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The Necessary Marriage of Construction and technology in the Post Pandemic World

Shawn McNamara, Director of Business Development, Dayton Superiors

The Necessary Marriage of Construction and technology in the Post Pandemic WorldShawn McNamara, Director of Business Development, Dayton Superiors

Construction and technology have long complemented each other since the inception of design and construction. Key examples representative of this interdependent relationship can be observed over the past Millenia from the creation of the Pyramids in Egypt and the Romans demonstrating aesthetically pleasing yet revolutionary practical aqueducts. The demand for more complex, higher-performing structures has required more efficient design and construction techniques, pushing our industries forward and enabling us to build better, faster, and safer.

COVID-19 has demonstrated our reliance and adaptivity with technology during and post-pandemic due to constrained materials, increased demand, and a depleted labor force. As project demands increase and timelines decrease, this post-pandemic effect has made the adoption of the newer workplace and on-site technologies/computing a necessity as opposed to a luxury. The drastic reduction and constraints within a vocation and STEM-related fields have created more efficient building design essential.

Dayton Superior has experienced these challenges but has witnessed enormous success in mitigating these constraints by integrating and investing in technology. During lockdown of 2020, we needed to pivot swiftly as we saw unprecedented demand and growth within commercial Distribution and Warehouses. Yet, simultaneously, our team was undergoing the same challenges faced globally; labor shortages, working remotely, social distancing protocols, etc. Therefore, it became increasingly evident swift change was required, and utilizing our existing resources more efficiently was critical. We initiated a complete restructure of internal processes within our Tilt-Up business sector, harnessing our proprietary software Tilt-Werks® as the backbone. Tilt-Werks® began its life as a Structural Engineering software, but after years of development and practical use by engineers, it is now a staple within the Tilt-Up industry, utilized by every stakeholder within the construction process (See Figure 1). Cloud-based technologies like Tilt-Werks® continue to emerge, providing value within the entire construction process. 

The method of submitting a singular set of drawings downstream to multiple stakeholders is linear, causing unnecessary delays, RFI’s, financial burden, mistakes, and potential safety issues. With Tilt-Werks®, the process is more collaborative.

"The drastic reduction and constraints within a vocation and STEM-related fields have created more efficient building design essential."

With principal materials such as steel and concrete constrained in today’s market, using technology to capitalize on the most efficient design can be the difference between not being awarded a project and facing owner/developer back charges due to unforeseen delays in obtaining materials. In a recent project, by utilizing advanced tools such as Tilt-Werks®, savings exceeding $50,000 dollars were realized by the contractor from optimizing steel quantities specified. Inherently, nothing was incorrect with the initial design from an engineering and safety standpoint but using spreadsheets, and older design methodologies resulted in an overly conservative structure. With newer tools, projects can now be analyzed from a micro perspective to optimize every portion of the work scope. If we extrapolate these savings using the estimated market size of Tilt-Up, published by the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA), that presents upwards of over $50,000,000 dollars of unnecessary building materials in one construction sector alone. Overlaying this with today’s market constraints, the lack of employing more technology-based tools within the design and construction sectors will likely contribute to excess material needs, reduced profit margins, and resulting less investor expansion.

As more advanced technologies materialize, it is crucial to consider the transitional relationship between established methods and new technological tools. Ensuring efficiency through transition is paramount. Without proper program support, projects and processes are subject to harmful disruption. Therefore, innovation and incorporation between BIM and technology tools such as REVIT®continue to set the standard, reshaping the construction industry during this revolutionary period. Transforming what was previously weeks’ worth of work into hours is invaluable. Thus, bridging the gap between older 2D and accepted BIM technologies with cutting-edge 3D building models every trade can utilize to best perform their scope of work. 

As mentioned above, the current workforce is transitioning between generations, and it has become increasingly difficult to find replacements. We have seen success by engaging both our Technical and Non-Technical associates with newer technologies, such as Tilt-Werks®, thereby working towards a solution for a constrained workforce and an engaged and interested new generation within design and construction. A recent report conducted by The US Chamber of Commerce concluded that “In the midst of a deepening workforce crisis, finding skilled labor continues to be a challenge for contractors. This quarter, 88 percent of contractors report moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers. Of those, nearly half (45 percent) report a high level of difficulty.”Our younger generation’s exposure to computers and technology since birth provides a unique and new perspective on our industry challenges today and in the future. Of which, we should be embracing, as technology will most certainly be a part of future solutions.

Additionally, the importance of engaging with publications has, and will always remain paramount. However, using technology as a driving factor has enabled additional success as well. Dayton Superior’s partnership with the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) on providing personal, hands-on ACI certification events has engaged and captured new and future talent within the industry. During the uncertainty and challenge of COVID, technology-enabled us at Dayton Superior to experience unprecedented growth, outreach, and engagement through partnership programs such as ACI Certifications through the TCA. Telecommuting and virtual engagement have continued to ensure our industries thrive and develop for the everyday challenges we encounter and the solutions they demand.

 

As this symbiotic relationship between technology and society continues to foster, it is important that we keep a tactful eye on ensuring our design and construction communities mindfully adopt new approaches and tools. It is our duty as design and construction professionals to aptly drive the industry forward, suitably meet owners’ needs, and, most importantly, provide safety to the public.

 

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