Creating zones and methodologies

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Methodology and Construction Zones represent the basis for the intelligent schedule creation process.

The advanced way of creating a schedule is based on Methodology and Zones definition because it enables the creation of a 4D/5D BIM model with the 4D/5D animation at the same time. Created schedules are better optimized, and the whole process is highly automated, allowing the creation of complex detailed schedules for large-scale construction projects with huge numbers of tasks and relations.

Creating zones (spatial distribution of construction works)

Besides the construction sequence of works that has to obey certain rules, the spatial distribution of the construction process must be properly scheduled on every project. Construction projects are typically divided into Buildings (if they consist of more than one Building), Storeys (Building levels), and Construction sequence – Phases. All these divisions are considered construction zones in the planning process.

The essential spatial division of the project is division by Building, so the first step in zone creation is to define the construction sequence between particular buildings on the project. In Bexel Manager Zone Editor, it could be done in the following way:

Activate the Schedule tab in the upper left corner of the screen → Click Zone Editor → In the Zone Editor window, click New Zone and define the zone’s name in the New Zone window → On the upper right side of the Zone Editor, click on the arrow next to the New Item and select the option Linked → In the Reference Objects window, choose the option Buildings and check all the buildings to include in this zone and the Create Relations box to create relations between the items → Finish the process by clicking OK.

Created zones can be edited, copied or deleted.

Creating zones in Bexel Manager

Check the Automatic checkbox after selecting an individual zone to automatically link zones to reference objects if they have the same name. For example, the zone will be linked to the selection set if both zone and the selection set have the same name.

The Zone Editor field lists two types of Delete commands. The Delete command, located on the toolbar where the zone’s name is, allows ypi to delete the entire zone. On the other side, the Delete command, located in the right corner of the Zone Editor window, allows you to delete links or zone elements. Both commands are irreversible.

The example below represents a simple construction sequence between two buildings with a start-start connection and 320 working hours lag.

The next level of the spatial division of the project is division by Building Storeys or vertical division. It is typically used in construction planning and significantly contributes to the easier organization of construction works, better resource planning, and a generally more efficient construction process. The construction sequence by Storeys is simple and defined by gravity, and it always has a finish-start sequence from down to top. Only Storeys or building levels of the project with Finish-start relations should be linked for proper Storey’s zones definition. It is done in a way described below:

Activate the Schedule tab in the upper left corner of the screen → Click Zone Editor → In the Zone Editor window, click New Zone and in the New Zone window, define the zone’s name → On the upper right side of the Zone Editor, click on the arrow next to the New Item and select the option Linked → In the Reference Objects window, choose the option Building Storeys and check all Storeys and the Create Relations box to create relations between the items → Finish the process by clicking OK, and the Zone in the Zone Editor window is created → After creating levels relations between them can be created.

The example below represents a typical construction sequence between floors from lowest to highest with simple finish-start relation.

Successful planning and spatial distribution of works imply optimal resource planning, and even though BEXEL Manager has a built-in Resource Leveling tool that could automatically optimize the use of resources on the project and adjust the created schedule, it is highly important to have this in mind when creating a schedule and optimally set schedule structure, so resources are evenly spread in terms of construction time and spatial distribution. The best way to achieve this is to divide the project into Construction Phases or horizontal project divisions. This is a traditional process used in advanced planning in general, and it is also a part of BEXEL Manager intelligent planning workflow. The basic idea is to divide the project (every building) into separate Construction Phases (Zones).

Buildings should be organized as groups of construction zones of roughly the same size in terms of the amount of work, area, and quantity of materials to be installed. Contrary to a vertical division which is simple and predefined by the number of Storeys, a horizontal division of works should consider more factors like: work distribution, specifics of the construction process, and technology. The main goal is to organize work in a way to be able to use a uniform amount of resources throughout the construction process. That is possible by managing construction phases to be roughly big enough that the user can complete works for one phase and one group of works in some periodic interval (most commonly one working week). Of course, construction is not industrial production, so in the end, there will be slight adjustments and changes, but the general layout of a good, optimized construction schedule should be set up in this way.

In BEXEL manager, this zone distribution can be done in two ways depending on the quality of the BIM model.

Create zone items using elements property

If BIM model elements have property defining construction sequence (Phase), zone items can be created similarly as with Buildings and Storeys.

