Recently on the website of our sister magazine, HEALTHCARE DESIGN, Ashely Dias, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP, a healthcare planner at HKS Inc., contributed a blog titled “Are Virtual Mockups a Reality?”

In the blog, Dias discusses the various virtues of virtual mock-ups, most importantly their ability to provide clients with the experience of working in a space without spending the time—and money—on building an actual physical mock-up.

The topic has spurred a lengthy discussion on the HEALTHCARE DESIGN Connection, the shared LinkedIn group associated with Healthcare Building Ideas and HEALTHCARE DESIGN.

What I found particularly interesting about the conversation, is how the push toward virtual mock-ups may also be causing another shift on the frontend of construction projects, resulting in the construction manager being brought on board earlier.

The CM is then able to work from the start alongside the architect and owner, putting everyone on the same page and primed to make critical decisions upfront with the help of the virtual mock-up, especially in relation to cost control. However, one member of the discussion points out that, at times, owners have not yet hired their builder at the outset of a project, thus making their involvement at this stage impossible.

With the advent of integrated project delivery pushing this on its own, in addition to the payoff of having the CM involved during the mock-up phase, I wonder if there will be a push toward a new line of thinking regarding when a builder needs to be brought into the picture.