The steady march of work speaks to a complex orchestration that defies visualization — until you get to sit down with one of the conductors and get a peek at her secret weapon. Elizabeth Woodrome is the general manager of RMM Fabrication & Modeling of Raleigh, North Carolina. The 34-year-old company supplied the fabricated spiral and rectangular ductwork for the project. Woodrome’s enthusiasm for building is only topped by her command of the underlying magic of building information modeling. 

Learn how to build a seamless workflow from a constructitable model to CAM.

“The ease with which modeling can root out conflicts and deliver tangible information faster in a collaborative environment is the ultimate ‘work smarter’ experience,” she said. “Beating delivery goals and saving money is better for everybody involved, not just the happy client.” 

3-D designs

Flicking through the 3-D screens of the twin MetLife’s seven stories in Navisworks, she demonstrates how the combined information of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection comes together to provide real-time specifics before the ground is even broken. The interim victories realized through the use of BIM are already evident and the list keeps growing (learn how to build a constructible model).

3D BIM modeling

This 3-D modeling image shows the square duct crossing the spiral duct that feeds the variable-air-volume box. Note that the square has to “jump” back down for the beam on the left side. Learn how to build a seamless workflow from a constructitable model to CAM

Meeting and maintaining delivery schedules are an inherent challenge for general contractors on large projects. When projected delays are reversed and deadlines get beaten, something is being done right. Leading the way on this project is the award-winning construction firm of Brasfield & Gorrie with project managers Jarrett Frazier and Taylor Willis. The $110 million technology and operations hub project for MetLife broke ground in October 2013. The mechanical contracts were awarded in March 2014 and scheduled for a March 19 start date. 

RMM delivered 353,486 pounds of ductwork under deadline having been able to pre-fabricate much of the single and double-wall spiral and rectangular ductwork. Mechanical HVAC construction contractor Newcomb & Co. of Raleigh performed the installation.

Initiating fabrication and getting from there to installation requires careful coordination of all trades from the initial drawing and planning stages directly into execution. The MetLife project began with HVAC single-line type drawings, which demonstrated a linear environment and generalized intersections of ductwork, plumbing, electrical conduit and lighting as well as fire protection. 

“From a mechanical standpoint, the linear drawings offer a limited overview of what we need to fit in the annular space before we fabricate,” Woodrome said. “So it is here the capabilities of BIM really take off. Before the job even starts, RFIs (requests for information) are sent out and we get to incorporate every contractor’s purview into the model.”  

An early believer 

RMM owner Pete Manuel was an early adherent of BIM and led his company into the modeling frontier in 2007. As the general contractor on the MetLife project, Brasfield & Gorrie lead the BIM efforts and called the first meeting even while the first of the shell steel was being set. 

“Initially, I wasn’t convinced that BIM was going to play an integral role for shell office buildings like these,” Frazier said. “But it didn’t take long to see just how much it was contributing to the project’s overall success. I’m a believer.”  

Brasfield & Gorrie was able to take the project timetable from 13 months to 11 months by identifying problems early.

The underlying beauty of building information modeling is the facilitation of constructive communication amongst all the trades involved. It is the ultimate collaborative approach including owners, architects, engineers, construction managers and subcontractors — everybody gets into the game and gets to witness the build unfold right before their eyes in a completely 3-D environment.

Members are able to identify construction conflicts in the earliest stages. The digital modeling simulation inherent to BIM is being used on the MetLife project to work through those conflicts, clarify complex concepts and ensure solutions can be visualized and initiated as well as to ensure the integrity of code and maintenance requirements. 

project drawing

The project’s original drawings did not have the detail the mechanical contractor required. 

One of the first conflicts identified was between the sprinkler system and the elevated plenum slot throughout the building. The BIM program “saw” the clash within the model such that it could be addressed quickly, redesigned and approved by the architects and engineers and signed off — all before the first pipe was even fabricated. 


“Being able to see the specifics of where the spiral needs to be to avoid clashes is integral to really pre-fab en masse and deliver such that we could meet their lead times and Newcomb was ready to roll,” Manuel said. “Our BIM capabilities have upgraded our overall performance and enhanced all our partner relationships. We not only participate as a fabrication provider within the modeling process, but can download direct or from a BOM (bill of materials) to build the model for a partner mechanical or fabrication contractor. We can contribute to projects remotely from the other side of the world that we may never visit and still ensure a smoother installation process. It’s limitless.”  

Even though she does not wear a hardhat every day, Woodrome has been virtually “on site” daily throughout the MetLife project. Even as Newcomb & Co. installs the ductwork RMM fabricated months ago, they could still accommodate and coordinate any new changes with a simple phone call. The project is on track for completion in April.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of SNIPS magazine.This article and its images were supplied by Raleigh Mechanical and Metals Inc