Contributed by Jake Ortego
Within the last few months, I have heard each of these statements:
I’m sure that each of these statements is rooted in a truth relative to a certain point in the AEC process. But buried in many of the comments is an increasing feeling that the quality of the design documents themselves are on a downward slope despite the notion that technologies such as BIM should be improving the designs.
Many will admit that the idea of BIM is fantastic. Albeit, a true single building model is a dream that may be unrealistic. These concepts are then quickly countered with criticism that the technology creates nearly as many problems as it fixes. Even the most outspoken BIM supporter would agree that it is not a perfect system. So, should we abandon it for the “old school 2D” model?
Put that thought aside for a minute and set the way-back machine to the 1860s. Back then, chemists figured out a way to duplicate a drawing using ferro-gallate. Construction reprographics was born…with a blue tinge. And with that, an entire profession was eliminated. The once critical job held by tracers and copiers was now a thing of the past.
What does this have to do with BIM?
While drawing reprographics seems like simple technology to us now, imagine how revolutionary it was when it was invented. There were many who undoubtedly thought it created more problems than it solved. Somewhere I recall reading that the design professionals of the time criticized early blueprints for being “…inadequate and free translations of the author’s original lines.” It took 20 to 30 years for the cost of the blueprint to drop low enough to make hand copies and tracing uneconomical. And it wasn’t until the 1940s that someone figured out how to drop the blue and go to the white sheets we see today.
Now, we can’t imagine not having instant reprographics of the drawings. This clunky new technology changed AEC forever. Then there was CAD. This technology got its start in the 1950s and you better believe that it was not an instant hit. CAD was criticized for inhibiting the brainstorming process and viewed as much slower than traditional sketching. But at the same time, it spawned libraries of standard steel shapes, doors, patterns, and that “person” that is put in the drawing for height comparison.
Contributed by Sheldon Wolfe
In the last few years, it has been proposed that owners might benefit from hiring specifiers directly; it has even been suggested that specifiers might help owners choose architects. Specific aspects of these ideas, and of related issues, were addressed by member presentations at the Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) annual convention over the last handful of years.
In 2014, at the convention in Baltimore, several Institute directors and interested members met to discuss a report that had been submitted to the Institute board by Ujjval Vyas, PhD, of the Alberti Group. This report, titled "The Risk Management Value of Specifications," was prepared at the request of CSI. The report's Executive Summary noted conditions that would surprise few specifiers: Specification software is beginning to replace activities traditionally done by a specifier; contractors are becoming more involved in specifications, especially in design-build projects; and specifiers suffer from the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome - their value often is not appreciated by their employers, with commensurate effect on stature, compensation, and opportunity for advancement.
What will happen to specifiers in the next decade? Will they be replaced by software? Will they shed the grunt work of word processing and become even more valuable, devoting their time to product research, coordination of documents, and adding intelligence to the building model? Or will they simply fade away?
Just as has happened with drawing - we moved from linen to vellum to digital images, and we moved from drafting to CAD to building modeling, yet all of these options remain in use - all of the above possibilities for specifiers will exist in some degree, and it's possible someone will continue using a typewriter to write specifications. But which of these possibilities, or what combination of them, will be most common?
What I see suggests the answer won't be to the liking of most specifiers. Specifying software will get better, it will extract more information from the building model, it will get easier to use, it will further automate editing of specifications, and it will be seen as a replacement for specifiers. Contractors will continue to increase their importance during construction, and designers will continue to lose credibility with clients. Will specifiers soon find themselves in the unemployment line?
What happens, both to specifiers and to specifying as a career, will be affected by what specifiers do to influence the discussion. If they do nothing, they will be further marginalized, and though they might not be laid off, they may not be replaced when they leave. Based on what I've seen, that is the likely course.
Contributed by Tom J. Moverman, Esq
There was a time, not too long ago, that future innovation was of no interest to the majority of the companies in the construction industry. Most companies were happy with the way things had been done for decades, and they were not interested in changing that. However, as construction companies start to realize the money and time that can be saved with innovations such as wearable technology, that old school attitude is changing.
Travelers Insurance estimates that the wearable industry shipped $20 billion in products in 2015, and that number is increasing rapidly. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there are nearly seven million construction field workers who could benefit from the use of wearable technology, that is technology that can monitor health and other worker elements instantly and deliver reliable data, and the push is to get wearable technology on every one of those workers.
The Benefits of Wearable Technology
The two primary areas that benefit from wearable technology are worker health and job site safety. For example, a hard hat that has sensors on it can monitor the health of a worker, while simultaneously broadcasting real-time images of the job site to safety personnel. In some cases, safety personnel can see problems coming before the workers even know what is going on, and that is technology that can save lives.
Wearable technology can collect job site condition data and relay that to project managers and site supervisors. Companies can collect video and data from wearable technology that can be used to better train future workers, and develop more effective ways of using construction equipment. Many of the conditions that workers and site supervisors could not see in the past involving dangerous materials or high-risk working situations would now be studied in detail to create more effective safety measures.
Construction companies can use wearable technology to increase worker productivity and get real data about what happened leading up to an accident. Companies can also tell exactly what workers are doing on job sites, and track the location of each worker in real time. If a worker is somewhere they are not supposed to be, the site supervisor can act immediately and accordingly.
The Problems with Wearable Technology
Wearable technology can improve worker health, make a job site safer, and even help a company to create more efficient methods that save money. But despite all that it can do, there are still issues with using future innovations in an old school environment such as construction. For one thing, workers may not want to wear the technology because they won't like the feeling that "Big Brother" is watching them. Reliable workers have nothing to fear with technology that reports their every movement, but some workers may find this technology too intrusive.
Another big issue with this new technology is the idea that workers will be more interested in the technology than the job at hand. If a worker knows their hard hat is collecting environmental data for a job, then that worker might be more tempted to try and see what the data looks like as opposed to doing their job. New technology is not only useful, but it can also be distracting as well.
Hard hats that can read environmental conditions and safety vests that report worker vital signs are just the beginning of wearable technology in the construction industry. Newer technology that is either in development or already in the field include specially designed glasses that help skilled workers to be more precise in their measurements, exoskeletons that protect workers and make lifting heavy objects much easier, and hard hats that can do 3D mapping of any part of a construction website.
The future of the construction industry includes wearable technology that can save money, save lives, and speed up the construction process. Instead of shying away from all of these technological advances, the construction industry has proven that it is looking forward to these future innovations.
Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Brooklyn Law Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989; The firm’s focus is in products liability, personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents and medical malpractice.
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