Customer Stories

McCownGordon Construction LLC

We’ve already taken the City Union Mission project through the entire process. Currently, construction is about 90 percent complete, and we’re two months ahead of schedule. That’s phenomenal on a project like this. We also have seven other Revit Architecture projects under way. That really helps establish a comfort level for local AEC firms considering adopting BIM and the Revit platform. They know that when they embrace it, we’ll be right there helping them through the process.
—Suzie Apel Senior Marketing Coordinator McCownGordon Construction

Project Summary

Since 1999, McCownGordon Construction has grown from humble roots to become one of Kansas City’s most successful and forward-thinking construction firms. “In that first year, the firm’s three employees did roughly $9 million in business,” says Suzie Apel, senior marketing coordinator. “Last year, that number grew to over 16 times that, and we now have more than 160 associates. Our core markets are civic, government, and corporate, but we also focus on the biosciences, health care, higher education, and nonprofits.” McCownGordon has an unparalleled reputation for building strong collaborative relationships with owners, architects, and engineers in the region. That’s why the firm recently standardized on Revit® Architecture building information modeling (BIM) software. “Our owners see Revit as the future of the AEC industry,” says Brad Hardin, AIA and BIM manager. “It’s the most capable BIM platform out there, and very well suited to our approach of design build and integrated project delivery.”

The Challenge

Since adopting the new platform, McCownGordon has begun work on seven projects, including the $6.7 million City Union Mission project in Kansas City, Missouri. “It’s essentially a men’s shelter with shower facilities, restrooms, administrative offices, conference areas, a clinic, a kitchen, and 40 new bedrooms,” says Hardin.

The project includes significant new construction as well as renovation of the existing 36,000-squarefoot building. “Because it’s a homeless shelter, we had to be careful to disrupt its operations as little as possible,” says Apel. “That’s why we broke construction into two phases. First, we built the 30,000-square-foot Christian Life Building. Then, in phase two, we began renovating the existing structure.” Because of the project’s fast-track 10-month schedule, McCownGordon needed to collaborate effectively with other members of the project team—including structural and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineers; the owners; and architects from BNIM Architects.

Keeping It Green

“BNIM has built its practice around sustainable design,” says Apel. “Any time you work with them, they introduce that element. On the City Union Mission project, they’re designing the building to meet LEED Silver standards.”

The Solution

“Building strong relationships, both with our clients and with the architects and engineers, is one of our core values,” says Apel. “If you have that, everything else follows—clear communication of the services we offer, efficient follow-through, and really being able to help everyone do their jobs better.”

Work the Way You Think

Both Revit Architecture and the additional components of the Revit platform, Revit® Structure and Revit® MEP software, are powerful, intuitive design tools. All are built on a common software platform, enabling the integration of key building disciplines in a shared building information model that allows more effective communication and collaboration among all project team members. “Our owners see it as a solution to a lot of the information disconnect that’s gone on in the industry,” says Hardin.

Lay the Ground Rules

This tight integration among the disciplines enabled McCownGordon to participate very early in the City Union Mission project. “Once BNIM provided the architectural model, we sat down with the project architect and engineer and identified exactly what the architect would take responsibility for editing,” says Hardin. “We also worked out naming conventions and determined where—and at what stage— we were allowed to input and layer our information.”

Get It Right the First Time

“We didn’t do any parallel modeling,” says Hardin. “Instead, we made sure the documentation was right up-front and, at every step of the delivery, kept all of our future activities in mind. That resulted in cost savings and much greater efficiency. Even in the very early schematic design phase on this project, we were working with the architects and engineers to layer our work into the Revit model without making any additional work for them.”

Use Model Data Immediately

Immediately after receiving the Revit model, McCownGordon used it to perform real-time estimating. “Not many other firms can do that,” says Hardin. “To validate our quantities postbid, we look at the Revit model from an estimating standpoint and make sure that the numbers we had assigned to it were aligned with our actual cost.”

Save Valuable Time

“When I picked our chief estimator’s brain, he believed that by using BIM technology—versus traditional takeoff and estimating methods— our estimates are about 60 percent faster,” says Hardin. “And in regards to updates, that figure is closer to 80 percent after we get the first file set up.”

Update Automatically

“Revit Architecture is a bidirectional software application,” says Hardin. “When we link data from the Revit model to our estimating software, the software relates this information back to the model. If we change anything in the model, we update and reload it and the software updates our cost estimates. It also helps us identify items that we haven’t yet assigned a cost.”

