Coloring in the lines

January 2014 » Features » BUSINESS STRATEGIES
The impact of color printing technologies for civil engineers
Jamie Sirois

As printing and design modeling technologies for civil engineers evolve, it is becoming easier for industry professionals to elevate the print quality of plans, drawings, and computer-aided design (CAD) documents. However, color CAD printing is heavily under-utilized in the civil engineering industry as well as the broader architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) community.

Color printing allows a viewer to differentiate multiple elements and design features quickly and easily on a printed plan.

Color printing technologies can save money and time at virtually all levels of the design and construction process. These savings, as well as the heightened level of detail that color printing provides a project, are invaluable in the competitive engineering and architectural industries.

Cost reduction
The initial phases of a project – its conception, design, and bid process – are crucial to its overall success. A project printed in color allows project owners, designers, investors, and contractors an opportunity to ask questions to fully understand the project.

Color printing is especially useful for the more complicated building information modeling (BIM) designs that are in high demand. The industry is evolving quickly, and the demand for detailed prints is on the rise. In fact, 50 percent of owners are now requiring BIM to be used on their projects to provide clearer imaging to plans (Young, et.al., 2009).

When printed in black and white (monochrome), drawings from BIM projects tend to become more confusing because of a greater level of detail. These details can only be provided in black lines with specified weights or annotations. Contractors using monochrome prints are also more likely to estimate high-cost contingencies for a project because of the lack of clarity.

On the other hand, color prints provide construction professionals with an increasingly accurate view of projects and details up front. Color printing allows the viewer to differentiate multiple elements and design features quickly and easily on the printed plan. Additionally, color designs enable contractors to see details and dimensions of a project so they can provide more accurate estimates for costs.

This high level of detail will help cut down on requests for information (RFIs) and change orders as contractors more fully understand the project's design. This in turn helps reduce unnecessary costs. For example, RFI management can waste as much as $0.16 per square foot depending on project complexity, adding up to a whopping $16,000 wasted per 100,000 square feet (Lyra Research, 2010).

Increased communication eases collaboration
In the design-bid-build process, the project design is passed between many hands, so it is important for design professionals to provide the highest level of clarity to all stages of the process. For example, a building owner may sign off on a conceptual design that doesn't have the amount of detail necessary for a contractor to work from. Industry leaders say that most construction designs have only half of the information needed to determine whether it is feasible to build the structure (Lyra Research, 2010). As a result, contractors create a large number of RFIs to learn more about the project. This time and money cost could be saved with a higher level of detail that can be delivered with a color print.

Teams that fully comprehend a project design are more likely to note concerns or improvements that can help deter issues that might cost additional time and money later in the process. For example, a small but crucial dimensional change could get lost in a plan or overlooked by a contractor. As these changes come about, monochrome prints make it hard for teams to see what aspects of a design have been altered. Color printing allows team members to call out specific problem areas, hard-to-see details, and new changes to a plan, easing collaboration for team members in different areas of the world.

Stronger bids with color prints
As the industry grows more competitive, it's crucial that a project must stand out from competitors' designs. Cited in an HP whitepaper, a study by USA Today, Wharton Business School, and Case & Company Management Consultants shows that as much as 65 percent more information is retained when presented in color versus monochrome (Rennmanm, 2003). Color prints will not only make a project more memorable to potential backers, but also bring designs to life for viewers. Color plans are simply more appealing than monochrome prints, especially during a presentation. A full-color design will stand out to the audience and could be the differentiating element between a firm's presentation and their competitor's.

While advances in technology continue to change and influence the civil engineering and technical design world, it's important to stay ahead of the competition. When a project is printed in black and white, detailed designs can waste lots of money in contingency costs, change orders, and RFIs, and can be difficult for investors and collaborators to understand.

Printing in color from the beginning of the design-bid-build process will not only help save money, but also ease the communication for all levels of the team. Potential financial backers, contractors, and collaborators will perceive the project more fully and have a solid grasp on design aspects and small details that are hard to see in monochrome prints. Not only does color printing cut down on initial cost estimates, but it can also make a large difference during the presentation and bid process, impressing potential investors.

References

Jamie Sirois is AMS Designjet Technical Production Segment manager with HP.


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