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Teaming Up - VDC & Marketing

VDC is extremely relevant in our industry today and has evolved over the last few years. Megan Conrad, Virtual Construction Manager and Mike Prefling, Director of Virtual Construction at Ryan Companies, will provide some valuable insight below.

What is exactly is VDC?

VDC stands for Virtual Design Construction. I believe there are two concepts to understand. First, we have a Building Information Model (BIM); which is a 3D model representation of a building scope, a MEP system or any other physical part of a project. Designers, contractors and vendors have mostly moved to BIM as it provides a more efficient way for them to design, draft and fabricate. I think of BIM as a noun, it’s the model & repository for information. On the other hand, Virtual Design & Construction should be thought of as a verb. It is how a myriad of models are combined, shared, evolved, leveraged and used for communication, conflict identification and resolution, and gleaned for information sharing to all stakeholders. VDC is a process driver. I’ve heard it described well as if BIM is the car then VDC is the driver. The VDC process includes software, hardware and people – ideally all in the proper configurations and locations to allow for cooperative participation, and enabled to deliver a high performing (i.e., optimized) constructed facility. 

How are the VDC and the Marketing teams in your company similar? How are they different?

We have a lot of similarities between our VDC and Marketing teams. Both groups have to draw desires and vision out of people. We both have to force action, keep groups on task, and hold people accountable. We have strict design standards, even use some of the same software, and care deeply about helping our clients experiencing a positive, emotional reaction to their project. The biggest similarity is that we both tell stories; they just might be in different formats and for different reasons. Our VDC team is able to transform a design concept into an image, animation, or virtual reality that brings it to life, while our Marketing team is able to take our deliverables and form a cohesive message with text, branding, and formatting to deliver a complete story.

How do VDC and marketing team up for pursuits or even for current projects?

We collaborate on almost every pursuit and almost every project together. VDC and Marketing combined has become a powerful duo. Marketing really understands the overall vision, objectives and key messaging points for pursuits and interviews. VDC understands construction and is in the business of visually communicating scope, process, design, logistics, budget and schedule. During pursuits, VDC can help provide supplemental graphics or tools in order to help tell the story. We do that in a variety of ways:

  1. 3D building animations and renderings
  2. Cost and schedule summary infographics
  3. Site logistics
  4. Process maps
  5. Regional amenity graphics

Sample Schedule Sequence Infographic

The VDC team’s talents reside in bringing information to life, and combined with a marketing team’s overall vision strategy, it makes for a perfect combo for business development efforts trying to win work. 

How do you think VDC technology can enhance marketing efforts or what successes have you seen when combining VDC and marketing?

One of the greatest successes we’ve seen is utilizing Virtual Reality in marketing efforts, particularly in leasing and sales capacities. Ryan’s VDC group generates 360 degree views of apartment units for potential renters to tour via virtual headsets and even an interactive experience that allows the viewer to use a controller to explore the space virtually at their own leisure. Additionally, we provide design studio-quality renderings that can be used in a wide array of marketing platforms. This provides huge added value to our clients in order to accurately market the space well before the projects are finished for closing sales and leasing sooner.

Do you have any advice for marketing or business development professionals when it comes to interacting or utilizing VDC?

  • Sit down with us on a routine basis and map out upcoming deliverables, efforts and marketing initiatives. We have a deep perspective on the pulse of construction and can offer technical support and/or perspectives.

  • Give us at least twice as much time as you think we need!  We use as many as 10 separate software programs to craft our deliverables, which can mean a lot of importing, exporting, rendering, aligning and tweaking details to get it just right. These things take time, but they are well worth it in the end.

  • We need content, and the more we can get sooner, the better (building models, concepts, branding standards, design constraints, etc.)

  • Feedback is greatly appreciated, especially when it’s early and often. It is significantly more challenging to make changes when nearing the due date for our deliverables.

  • Let us know the mood, theme, and other non-tangible elements of marketing a project. We can add little things to convey these properties and give our content a lot of depth. Every little bit of information matters!

As a VDC Manager for Ryan Companies, a design-build firm that also acts as a developer, you must have a unique perspective on the value of technology for all stakeholders (designers, contractors, and owners.) Can you tell us more about the value that you’ve seen VDC technology bring to a construction project?

As a full-service real estate solution provider, I find that I need to communicate in different ways with a myriad of stakeholder groups. VDC processes have become a powerful medium from which to communicate. It is our conduit to facilitate the vision and plan intelligently. We have found that the more information we pass through our VDC processes, the more “unknown” factors get converted to “known.” This enables tremendous agility and confidence in decision-making and maintains trust for all parties. We like to state that VDC gives our construction teams certainty of outcomes.

Your role in VDC exposes you to some of the most interesting technology trends in the industry. What tech are you most excited about for 2017 and beyond?

We have been working quite a bit with Virtual and Augmented Reality at Ryan Companies. With more consumers using these technologies, we are seeing a surge in applications within construction. As I mentioned earlier, we’re creating immersive experiences to invoke a positive emotional response into the sales and leasing process. I’m hoping that within the next two to five years, VR and AR will merge further, unlocking even more opportunities within construction. I’d like to see this expand to on-site applications and safety uses with true simulation and rehearsal of high-risk construction activities where “game-like” scenarios can be practiced and fine-tuned, similar to what is done in the aerospace or military industries.


Megan Conrad 
Virtual Construction Manager, Ryan Companies US, Inc. 

Megan Conrad works in Ryan's Great Lakes Region as a Virtual Construction Manager. She has been in the industry for 10 years and with Ryan Companies for over two years. Megan loves her job because she is able to tap into her creativity and provlem solve by helping others visualize the best steps to move forward. In her free time, Megan loves to hike, camp, canoe, kayak and travel to National and State parks. 


Mike Prefling 
Director of Virtual Construction, Ryan Companies US, Inc. 

Mike Prefling has worked in this industry for 17 years and nine years at Ryan. He oversees Ryan's Virtual construction department out of the Phoenix office and interfaces with all 13 offices across the country. He loves that every day is a different and complex puzzle to be solved. In his free time, Mike enjoys time with his family and anything that is kid-related, especially outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, swimming and other sports. 

 

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