News about Innovation in the Built Environment

Technologies

Cliff Moser Shares How Architecture Is Adapting to Smart Devices

cliff moser architect

The discipline of architecture has changed drastically in the over three decades that Cliff Moser has been practicing. The California-based architect was trained on pencil-and-paper drafting but adapted to technology throughout his career and now is considered an expert in Building Information Modeling (BIM) software.

Moser, who authored the book Architecture 3.0: The Disruptive Design Practice Handbook, is realistic about the reluctance his peers feel when it comes to changing their processes with technology. He thinks some of it is due to the training his generation of architects received, where more emphasis was placed on the building than its environment, as well as the fact that leaders of the profession tend to be Baby Boomers with fewer tech skills.

Here, Moser gives us insight into the next great tech advances for architecture, how the industry is adapting to smart devices, and why young aspiring architects should go out and build things.

What has been the most significant advance in technology in architecture since you started your career?

When I studied drawings in the past, they were just that — static lines on paper. Now those lines contain information, and what we’re seeing is the ability to use that information, that data, for more than dimensioning the building. While some people think CAD or building information modeling is just another version of hand drafting, actually, hidden deep inside the software is data about what you’re designing.

I liken this to people who used to balance their checkbooks the old-fashioned way using pencil and paper. If they start to use Quicken, they soon realize they’re inputting data. From that data, one can print reports, printing out checks, or reconciliations. So now, all of the information that used to be in handwriting a check is buried into the components of the software. With BIM, you can query things, you can ask a building question — how many doors do you have, or what’s the square footage of this room? You can also print out drawings. BIM is a much more robust tool that I think we’re only just understanding the ramifications for.

What do you think is going to be the most industry-advancing technology for the future of architecture?

There are so many different directions you can go. There’s 3-D printing, there are buildings talking to you as you come inside, helping you find your way to your appointment. On the construction side, there’s assisted construction, augmented reality, robotic layout, and material and supply management. It’s just open as to how far it can go, and it’s something I don’t think we even have had a chance to thoroughly evaluate yet.

There is a lot of talk around smart cities now. How do you think the field of architecture is perceiving the concept of smart cities and how do you think architects are adapting?

I think we’re lagging behind. Architects still focus on the building, and not the existing environment. I was trained as an architect to just sort of fit a building into the property, but really not think about adjacent master planning issues. So if I’m putting in a building that requires so many square feet and I have to put in a parking garage, do I really think about how that new additional traffic affects the neighborhood? We’re just starting to think about how people interact with the environment beyond the building.

Architects have always focused on the aesthetics of the internal, the interiors of the building, and how that affects people, but we haven’t really spent as much time thinking about what the building does to the outside environment. Smart buildings and smarter landscaping are going to be more and more important going forward.

To that point, some say architecture as a discipline has been slow to adapt to technology. Has that been your experience and do you think that’s changing?

Oh yes, it has always been very slow to change. We are a very path-dependent industry, and the fact is most people don’t really hit their stride within the profession until they’re older, most famous architects are in their 60s and 70s and 80s. Because our experience has been gained over 20, 30, 40 years in the industry, we cannot help but use that knowledge and apply it to what we’re doing now.

How has technology changed how you interact with clients? Are clients asking for this?

We have a real frustration in the industry in that our buildings are basically done under capital programs, but once the building is handed over, it’s handed over to operations. So you have capital expenditures, and you have operational expenditures, and typically, those are two silos within an organization. The integration between those two is something I think needs to be better so for the operations people, rather than just inheriting something at the end of the project, they actually are involved from the beginning.

Clients are finally starting to get to the point now that they are receiving smart buildings, and they understand the things that are installed in the building during the construction can really help them operate the building afterward.

Given all of these changes in the industry, what would be your advice for a student or young person in the field of architecture or BuiltTech?

Continue learning and getting your expertise with 3D modeling, because that is only going to get stronger as we bring in augmented reality and virtual reality. Using those tools, rather than building a three-dimensional physical model, we now have an opportunity to walk our clients through buildings.

