ConTech Conversations: How putting trust in building models eliminates uncertainty
ConTech Conversations presents a discussion with a leader in the construction technology field each month. Click here for past discussions.
Hannu Lindberg wants your teams on the same page.
Lindberg, the leader of Redwood City, California-based contractor DPR’s virtual design and construction segment, has a lot of experience with tech from working at building firms in Europe and the U.S., as well as a stint at Disney as an imagineer.
Now, Lindberg has some thoughts about the roles of every stakeholder in a jobsite model, and what contractors can expect in the future of construction.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What are the key tenets of running DPR’s VDC operations?
HANNU LINDBERG: I hate to use this term, but the “selling point” is the fact that you’re investing up front to eliminate a lot of the unknowns.
There’s a lot of unpredictability in the design, and completeness of the design. There are unique challenges in just how we can kind of bring everybody together to collaborate on a project.
Every job is uniquely different. We want to get to 100% certainty so that what we install actually fits, because you really only have one go at it.
Once we go to execution, we want to be able to leverage as much of the model information to go build it. Because it’s all in the model, even if the documentation doesn’t get updated. The more we can build from the model, once it’s been confirmed to be correct, the more productivity we see in the field.
What barriers are still present to adopting VDC that construction needs to remove?
The faster we get to a state of recognizing that the model is just another contract deliverable, the more we can build a higher level of trust and integrity in that model.
It’s understanding what it is and isn’t used for, and creating clarity around expectations.
There’s a lot of clarity needed in defining who owns what piece of the design, the details. Who’s the right person to own that detail if they’re installing that work? They probably have the constructability knowledge of how it actually all fits together. And the job of the general contractor is kind of to play the quarterback.
If we can build that heightened level of accuracy and trust in the model, and get over some of those hurdles of who owns the content and really get everybody bought into the process, we’ll be light years ahead to executing in a more efficient way.
What are your thoughts on the future of construction and technology? Will people still be physically building structures in the next 20 or 30 years?
I think it’s going to be a hybrid. Possibly, there’s an opportunity to do work safer, an opportunity to do work smarter.
We’ve implemented, even today, some of the automatic layout solutions so that we can have productivity in the field. We’re using a robot and letting our people go do something else, to increase productivity.
It’s really there to supplement, more than replace. It addresses some of the labor shortages that we have, so that we can maintain the productivity and the schedules that we are required to meet.
It’s also creating some pretty cool opportunities for the new workforce to come in, to create some more appeal for the tech savvy folks to come work.
If we are not using tech and robots to design and deliver every project in the next 10 years, I’ll be very surprised.
What’s the future of construction technology? How is DPR preparing for it?
I joke around that “construction technology” is a bit of an oxymoron. I mean, it’s an industry in itself that always has a little bit of healthy skepticism toward new things.
We’re strategically investing in a lot of different sectors but primarily in prefabrication. Modular construction is an area where we’ve heavily invested — we’ve actually had a couple of entities that we’ve spun up.
Also, our innovation team is always looking for the kind of emerging technologies that are going to help us be more efficient on a jobsite, and look for different technologies that allow us to streamline and integrate our workflows better.
It’s not just a problem of throwing more bodies at it and working harder, but we can actually start leveraging these unique platforms, robotics and the integration of technical design information down to the field in a much more seamless way.