(Introduction, Syllabus, 1.Prelims, 1-4Precon, 2. Excavation, 3.Foundation, 4.Framing, 5.Close-In, 6.Roofing, 7.MEP, 8.Finish)

A licensed electrical contractor calculates anticipated loads and installs the correct circuit breakers in the service panel according to local electrical codes. Important is that these calculations are based on information provided by the building’s owner or operator and must be accurate.

MEP Phase – Insitebuilders

That said, most of the wiring for a residential structure is standard. Exceptions include computer and entertainment centers, kitchen and laundry areas, and local fire safety requirements.

Sizing the system
Wiring and breaker sizes vary with load requirements for each fixture and the potential accumulated loads for the branch circuits. The breakers use electromagnetic contacts or heat to sense overloads. This includes ground fault interrupters, arc faults, and high and low voltage fuses.

MEP Phase – Insitebuilders

Service equipment like water heaters, HVAC systems, fans, and outside motor controllers require a single dedicated circuit to match manufacturer specifications.

Separate disconnect switches are placed at all inside and outside motor controllers to ensure technicians have local control of the power shut off.

Final review of the system
Once all the wiring is in place and junction boxes are mounted and secured, the walls and ceiling are ready to receive insulation.

MEP Phase – Insitebuilders

This work begins with a final check of the rough-in for the plumbing supply, drain and vents lines, the HVAC ducts, service lines, and the electrical wiring.

In some jurisdictions, authorization is required from a building inspector because once the insulation is in place, many systems will no longer be visible.

MEP Phase – Insitebuilders

Items to check after the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) rough-in are complete include:

• Interior walls inspected for proper framing sizes, tie downs, and connections
• Fire blocking as required at all frame penetrations
• Nail guards installed to protect wires and pipes at studs and joists
• Hangers, nailers, and supports for rails, fixtures, cabinets, piping, and wall fixtures
• Gate and back-flow valves in place for pressure testing
• Flood test drain pipes and pressure test water tubing and gas supply lines
• Gas and water shut off valves at all stub outs
• Vent ducts to outside air for dryer, bathrooms, and kitchen to prevent indoor air contamination
• Control wiring to fan coils and thermostats protected from damage
• Service feed and circuit breakers in place with wires run to all electrical boxes per local code
• Arc and ground fault receptacles ready for installation on circuits per local codes
• Non-metallic coated wiring of the appropriate gauge, stapled and protected
• Panel breakers mapped and labeled by the electrician at the panel
• Smoke and security detector wiring at the correct ceiling locations
• Interior wall cavities swept clean and dry



(To be continued…)


The material presented in this series has been taken from our book, “How a House is Built: With 3D Construction Models” The book includes annotated illustrations, captioned text, videos, models, and the 2D Preliminaries.



Communication and The Cloud

November 22, 2009

The response to the article “Good Enuf Construction Communications” was generally mixed, mostly from senior project managers dealing with the day to day challenges of the real world.

  • “Sorry…but buildings are still built face to face…not on a computer or IPod, or via text messages…I just recently fired one of my new hires because of the exact reason you are indicating it is a good thing……” CK

He’s right, and I totally agree — since the conclusion at the bottom of the article was pretty much exactly the same.  He missed the point, but the miss of course was not the fault of a reader, but completely the fault of page headers and the linear format of a written blog.

It makes one think about how little time a professional manager really has to read to the bottom of any document.  No doubt why specs, minutes, and memorandums are skimmed and generally go unread.  And how much time is there to communicate or even mentor a new hire face-to-face?  Little to none, that’s for certain

Changing Faces of Technology

Another comment from an experienced project manager in France shows the same communications challenge.

  • “From my point of view, you cannot reduce language to a few words … you take more time to describe some particular stuff because you don’t know the right word to use : I hear it everyday in the construction field : Youngsters don’t know the right word, so…they invent (new) ones…”  OT

He’s again right, the real challenge for construction managers is to interact across a communication gap, one that combines an instinct for multitasking, limited time and attention spans, and access to the kind of technology, now fairly common and accessible to most young professionals.

Take a look at a typical wireless home.  Note especially how the same home-based technology creeps into the tools of construction management.

This StudioDELL video shows the kind of home that is increasingly becoming an information and entertainment center.  This is a place where wireless access blends with daily tasks to give a new generation of managers the almost natural ability to communicate in completely different ways.  Ways that do not easily translate to every busy construction professional.