I would also recommend architects really familiarize themselves with programming. I think at the end of the day, just be aware of it, not necessarily tying yourself down to a particular kind of software programming, but just having an awareness of the programming opportunities that are out there, so you’re able to ramp up once you get to a position where it’s needed. As I said earlier, the old-timer architects, architects my age, while we have the expertise and vision, we really don’t have the time to learn the skill sets that focus on the software side.

For an old timer, I would recommend all architects keep themselves up on their skill set in terms of the tools that are out there.

Then, one of the big things I did was I spent a lot of time physically building things. That was important to me because as architects, we often draw something that can’t be constructed. So architects understanding the actual logistics of tolerances and how you place concrete and hammer a building together is essential for our understanding of design. We want to be able to share our vision, but we also want to make sure it’s constructible.

Cliff Moser will be speaking in Atlanta during this year’s BuiltTech Week, October 22-24, 2018. 

EvolveLAB’s Bill Allen On How AI & Machine Learning Will Change Construction

bill allen evolvelabs

Bill Allen is CEO, and President of EvolveLAB, Disrupt Repeat, and On Point Scans. These firms synergistically help architects, engineers, and contractors optimize the built environment. He has over 14 years of experience managing technology for buildings in the AEC industry.

Allen has worked with the latest technology for the AEC industry for over a decade. He gives us an ear into his thoughts on why startups are poised to succeed in this field right now, how AI and machine learning can change the world of construction as we know it, and his advice for a young professional just getting started in the Builttech field.

What do you think is the biggest opportunity open right now in the construction tech industry for startup companies?

The price of hardware and software is coming down substantially, so the entry level for startup companies is finally becoming more and more attainable. You don’t need a lot of capital or an investor, necessarily, to get started.

An excellent example of that is the BLK360 last scanner, for example. These scanners used to be $130 grand. Then they got down to $80 grand, and then the BLK came out for like $17,000. So the fact that small startup companies could actually start purchasing some of this hardware is making it more attainable for startup companies.

How can BIM and related technologies make AEC professionals more productive?

The way BIM can make AEC professionals more productive is by way of automation. With tools like Dynamo, you no longer have to wait for an add-in from Autodesk or from Revit, some third party vendor, to create something for you. We can build these tools ourselves, and with the advent of the Internet, of open source software and online forums, it substantially has accelerated the ability to automate techniques.

Now we not only have a way to build our own tools, but we also have the support and infrastructure to support that ideology of the tool-making concept.

What area of the market has been slower to adopt and why?

One hundred percent, architecture. Construction professionals get it, engineering professionals get it. Architects, by their very nature, are subjective human beings, so, in general, architecture companies make decisions based on their emotion and not as much on logic. The architecture industry, by and large, has been the slowest to adopt these technologies. The other thing, which is not necessarily their fault, is the financial element. They have lower fees than construction professionals; therefore they don’t have the resources or capital to invest in some of these technologies.

 

You no longer have to wait for some third-party vendor to create something for you. We can build these tools ourselves, and with the advent of the Internet, open source software and online forums, it substantially has accelerated the ability to automate techniques.

 

What most excites you about where the whole industry is going right now?

It’s unfortunate because it’s become a little too much of a buzzword or hyper information, but the idea of machine learning and AI in the context of building information management and modeling is absolutely insane. When you take the idea of data and building information models, and then you start driving that data, that’s pretty cool. But if you augment that with the concept of artificial intelligence or machine learning, where you can analyze thousands of options, and the computers learn which options are the best, and it goes through a rapid prototyping or algorithmic process of being able to optimize a building, the computer can really dial in the optimization of that building.

There’s going to be some really, really incredible solutions in that field that come out from different startup companies in the very near future.

What would you tell a student or a young person that thinks that they want to get into your field? What skills do they need to know?

I would tell a young professional to learn how to code. I am so jealous of people that can code and be able to have an idea and then essentially speak that concept into existence via Python or C-sharp, that is a superpower. Start with visual programming, some tool like Dynamo or Grasshopper, and then ease into Python and go into full-blown coding.