Activate the Schedule tab in the upper left corner of the screen → Click Zone Editor → In the Zone Editor window, click New Zone and define the name of the zone → On the upper right side of the Zone Editor, click on the arrow next to the New Item and select the option Linked → In the Reference Objects window, choose the option Element Query → In the upper left corner, click Insert Query, choose Property Value, and in the field, Property Name find a property that defines the construction sequence (exact name of the property depends on the type of authoring tool and modeler preferences) → When the property for the Construction sequence is defined,  Property Type and Operator must be set, which is, in this case, most likely Equal, and the type name of the construction phase as it is defined in model properties (for example, Phase 01) Check the Create Relations box to create relations between the items → Finish the process by clicking OK → After creating Zones, created relations between them can be edited.

Create zone items using selection sets

If BIM model elements don’t have property defining construction sequence (Phase), the construction sequence (horizontal spatial distribution) can be defined in BEXEL Manager. A project can be divided into construction phases by making selection sets of parts of the buildings that will form individual construction Phases and name them accordingly. After selection sets are created, follow the next steps:

Activate the Schedule tab in the upper left corner of the screen  → Click Zone Editor → In the Zone Editor window, click New Zone and in the New Zone window, define the name of the zone → On the upper right side of the Zone Editor, click on the arrow next to the New Item and select the option Linked → In the Reference Objects window, choose the option Selection Sets → Find the selection set of the construction zone in the selection set hierarchy (tree) (for example, Phase 01) → Check the Create Relations box to create relations between the items → Finish the process by clicking OK → After creating zones relations between them can be defined.

In the example below, each building is divided into three roughly equal construction phases that are logically placed in functionally or constructively independent areas. Therefore its execution complies with the construction logic of the project. Defining the construction sequence in a way that could complicate or delay the construction process is not recommended (for example, to have borders between phases in the area where structural elements cannot be executed separately or to divide some functional unit of the building with phases and obstruct specific works that have to be executed in that zone, like kitchen or Machine room that have complex equipment with the time-consuming process of installation). Construction sequence phases will likely have finish-start relations like in this case and follow the general direction of work progress defined by the planner based on construction site organization, logistics requirements, work safety regulations, etc.

Creating methodology (defining the order of works execution)

Construction methodology (project execution methodology) refers to the planned method of construction defining the order of works execution by including temporary and permanent works required to complete the construction works.

Creating a new methodology is similar to creating a zone but more complex due to the complex nature of work compared to spatial distribution. There are two main differences between the zones and methodology. The methodology is based on a certain classification and can be used on various similar projects, unlike the zones that are based more on a certain project and consist of selection sets, buildings, levels, etc.

The methodology is typically created on two levels. Uniformat (the most common) for physical-based work item segregation and MasterFormat (the most common but numerous other national classification standards) for material-based work item segregation. These two classification systems are complementary.

The unique feature of BEXEL Manager is the Smart Cost engine (Creation Wizard) for creating complete Cost Classification based on a set of project organization rules defined within QTO (Quantity Takeoff) or CBS (Custom Breakdown Structure). 

This is typically defined in cost classification structure so, in Methodology, only  proper work sequence between these sub-groups of works has to be defined. On the first level, it will define sequence and relations between groups of works (defined in Uniformat classification or QTO-based classification). So, in reality, in BEXEL Manager sequence can be defined by simply linking “chapters” or Classification items from cost classification and defining the type of relations between tasks.

BEXEL Manager’s intelligent scheduling engine offers an opportunity to define construction sequences or rules once and to be able to reuse them and additionally modify them on other projects.

First level methodology

An example from the Sample model below shows the logic of the construction works sequence of a first-level methodology on a typical project where the construction process is performed in this sequence: Foundations Slab on grade Load-bearing walls and columns Load-bearing beamsSlabs and this process is repeated (without foundations and slab on grade tasks) on every floor. Relations between work groups are defined by simple graphic connections and definition of type and properties of relation.

Second level methodology

After the first-level methodology is set, within every individual group of works construction work sequence of a second-level methodology can be set. For basic example Standard foundations, the construction sequence blinding concretewaterproofing worksformwork preparationreinforcement installationconcrete pouringconcrete finishing works is set.

The example below shows the typical logic of second-level methodology within the concrete beams group of works. It has a logical sequence Formwork-Reinforcement works-concrete pouring-concrete finishing

After the proper sequence and relations between groups of works (Uniformat classification) and within every group (MasterFormat classification) are defined, complete methodology is ready for Creation Template definition.