Faces in a Cloud Communications

What we’re seeing is a growing cloud of information.  And it’s not only found in construction.  For example, listening to a doctor’s advice has changed radically.  Not only does a doctor have less time, s/he is monitored by open critiques, online reviews, and lay and professional opinions posted to hundreds of possible websites.

And few still listen to any professional advice without not only “googling” the medical information, but the doctor’s name, professional background and activities, as well as any insights into their personal lives that are floating in the cloud of information available wirelessly from the front seat of a pick-up truck.

(Source Wikimedia Commons, Sam Johnston, See also: http://creativecommons.org/)


The Cloud of course, is the internet-based use of computer technology.  It’s a shift in information technology in which Wikepedia’s authors see that “details are abstracted from the users who no longer need knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure.”  IOW, the internet brings a transparency to both information and communications.  The old time face-to-face now includes hundreds if not thousands of faces-to-faces.

When the full potential of this cloud is understood, anyone on or off the project team can find detailed project information mixed together with family, hobbies, past project experience, and alternate opinions about almost any construction materials or methods, all blended to underscore or contradict an authoritative technical response.  There is no control point or obligatory power position (OPP) any more.  Information transfers seamlessly from the cloud.

Changing Faces of CM

And as most already know, the faces are changing as quickly as the technology.  Take a look at these new-gen professionals from Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) postings to U-Tube.

One can see in these fresh faces the same commitment to the construction industry we all share.  Only they’ve learned to operate and expand their communications skills using this cloud of information, mostly because they’ve been educated and are succeeding because it has always been there (for them).

BTW, CMAA is also on Facebook, which means all the construction management “fans” or “friends” of their page also have a page on Facebook.  Check the sidebar to see the faces of professionals networking and communicating in this newly forming cloud.  Some even Twitter along with one of the CMAA VP’s John McKeon, while he’s making his daily rounds.

The New Face to Face

The challenge, of course, is much broader than communications within any one country, with both team members and competition spreading globally in an economy that is in itself rapidly restructuring.  Take a look at this trick from Tecton.

IMHO, the genius of these emerging technical innovations and this growing cloud of information will not rest with its technical inventors and programmers.  The real strength of the new face-to-face will rest with the men and women who are able to see beyond the traditional obligatory power points.  These are the PMs, CMs, ORs, regulators, investors, and citizens who are able to access the underlying and once hidden motivations we’ve all learned too well to mask behind the old face-to-face

As I see it, the new face-to-face emerging from simple good-enuf interactions, adds a whole new meaning to the word “communications.”


The SketchUp Outliner organizes a construction model so it can be used to display the sequence and time embedded in the model’s assembly. In fact, without the ability to visually represent time, SketchUp would have little value as a real-world construction communications tool.

Though its features are often overlooked, the Outliner makes it easier to:

1. Break the model down into the pieces of its construction. These pieces are the “named” Groups that make up the deconstructible assembly of the construction model. Every piece is then joined as part of a subassembly or Group of Groups.

2. Stage these subassemblies according to Hide and Layer commands in the SketchUp program. These subassemblies include the operational parts of equipment and materials, the components of subcontracts, and the visual representation of scope within the construction phases or processes.

3. Scenes are created to construct and deconstruct the subassemblies, in order to animate the sequence of a task and navigate through the construction site. The Outliner is central to the control and display of the pieces in these Scenes.

With the Outliner dialog box open, try these basic steps:

1. Fabricate the individual pieces on Layer 0, then Group and name the piece. Note the named Group is now visible in the Outliner. To a constructor, it’s these individual pieces that are important to the construction. Fabricating and naming the pieces separately means they can be identified and controlled within an assembly.

2. Group the piece-groups and name them as subassemblies. Note that the named subassemblies are now visible in the Outliner as nested Groups. The subassemblies organize the model in phases or sections in the same way they are organized in the real world.

TIP: You can cut, copy and paste the names of the pieces in the Outliner. You can also drag and drop the pieces from named Group to named Group.

3. Use Scenes with the Hide and Layers commands to control the pieces and the subassemblies. To Hide a subassembly, Right-click its name in the Outliner. You can also place individual pieces or entire subassemblies to a named Layer and then turn layer visibility on and off in the Layers dialog box.

4. When ready, create a Scene to capture the current view. Each Scene can be exported as a 2D image and inserted into a text document, spreadsheet, or slideshow. A series of scenes can also be played as an animation.

