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A conference by the people, for the people: 4 takeaways from BILT North America

January 07, 2019

By Jim Marchese

The 2018 Buildings Infrastructure Lifecycle, supported by Technology (BILT) summit reinforces importance of a holistic view of tech implementation

BILT is an annual global event designed to inspire and energize those who design, build, operate, and maintain our built environment. BILT has long been recognized as a hub for industry collaboration and exploration of the top technology used on projects today. As an event run by industry professionals—creating a community built for the people, by the people—our team looks forward to participating each year to research emerging practices and tools that can enhance our work.

This year’s BILT North America conference, held in St. Louis, Missouri, offered another year of top-notch presentations, networking, and of course a look into the future of the AEC industry. While many sessions focused on new technology and practices, the overarching theme focused on the fact that a balance of old and new tactics, skills, and approaches are critical for success.

AR is the new VR

With the different “mixed reality” verbiage in our industry, it can be difficult to understand the similarities and differences between each. Virtual reality (VR) involves immersing yourself in a completely new environment whereas augmented reality (AR) is watching your existing environment get manipulated.

Even though AR is fairly new in the AEC industry, it is quickly growing in popularity and will continue to do so. Companies eager to be at the forefront of AR are exploring it in interesting ways, such as:

  • Allowing multiple people to view a virtual model. This creates the opportunity for one person to rotate and zoom into specific pieces of the model, while others can see what they’re doing and even move the model themselves.
  • Creating QR codes in public spaces. This tech allows users to scan a code with a smartphone and then view a variety of overlay content (such as art installments or neighborhood data) placed on any environment a camera is viewing.
  • Using AR on building sites. With the capability to use a smart phone to view a completed project on site, designers and the public can better understand the scale, design, and uniformity of a building within the neighborhood.

Visualization is for contractors, too

Contractors are also beginning to home in on the benefits of 3D modeling that go beyond producing construction drawings or rendering attractive images.

For example, with the use of VRAY, firms like Turner Construction are creating quick animated renderings of difficult installs. These visualizations are being used in coordination with subcontractors, while also creating a clear narrative for the owner and architect. These install renderings can essentially become a tool that acts like a rehearsal before the final performance, allowing teams to visualize the build and address unforeseen complications early in the process.

This method also saves time and effort when creating a construction plan, while also reducing the potential for misunderstanding or miscommunication between parties.

Practitioners stand to reap great benefits from what the future has in store by tactfully embracing new technology—while simultaneously fostering the human side of our business.

Model management still matters

In this fast-paced world where workflows and solutions are rapidly changing, it may seem crazy that people are still talking about something seemingly as basic as model management. But for these reasons, model management is more critical than ever.

My Stantec colleague Bob Bell and I presented “What Exactly Is It You Do Here? A Primer on Model Management” to give an overview of the role of model manager and underscore its importance on every BIM project.

We reviewed the responsibilities of a model manager and used a four-square chart to illustrate how to determine who in your office is best suited for the job. Comparing a professional’s Revit expertise with their practice knowledge, as shown in the below figures, provides a useful assessment tool. We also presented the “Model Manager’s Greatest Hits,” a list of common pitfalls on projects and how to fix them.

Finally, as part of our handout materials we made our Stantec BIM FAQs project planning document available to attendees, believing that the more companies that ask the right questions, the better the entire industry will be in its BIM implementation.

Be flexible when adopting technology

There’s more to BILT than technology presentations. Attendees are looking for a holistic view of project delivery that goes beyond the picks and clicks of modeling. Among the notable presentations was a discussion on effective implementation of new technology.

Whenever a new piece of software or technology is introduced into the office, most employees will fall into one of two camps: those excited by new a tool and those who are more skeptical.

A key consideration with the roll out of any new tool is the human element.

The adoption of new technology can generate anxiety in the workplace as people worry that their experience, skills, and maybe even their jobs, will lose value in face of the new technology’s capabilities. It is paramount that employees are brought into the process early and kept informed.

Not only do workers need to know what kind of changes are being made and how they will be implemented, they also need to understand the goals. At the end of the day, the successful introduction of any new technology requires a mindful and flexible approach.

Mindfulness requires an honest and thorough assessment of when to adopt a new technology and how much alteration to existing processes is appropriate. Flexibility requires patience and communication during the transition period to maintain cohesiveness among employees.

What it all means

This year’s conference presented many eye-opening insights on the future of our industry, but one key theme was clear. AEC practitioners stand to reap great benefits from what the future has in store by tactfully embracing new technology—while simultaneously fostering the human side of our business.

  • Jim Marchese

    Jim leverages technology as a way to engage with others and help them find the best way to solve problems.

    Contact Jim
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