News about Innovation in the Built Environment

5 Questions with Construction Expert Bill Speleotes

Bill Speleotes, P.E., SSM, CPMP, LEED AP has over 25 years of construction experience and has managed projects in institutional, educational, residential, and hospitality spaces. Among other noteworthy projects, Bill served as Facilities Director for Brooklyn Navy Yard. By implementing HVAC system improvements and upgrades in the 100 building, 300-acre facility, Bill shrank the Navy Yard’s operational costs by $2 million within a year.

The construction industry was initially a shock to Bill, who worked in the aerospace industry straight out of college. This background lends him a unique perspective to his work in AEC, because he’s seen what’s possible with technology and collaboration — and how behind-the-times the construction world was when he entered it. Read Bill’s thoughts below on the factors that have so far inhibited construction from enjoying the same advancements as aerospace.

Brooklyn Navy Yard via 6sqft

What positive changes have you seen in AEC?

Compared to aerospace, construction has not caught up. So you’re talking to someone who has seen improvements in construction. I went from a total design environment in 3D in a production facility for aircraft to working in construction and I couldn’t believe how archaic it was.

I do see improvements via BIM and Revit. The use of computers and working in the 3D space which emulates the environment I came from.

Why do you think this industry lags behind in tech?

At the end of the day, you have contractors whose expertise is managing manpower and buying material. They’re trying to execute and implement those forces to get in and out as fast as possible. In today’s world, there’s the added difficulty of having to invest in a software package, and become proficient at it as well. They’re receiving electronic files from the design team and they have to take that info and manipulate it for their own purposes. They have to keep up with the trend of continuously changing software environments and that’s a challenge.

Imagine you’re talking to a high school senior. What would you tell her to major in, and why?

That’s a tough one because I’ve raised two boys and I’m raising two girls. What I was telling the recent grad is, make sure that the cause you’re involved with cannot simply be performed later on by robots or just a program itself. A profession with the human factor may be important for those who want stability. There are always so many ‘what-ifs.’ I don’t think robots will be able to handle those if/then statements because everyone is unique in different conditions and circumstances.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?

You’ve gotta be tech savvy. And as difficult as this sounds, you’ve gotta try to stay ahead of the curve on changes related to information technology. There’s always going to be a trend of the curriculum of engineering being influenced by technology. Yet the core curriculum will not change. You’ll definitely need to know your basic principles for each discipline.  But the influence of tech will constantly change the way you perform your tasks.

What was your first job ever?

Gas station attendant. I pumped gas for 12 hours at a time and also performed oil changes. So it wasn’t that glamorous. The only excitement was when it rained, I knew a fender bender was looming so I’d be on the lookout. If I could be the first one to call a tow truck, I’d get paid $50. That was more than I’d make in a full day pumping gas.

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