TIP: You’ll see these techniques first explored in our book 3D Construction Modeling. They then evolve through all our books and the 13 tutorials in our most recent publication, How a House is built: With 3D Construction Models.



The construction model for this steel stair tower was built piece by piece right down to the bolts and connectors. It is 41 ft tall and will provide access a large cooling tower here in Monterrey, Mexico. Except for the critical dimensions, elevations from grade, and the general layout, the stair was built directly as a three dimensional model. This means we did not need to invest a lot of time with two-dimensional engineering drawings.

This is important because the model is to be used to illustrate a preliminary proposal for design and construction and is the basis for a cost proposal for the project. Because it is a 3D construction model, we are able to control our initial engineering assumptions and the structural details for the project and at the same time provide our clients with enough visual information to understand our concept. In other words we were able to be competitive without “giving away” the steel profiles, connection details, and 2D drafted documents and structural details that may have been lost from our control.

Once the project has been accepted, we can export the model into our CAD progeam to generate the 2D drawings directly from the model. This means final approval will be very quick and we can move immediately into fabrication and final installation. Important is that the construction model is available to support the entire process and can be continually viewed for clarification and visualization. This will of course simplify fabrication and be helpful to our office for fine tuning our calculations, the 2D drafting, and do the structural detailing for the connections.

The value of a construction model is that it gives us the ability to manage our commitment to the project, control the information we provide to our clients, and use the resulting model to facilitate the design and construction process.

Joel Kennington
Monterrey, Mexico

One thing to keep in mind is that a construction model is not the same as a building information model (BIM). A construction model graphically communicates the means, methods, and processes found in the production of complex objects. It dynamically represents the sequence of events necessary to build that object.

Our books demonstrate the potential of construction models and their ability to graphically communicate construction processes. First using an early versions of AutoCAD (Graphic Communications in Construction, Prentice Hall), then exploring the potential of web-based visual systems (The Web @ Work, Homebuilder Press) and most recently as a series a graphic narratives using SketchUp as a construction modeler.

The potential of SketchUp for construction management was first explored at the University of Florida in 2001. SketchUp was used to quickly orient construction management students struggling to learn how to build piece-based models with AutoCAD 2000.

That early effort evolved into an advanced construction modeling class and the first book, 3D Construction Modeling: Project Based Learning. This early book broke new ground simply because it was based on the work of several comic and graphic novelists. It used SketchUp V4 to explore the format and delivery of construction information on the two dimensional pages of a book. The models are dated, but the book remains popular as a project-based learning tool.

Our next book, Living SMALL:The Life of Small Houses, expanded on the lessons learned from both SketchUp and publishing a graphic narrative. Living SMALL uses SketchUp to build 16 small houses. The idea was to mix modeling tutorials with video tours of three-dimensional models to convey some of the traditions of home construction and the values of small house construction. The 16 models also tested different organizational structures for the models and hinted at the potential of SketchUp as a construction modeler.

The results can be seen in our next book, Building SIMPLE: Building and Information Model. This book used many of the new features found in SketchUp V5 to explore the organization of a large construction model and communicates the production of a mid-rise office building. The models with this book were the first to be “outlined” with V5’s Outliner feature and the first to communicate real-world construction as a sequence of collaborative events. The models and illustrations from this book are now used internationally to illustrate and explain construction methods.

These values were continued in our next book, Being SUSTAINABLE: Building Systems Performance. Construction models in this book were built using Google SketchUp. The book, models, and video tutorials illustrate the mechanics of sustainability in the same mid-rise office building found in Building SIMPLE. The models push the limits of construction modeling in SketchUp and the real potential of three-dimensional modeling to illustrate complex systems. The value of the book is that it illustrates the collaborative promise of SketchUp and construction modeling to bridge the information gaps often found in the real-world when dealing with complex building systems.

We’ve also used SketchUp to publish assembly manuals, forensic models, and fabrication models for management consultants, contractors, and manufacturers and are working on a new book using SketchUp to illustrate every detail in the construction of a wood frame house, How a House is Built: With 3D Construction Models. This book is also an updated project-based learning tool on how-to-build construction models with SketchUp.

The goal is to improve construction communications. The objective is to make complex construction information quick to read and easy to understand. With these books, we’ve found that very complex construction models can be built using a simple three-dimensional construction modeler called SketchUp. And the best thing about SketchUp is that it is free.