Technology is the way of the future, helping ease challenges in any industry. However, it can pose its own challenge as well. That’s where Jason Waddell, Director of Construction Technology at Batson-Cook, comes in. His goal is to streamline tech decisions to ensure the greatest possible efficacy, cost savings, and ease. We sat down with him to talk about just that. Keep reading to learn more.
Batson-Cook is a 108-year-old company. We do commercial construction, pretty much anything vertical. Half of our business is in healthcare, our specialty, and the rest is commercial: schools, park decks, and any other type of vertical construction.
I started as an estimator out of school, and I was always interested in technology, especially lean methodology. I never wanted to do things twice or have to do something over. A lot of times, that meant finding the right technology.
It started with digitizer boards, then transitioned to onscreen takeoff, which I was instrumental in implementing at my first company. I started learning Revit and got into modeling jobs. Then the BIM side exploded, and I ended up leading the team at a new company, doing laser scanning, coordination, and everything in between.
Then, I moved here to Batson-Cook and started building a technology strategy from the ground up.
Honestly, it might be the implementation of Autodesk Construction Cloud. We use it exclusively across all of our divisions and projects. We don't have any folders, servers, or anything that projects can store data on – we just use Autodesk Construction Cloud for 100 percent of our projects.
On the BIM and VDC side, we also use Autodesk Construction Cloud, so all our data is in one spot. Doing so encompasses a handful of tools, all of which are integrated into Autodesk Construction Cloud and run from Autodesk.
When I started, I pretty much did anything and everything that was required. Now I have a full staff, so the role has become managing people, delegating, and looking for the next best thing out there. That means researching software, getting demos, and trying to find what we can use next. There’s a lot to choose from and I have to ask: How will this support more than 500 people and a whole company? It’s a real challenge.
I think technology actually is part of the problem, not really the solution, in my role. I'm trying to implement technology to become more productive, but people don't want to implement new technology. My challenge is to get people to drop their defenses a little bit in the name of productivity.
This is especially challenging in operations and with superintendents who want to do it the way they’ve always done it. To convince people to use something new it's got to be practical, it's got to work, and it's got to be easy to use for everyone to use. With more and more technology coming out, finding what works is a huge job.
Currently, we’re working on a hospital expansion, and I believe it is the biggest project Batson-Cook has ever built. The site is 20 acres total with 2 different phases. We first built a retention vault: concrete walls, slab, footing, columns, and beams. It’s basically a complete building underground. We’re building it where a massive retention pond used to sit, so that’s a tremendous challenge. Then we focused on a medical office building and a parking deck. Since turning over the MOB and parking deck including about ¾ of the site we now have a huge logistical challenge building the bed tower expansion with no laydown.
In addition to that, we have to build a brand-new central energy plant that’s two stories and 50,000 square feet to support the new addition.
Autodesk Construction Cloud has helped a ton. We collaborate directly with designers and subcontractors within it so we don’t have to download and upload files between separate sites. It saves us 40 to 50 hours a week just in model transfers. When you add in takeoff and licensing, the ease and time savings are through the roof.
I started by asking myself: Who’s got the biggest vision for long-term expansion and growth? The clear answer was Autodesk, and the same was true for pricing. With the enterprise agreement offering us unlimited access to the whole suite and cloud-based tools, it was a no-brainer. Now everything we use from design through construction is Autodesk, and everything integrates perfectly.
We’re always trying to find the next best thing, and lately, we've been looking into robotics and augmented reality. That’s definitely what’s on the horizon for us.