Let’s say that student is graduating in four years. How do you think the industry will look versus how it is now?

I hope we’ve made more progress than we have in the last four years. Unfortunately, our industry is slow to change, but I do think something that will be happening is the merging of multiple technologies. So if you take a tool like Google Voice, and then you overlay that into a tool like Project Fractal, and then you’re able to say, “Alexa, show me all of the options…” that’s incredible. We’re going to see this merging of technology where voice, AR, VR, BIM, scanning technologies, drone technologies, are fused into a singular solution.

I would also say, invest in yourself and don’t wait for someone to ask you. There are too many people in our industry waiting on management to give them some kind of career path. I would encourage people to be proactive and take more of an entrepreneurial mindset, taking an initiative to further yourself.

Bill Allen will be speaking on why “The Future of BIM Will Not Be BIM” in Atlanta this October during BuiltTech Week.

5 Questions with BIM Expert Luther Lampkin

Luther Lampkin, BuiltTech Labs’ BIM advisor, entered the AEC industry as a drafter in 2006.

Late one night, he was stuck at the office working on a set of plans.

A janitor, who had been cleaning up piles of discarded paper, walked over to Luther’s desk.

“Hey,” he said, “have you heard about this new technology? It’s going to take over the industry pretty soon.” The janitor showed Luther printouts of Revit-generated documents which immediately caught his attention.

A lifelong technology enthusiast, Luther was excited about the potential he saw for innovation in AEC. Hungry to get ahead, Luther studied on his off hours. His competitive nature motivated him to carve a space for himself on the forefront of BIM.

Little did Luther know his big break was right around the corner. Soon, he had the opportunity to implement Revit on a few projects in Dubai. Not long after, he got brought on to build BIM models to scale for a pretty major client: Panama Canal Authority. Luther served as BIM Manager for AS+GG on the Astana World Expo 2017 project, which won the firm a 2016 AIA TAP award.

The winning design from AS+GG for the 2017 World Expo

Suffice it to say, in the past decade, this BIM expert has seen the gamut of where AEC firms are using technology well and where they’re lagging behind. He now owns a consulting firm focused on bringing technology to the world of architecture.

Here’s what he had to say about the future of AEC, including how his first job ever turned out to be the perfect training for the career of his dreams.

What changes have you seen for the positive in AEC?

Recent technology advances mean you can go to Best Buy and get an AR/VR kit. These days, you can experience the built environment before it’s even being built. We may get to the point where documentation may only exist in a model and not on physical pieces of paper. It’s a positive disruption that the industry needs to push forward.

What changes have you seen for the negative?

What I see more than anything else is a big divide between the baby boomers and the millennials. Millennials love technology; we grew up in it. The baby boomers are the ones who cut the checks. Millennials have the technology and programming savvy to drive the industry forward. If you’re an architecture major, you’re almost required to have a minor in computer science. The industry has slowed the progress it could have made because we’re used to doing things the way we’ve always done it.

Any job I get into, no matter what it is, no one would work harder than me. If I saw them come into work at 7 am, I would come into work at 6 am.

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

Be prepared to not make a lot of money. When I was a drafter, I was making the same I could have working at Target. Be prepared for long hours and not a lot of compensation. It sounds crazy but that’s the name of the game until you can set yourself apart. Which you can do through technology; hard work and effort; networking with the right people. Definitely find a mentor. That person can lead you and help you navigate you from where you are now to where you go moving forward. You’ve got to love it. You’ll blossom.

What was your first job ever?

I was a dishwasher at a really, really nice boutique restaurant. I remember that’s what set me apart at establishing a work effort. My mom was like, “You wanna be a dishwasher?!” I was 15-16 years old and I just wanted a job.

My friend worked there and we would see who could keep the dishwasher cleaner — that’s my sports background, being competitive. They made 35 different cheesecakes so it was pretty cool and it was decent money. It got me to understand that you know what — any job I get into, no matter what it is, no one would work harder than me. And I took that with me into school, industry. If I saw them come into work at 7 am, I would come into work at 6 am.

