By Julie Littman
December 21, 2016
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Construction firms have embraced technology and diversified their workforces and offer more collaborative work environments. Panelists at a recent Bisnow event in San Jose discussed these trends and many others affecting the construction industry in Silicon Valley.
Moderator Hopkins & Carley shareholder Eugene Ashley, DPR Construction Bay Area business unit leader Rob Westover, Clark Pacific president Don Clark, Enovity director Jason Breede and BarkerBlue CEO Gene Klein told a 175-person crowd about the technology and innovations they are seeing in the industry and how that technology is affecting the construction process.
Buildings Are Getting Smarter, More Efficient
DPR Construction Bay Area business unit leader Rob Westover said there’s a big push to make buildings smarter and more energy efficient. Employees expect to work in healthy buildings with good air circulation, natural light and energy efficiencies. Clark Pacific president Don Clark said Title 24 has led to his company developing pre-insulated panels. These glass-fiber concrete panels have a two-inch gap between the panel and frame. The company uses a spray foam system to provide continual insulation.
Clark's company also developed an access deck with a ceiling spanning up to 60 feet with an access floor. The ribs of the building come up from the concrete ceiling providing a diaphragm and the access deck over the top allows for ventilation. He said this speeds up construction and is very energy efficient.
Technology Is Helping, Hindering Construction
BarkerBlue CEO Gene Klein said with construction information available in multiple clouds, there are now many great tools providing information about a job site. On the other hand, if the information is not identical across multiple platforms, quality control is needed to synchronize the information.
Enovity director Jason Breede said his team collects all the information and offers to put it in a CMS platform. His team considers what information is key to allow for the building to operate optimally. If an operational team doesn’t know how to run a building, a lot of time information just sits in the cloud and no one uses it.
With so many different tools, Breede said his firm has to have 17-plus different licenses for software, which is costly and not very efficient. Enovity has to offer a continual internal training process, and it often has to bring in different people depending on the software being used during a project. He’s also noticed some groups use technology to document grievances or to dig their feet in the ground over an issue.
Collaborative and Integrative Project Management
Technology has helped create a more collaborative work environment. Clark (above with event moderator Eugene Ashley) said teams can now view models virtually and can communicate faster and work off better designs.
DPR's Westover said designers, builders and trade experts are working more collaboratively, coordinating the specifics of the design structure and building a project virtually. This has led to many conflicts being resolved before physical construction, allowing for faster and more efficient processes.
Building owners also are becoming more involved during the construction process. Westover said he’s seeing direct involvement from the owner stepping into the role of a designer. They often sit in meetings and make direct decisions, which has been “incredibly helpful.”
BarkerBlue continues to work with buildings even after completion, according to Klein. His firm offers 24/7 access to the building’s key information so buyers and sellers know what is inside the building and make renovations easier.
Compared to decades ago, the workforce has changed dramatically. Klein said the job site used to be all male, but now there are female engineers and people of different ethnicities.
Clark said the construction industry has benefited from an expanding pool of engineering and construction management schools. He said his team is no longer just traditional roles like site managers or superintendents, but also people involved in the coordination process who are tech savvy.