Our Thoughts and Notes from UDOT MBDC Workshop

“Roads?  Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

Who can forget that movie ending quote by Doc Brown in Back to the Future. Lucky for those of us in the road construction business, roads will be around for a long, long time, but the goals, vision and changes coming thru the Model Based Design & Construction (MBDC) process will feel like a shift as large as the thought of a world without roads.  Case in point, imagine building a nine-mile highway, complete with bridges, overpasses, exits, etc. with no paper plan sheets.  Based on conversations during the UDOT MBDC Workshop on February 4th, sooner than later, this will be the new norm.  How quickly we get there will ultimately come down to collaboration.

The February 4th workshop was attended by industry leading solution providers, contractors, DOT and FHWA representatives.  All total, about 80 professionals gathered for the day-long discussion around identifying gaps contractor estimators need to complete their work, how this information is used and what new technology tools are needed to bring this new process into the field – accessible by all.  To put us in the correct mind-frame, the day was kicked off by Carlos Braceras, Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director.  Carlos did a phenomenal job setting a stage where one should keep pushing forward, be ok with making mistakes and have large dreams about what they can accomplish through their efforts working on this MBDC project and within the DOT in general.  One could see very quickly why UDOT is considered a leader amongst the state DOTs, as their leader gave an excellent example of how one should inspire and push, while leaving room for the team to grow from their errors. 

The stated MBDC objective by UDOT is to “Improve efficiency across the project life cycle and support asset management activities with current data.”  To work towards this, the workshop continued with various exercises involving conversations around what information is needed by contractor estimators to complete their jobs and physically marking up paper plan sheets to highlight what current information is needed and can be excluded from a model.  Concluding with a group discussion around what new technology tools will make all this information usable.

Our day concluded with each table reporting their key findings.  The common themes across most tables was the need to develop a list of standards all designers and estimators can work from. For example, take-offs from new pipe lines are from ‘top of pipe’ vs middle or bottom. Another common theme was to insure all personnel associated with the project will have access to the model information, specifically the smaller (but plentiful) subcontractors that will not have funding to purchase expensive software licenses.  Lastly, to accomplish the goal of moving to a world where all projects are MBDC, increased collaboration between industry, government and solution suppliers is necessary.  Potential future workshops around these items are being considered.

In conclusion, the event was very enlightening regarding how far the MBDC model has progressed in Utah over the past few years, what steps are needed to continue the progress and why moving to this model can dramatically increase design efficiency and product quality delivery.  We at OnStation have identified a couple areas our current software can be of value and are also strategizing with our development team on additional tools to build that can address other gaps.  It is always an exciting time when one can help shape the future…specifically one with miles and miles of roads!