If you could wave a magic wand and create a new technology, what would it be?

A predictive analytics tool that could seamlessly blend all the different tech tools that we use in a more cohesive fashion to get a more integrated, predictable outcome. Right now in our industry, most of all the tools we use aren’t universal-based. Not every software plays well with another. I would create a web-based, interoperable tool that isn’t something only a very intellectual person could use. If my mom can use an iPhone… that’s what I want to create in our field, with the same mantra: simplistic enough that anyone could use it.

Want to hear more from BuiltTech Labs advisors? Check out our other innovator interviews or join the community

Your building is talking. Are you listening?

Your building is talking. Eric Hall asks, “Are you listening?”

Eric is Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Site 1001, a smart building performance and operations platform that uses the Internet of Things and data from various sensors as well as the building’s original information (like construction documents) to solve simple and complex problems with potentially expensive repercussions, such as mold detection and air quality monitoring.

Thanks to early travel opportunities which exposed him to both the developed and developing world, one of Eric’s top priorities is the sustainability and longevity of buildings. His motto? It’s more efficient to build it right the first time. And every ounce of waste results in architectural disintegrity.

Eric is a regular speaker about the future of the construction industry, IoT, AI, smart buildings, and smart cities.

Read on to hear Eric’s take on overcoming the silos confronting the construction industry — and that one time he got busted for selling tacos underage.

[Editor’s note: this interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity]

Tell us about what projects you’re currently working on.

I’m working on extending the platform of hardware technologies, including IoT devices. We’re adding more sensors in buildings to get more data. IoT allows us to have data that was 100 times more expensive ten years ago. It allows a broad set of device manufacturers to solve very specific problems at a low cost–everything from mundane to highly sophisticated issues.

The solution can be something as simple as detecting a leak inside of a wall before it collapses. With IoT, once I’ve detected the leak, I can depressurize the water system through an automated valve. We can use thermometers and automated water valves to remove contagens and pathogens from drinking water supplies or use the sensors for indoor air quality monitoring. It’s able to detect mold in the wall cavity. All simple fixes that, at the end of the day, allow people to be more proactive and live in a healthier environment.

How long have you been part of this industry?

I’ve been in the AEC space for almost 25 years. I received an undergrad in architecture and immediately joined the carpenters union. I’ve been in every stage of construction, from swinging a hammer, to national building information model director, to founder and inventor of Site 1001.


What changes have you seen for the positive?

The industry has been criticized for how it’s lacked productive improvement over the past 100 years. People are quick to blame a lack of technology for lack of productivity. I disagree with that. Since I came into the marketplace with a post-grad degree, there has been a huge application of technology in the construction industry. The real problem in buildings is the archaic communication structure under which we build buildings.

We have a historical methodology that creates an adversarial relationship between contractor and owner, between change orders and cost reduction.

What I’ve seen is the application of BIM allows for collaboration between these parties that has never been possible before. BIM allows us to engage people who can’t read these details to see it, understand it, and discuss it. We’re freed up to make more sophisticated design decisions as a result. It allows visual communication. It’s going to change expectations–the days of 30 percent waste and massive change orders are over. Owners are no longer going to accept that.

What changes have you seen for the negative?

Not that we have control over it, but we have a much greater lack of skilled labor than we did before.

When I joined the union, I was surrounded by skilled tradesman. Today, because the unions aren’t able to provide that skilled labor, general contractors have become construction managers. Of course, there were specialized trades, but the general carpentry, the labor, the site conditions, safety, iron working, and masonry were all handled by a single entity–a brotherhood of skilled labor. If we were up against the schedule, and one of the trades wasn’t getting it done, I had dozens of tradesmen on the job to rally around and get the job done because it was in everyone’s best interest.

The market in construction and design is becoming more siloed because we don’t have access to skilled labor. Specialization is starting to push us back towards the problem in communication we had pre-BIM.

