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Evolving technology and project management will be explored


This article was authored by Shannon Moneo. It originally appeared in the Journal of Commerce on February 19, 2014. You can view the original here.

While some construction companies may not realize it, harnessing digital data will become crucial to their productivity and success.

At Buildex Vancouver, two experts in the use of digital data, as it relates to the design, construction and management of structures, will make it clear why it’s time to ditch pen and paper and switch to digital practices.

“Owners invest years and millions of dollars to get a new building. When it’s finished, they get a binder full of 2D papers and black and white drawings. It’s not appropriate,” said Geraldine Rayner, Architect AIBC and co-founder of Summit BIM.

Today, there’s software, such as Revit Structure, AutoCAD and Navisworks, that generates digital data about various aspects of a building.

Software can cover everything from the design to lifetime maintenance of the finished structure.

Unlike a static book of information, the information is dynamic.

“In a big way, the industry is still catching up to technology,” said Edwin Guerra, co-presenter of Project Management in the Digital Age.

Guerra is a structural engineer and technical consultant with a building performance background, who works at Summit.

In the past, full historical information about a building couldn’t be wholly transmitted to owners by paper documents alone.

“There’s been a massive revolution caused by digital technology,” said Rayner, also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. “Some companies are grabbing it and running with it. For others, it’s frightening. Some are at the end of their careers and aren’t prepared to change.”

In their presentation, Guerra and Rayner will discuss the past versus now.

As a jumping-off point for discussion, Rayner will use her 30 years of experience as an architect as well as 2014 being the 30th anniversary of Apple’s introduction of the Macintosh computer, to illustrate how far technology has come in three decades.

The discussion will also look at how the architecture, engineering and construction industries manage and communicate to minimize risk.

“I come from the design side. You design the building, finish it and move on,” she said.

Like a brand new car, owners get the finished product, sometimes without all of the necessary material to achieve maximum performance. But with BIM, for example, all aspects of a building are created digitally: the form, fit and function.

Everything including the energy requirements and the dimensions of building components are rendered before actual construction starts.

The beauty of using the digital technology is that construction materials can arrive at the site pre-fabricated and are thus easy to assemble, saving time and often money.

It also makes for a safer and more efficient worksite, Rayner said, because crews are not fabricating the pieces on-site.

In the “Human Frontier” section of their 90-minute presentation, the pair will discuss how people are resistant to change and may not want to adopt certain technologies.

Later, in “Technology a blessing or curse?”, Guerra and Rayner will explain the value of information at different times in a project cycle and for different staff.

While technologies, such as email exist, it doesn’t always mean more work gets done, Guerra said.

Technology can fail and it must not be followed blindly, he added.

There are challenges around using digital programs. At times, those who most need the data are not always the ones using it.

To be most effective, building designers should be on-board, Guerra said.

Problems with a project arise when the people with design knowledge are isolated from using the software, Rayner said.

There can also be problems when staff are technically-savvy but don’t have the knowledge that comes with experience.

“The first step is to recognize it’s an important issue,” Rayner said.

Who learns what depends on their role in the organization. A project manager, for instance, doesn’t generate data, but needs to access it and know where it is. So, anyone who needs the data should be able to access it, Guerra said.

All staff should be comfortable with the technology, so planning and a proven communication plan should be in place, he added.

In the U.S., the construction industry loses $15 billion each year by not communicating effectively, Rayner said.

The industry is also 30 per cent less productive than it was 50 years ago. Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry is 250 per cent more productive, Rayner noted.

Project Management in the Digital Age takes place on Feb. 20 at 8:30 a.m. at Buildex Vancouver 2014.

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