiest. But meetings play an important role in the collaborative VDC process with designers and subcontractors, leading to happy, successful clients and teammates. Making meetings leaner can go a long way.

Lean is about incremental improvements, and there’s a lot of opportunity for efficiency with VDC meetings. Have you ever sat through an hour of conversations that have no impact on your scope? You might be tempted to check your email and ponder whether you’ll get out in time for lunch!

So here’s the goal: Let’s get the coordination and clash meetings down to one hour or less. It can be done. It might not be easy at first, but with commitment from all parties and smart use of current software you can be successful.

Lewis’ best practices start with staggered meeting start times per participant. This requires a good VDC or BIM coordinator who can plan, lead, and keep to the schedule. All coordination should be identified by the VDC coordinator and organized by trade. Who needs to answer the question? Just as an RFI is sent to a specific person, topics are organized by participant for this meeting. This is backed by cloud-based information in advance so everyone knows what to expect. All coordination issues between architect and structural engineer are grouped. The same for the electrical design-builder and architect. When a person’s issues have been resolved, they can leave the meeting. If we start at 10:00 with the architect, the electrical lead might be invited at 10:15 or 10:30.

But let’s take it a step further. Do we need in-person coordination meetings? For simple coordination issues, why not post each issue to the cloud and have a daily 10 minute video conference? In the era of compressed schedules, this is often the most productive. You don’t wait for a week for an answer that could be immediate, you know what others need from you, teamwork increases, and you keep the project on schedule. Any possible slow downs are avoided before they become issues.

Clash detection is more complex because there tends to be more items. Even with software that groups clashes, there might be hundreds of hits. These can be aggregated by trade and resolved in a meeting. Again, the meeting can have a staggered start and staggered ending. If one trade is causing 60% of the hits due to one specific run and moving that run can will not have a compounding effect, we can solve that separately and spend less time in meetings. The meetings are then allowed to focus on the critical items, while trades with minor clashes are responsible for clearing their clashes, including identification of items that can be solved in the field such as flex duct in the ACT.

A good VDC Coordinator will also take a weekly, or daily, virtual walk through. This can be done in the clash software or in virtual reality (VR). Clash software doesn’t catch everything. Did it show that the rain leader is below the soffit? Or that the fire extinguisher is in the middle of the hallway? One person catching an issue and potentially devising a solution is better than doing the same with several people present in a meeting.

Great outcomes, less time in meetings, and happy teams? We can all do this!