How 3D Design Became a ‘Game Changer’



Pictured left to right: John Westheimer, president, Amy Westheimer, director of sales, Daniel Kurtz, 3D designer, Tom Shumaker, director of business development

Photography by Daniel Smyth

On the large plasma screen in a conference room, John Westheimer, president of Cincinnati Commercial Contracting, is giving a tour of a new building – a large warehouse fronted by a tidy brick office. He shows pictures of the landscaping, the lighting, ventilation system and interior space and offices. 

He stops as if he has to remind himself as much as those in the room to say, “Now, keep in mind, this isn’t real.” 

Westheimer is showing a 3D architectural design and rendering of a proposed building. The graphics are indeed incredible, leading one to believe they are looking at a finished site, not an architect’s concept. 

For Cincinnati Commercial Contracting, 3D modeling is hardly a virtual gimmick. It is a real-world time and money saver that the firm has been using for all of its jobs for three years. CCC is one of the few contractors in Greater Cincinnati that has embraced the technology. 

“It’s all part of our service to clients at no extra charge,” says Amy Westheimer, the director of sales. “All of our customers get a 3D project. We don’t work in 2D anymore.”

The technology has been a game changer for the way CCC does business and interacts with clients. 

“It changes the way we sell jobs, how we look at a building and how we communicate to clients and sub contractors,” says Amy Westheimer. 

John Westheimer, who started in the construction business as a laborer, founded the full service general contracting company in 1979. It specializes in commercial and industrial buildings, especially those in high-tech manufacturing. It also has extensive expertise in roofing replacements, crane buildings, pools, gymnasiums and other indoor sports facilities. 

In addition, CCC owns and leases commercial and retail properties with 500,000 square feet of space under management. It controls more than 250 acres of available land to build, to own, to suit or to sell. 

Westheimer has always been proud of his ability to innovate in an industry known for its aversion to change. He didn’t hesitate at the investment to acquire sophisticated software and powerful computers needed to convert to 3D modeling. 

Westheimer believes that investment pays off in efficiencies and customer satisfaction. 

 

Among the wonders of 3D design: 

  • Clients can be virtually placed right in their office in the building. They can “walk” through the building looking at lighting, window placement and get a feel for room sizes. 
  • They can see what the lobby looks like, where chairs will go, move fixtures and windows to see how that affects space. 
  • It is more than just a slick virtual rendering. Integrated into the design are the directions on how to actually construct the building, down to placement of ductwork, electrical and plumbing. 
  • Customers don’t need to be experts in reading 2D blueprints, which are often hard to visualize. 
  • The 3D software integrates plans from different design professionals who might be working on different building systems. When plans are combined from several sources, the software will flag potentially costly design errors.
  • The 3D model stays with tenants and end users to provide building managers an easy way to identify and order parts if replacements are needed for light fixtures, plumbing or any aspect of the building.

 

In a very real sense, CCC is building a building before they build it. 

“Clients know exactly what they are getting,” says Amy Westheimer. “We can manipulate all of this when we are meeting with the customer and instantly show what changes would look like instantly before any ground is broken.” 

That, of course, can translate to savings. For example, if a client tours the 3D model and decides an office should be a little bigger, a wall can be virtually moved a couple of feet. The actual plans will automatically adjust for ductwork and electrical. 

“In the past, a client would often realize this during construction,” says Tom Shumaker, director of business development. “Then it may have been a $12,000 fix to move a wall a couple feet. Now they can see it in advance and the cost is basically zero.” 

Westheimer’s favorite story about the 3D software detecting a design flaw is when plans from different engineers resulted in structural steel placed in front of the windows. Westheimer says it was a flaw not easily seen in traditional blueprints and would have been up to a $40,000 change order if caught during construction. 

Shumaker says simple client presentations become more revealing. He referenced a recent request for a zoning waiver for a project in Middletown. “In the old days we’d just hang paper drawings on the wall. Now we can show them a 90-second fly around of the building and it became obvious what we wanted to do.” 

Westheimer has always prided himself on operating a “customer-obsessed company” and he has seen plenty of technology breakthroughs, many now commonplace in construction, such as laser measuring, GPS use and thermal imaging to insure proper insulation. CCC has also become the region’s leader in embracing new re-roofing technologies.    

But among those high-tech advances, Westheimer thinks 3D modeling is the biggest leap he has seen for customer service. And he still seems to be pinching himself when he goes through a 3D design presentation, saying, “It’s just amazing technology.” 

“This has already paid for itself,” says Amy Westheimer. “It saves the customer money because it will cut down on revisions. When they walk in they usually say, ‘This is exactly what I expected.’ ” 

Cincinnati Commercial Contracting is located at 4779 Red Bank Expressway, Cincinnati, OH 45227. You can reach them at 513.561.6633 or visit their website at www.cccontracting.com.