 

What draws you to the technology side of things?

My goal in this is to get us back on track to get rid of this abusive triad relationship. What suffers is the architecture, the built environment we deliver. People deserve good architecture.

As a student who’s traveled all over the world, I’ve seen how different cultures and governments place emphasis on good architecture. Here in the States, architecture is driven by capitalism. If you’re building a warehouse for shoes, you’re building the squarest, non-air-conditioning-est building you can build. We compound that issue when we have poor communication. We don’t allow good design to occur.

I want to see more farsighted design than the two-year construction process. It takes two years for buildings to go from hole in the mud to having the keys handed to the owner. Every ounce of waste results in architectural disintegrity.

 

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

The first bit of advice I would give is: you don’t have to decide today. The longer we have to decide what it is we want to do, compared to the amount of information we receive in that time, is the connection of how we finally get there. I’m fortunate–I don’t work. I do what I love. If you want to achieve that, you’re not going to already know what that is as an 18-year-old. Stay in a general studies program for the first couple years. Don’t close your mind.

 

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

Travel while you’re young. Travel gives you the widest breadth of experience because everything is done a little differently all over the place. We all learned to pour concrete from the Romans. Get as much project experience as you can. Be willing to move around the country and keep your eyes and ears open.

 

Was there a specific trip that impacted you?

Shock therapy. In college, I had an open year so I decided to take a job in Paris which allowed me to travel Europe on a Euro Pass. I was traveling all over, sketching buildings from the Trevi fountain to canals in Amsterdam and everything in between. I was seeing some of the world’s greatest architecture.

When I flew back stateside. I had a month to kill before classes started. My stepdad was involved in a church program going to Haiti for 14 days. So I flew from Europe to the U.S. to the poorest country in the western hemisphere. There were so few resources that if I had a Bobcat Skid-steer down here, I could have changed the country.

That was the opportunity that drove me to care about society’s impact on architecture, the desire to want what we build to provide residual value. It’s the responsibility of architects to not cut corners and sacrifice quality in order to deliver something in the short term.

What was your first job ever?

I lied about my age so I could make tacos at a fast food restaurant. It only took a month for them to catch me and fire me–I was 11 and you had to be 14.

 

Tech Takes

What is your must-have smartphone app?

I only use eight pages on the entire internet. I’ve been a full iOS ecosystems user for the last 10 years since the iPhone first came out. But I’ve realized that all of this fear and dependency I had on my Apple ecosystems was not true at all. The whole Android OS is my new favorite app. I didn’t have the courage on my own to transition, but now I am a changed person.

 

What are your favorite technology tools you use throughout your day?

Nest cameras are ultra sweet. I carry a Flir infrared camera on my body all the time to go into spaces and look at air infiltration as well as electrical–you can see shorted wires glow in infrared. You can look at a wall panel and see what’s loaded based on what color they are. It fits in a shirt pocket.

 

If you could wave a magic wand and create a new technology, what would it be?

Instant travel. As a guy who flies all the time, I need instant travel.

The Locomotion Expert Who Dreams Of Flight

head shot of Barry Clark in striped golf shirt

Barry Clark’s career has been characterized by tackling projects that on the surface seem straightforward – but in reality are deceptively challenging.

As co-CTO of SoftWear Automation, he’s disrupting the $100B sewn products industry by replacing sewing labor with cutting-edge robotics. He’s also pursuing his Ph.D. in Robotics from The Ohio State University, with a focus on empowering walking robots and prosthetics to function better through a more complete understanding of how humans are able to walk without falling down.

Barry is a passionate lifelong learner who sees a bright future in the open source movement. He’s ready to cheer on anyone who’s doing what they love. His best advice? Get your hands dirty.

What projects are you currently working on?

Barry Clark: I have two paths. I work for an automated sewing company with novel IP moving away from hard automation in favor of soft automation. With fabric, the traditional method of clamping and treating it like a piece of steel doesn’t work, because textiles move in a way most metals don’t. So we use software improvements, computer vision, and other sensors to move this material like you would any other.

