Lane & Waterman’s Innovation Interviews highlight the unique and innovative work our clients do in the community. This week, we focus on Bush Construction Company’s use of virtual reality and technology in construction services. We sat down with Bush President AJ Loss and Virtual Design + Construction Manager Michael Johnson to learn about driving innovation for their company.
Tell us a little bit about how you use virtual reality in construction.
Michael: We have introduced 360 photography and reality capture to bring to life what buildings will look like before they are even built. In the pre-construction phase, this allows clients to go from trying to visualize a 2-dimensional rendering to walking through their space. It’s not just about the “cool factor” of doing something like this. For instance, in a health care setting, creating this kind of experience can allow us to do time studies and verify the functionality of a work space.
We aim to introduce technologies such as virtual reality and reality capture into as many of our projects as possible. Virtual Reality allows our clients and our building teams to visualize various aspects or our construction process in an immersive, full-scale environment. With today’s technologies, clients shouldn’t have to rely on traditional 2D technical drawings to visualize and understand their future space. These enhanced technologies bring the process to life, allowing everyone to make more informed and educated decisions. Reality Capture (using a 360 camera) allows us to model the built environment and utilize it in our computer models. This brings another level of communicating, verification, and confidence in our building process. These technologies can be applied across the industries that we build for.
In an industry like real estate, the benefits are more obvious –it is easier to sell a space when a potential buyer can “walk through” it.
AJ: What’s exciting about the 3D space scanning technology is it’s so versatile. For existing structures, we can set up cameras and use software to measure the space and capture the pertinent details we’ll need later, from the comfort of our office. This saves the client time and money and eliminates potential for human error. We can also integrate the scan and place it against computer models in order to help solve problems for us before they reach the job site.
How else are you using technology to change your business?
Michael: We are pushing to implement various cloud computing platforms, as well as analyze the data that they store. They are changing, and will continue to change, the way our teams communicate. New solutions come out every day that allow us to share data across teams and departments, allowing for us to be more nimble and collaborative. We are excited about what we can learn from the data we collect every day.
AJ: One area of our business that’s benefited from improving our data management is estimating costs on projects. We can mine our data better and create better estimates for our clients, because we have a better system for storing and retrieving it.
In what ways has the construction industry changed in your time in construction?
AJ: General contractors are looked at as more of a professional service than they were 10 years ago, so our industry needs companies committed to being more than simply builders of buildings. The construction industry is evolving and general contractors are expected to be expert process managers–getting more done with less time and cost.
Of course, technology plays a hand in that. The technology developments we’re using in VR and data mining allow us to be more efficient and mitigate risks better, and in the end, allow us to manage the process to create quality projects for our customers.
Technology is important, but at the end of the day, we take responsibility for the process and make sure every project is done with integrity and honesty.