Find Errors Easily

Another strength of the Revit model is its flexibility. “We’re able to use the model to perform clash detection in two different ways,” says Hardin. “For the most part, we use Revit Architecture itself when we link to a Revit MEP or Revit Structure model. Revit Architecture actually identifies the conflicting components as you link to them. But we’ve also begun to use Autodesk NavisWorks Manage software, and have already done so on two projects. In addition to offering clash detection for a broad range of file formats combined into a single project model, NavisWorks provides us the added benefit of powerful tools for design project review and 4D construction simulations.”

Improve the RFI Process

Using the Revit platform, the firm was able to improve the request for information (RFI) process. “Although we’ve actually seen an increase in the raw number of RFIs because of the additional information that’s provided in the model, but they are identified and resolved earlier,” says Hardin. “By sending the architect a digital RFI or Autodesk DWF file electronically, we’re seeing a faster response time from the architects and engineers. As a result, teamwork and communication have improved considerably. We’re really excited about that.”

Share Information Freely

“This is the information age,” says Hardin. “Until recently, architects and engineers seemed to be more concerned with who owned the model, or who was allowed to edit it. What we’re seeing now is a much more open attitude to sharing information with the project team. People are starting to think of the building information model almost as a library where everyone can gather, input, or share project information. When you start to think like that, you stop being as concerned with who owns the library as long as it helps make everyone’s job easier and deliver a better project.”

Understand Other Disciplines

The Revit platform also helps the disciplines better understand each other’s work. “In an integrated environment, you start to want to learn why a contractor pours a concrete pad in a certain way, or why an architect chooses a certain aesthetic,” says Hardin. “Revit Architecture helps all of us get a better understanding of what everybody else on the team is doing.”

Visualize—and Clarify

For example, McCownGordon recently worked on a GSA project for Townsend Capital, a technology firm that manages a large 1.5-million-square-foot office campus in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. “Not many owners have gone through a construction project before,” says Apel. “All this is brand new to them. They love having something visual that helps them understand something better.”

“We actually had one of our project managers using the Autodesk Design Review to zoom and fly around the model,” adds Hardin. “The owners started asking me questions as he was cutting sections through the buildings. I was able to get them answers directly from the model. In visualization alone, Revit Architecture has been a great tool for communication and collaboration for us, and it also helps the owners begin to buy into the investment they’re making in BIM.”

Analyze by Phases

Using the Revit model, McCownGordon set up phases and linked them directly to the project manager’s schedule. “All of the elements within the model are tied to a portion of the schedule,” says Hardin. “As we update the schedule, we’re able to reload the model to see how items shifted.” The firm also linked the model to estimating software that helped them better analyze construction phases. “We showed things like where we’re going to stage materials or logistic and safety components.”

Find New Projects

Because the Revit platform is such an effective tool for improved collaboration, McCownGordon has begun searching for new projects that will incorporate Revit Architecture. “The earlier we can identify those BIM projects, the better,” says Hardin. “Right now, there are quite a few firms within the Kansas City area that use Revit Architecture on a regular basis. We really feel like we’re their construction firm of choice.”

Spread the Word

As part of Hardin’s job as BIM manager, he has trained most of the McCownGordon staff members. “Right now, we have project estimators and project managers who can build Revit models and use them in conjunction with estimating and visualization software to look at phasing and component information or identify potential hazards,” says Hardin. “For the most part, we plan on having a Revit-trained company.”

“Brad also helps educate the AEC community on how new technology can make their lives easier,” adds Apel. “He has been working with many other local architectural firms and educating them on how they can use BIM effectively—and how we can help them do it,” says Apel. “We’ve probably had more than a dozen meetings with Kansas City design firms letting them know what our capabilities are.”

The Result

“We’ve already taken the City Union Mission project through the entire process,” says Apel. “Currently, construction is about 90 percent complete, and we’re two months ahead of schedule. That’s phenomenal on a project like this. We also have seven other Revit Architecture projects under way.”

Better Business Partnerships

“That really helps establish a comfort level for local AEC firms considering adopting BIM and the Revit platform,” says Apel. They know that when they embrace it, we’ll be right there helping them through the process, and showing how sharing a single digital model is much easier than creating parallel models. It’s just another service we offer to help make their jobs a little easier. We’re not going to be taking away their design business.”

More New Projects

“One of our goals for next year is definitely to bring in more Revit projects,” says Hardin. “We already get more than 70 percent of our work from repeat clients. Our clients enjoy working with us and keep coming back again and again. And because we’ve worked with many of the architectural and design firms in the Kansas City area and discussed what we can do, they know we have Revit in-house and can implement it effectively. That alone will help our business grow next year.”

A Whole New Outlook

“It’s important that everybody buys in if you’re going to create the best project possible,” says Hardin. “The Revit platform has really helped change the attitude of the teams we work with and increase the collaborative attitude. It’s actually changing the whole building process in the Kansas City area.”

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