How General Contractors and Owners Enable Virtual Collaboration

openspace webinar owners enable virtual collaboration

Before recent events, the construction industry was characterized as being slow to adopt new technologies. Increasingly, general contractors and owners are using cloud-based platforms and virtual collaboration tools, with no intention of going back to the old ways of business. 

The rise of construction technology, and the ways in which GCs and owners have adapted to new working conditions in the COVID era, was the focus of a recent webinar hosted by AGC of California, the state’s largest construction trade association. Below, we recap some of the top insights from the webinar. 

Bringing the Jobsite to Home 

Breawn Felix, a virtual design and construction manager for Swinerton, shared that her company has upwards of 1,600 office and field staff, 50% of whom are currently working from home. She discussed that when states went into lockdown, Swinerton had to identify solutions to enable virtual collaboration internally for design teams and externally for coordination with subcontractors and inspectors. 

To give inspectors virtual access to jobsites, her team chose OpenSpace rather than traditional laser scanning in combination with Matterport because of how easy their machine learning and computer vision solutions make it to capture a site. This is key because a site has to be captured frequently for current conditions to be rendered accurately, which makes it essential that the process is simple.

“The learning curve goes way down [with OpenSpace]; you can literally strap a 360 camera on your superintendent’s head and say, ‘Just go walk,’” Felix said.

In addition to facilitating remote inspections, tools like OpenSpace offer a split-screen view, letting team members compare an area over time or current conditions to the BIM model. All of this can be done from home or any internet-connected device. 

Setting Up the Foundation for Virtual Collaboration 

Autodesk’s VP-Construction Strategy, Dustin DeVan, observed that the construction industry is collaborative, yet fragmented. Several companies work together towards a common goal on any given construction project, but these companiesand their dataare frequently siloed.

He described how companies like Swinerton use BuildingConnected to streamline the bid and risk management process. Autodesk is also investing in technology that makes data actionable, such as Construction IQ, which analyzes RFIs, issues, and other data points to gauge how risky a project is in real-time. 

“We’re applying machine learning and AI to provide predictive analytics, not reactive information, so [construction firms] can proactively manage risk and have better outcomes,” DeVan said. 

Autodesk leverages open APIs and a collaborative approach to partnerships to make sure all the information construction professionals need is readily available to make informed decisions and properly predict business outcomes. 

Maximizing Limited Resources

In light of recent events, owners are uniquely receptive to emerging technology. Kate Mergen, Associate Vice President of Government Affairs at AGC, concluded the session by noting that her organization is urging owners to test the efficacy of virtual tours. Deep cuts to California’s budget impacting state-funded construction projects are expected, consequently streamlined processes and workflows that result in cost savings will be especially important.

“Being able to eliminate administrative burden by taking advantage of some of these tools will be key to ensuring that projects aren’t slowed down due to a lack of resources on the owner side,” she said. 

To learn more about how OpenSpace can aid in remote project management, download our one-sheet here.

Learn more about Matterport and OpenSpace integrations with Autodesk Construction Cloud via  BIM 360 and PlanGrid.

Alex Brown

Alex is the Sales & Business Development Manager at OpenSpace. He is dedicated to bringing the future to the present, dedicating his career to helping bridge the gap between new era technologies and old-school industries to help build the world faster and more efficiently.

At 3D Robotics, Alex worked on Site Scan -- an enterprise drone software that produced digital twins of construction sites, open pit mines, and civil engineering projects. Site Scan helped automate laborious and costly workflows such as estimations for excavation, aerial progress tracking, and as-built documentation.

Now at OpenSpace, he has a similar mission but this time helping solve this problem for the interior of a construction site. Since drones can't fly indoors, OpenSpace is able to strap a 360 camera on top of a hard hat which continually captures images and produces a Google-Street style walkthrough of a project. Great solution for daily photo documentation, quickly creating RFIs, and virtually communicating progress for OAC meetings.

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