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What is Virtual Design and Construction

What is Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)?

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) is a method that uses BIM to achieve maximum performance in the management of design and construction processes

VDC stands for Virtual Design and Construction and was first introduced as a concept by the CIFE – Center for Integrated Facility Engineering at Stanford University of California in 2001. The main promoter of this methodology is Professor Martin Fischer, Director of CIFE.

VDC is strongly related to the BIM (Building Information Modeling) methodology. In fact, VDC technology uses 3D BIM models and other information to digitally plan all aspects of a construction project (cost estimating, planning and risk management).

Principles of Virtual Design and Construction

VDC is a virtual process as it uses digital models created with special software to simulate the final result of the project before its actual implementation.

The terms Design and Construction represent the two phases in which the quality of the project can be influenced.

The three principles underlying VDC are:

  • product (intended as a project outcome);
  • team organisation;
  • process.

The management of these three aspects through the entire construction process in virtual format allows specific objectives to be achieved in an extremely efficient manner.

The structure of Virtual Design and Construction

The objective of VDC in building design is to understand the complexity of a project and anticipate potential challenges before a major commitment of time or money is made. With the implementation of VDC a project can achieve Lean principles (waste avoidance, cost reduction, productivity improvement) through tools such as:

  • Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE);
  • Project Production Management (PPM);
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM);
  • Metrics.
Virtual Design and Construction: the structure

Virtual Design and Construction: the structure

ICE: Integrated Concurrent Engineering

Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE) is a social method, already used by NASA and generated from Extreme Collaboration (XC), that aims to facilitate decision-making and improve communication through the best available technologies.

In the VDC context, this methodology aims to organise meetings with the design team and allow stakeholders from multiple disciplines to participate simultaneously in order to create and evaluate multidisciplinary VDC models extremely quickly and reliably. Using ICE ne VDC sessions allows you to:

  • reduce the time needed to make decisions
  • improve the quality of output;
  • achieve better integration between different disciplines.

PPM: Project Production Management

PPM (Product Production Management) is the process component of VDC.

Product Production Management, when applied to a project, clearly defines the objectives of the project and provides a broad view of the entire project and the activities that need the most attention.

It is a planning tool through which it is possible to manage the execution of the project. It uses systems and methodologies to define:

  • project variability in order to implement measures to reduce it
  • workflows design
  • resources required.

The use of PPM in VDC design allows the project delivery to be understood, controlled and improved.

BIM: Building Information Modeling

BIM is the component where virtuality resides, the use of technology to improve projects. It is the way in which it is possible to obtain the digital and visual representation of what the team is working on with information related to each object in the building.

BIM has a huge importance in ICE sessions to:

  • easily present the project challenges to the team and clients;
  • support decision-making through data capture and 3D visualisation.


In order for each component to achieve the objectives of the VDC process, appropriate metrics need to be monitored. These metrics are important to identify corrections to be applied for continuous process improvement.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to be monitored for project success should be chosen based on the identified objectives. They need to include:

  • Production targets (PO): objective measures such as time, cost, number of collisions resolved that are monitored regularly to check if the project is going in the right direction
  • Controllable factors: subjective measures such as quality and satisfaction that are directly linked to the production objectives of each component (PPM, BIM and ICE) and serve to optimise the project processes
  • Customer Objectives (CO): metrics such as usage performance, operation, sustainability and safety prepared by the project team to achieve customer objectives measured when the project is operational.
VDC framework

VDC framework

Differences between BIM and VDC

BIM and VDC have a lot in common and, for this reason, can be confused.

Both are based on collaboration and intelligent communication but VDC is a broader concept that adopts BIM as a way of working.

In fact, VDC refers to the process in which BIM is used through the lifecycle of a project. Specifically, BIM creates the virtual construction of a building with associated information. VDC uses BIM models to plan the construction process from start to finish including elements such as budget, cost estimation and planning (4D, 5D, etc.).

In conclusion, VDC organises the processes, BIM organises the models and project documents used in these processes.

Advantages of using VDC

The biggest revolution brought about by the use of VDC in construction design and planning is the extreme optimisation of the management phase. Among the main advantages of using VDC we can highlight:

  • a significant increase in communication between teams: by using the ICE system, communication between the different sectors is optimised and any delays in the process due to the lack of integration of all the disciplines involved in a single project are eliminated;
  • better strategic project planning: thanks to the PPM methodology, it is possible to clearly define from the outset the objectives of the process, the end products, the raw materials, the information and the activities that need the most attention. This results in better project planning, fewer conflicts and unforeseen events on the construction site and less reworking of models and design solutions;
  • increased efficiency and productivity: the use of BIM within the VDC process provides a true-to-life virtual model where all stakeholders can clearly, easily and quickly visualise the project as a whole. In this way, it is possible to work simultaneously and integrate different solutions avoiding costly emergency solutions.

To plan and manage a construction project using the VDC methodology and obtain all the advantages listed above you need:

  • a BIM software to create extremely detailed 3D/BIM models with all the information related to each building object;
  • a BIM management system platform with integrated tools that allow you to collaborate and coordinate the work team, review the model, manage the construction schedule and estimate the cost of the project.