office with 2 persons showing 2 other employees an introduction of 3D models on a big screen, while the others have 2D plans on their table

What are Virtual Design and Construction models and methods (VDC)?

Catenda Team

VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) methodology is used in the AECO industry as a combination of techniques and tools, including ICE meetings, BIM (Building Information Modeling), and PPM. The main goal of VDC methodology is to improve project quality by identifying the client’s goals supported by project objectives. To measure the efficiency of the latter, metrics such as production metrics and controllable factors are used and represent an essential part of VDC methods.

What does VDC methodology stand for in construction?

VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) method was created and conceptualized in 2001, in the early days of BIM, by CIFE – Center for Integrated Facility Engineering at Stanford University of California initially, Professor Martin Fischer, the director of CIFE, is the forerunner of this methodology. VDC has been used in a variety of countries around the world for over 15 years. With each new project, the process has been tested and improved over time.

VDC models are defined as “The use of integrated multidisciplinary performance models of design-construction projects to support explicit and public business objectives.” by Professors Kunz and Fischer. VDC initiatives improve project or company performance through improving decision-making clarity, as well as improved strategies and explicit commitments for working teams.

Client Goals and Project Objectives

Many owners aim to increase efficiency and sustainability while lowering lifecycle operating costs including building maintenance, building operations, and company operations, as well as the initial construction cost. Traditional practice, on the other hand, concentrates on planning a structure primarily for the lowest construction cost and quickest delivery. The project’s and the client’s goals are not in sync.

The goal of the VDC method is to help businesses solve problems and improve the quality of project processes. By identifying the crucial aspects of the project, the client’s goals can be clearly specified. They must be supported by project objectives. The key success factor is then for the stakeholders to collaborate on the same project towards the same goals. If you want to achieve sustainability and lower lifespan costs, you can’t leave it up to chance.

Virtual Design and Construction – 3 components

VDC is not a new tool or technique, but rather a combination of well-known, effective techniques and modern, powerful tools integrated into a system. BIM is a critical component of VDC, along with planning and a meeting method known as ICE. However, the emphasis is as much on work processes as it is on tools; it is about technology and human collaboration, and it is commonly referred to as PPM.

ICE meetings

ICE (Integrated Concurrent Engineering) meetings goals are to “develop, show and explain the product, organization, process, POP and 4D models” (Kunz). That does mean that ICE meetings are interdisciplinary. They incorporate modern visualization technology and allow for simultaneous design work. Rather than sending emails back and forth between disciplines, this enables for the introduction and approval of modifications in a far more expedient manner.

During an ICE session, it is important that the right stakeholders are involved in the meetings. This way, the actors will be able to make the right decisions, in an efficient way, with the objective of making them last in time.


VDC and BIM (Building Information Modeling) are often used interchangeably. BIM refers to the products’ form and scope. It is an important part of the VDC methodology. Most importantly, BIM helps with decision-making processes. Design issues can be easily communicated to the project team or the customer, through for example the BCF format and use of a BIM collaboration tool. Furthermore, because of the additional schedule information, i.e. 4D, it is used for construction planning.


PPM (Product Production Management) “seeks to optimize cost, time and scope with the levers of process design, capacity, inventory and variability.” ( PPM is operations science applied to projects via the lens of a temporary production system. The structure and supervision of project work operations are key to PPM. PPM determines the methodology for producing and using BIM, as well as the ICE session schedule.



A team can gain control over a project’s objectives and how to achieve them through measurements, making Metrics a vital part of VDC. Measuring should be done on a daily or weekly basis to ensure accurate results evaluation. Throughout the project, the individual objectives of each of the three elements should be controlled. It enables corrections to be made, resulting in a better process.

Bimsync Metrics from Google Analytics for VDC methods

Example of metrics collected from Catenda Hub (previously Bimsync) using Google Analytics.

These metrics above show how healthy the project’s issue management is, and how good you are at planning. We distinguish two types of data collection in this section:

Production metrics

Production metrics are something you measure on a regular basis to see how well your actions, such as PPC, are working (Percent Plan Completed). By measuring these production metrics, you can determine whether the project is heading in the right direction. Such objectives can be set by the person in charge of implementing VDC in a company.
It is also possible to check the number of collisions resolved between branches in a single ICE session, as well as the number of model checks performed in a month.

Controllable factors

Controllable factors are actions that you choose to take (or not). In contrast to production metrics, we can plan them and decide whether or not to implement them. Controllable factors should be linked to each element’s production metrics (ICE, BIM, PPM).
The main controllable factors are the actions a team can take. More specifically, how it organizes, manages processes and production, and represents design and construction information, and uses technology.

One example would be that you decide to have three ICE sessions each month in the project, and then you can measure whether or not you achieved that goal.

What is the significance of implementing a VDC strategy in construction, and what benefits does it bring?

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) technology is changing how construction works, bringing many benefits to better manage projects with multi-disciplinary teams.

Enhanced Safety

VDC facilitates proactive identification and assessment of safety concerns before the construction phase starts. The realistic and detailed models enable design teams to predict and mitigate potential hazards effectively. With multi-disciplinary collaboration, contractors can contribute valuable insights, ensuring a safer working environment.

Enhanced Project Visualization

VDC models provide realistic and immersive visualizations of projects, simplifying the communication of complex ideas and concepts. This feature facilitates better understanding among project stakeholders, leading to smoother execution and successful outcomes.

Error Reduction and Quality Improvement

VDC enable construction teams to foresee potential problems and risks accurately, reducing errors and rework. By visualizing each construction phase, the technology eliminates field errors, enhances project quality, and ensures efficient resource allocation.

Boosted Collaboration and Coordination

VDC fosters collaboration among various stakeholders, including non-technical specialists, by providing a virtual environment with up-to-date design information. This inclusivity enables better off-site coordination and understanding, even for government leaders and the general public.

Sustainability Planning

VDC models empower architects and engineers to evaluate the core environmental impact of designs and integrate sustainable practices. Simulations help in evaluating the impact of innovative materials on cost, labor, and equipment needs, contributing to sustainable construction practices.

Improved Time and Cost Management

Proper application of VDC technology leads to significant time and cost savings. VDC streamlines project management, ensuring efficiency and financial control through precise preconstruction cost analysis and estimation.

Rickard Ekholdt, Regional Manager Nordics Market at Catenda.