The other week I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the 2016 AGC IT Forum Conference in Chicago. The conference consisted of a day and a half of amazing presentations and demonstrations of new and cutting edge technology for the construction industry. This was the eighth annual addition of the industry leading technology event and this year the AGC IT Forum partnered with Northwestern University to provide a new academic flavor to the conference. There were several great presentations at the conference this year.

A few of the highlights from the second day for me were:

ConTechTrio podcast – Live Q&A Show

The #ConTechTrio Podcast (powered by JBKnowledge ) conducted an exclusive LIVE podcast show  to discuss our favorite news stories from the year and facilitated a Q&A session for the attendees and internet community. Host James Benham (@JamesMBenham),  was joined by Rob McKinney (@ConAppGuru) and Josh Bone (BIM2TheBone) to share our favorite construction technology news from the year.

The #ConTechTrio “Favorite Tech News Stories of 2016” were:

James Benham: Advances in 3D printing, HoloLens, and Robotics in Construction…

Josh Bone: BIM Level 2 Mandate, National BIM Guidelines for Owners, Generative Design, Democratization of BIM…

Rob McKinney: New Apps for Windows 10 (Surface Pro), New Integrations with Microsoft HoloLens, new Pilot Translating Earbud…

You can listen to the show now (CLICK HERE).


Tech Talks 

IT Budgeting  Ken Julien  –  Partner at Plante Moran

The topic of IT Budgeting is a tricky subject to address. Several recent construction industry surveys show that most companies are spending less than one percent on technology. This is a rather low percentage compared to other industries.

Mr. Julien opened his discussion by explaining how different managing Information Technology (IT) was at the beginning of his career. He explained how he spent time managing actual hard floppy disks. Things have changed quite a bit throughout his career in IT. He next pointed out, that we “Get pumped up at IT conferences, go back and try to get new budget approved”. But how do we do that? Mr. Julien asked the audience “What are the drivers for technology” today?

Mr. Julien, went on to explain that they are the number of users, devices, spending level, and cyber security protocols. He asked the audience to think about: What are benchmarks to look at such as? What is competition doing? What are they spending? Who all has an Annual Budget? Is it Zero based budgeting?

Behind BIM – Managing IT’s Role in BIM – Benjamin Crosby – Director of VDC – BIM at Yates Construction

The role of Building Information technology (BIM) is changing rapidly in construction.

Mr. Crosby opened his discussion by explaining the very complicated landscape of the BIM / VDC software space. Currently there is not  guide to the BIM space, it is very difficult for VDC Specialist to know which software to use and which platforms can work well with others. He offered the audience a view of his current BIM / VDC Software roadmap and explained a few selection strategies. Mr. Crosby next explained that “He is not the IT guy, he works with him”. He explained that when look at any new software he must discuss cost implications with his team to make the right software purchase at that time.

Mr. Crosby encouraged the audience to reset their mindset and to start “thinking of software as TOOLS”! Just as a carpenter needs a set of tools such as a screwdriver, a tape measure and a skill saw each VDC specialist needs a set of software to build and update a 3D model. In fact, he declared that “BIM is just like a screwdriver”! He used the analogy of the screwdriver: a BIG phillips versus small regular. Which one better? The same can be said for software such as Revit, Navis Works, Solibri, and AutoCAD. Which software is best for a project depends on several variable.

 Mr. Crosby closed out his talk be outlining what is take to build a portable “BIM Cave”. On stage he literally unpacked a suit case that contained laptop, a monitor, and projector (1080 resolution), and several cables (VGA, HDMI). This portable “BIM Cave” can be transported easily in a car or an airplane. It allows the VDC specialist to take the BIM experience to a Owners office, a Design team’s office or a project site. The kit makes it possible to conduct meetings in person to explore design intent, clash detections or conduct model walk throughs!

Drones Taking Flight – Raynald Morris – CIO at W.M. Jordan Inc.

The topic of Drone use in Construction has been a controversial one over the past year. Where do you actually draw the line from being a “Hobbyist” and start acting as a “Commercial” operation? What are the proper steps to follow in order to be in compliance with FAA guidelines?

Mr. Morris opened his discussion by explaining the current advantages for using Drones on Construction Sites. Safety, field employees no longer need to climb tall ladders or use scaffolding to conduct inspections. Operational development, companies can adjust how task are accomplished through this new technology. Data capture, drones allows companies to take more photos, videos and scans each day to better document their project sites. There are a few new uses cases for Drones such as: Marketing ( photos and videos), Land Surveying ( current existing conditions), Progress Status ( day to day tracking of installed work), Material Management ( measure stock pile quantities), 3D Modeling ( from scanned images and videos), and Thermal scans ( look for leaks).

He provided a  great project use case for Drones in construction. On a recent project his team looked a scenario where the use of a drone made sense. The project was a historic renovation and had e very tall exterior chimney. The design team need to get more information about the top section of the chimney. Rather than sending a employee up on scaffolding to try and take photos or videos, the project team elected to use the drone to fly up and take the required photos and videos. This workflow eliminated the physical hazard, required less time to complete, and collected the required data fro the team.

Mr. Morris next provided a update on the recent changes to FAA regulations. The new Part 107 address several issues for the commercial use on drones used on construction projects such as: flight restrictions, obtaining a Aircraft Operator Certificate, age limit and language requirements. This will go into effect on August 29th, 2016. He closed by providing a few examples of where he think the Futures Uses for Drones can lead such as: small tool delivery, light material delivery, safety or emergency services such as search and rescue, scanning through expandable sensor packages.

To learn more about the 2016 AGC IT Forum Conference in Chicago (CLICK HERE).