BIM Brunch is the perfect accompaniment to your dinner break. Featuring some major players from the #GlobalBIMCrew, BIM Brunch is an interview feature where industry specialists talk about their passion for Building Information Modelling amongst other topics of conversation.
This week’s entry comes from Danielle Dy Buncio, the President of Chicago-based VIATechnik. VIATechnik service the construction, engineering, and architecture industries with their Building Information Modelling and virtual reality solutions, and act as one of the United States‘ most exciting companies related to BIM. In the interview, Danielle discusses utilising gaming technology in conjunction with BIM, VIATechnik being at the forefront of their field, attending BIMForum, and much more.
VIATechnik is a big believer in collaborating virtual reality and gaming solutions with BIM workflows. What is it about those realms that work so well with BIM?
Virtual reality and gaming technology bring a new dimension of interaction with the model. Rather than simply viewing a model, users can immerse themselves in the environment. It can be a glimpse into the future – you can answer the question “what will this building feel like and how will I use it when construction is completed?” This allows the team during design and construction to make better decisions and to increase engagement and excitement about the project.
What is more interesting to me is implementing gaming technology to allow users the ability to manipulate the environment. At VIATechnik, we’ve been using gaming technology for simulations. For complex construction tasks, we give the construction team the ability to essentially practice in the virtual reality environment and to solve problems in a risk free way before construction. This equates to real time and money saved on the jobsite.
VIATechnik offers a diverse range of Building Information Modelling solutions. Why is VIATechnik really at the forefront of its field?
We pride ourselves on being quick to adopt new technology – reality capture/point cloud to BIM, 4D simulations, 5D cost integration, and of course gaming technology. But more importantly, we understand the team dynamics and the workflows required to successfully deploy technology on a project. We always want to make sure that BIM is implemented to solve the client’s problems and add value at all levels of a project.
What is your favourite project that you have worked on?
At VIATechnik, we’ve been fortunate enough to work on some really interesting Virtual Construction projects, so it’s hard to pick just one. We recently completed a virtual reality gaming simulation of a nuclear fuel vessel installation at an existing power plant. We created the initial model from a point cloud laser scan, and then integrated gaming technology to simulate the installation path of a large fuel vessel. It was an innovative way to help the team test the best path of installation and ensure there were no issues during the actual construction procedure.
Pre-VIATechnik, I was the Project Manager on one of the phases of the Chicago Riverwalk. The project was full of challenges – to give you an idea, we poured underwater concrete on a snowy –10 degree Fahrenheit day. The engineering and site logistics challenges made the project exciting though, and every day was a learning experience. The Riverwalk is now a Chicago landmark that really helped to beautify the Chicago River, and is a project that brings me joy every time I see it.
Do you have a favourite industry book, magazine or publication?
I am a big fan of Engineering News Record. My parents actually subscribed to it when I was growing up, so I have been reading it for a very long time. It’s a great way to stay current on interesting Civil Engineering and construction news, emerging technologies, and large scale construction projects.
What is the top industry event you have recently been to?
I love the BIMForum. They’ve done a fantastic job of fostering a community that is open to sharing ideas and best practices related to BIM technologies, as well as processes & workflows to increase BIM adoption. I consistently walk away from the BIMForum events with at least two or three ideas that I want to implement with our clients at VIATechnik.
You have worked all over the world including Australia and the United States. Who do you believe is leading the way when it comes to BIM?
I’d like to say the US, but in all honestly, the UK is definitely catching up to us, and some pretty amazing things are being done in Asia, the Middle East, and areas in Europe. I think we can learn a lot from looking at the research and technologies coming out of other countries. For example, the UK and their BIM mandate is a great example of how to quickly spread adoption and acceptance of BIM. And I’m always fascinated by the level of pre-fabrication in China, of which BIM is an enabler.
Favourite Twitter handles to follow?
What is your all-time favourite building?
Being from Chicago, I am tempted to say the Sears Tower (yes, Sears Tower, not Willis Tower). But I have to go with the Sydney Opera House. First, I think the fact that the Architect, Jorn Utzen, won the Architecture competition after submitting literally a napkin sketch speaks to his genius. Even more fascinating is the lesser told story of how the construction company impacted the design. Originally, the famous curves of the building had no set design, but to enable pre-fabrication and to facilitate construction, the curves were designed to all be sections of a sphere with the same radius. It’s a great example of how value engineering, and construction means & methods, did not sacrifice design intent.
What is the best thing about the team at VIATechnik?
We never stop learning, and we never settle for “just ok”. We are always looking for better solutions and that affects all aspects of our business – from deploying the latest technology, to helping our clients build better projects.
The most exciting possibilities Building Information Modelling can offer are?
I think construction companies have already seen a lot of immediate value from the clash detection/resolution workflow, which has helped spread adoption in the construction phase. But construction is just a few months or years, while the lifetime of the building is hopefully many decades long. If we can continue to give the BIM life, and use all the information in our models to better operate buildings, perhaps getting closer to this “smart buildings” idea. I want to see this happen at a large scale; I think that’s where it really gets game-changing.
Who or what made you want to work within the Architecture, Engineering and Construction sector?
I grew up in the construction industry, as the daughter of two entrepreneurs who started a construction company when I was 3 years old. Some of my earliest memories are of construction jobsite visits. I even built my own hydroelectric power plant for a grade school science fair the same year my parents’ firm was constructing the Starved Rock Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Illinois River. Something I have always loved about construction is the tangibility of your accomplishments – that ability to drive down the street and say, “hey, I helped build that!” It’s a great way to leave a legacy in this world.
What is your proudest career highlight?
Co-founding VIATechnik with my husband Anton is definitely one of my proudest career highlights. It was about us committing to go all in to change the industry. Perhaps an even greater moment was bringing our employee #1 on board, because this meant that someone else believed in our dream too.
What is the best part about your job?
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with, and to collaborate with, some of the most forward thinking leaders in this industry. I learn something from everyone I meet, which I take with me, to become a better leader myself.