Before a shovel hits the dirt, King virtually builds Skanska's construction projects to identify snags and design conflicts.

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Mark King

What do you do? My title is virtual design and construction (VDC) manager for Skanska USA Building in the Seattle region, but not many people understand what that means. VDC is part of Skanska’s Innovative Construction Solutions Group, which probably defines what I do a little better. Essentially, my team uses software and processes to ensure that all conflicts in the building design are resolved well ahead of the start of construction.

When conflicts are found during construction, much time is wasted while a resolution is being developed. Over the past dozen or so years, the construction industry has realized that they perform many repetitive tasks, and that much of the associated cost is waste. By leveraging the amazing software available to us and the increase in computing power, we are able build the project virtually to ensure that all constructability and coordination issues are resolved prior to ever putting a shovel in the dirt.

How did you get started in that field?
I’ve been involved in design and construction for 32 years, starting with a multidiscipline design firm in Bremerton. In 1985, the office purchased two licenses of AutoCAD, and I was one of the designers tasked to figure out how to use it. It was extremely clunky back then, and the computers hadn’t got to the point where they were powerful enough to consistently run the software. We’ve come a long way!

In 1998, I started to work for a Seattle-based general contractor as a CAD manager and construction detailer. Soon after, I started using 3D AutoCAD to better represent the building elements and assist in the coordination. When Building Information Modeling (BIM) became prominent around 2005, I was one of the early adopters in the Seattle area, and eventually taught BIM classes for the Association of General Contractors and at South Puget Sound Community College.

What’s a typical day like? My day rarely goes the way I see it unfolding when I walk through the door in the morning. I have my hands in most projects, both in construction and preconstruction, so I get pulled in a lot of directions. I may be modeling structure in Revit for a couple hours, then get pulled into a project pursuit writing VDC content and developing site logistics plans. We have a staff of VDC coordinators that I manage as well, so part of my job is to manage their assignments and assist with modeling issues that come up.

What’s the best part of the job? The absolute best part of my job is assisting Skanska project personnel to mitigate risk on their projects by utilizing VDC processes, and create positive outcomes that save the project time and money. This might include using 3D to model a complicated area of the building, coordinating the building systems virtually to ensure there are no conflicts, or developing a 4D model that combines the 3D model and the project schedule, and shows the construction of the building in the computer.

My second favorite thing about my job is the opportunity for innovation. BIM is evolving very rapidly as new software and processes are developed. Some of the things Skanska is pioneering include the use of drones, virtual reality, laser scanning and leveraging gaming technology to easily navigate models.

What surprises people about your work? I think that most people who are not in construction would be surprised at the role that technology plays in our work as general contractors. We leverage sophisticated software to generate project schedules, develop and validate 3D models and to track the progress of our projects. We are also using cloud-based systems for quantifying and estimating, and for project collaboration.

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