I’m also finishing my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering where I focus on human walking. If you look at current state-of-the-art robots, they’re phenomenally impressive. But even their performance pales compared to what a human can do. Human motion is both very efficient and very stable. My lab looks at locomotion through the lens of energetic optimality. I’m using metabolic-like cost functions in combination with mathematical optimization to better understand these characteristics in human walking and running.

How long have you been part of this industry?

Barry Clark: I entered grad school in 2010 with a desire to focus on robotics and controls. I’ve really been in the industry since 2013 when I joined the team at SoftWear Automation, which at the time was an ATDC company.

What changes have you seen for the positive?

Barry Clark: The push to open source makes it much easier to get your hands on complicated tools and dig through what a lot of really smart people have done, understand it, and implement it more quickly. That’s a really positive change that continues to grow exponentially.

For example, OpenCV is one of the big computer vision libraries. You can do some pretty interesting things once you know how to use that tool, and it’s available to anyone. Same thing with ROS on the control side; you can take lots of information from sensors and cameras and turn it into control signals without much effort. Those tools are widely available to students, industry, all kinds of people.

What changes have you seen for the negative?

Barry Clark: I don’t know that it’s a change, but the concept that robots will take jobs is very polarizing. There are studies out there that indicate that at least this far, automation has only done good things for workers. For the most part in the US, automation has created jobs and created more highly skilled workers, which makes people more valuable in a wider range of industries. That won’t hold true forever maybe, but people with factory jobs view robotics as a negative thing and it doesn’t need to be like that.

What draws you to the technology side of things?

Barry Clark: I’ve always liked making things work. Spending a lot of time in grad school (running on eight years now…) I’ve really bought into lifelong learning. Particularly, right now, if you took a month off you would miss quite a bit. I like the idea of continuing to grow and learn new things. I can’t imagine where the field will be in 30 years because of the amount of growth that will take place. It excites me that it’s ever changing and in order to be a leader in your field you have to be constantly learning and you have to be flexible.

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

Barry Clark: Major in whatever you’re passionate about and go all in on it. I knew people in college who had stereotypically “bad” majors like English, Anthropology, American Studies — things the classic father figure might be displeased with. But they all did really well because they went all in. They didn’t major in anthropology because it was easy, they majored in it because they were passionate about it. Do everything you can to become an expert in your field, broaden your skill set, and take advantage of opportunities. If you do that, whatever you major in, it will be okay.

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

Barry Clark: Three things. First, get involved in the open source movement. Second, be a generalist. Robotics is the complete blend of electrical, mechanical, computer, and materials science. It’s an amalgamation of all those things, so get your hands dirty early. Third, work on personal projects in your spare time. School can only teach you so much. If you can build your own robot or write your own code for a home automation project — all those things will help accelerate your understanding and be a better roboticist in the future.

What was your first job ever?

Barry Clark: I was a tennis camp counselor. (Being blond wasn’t a requirement.)

Tech Takes

What is your must-have smartphone app?

Barry Clark: I try to stay off my phone but the app I, unfortunately, spend the most time on right now is — I have this Peak brain training app so I have all these little games on my phone that were kind of dumb. So now I play games that they say are helpful for cognitive function.

What are your 3 favorite technology tools you use throughout your day?

Barry Clark: My laptop is my overall favorite tool. After that, I really like python which is a fun, easy to use prototyping language. Google Docs and Google Sheets — the ability to edit the same document while you and your collaborators are in a different place is incredibly powerful. It sounds simple but that’s one of the more powerful tools I use.

If you could wave a magic wand and create a new technology, what would it be?

Barry Clark: I would create some sort of personal aircraft. The ability to go longer distances much more quickly on a much more straightforward path would be awesome.

Windows/MAC/Linux and why?

Barry Clark: For personal consumption, I’m a Mac guy for sure. For work, I like Linux. I feel like everything for programming and robotics works better in Linux.