It is possible to define construction sequence on only one level without defining second-level relations within construction methodology. In this case, an automatically generated schedule will be less detailed and less precise but still accurate and practical for progress tracking and planning.

To create a new methodology:

Activate the Schedule tab in the upper left corner of the screen → Click Methodology Editor → In the Methodology Editor window, click on the New Methodology and in the New Methodology window, define the methodology’s name and classification and finish the process by clicking OK  → On the upper right side of the Methodology Editor, click on the arrow next to the New Item and select the option Linked → In the Methodology Item Cost Items window, choose a classification or a cost item → Finish the process by clicking OK → To add additional items, follow the steps for new items creation → After creating methodology items relations between them can be defined.

Created Methodology can be edited, copied or deleted. It can also be transferred between projects through the BEXEL Manager exchange process to reuse for future projects.

Sample Methodologies, based on standard model categories, can be found on Bexel User Area.

Besides Uniformat and MasterFormat, or any other standardized classification system, a custom classification system can be established as a basis for integrated 4D/5D BIM model development.

Adding elements to methodology

Schedule Methodology Editor →  With New Methodology, create a new methodology or choose a pre-formed one → Click New Item → The New Methodology Item window opens → in the Name field define the element’s name → Finish the procedure by clicking OK → Select the newly created Methodology Item and click Edit in the right part of the screen → The Methodology Item Cost Items window opens → Select the appropriate item within the classification system chosen → Finish the procedure by clicking OK.

Editing the methodology elements

Each element of the methodology has its own color set by default. This color is displayed during the schedule animation when the activity related to the element is taking place. The color can be changed by clicking on the square with the color located on the right side of the Methodology Editor window. Color legend opens where the selected color can be set. To close the process, click the OK button. Methodology item name can also be changed by clicking the Change button. To add another item from the classification system to the selected element, click the Edit button and select or add the selected items.

There are two types of Delete commands in the Methodology Editor, similar as in Zone Editor window. The Delete command on the toolbar will completely delete the entire methodology. The Delete command located at the right side of the Methodology Editor window only deletes the selected item or link. Both commands are irreversible.

Creating relations

Defining relations within the Methodology editor is the same as in the zone editor, including typical types of relations used in the construction planning process.

Types of relations between methodology and zone items are:

  • Finish → Start,
  • Start → Start,
  • Start → Finish,
  • Finish → Finish.

After defining the relation type, lag between activities can be set if needed, like in any other planning process.

Besides these basic options, BEXEL Manager intelligent planning has some specific options to structure the schedule properly.

Option Copy to children

One of these specific commands is Copy to children functionality. If checked, Copy to children functionality defines that relations will be copied from parent tasks to leaf tasks. If the relation between two groups of works is defined as Finish-start relation, that means the second group of works will start only after the first is completed. If the Copy to children functionality is checked, that means that the relation will be copied to tasks in the lower hierarchy, and the second group of works will start after the first group is completed in a first construction zone on the lowest floor and not after it is completed on the whole project. This way a complex, automatically generated schedule with numerous relations is defined only with a few clicks in the methodology editor.

Constructive relations

Another important functionality that is a part of Copy to children relations is an option to label certain relations as Constructive and define Constructive Offset. This means that due to the nature of certain works, some activities cannot start before some other activity is completed, even though that activity is within a different construction zone or level. (For example, this relation prevents the floor slab on a second floor from being executed before beams on the first floor are completed). In BIM modeling and computer logic, beams of the first floor and slab on the second floor are in different spatial zones due to model division by levels and, therefore, should be independent during schedule generation, but in reality, these elements are dependent on execution, so this relation moves dependence of elements between different model levels. In this case, Constructive Offset will be set as 1 in the finish start relation between beams and slabs, which means slab execution can start only after beams in the previous level are completed, which means that the relation between construction zones (in this case levels) has an offset and establishes a relation between different zones which is not the case in regular Copy to children relation.

When using the Constructive offset function between groups of works, the same option has to be checked on relations between construction zones in the zone editor where this relation will be applied. In the example above, that means that Constructive offset would have to be checked in all relations between building Storeys.

The process of defining relations between zone items and between methodology items is done in the same way → Drag the arrow from one item to another, and a relation will be created → To edit the relation, define information in the Methodology or Zone Item Relation Information, activated by clicking on the relation line.

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Creating zones and methodologies

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