“It’s not just the tool that makes the building look pretty”, says Jeremy Humphries, Senior Project Manager for Barton Malow in Orlando. “It’s technology that’s coupled with construction that contributes to a successful end product.”
With 13 years of experience in the field, Humphries facilitates entire construction projects from client relations, procurement, contracts, and initial architect drawings, all the way through to handing over the keys to a building — with budgeting, scheduling, and managing in between.
“I would just say I am a builder,” he says.
While construction project managers like Humphries still do the same work they’ve always done, the relentless drive for efficiency and market competitiveness has compelled some of them to embrace more advanced tools to do it.
Several years ago, Barton Malow announced a plan to double the company’s efficiency by 2024, which will be their 100th anniversary. Part of that effort has involved folding innovations such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) into the workflows of its large organization, which operates with 14 offices in 10 states and earns annual revenues of more than $2 billion.
While Humphries isn’t connected to Barton Malow’s overall efficiency effort, about three years ago the internal virtual design and construction (VDC) department approached him about incorporating the HoloBuilder cloud-based site documentation platform, including the JobWalk 360-degree reality capture app. Barton Malow Senior VDC Engineer Steffanie Schrader showed Humphries the HoloBuilder system and essentially told him to use it however would benefit him the greatest.
“Steffanie showed me how you can take multiple 360-degree photos throughout the week, every week, and I thought, ‘man, this is awesome,’” Humphries says. “You see the whole progress of a job site with this tool. So, the little hamster wheel in my brain started spinning.”
At the time, Humphries was using an old digital camera to photograph work sites, and when Schrader offered to shoot one of his sites using HoloBuilder, he was amazed at what she accomplished with it in only 30 minutes.
The Convenience of Time Saved
When Humphries details his old process of photographing a construction site, the frustration is tempered with a relief that those days are now gone. He used to take a camera into every room, shoot photos of every wall, try to record which room and which floor each photo represents, and then upload it to a computer where most people would never see them because they didn’t want to take the time to compare four photos of the same room.
Now he can easily store and send his captured job sites to clients and sub-contractors so they can identify issues and see progress.
Not only does Humphries save time on the initial site capture, but HoloBuilder also saves him time when there are problems to examine on the site.
“In the ‘old days,’ or ten years ago, let’s say you have to go to the roof of a three-story building and walk through ten acres to get there,” he says. “To get out there, look at the problem, snap a picture, bring it back to my office, upload it, and write the RFI, that’s 30 minutes. And that’s an engineer. Now with HoloBuilder pictures taken every week, 90% of the time I can go through HoloBuilder, clip the picture, and write the RFI in five minutes.”
He estimates that a typical day might require four such RFIs, saving two hours of an engineer’s high-level time. Furthermore, if he has multiple projects going on, and they are all 30 miles across town, he cuts out another large swathe of commuting time.
“Now I don’t have to necessarily house an engineer on the job site,” Humphries says. “You have the ability to problem-solve remotely, and that’s huge.”
Easy as 1–2–360
These days Humphries uses HoloBuilder on every one of his projects, but rather than do it himself, his intern Ivan Pastirak handles most of the HoloBuilder site documentation. Ivan hit the ground running. After learning HoloBuilder with another project engineer on one job, he was comfortable enough with the system to go out on his own for the next job.
“It’s really user-friendly and straightforward,” Ivan says. “It has definitely helped me with my awareness of a job site and recognizing where I am in the plans. Sometimes I get funny looks on the job site from contractors or laborers who wonder what I’m doing. I’ll give them a preview of it, and immediately they’re blown away.”
HoloBuilder’s ease of use and short learning curve have also helped other new employees deliver great results to clients. For example, a new Barton Malow project engineer used HoloBuilder to create a punch list that our architect partner said was one of the best thought-through and laid out punch lists they’d seen in 30 years.
“He was about as green as they come in construction,” Humphries said. “He was a health science major. But after a month or two of using HoloBuilder he could integrate it with what he knew about closing out a job to make a punch list even easier to use. He hit a home run with the owner. And it’s going from three days of creation to about a day because the pictures are already taken, and that’s 90% of the battle. It’s definitely saving me time and money and effort.”
Besides the financial savings that stem from redirecting engineers’ time for better use and lower commuting costs, Ivan thinks that the HoloBuilder platform can function like a cheaper version of laser scanning for new construction. “It’s also easy to transfer project data state-to-state,” he says, “and much more cost-effective than flying someone to Florida to look at a hospital.”
Humphries emphasizes HoloBuilder’s affordability and how it helps his directive of driving costs down. However, he also praises it for its presentation value to clients.
“You don’t realize the marketing aspects for us,” Humphries says. “Nine times out of ten, people are visual when they communicate. We’re a really visual team. We’ll be in the middle of our owner/contractor/architect meetings, and it’s really a benefit to open up HoloBuilder with pictures that are ready to talk about. The other day a prospect asked me about the cancer centers we have done, and I sent her two pictures using HoloBuilder. I’ve shown HoloBuilder to the executive who’s going to be running this hospital, saying ‘anytime you want a picture of a suite, I’ll send it right over.’ I walk them quickly through the progress of where we are, and they’re just amazed by it.”
A Reference Library of Earlier Projects
Humphries mentioned that the healthcare field in and around Orlando is probably the most proactive in strategically using HoloBuilder, and that’s also a field that Barton Malow frequently serves. Ivan likened the company’s HoloBuilder archive to “historical data” that they can reference for new, similar jobs.
“If I build an MRI, CAT scan, or X-ray room, we can go back to old projects we’ve done,” Humphries says, “because those rooms don’t change very much with layouts.” He has a current project that he calls a “mirror image” of a previous job, where referencing that data in HoloBuilder comes in very handy. “I can see how they built something from the time lapse on all the photos.
That older data can help with training newer employees or superintendents who haven’t worked on those jobs yet or demonstrate possibilities to new clients. For example, Barton Malow worked on a room for a linear accelerator (LINAC), a multi-million dollar machine for destroying cancer cells that requires some specific infrastructure within a room. When Humphries needed to show the before and after photos of the LINAC room, it was a quick and easy task for HoloBuilder.
Adopting Technology in Construction
Both Humphries and Ivan agreed that if it needed to, Barton Malow could conduct its business without adopting new technologies such as HoloBuilder… for now. The day may be fast approaching when such advanced technologies are not a luxury or an optional upgrade, but rather a necessity.
“HoloBuilder is definitely popular among general contractors that are trying to pursue new work,” Ivan says. “Keeping up with technology is important, and it’s easy to get left behind.”
“Is it a must-have?” Humphries asks. “I’m going to say yes. In the next ten years, if this software isn’t utilized on almost every construction project, I’d be surprised. Earlier than that hopefully. What’s coming up now is not only how to be tech-savvy, but how to actually do your job better.”
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