BIM in Renovation – Interview with Danielle Dy Buncio

viatechnik-ddb-8406-re2My interviewee is Danielle Dy Buncio, Co-Founder and President of VIATechnik, a Chicago-based engineering firm. We discuss the use of BIM in renovation and life-cycle management of buildings.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in VIATechnik?

I grew up in the construction industry, and am the daughter of two entrepreneurs, so I think it was only a matter of time before I started my own company. As a kid, I remember visiting my parent’s jobsites and being fascinated by construction. I even entered into my school’s science fair competition with my homemade hydroelectric power plant, which I so cleverly titled “Go with the Flow”, the year my parents’ firm constructed the hydroelectric power plant at Starved Rock.

So I went to Stanford to study Civil Engineering, and then worked for construction firms in San Francisco, Sydney, and Chicago. Some of my favorite projects were the NetApp corporate campus in Sunnyvale, the Sydney University Faculty of Law Building, and the Wabash Avenue phase of the Chicago Riverwalk.

I co-founded VIATechnik with my husband Anton in 2012 when we saw an opportunity to disrupt the construction industry. We founded VIATechnik in an effort transform the way the construction industry does business by advancing new technology and deploying global engineering talent as a way to improve productivity in the construction industry and respond to a shortage of skilled local resources.

What services does your company provide, and what’s special about them?

Our services fall into four categories: Virtual Design & Construction (CAD/BIM), Scheduling, Estimating, and LEED Coordination. We work with construction firms around the country to increase their resources in these areas. We stand out to our clients in a few ways.

  • We invest in our employees’ education and training so that we are truly the leaders for talent. BIM and VDC talent is particular difficult to find, especially in smaller local markets outside of the big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. So the fact that we are taking civil engineers and architects with a construction or design background and investing in making them experts in the VDC space puts us ahead of our competition.
  • We focus on becoming an extension of our client’s internal team. After working with us on a few projects, our clients notice that working with us is as seamless as working with their own employees.
  • We love pushing new technology and software for our clients. For example, we’re currently adopting new software to help with 4D BIM, Point Cloud to BIM conversions, and more.

Let’s talk about a recent reconstruction project, the Steven Spielberg Building in LA. What was the client’s problem or challenge regarding the project?

The project was a 1st floor demolition and complete renovation of the 1st floor of the Cedars-Sinai Steven Spielberg Building, transforming it into new laboratory and research spaces for cryogenic facility and biobank storage area. Our client was the general contractor on project, and they came to us with the problem of coordinating construction in an existing space which was filled with intense MEP systems that could not be demolished as they were connected to the floors above that needed to remain live. Demolishing a fire sprinkler line would mean shutting down the entire hospital building, which was just not an option, even if it was just for a few hours. So they needed to fit new MEP systems and existing systems in a rather tight space.

This was a problem that was solved through a point cloud and BIM effort.

Can you explain what you did on this project and what value you were able to deliver?

First our team took a point cloud scan of the existing facility using a Leica scanner, and converted that into a Revit 3D BIM. Due to the density of the existing systems, as well as the uniqueness of some of the systems (like acid waste or medical gas), we felt that it would be important to create an intelligent BIM that identified each type of pipe or duct. So to get this information, we took photos with the point cloud scan to give a true color 3D point cloud.

We then modeled all of the new construction, working with the design team’s 2D drawings and coordinating with the general contractor and the trade subcontractors. We performed clash detection in Navisworks to help resolve conflicts virtually, before they were costly and time intensive to solve during construction.

And what’s great about this process, is that we are now getting ready to provide an as-constructed BIM, which Cedars Sinai can use for the lifespan of that building – whether for facilities management or as an as-built model for any future construction and renovations.

What is the accuracy of the final model in terms of measurements?

The final model can actually be very accurate, and really most of this depends on the scan itself. To get a more accurate model, you simply need to take more “points” and do more set-ups with the scanner, since the information you get is all based on line of sight. On the Cedars-Sinai project for example, our team set the scanner to 1/10 of a foot, meaning that at 100 feet from the scanner, there is a point every 1/10 of a foot. From there, we were able to model everything (all pipes, conduit, etc) over 2” large.

I think what is important for the end user to understand is the purpose behind the BIM. The purpose of this BIM was to provide as-built conditions and to resolve clashes and conflicts before construction. So including all elements over 2” allowed us to achieve that goal.

What other information, apart from the types of different ducts, is available in the final model?

For this particular BIM, we modeled all existing structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire sprinkler elements. We modeled everything as “intelligent” elements, so for example, when you click on a pipe the model will tell you that it’s an acid waste pipe. This information was important for both the contractor and the owner to have in the model from a facilities management perspective as well as a construction coordination perspective. 

Are different outlets and valves included? Is electrical / control wiring included in the model?

We didn’t model electrical outlets or wiring, but we did model pipe valves, fittings, etc. The technology is there and we are capable of building a really robust model, but again, it all goes back to what the BIM will be used for.

Do the different ducts form a logical circulation system in the model (between floors etc.)? 

Yes. All of the construction modeling for this project was on the first floor of the Steven Spielberg building at Cedars-Sinai, but because we did a point cloud scan, any existing ductwork and piping that ran to the first floor from other floors is modeled in the true location. This was a must, since the floors above this construction project had active patient care and research on-going.

How do you see the future of this solution?

We already see some forward thinking and tech-savvy facility managers utilizing the BIM to first ensure that it accurately reflects as-built conditions, and then also input O&M, facilities management information. That information in the BIM becomes very powerful. They can use the as-built model as a starting point for future construction projects/ renovations in the space. And you can have an intelligent model taking the place of boxes and binders full of paper for a facility manager to use to see equipment maintenance schedules, equipment specs, and more.

How can our readers learn more, and how can they contact you?

They can visit our website ( or follow us on twitter (@viatechnik). I always love meeting with other interesting people in the industry, so definitely feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.

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