By Ian Coats / Autodesk
Every time you walk through any metropolis in the developed world, you’ll no doubt pass by a building site where they are erecting another beautiful monolithic icon of modern business. They seem to appear out of nowhere and fill us with wonder on what happens behind their mirrored glass facades.
If you see one under construction, you’ll always notice the steel skeleton first. This is also iconic of our industry. Nothing says ‘steel construction’ like a skyscraper frame. When I meet someone new and outwith the construction industry, I always struggle to explain what I do in terms they can relate to. Then, when I mention those guys sitting on a beam eating their lunch high over Manhattan, heads nod or recline in realization. Now, that’s not what I do, but that image is enough to answer the query without having to dig into the weeds of rat-holes, bevels, drift-pins, single shear and all the other chat we use to make our significant-others’ eyes glaze over.
One term that has made it into common parlance though, is ‘Cowboys of the Sky’. It invokes thoughts of pioneers out west, blazing trails and driving cattle. It also alludes to the bravery and toughness of the breed. Traits that are shared by Ironworkers today and throughout the history of the trade.
It was this pioneering aspect that really struck a chord with me at the recent Ironworkers Union Conference in San Diego. IMPACT (Ironworkers Management Progressive Action Trust) is one of my favorite organizations to work with. They work hard to shed the mafia-style-goon image synonymous with traditional labor unions and go further to promote professionalism through training, safety and equal rights for all workers. – To this point, IMPACT just recently announced a new paid maternity benefit. The first, ever labor union in the US to do so. It speaks volumes. It shows that they are pioneers, committed to continual improvement and that they recognize the contribution made by the women who work in our industry. You don’t think there are many women Ironworkers? Stop by their HQ in Washington, DC and pick up one of their wall calendars!
It’s this progressive attitude that attracts me to their community. I was attending their San Diego conference to demonstrate the use of software for layout and verification of Anchor Bolts locations on site. The General Contractor typically lays out the concrete foundations complete with Anchors cast-in. Then the Erector places the columns on the bolts where they appear. If an erector puts a column on top of incorrectly located bolts, then they are liable for the resultant backcharges due to ill-fitting steel.
Today, most erectors verify the location of the bolts by running tapes and sighting using theodolites and references these results back to drawings. Typically large drawings, which always get soaked by rain or trodden into mud, or at best, handled by dirty work gloves. None of this, is conducive to any form of real accuracy and reliability.
We’re trying to disrupt that. We’re re-inventing how the job is done through adoption of technology. Now we have Building Information Models that allow us to specify locations of anchors easily and we can transfer that data to a Total Station; a theodolite on steroids. This means one person, man or woman can easily walk around the site with a prism and a handheld data collector to verify the bolt locations. This process has quartered the time it takes to verify anchors on a typical project.
It all starts with the model. The X,Y,Z, or Easting, Northing and Level of each anchor is easily identified.
The data is then pushed to a Data Collector linked to a Robotic Total Station that remotely and automatically follows the Erector as they walk around the site with the Prism. The Prism is placed on the head of each bolt and its location is recorded. The data then circles back to the model and a Deviation Report, highlighting any anomalies is created for review by the General Contractor. Simple!
We’re working with IMPACT and with the surveying equipment vendors to help Ironworkers adopt BIM practices like this on site. Introducing them to the new technology they crave and at the same time we’re getting apprentices excited about the future of the steel construction industry.
So the next time you hear the phrase ‘Cowboys of the Sky’, or walk past a skyscraper under construction, take a moment to realize that the fearless men and women you see up there, really are the modern day cowboys, blazing a trail towards the future of BIM in a practical and productive way.
See original article on BIMing With Confidence.