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The Beginnings of BIM at MOA

By Rick Arriaga

BIM | Technology Manager

BIM Model DaVita HQ

In 2009, MOA won the design competition for DaVita’s new world headquarters, to be located at the western end of Denver’s 16th Street Mall. The 14-story, 450,000-SF tower would be the largest project in the firm’s history. To be delivered through a fast-tracked, highly collaborative CM/GC process, the project would also demand a complete transformation of how the firm worked.

The story of architectural and engineering design over the past three decades centers on the power of design innovation—and the parallel demand on firms to remain connected and informed to those innovations. When MOA secured the contract to work on this massive new project, firm leadership recognized that we would need to make a critical leap forward in our design practice and embrace new technologies if we were to deliver this critical project according to the client’s expectations. The firm decided to forego the use of our tried-and-true Autodesk AutoCAD 2D design tool, instead utilizing Autodesk Revit 3D BIM software.

One critical challenge facing the firm was the lack of training and experience using BIM software. Across our 30-person team, only a handful of staff members had any experience with significant BIM experience—and most of them were recent college graduates, at the intern staff level. During the first year of the project, which focused on conceptual programming and design, we developed our BIM implementation plan. We dove into creating our initial Revit architectural family libraries and templates. We quickly adopted the national BIM standards.

Training the Modelers

To implement Revit, we chose to internally train our seasoned architects and designers in the use of the new tool. We moved identified BIM team modelers and their computers into a central collaborative space and trained the entire team in a just-in-time fast-track schedule, to stay ahead of the project.

The proximity and open communication afforded by this office arrangement was essential as the team collectively developed the model file. During this time, many of the external design team firms were in the same position as MOA, beginning to implement and utilize BIM for the first time in the development of both their design and construction documentation.

Revit assisted both our design and production teams in the design and generation of the project’s 3D Building Information Model. From there, the BIM model provided us with the information needed to develop and generate the construction documents. Our team realized that if MOA could successfully deliver a project of this size and complexity through a BIM-centered process, the firm could be able to utilize Revit on nearly any future project that came our way.

Construction Coordination

During construction, Saunders Construction, the general contractor, conducted weekly on-site construction coordination meetings that included external design team representatives—structural, M/E/P, and fire protection engineers as well as select sub-contractors. These weekly review sessions occurred approximately six weeks ahead of the actual construction stage.

A week prior to the meeting each discipline would submit their 3D model file to Saunders so that their team could collectively preview the 3D models and identify potential constructability issues. At the meetings the entire project team discussed and resolved each identified issue. Upon reaching an agreement of resolution, the appropriate parties would return to their offices and make the necessary modifications to their model file, before issuing the revised construction documents. This process continued throughout the construction process, avoiding numerous potentially costly construction conflicts.

More than a decade later, DaVita World Headquarters remains one of the firm’s most celebrated projects—owing a major part of its success to MOA’s embracing the possibilities of BIM.