For years now, the transportation industry has been trending to more aggressive design and construction schedules, especially with design-build and other alternative delivery projects. Consequently, innovative tools that help meet today’s robust QC/QA requirements while achieving efficient staff utilization and collaboration across geographic regions have become more critical than ever before.
One such tool that is increasingly used in the transportation industry to simplify document management and speed up project communication is Bluebeam Revu, a PDF-editing software tailored to engineers and architects. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN), a planning, engineering, and program management firm, has been utilizing Revu for more than seven years, and in the last two years, has fully embraced it, making it the company default PDF editor to achieve:
- clear, efficient, consistent communication;
- faster QC/QA reviews and collaboration with teams in multiple offices; and
- sustainability and added value.
Clear, efficient, consistent communication
Communication of important information for reviews and correspondence throughout a project is highly critical for successful projects. Revu has a collection of highly customized basic and advanced features that LAN is employing on multiple projects for clear, efficient, and consistent communication both internally within the project team as well as externally with clients and contractors throughout the life of a project.
The basic “Tool Set” features tools such as callouts and dimensions that can be customized, saved, and shared with other team members for greater consistency when marking up PDFs. One tool that is incredibly beneficial is the scaled measurements within a PDF. An engineer can input the drawing/detail scale and take a measurement directly on the PDF instead of doing this by hand or opening the CAD file.
LAN’s Transportation Group is taking advantage of these basic tools in Revu on a daily basis when reviewing drawings and calculation sets, and when creating quick, clean “electronic sketches” or exhibits for communication of key concepts with team members or clients.
Revu’s advanced tools can also be leveraged for efficient and organized document reviews. Two of these advanced tools are Syncing and Overlays. Syncing allows a user to compare two PDFs side-by-side and zoom into the same section of a PDF on both documents simultaneously. This is useful when verifying if markups on review sets have been incorporated.
An even more advanced feature is the Overlay tool, which allows the user to compare documents “on top” of each other. The differences between the two overlaid documents will stand out as a different color that the user designates. Both of these features significantly help identify and communicate changes or needed changes to documents efficiently and clearly.
One of the most useful features of Revu that LAN uses to communicate markups in PDFs is the “Markups List.” This database of markups in a PDF includes attributes such as author, markup type, color, date, subject, and many more that can be used to filter, organize, and track various comments. Navigation to comments on specific pages of long documents is quickly achieved by selecting the markup in the list.
LAN used this feature extensively when reviewing bridge calculation sets for the State Highway 71 Express Project, a fast-track design-build project in Austin, Texas. Each bridge had more than 1,000 pages of calculation documents. Using the Markups List allowed the engineers to identify and address comments from the quality control review team much more efficiently than if done traditionally by pen and paper.
LAN also utilized these features on another design-build project in California. The Silicon Valley BART Extension, the largest public works project in South Bay history, required extensive coordination with the contractor and other engineering disciplines. The general ease of markups in Bluebeam allowed drawings to be projected and noted in real-time at meetings, allowing for immediate collaboration and distribution of notes. The Markups List helped manage specific issues or disciplines requiring attention by using a feature to export the list to summary comment resolution logs. The Overlay feature helped assess monthly progress of the design development and aided in multidiscipline coordination reviews. All of these features were also used extensively in the construction administration phase for reviewing construction submittals and responding to requests for information (RFIs).
Faster QC/QA reviews and collaboration
With accelerated design schedules on large and complicated projects, quality control reviews become highly critical and must be completed within compressed schedules. Furthermore, to meet these demanding schedules, consultants must effectively utilize staff located across various cities, states, or even countries. Email and multiple cloud-based document management programs allow greater feasibility of electronic PDF reviews; however, drawbacks that minimize efficiency exist, such as large file sizes, expensive software, multiple disciplines having separate review documents that must be combined, or waiting for a user to finish a review when there is only one review PDF file.
Bluebeam provides a solution called Studio Sessions that overcomes many of these electronic review inefficiencies. A Studio Session allows as many as 500 reviewers to simultaneously review multiple PDF documents using all the markup tools available in Bluebeam Revu or Vu (the free version of the software). Because a Studio Session is cloud-based, attendees need not be located in the same geographic location. As an attendee makes a markup to a document in the Studio Session, all other attendees are notified of this markup and can see it on the PDF in real-time. This feature promotes efficient collaboration, achieves faster comment resolution, and minimizes duplicate comments from multiple reviewers during interdisciplinary reviews.
LAN’s Transportation Group effectively used Studio Sessions for QC reviews on the Mopac/Slaughter Lane Intersection, a diverging diamond interchange project in Austin, to meet an aggressive design schedule for an alternate bid option requested by the Texas Department of Transportation. LAN was tasked with developing an accelerated bridge construction bid option utilizing precast, prestressed bent and abutment caps. Because this request came after the 90 percent plan set had been submitted, the schedule for completing the design of the bid alternative was significantly compressed (40 days to complete more than 30 new detail sheets and design calculations).
LAN used the Bluebeam Studio Session feature to expedite intermediate check print sets of the drawings and the official QC documentation. The effective use of this feature enabled review staff in Fort Worth and design staff in Dallas to simultaneously make and address comments. Because the engineer, reviewer, and CAD technician were all using Studio Session simultaneously, comments were resolved and addressed efficiently within the allotted schedule.
As mentioned previously, LAN also used Bluebeam considerably on the Silicon Valley BART Extension project. Design and constructability reviews with engineers and contractors were efficiently accomplished with Studio Sessions. Because design staff was located in different offices around the country, it was critical to use Studio Sessions to simultaneously and collaboratively review design documents in an expedited manner. The project team also took advantage of a feature of Studio Sessions to create a record log of all the markups made to a reviewed document for quality assurance.
Sustainability and added value
As a company, LAN’s commitment to sustainability includes a green initiative to minimize paper consumption in all our offices. While paper consumption is never fully eliminated, using tools such as Bluebeam for QC/QA reviews and other communication needs allows the firm to cut back on unnecessary paper waste.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, savings on space and other overhead costs are also achieved when using electronic workflows. Furthermore, as more clients in the transportation industry move toward electronic workflows in the coming years, using Bluebeam will enable better coordination and vetting of designs, providing added value to clients and the public by mitigating construction waste and inefficiencies.
Bluebeam offers excellent PDF editing and review tools for smarter communication and collaboration within project teams. Consultants, clients, and contractors will benefit from improved schedules and cost savings as Bluebeam gains further traction within the transportation industry.
Jonathan McCulley, P.E., is an associate and senior bridge engineer at Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.