In Service Companies, There Is No Line Item for R&D

Originally posted on The Combine.

K.P. Reddy: "No line item for R&D in service companies"

Recently, Matt GrayBuiltWorlds founder and co-chairman of Graycor, a 90-year-old, Chicago-area general contractor, interviewed The Combine Co-founder and Partner, K.P. Reddy. We captured the interview on video, which is important, because this interview is one of the very few times you’ll ever see K.P. Reddy in a collared shirt and a coat. Here’s the video.

Notable Quotes from K.P.

The capital requirements to start an architectural firm are nothing. All you need is a customer.

The Combine works with large companies to spin out new tech companies.  Especially in service companies, they are so close to the customer’s problem. They understand the problem. They’ve studied the problem. Then they start trying to solve that problem, by launching a new service unit to focus on that problem. Or, these days, everyone wants to build a new piece of hardware or software.

There is no line item for R&D

But in these companies it’s about billable hours, project revenue, project margin. There is no line item for R&D. So we’re able to go into these companies and mine these really cool innovative ideas and spin them out as tech startups.

Higher ROI outside of their core business

The large companies also retain ownership in the startup. Startup valuations are very different than services firm valuations, and particularly engineering and architectural firms. So we’re able to in many ways generate higher ROI outside of their core business than within their core business.

Civil Engineers Rule The Future!

When you hear the term “civil engineering”, your eyes and ears usually don’t perk up in anticipation like they do when you hear “new iPhone” or “driverless cars” or “Artificial Intelligence.” Instead, you think bridges, roads, dams, airports, traffic patterns…buildings. Civil engineers are boring, right? [Read more..]

Coming Soon to Hotels: AI for Building Maintenance

August 21, 2017 – The hospitality industry is trying to find the X factor to get back on top. With competitors like Airbnb entering the scene as unique places for travelers to stay and brand loyalty becoming less important to guests, hotels should tap pause and look back to the basics.[Read More…]

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

head shot image of Brian Skripac

For Brian Skripac, the key to implementing new technology is to try not to get bogged down in the technology.

Counterintuitive, right?

But for him, tech is less about the “what,” and more about the, “how.”

He asks, “How do we plan our work and work the plan?”

In other words, it doesn’t matter so much what a tool can do unless you know how to use it. And knowing how to use it requires a thoughtful approach to teams and processes. It’s about being focused on operational excellence.

Brian Skripac is currently a Vice President and the Director of Virtual Design and Construction at CannonDesign, where he continually drives innovation by merging technology and practice. He has 21 years of industry experience, with the last 11 focusing on the integration of BIM to transform the design and project delivery process.

Brian Skripachas also successfully developed and managed BIM-enabled delivery systems for large efforts in Design-Led Construction. In addition, he focuses on the use of BIM to capture and structure relevant facility data, implementing the value BIM brings to facility owners from an interoperable lifecycle management strategy. A thought-leader in this field, he is an advisory group member and past-chair of the AIA National Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community and serves on the BIMForum committee responsible for authoring the LOD Specification.

How long have you been part of this industry?

Brian Skripac: I’ve been part of AEC industry since 1996, and then I really started with a BIM focus back in 2005. I was working as a post-graduate architect looking to get into a project architect role, and I was teaching a college-level 3D modeling class in the evening and on the weekends. Someone mentioned an opportunity to work with an Autodesk reseller consulting firm, and it was there that I came across Revit for the first time. I thought to myself, “This is a game changer.” In that moment I saw that it wasn’t just about using a new software. It’s about driving a whole new process about how we practice architecture.

What changes have you seen for the positive in the AEC space since then?

Brian Skripac: A better focus on collaboration and integration. The more we work with these new technologies, the more we start to embrace processes where we work more collaboratively. We’re doing a better job of breaking down the silos of architect and builder. We’re able to take advantage of information and knowledge on the construction side to come back to the design side and raise the bar on how we deliver projects.

