Day One at the 7th Annual AGC IT Forum Conference


Late July I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the 7th Annual AGC IT Forum Conference in Chicago. The conference, an industry-leading technology event, consists of a day and a half of amazing presentations and demonstrations of new and cutting-edge technology for the construction industry. There were several great presentations at the conference.

A few of the highlights from the first day for me were:

One of the new additions to the conference was the Tech Talks session. These were short 15-minute presentations that focused on technology topics by speakers such as Brent Darnell, Brian Laird, Rawle Sawh, and Michael Faddis.

Tech Talk 1: Avoid Project Collaboration Mistakes (Brent Darnell)
Mr. Darnell started off his Tech Talk with a crowd exercise in communication. He had all of the attendees stand up for a group exercise on communication. He instructed each person to turn to another person and send a "clap" to them. That person then would turn and do the same. Rinse and repeat. This exercise continued with increasing complexity. The point of all this was how details can be lost in communication.

He then asked the audience "How can technology help solve problems on construction platforms?" He pointed out that great IT platforms cannot fix people problems. Mr. Darnell stressed the importance of the human factor in finding solutions to IT-related problems. He informed the audience that there were three mistakes to overcome in good communication. The biggest is not "clearly defining the problem (and the value).

Tech Talk 2: Laser Scanning- Reality of Reality Capture (Brian Laird)
Mr. Laird works for Rick Engineering in the GIS and laser scanning group. Most of the company's scanning is for vertical work in California. He asked the audience "What is the value I get out of laser scanning?".A few of the items of value for construction companies that Mr. Laird pointed out were....

Accurate As-Built Conditions: By using laser scanning technology contractors can obtain accurate field As-Built conditions to compare against design documents (e.g., location of ductwork on a project).

Real World Data: By scanning the actual physical space, contractors can now add real world data to a model to use for clash detection and redesign.

Streamlining: Contractors can streamline the virtual spatial coordination process between an owner, the A&E team, and general contractor.

One concept Mr. Laird brought up was "BIM’atite." What problem are you trying to solve? What is the end goal of BIM use? By this he was inquiring as to what an owner or contractor is trying to accomplish with BIM. In summary, Mr. Laird reminded the audience that laser scanning helps minimize change during construction, set explicit expectations for projects, software catching up to hardware, and scanning adoption is on the rise.

Tech Talk 3: Laser Scanning ROI (Rawle Sawh)
Mr. Sawh is a VDC manager for Gilbane Construction Company. The Gilbane team has been using laser scanning internally for a few years and owns four scanner units across the country that they use on project sites. The scanners and the data they generate help remove uncertainty and reduce risk of pre-existing conditions. One of the seven deadly sins of contracting is accepting poor design documents. The use of new technology helps reduce the risk of uncertainty on renovation projects.

Mr. Sawh explained to the attendees why Gilbane invested in laser scanning:

Obtain better "As-built" conditions of projects.
Outsourcing the process was very expensive
The software has become extremely user friendly

Tech Talk 4: Internet of Things (Michael Faddis)
Michael Faddis is an architect of solutions focused on the user experience working for Vokal. He builds for the Internet of Things, helps  enable companies use mobile devices and wearable technologies. One interesting thing that Mr. Faddis pointed out is that devices currently outnumber humans. People are using more and more devices that are enabled and connected. The Internet of Everything is here from components such as smart thermostats to smart locks.

Affordable Solutions / Open Forum
This year I had the honor of moderating the popular open discussion technology forum. This is a very interactive 90-minute session that allows attendees to ask questions, seek answers, and share relevant "affordable solutions" that benefit their businesses.

I started off the topic discussion with a live demonstration of how the Trello App worked to manage team workflows. Trello is a web-based platform that allows teams to stay organized about to-do lists and project status.

Some of the topics and solutions discussed included:

Social Media Workflows
Free Apps
Time Sheets

Rapid Fire Demos
A recent addition to the session line up at the conference has been the "Rapid Fire Demos" of products by developers and contractors. These are short 15-minute sessions that educate the audience about a particular app or platform that improves a construction workflow.

Procore Rapid Fire Demo
Ryan DePauw, a sales engineer with ProCore, delivered the afternoon Rapid Fire Demo of the Procore platform. Mr. DePauw first informed the audience about the history of the Procore platform. Procore was started around 13 years ago as an early cloud-based platform.

A recap of day two will appear in the September issue of Tech Brief.

Rob McKinney is a construction technology blogger, consultant and founder of, a website with a mission to educate the AEC community about the uses for technology in construction. He is also a member of the AGC IT Forum Steering Committee.