This BIM wave we’re on is certainly something that’s facilitated that. More owners have adopted this model, which gives you better deliverables, reduced cost, improved schedule. It used to be you could get two out of three: cost, time, and quality. Now we do a better job of planning out our work and sharing knowledge and information.

A tool like BIM can be a catalyst but it’s not the easy button. It gives you the ability to know and plan for what you want to capture, but you need great teams and processes to take advantage of it.

What changes have you seen for the negative?

Brian Skripac: With BIM, the constraints of sharing information is a concern. But that’s also an opportunity. It’s not about risk avoidance, but risk management. In the industry, at a project manager level, there’s still trepidation to share what we’re doing. That’s the difference between the people who are excelling and the people you aren’t: the ones who are sharing, collaborating, are excelling. At CannonDesign, we’re embracing this Virtual Design and Construction idea, and we have a design-led construction team. Part of our delivery model is the larger idea of being a single source environment. When we can do it, we’re much more collaborative and the sharing of information goes further to building repeatable, collaborative engagements.

What draws you to the technology side of things?

Brian Skripac: For me, when I first came out of school, I had to do the same mundane things over and over; repeat the same change ten times across a set of drawings. Initially, I was attracted to the technology, but when I got to really learn the tool, I quickly saw beyond the visualization aspects and realized it’s about a larger project performance idea. As an architect, I’ve always been intrigued by the construction side, and having project opportunities to work with owners on how to set delivery standards as it relates to BIM has been a full circle endeavor.

Why do you think this industry lags behind in tech?

Brian Skripac: I’ve seen this problem from multiple sides. Sometimes in architecture, it lags because a majority of architecture firms are ten people or less. There’s a financial constraint of switching over systems, and a human capital constraint of who’s going to lead that. With large firms, it’s like turning a cruise ship, so pushing standards and process changes have its own unique time constraints to get a full adoption.

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

Brian Skripac: Whatever they’re interested in. Find something that you like doing and go all in. My kids explore different things and I want them to be savvy and creative at the same time. A lot of their activities in school are very tech-focused and I just want them to keep learning. My son had a class this year where they were using modeling systems and 3D printers and my daughter just attended a summer camp called Camp Invention, which had a STEM focus. There are so many opportunities to innovate.

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

Brian Skripac: Don’t be bogged down by, “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Find new ways. That’s the biggest killer: “that’s not how we do it”, or “we’ve always done it this way.” No. We’ve got to evolve.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?

Brian Skripac: At a previous firm, we were doing testing and vetting new sustainability tools. We were looking at analysis software, trying to figure out how to integrate it into our design process. My CEO at that time was in our presentation. He stood up and told us, “You guys are just wasting your bonus checks spending your time on this. We’re not going to waste money on this and you’re just wasting your time.” Needless to say, I started working on my resume and left that firm shortly after that.

What was your first job ever?

Brian Skripac: I cut grass when I was 10 or 12, around the neighborhood and the front yard of my dad’s office on weekends.

Tech Takes

What is your must-have smartphone app?

Brian Skripac: Cozi. That is our family calendar app. Everything’s color-coded, so you know who’s going where at what time: who’s traveling for work, who’s got baseball after school. It’s a sanity check.

What are your 3 favorite technology tools you use throughout your day?

Brian Skripac: I love Twitter for staying up to date and sharing and gathering information. Trello is a great one, using cards to manage to-do lists, get feedback on ideas, and communicate with our team. We also use join.me for communications. I spend a lot time on the phone with our offices around the globe, so being able to connect with people that way is pretty important.

Windows/MAC/Linux and why?

Brian Skripac: For whatever reason, I’ve never been in a working environment besides Windows.

iOS or Android, and why?

Brian Skripac: I love my iPhone!

6 Paths To Automated Construction Site +Why Geometry Is More Important To Offsite Construction Than Data + Tech Will Help Close Performance Gap +More

While automation has transformed the world of manufacturing, construction remains relatively untouched by self-sufficient machines. That is about to change. Artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and robotics are poised to bring automation to building construction. Why geometry is more important to offsite …

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