Many of the leading firms on the newly released ENR Top 400 Contractors list are using construction technology to make workers safer and more productive.
For instance, several of the largest constructors in the country are employing artificial intelligence tool Smartvid.io, which uses jobsite photos, videos and other sources to identify and label risks such as standing water or missing personal protective equipment like hard hats, safety glasses, gloves and more. The nature of machine learning means that the more data is fed into the tool, the more the algorithm, dubbed “Vinnie,” can advance in its accuracy.
Nine firms joined a data-sharing council in March to further accelerate the tool: Suffolk, Barton Malow, Clayco, DPR Construction, JE Dunn, Messer Construction Co., Mortenson, Shawmut Design and Construction and the Bouygues Group.
No. 52 Shawmut, for example, is piloting Smartvid.io on at least 30 projects, CEO Les Hiscoe told Construction Dive. “It’s really one of the few pieces of AI that I’ve seen applied in construction,” he said.
Safety leaders at No. 36 firm Webcor, which is also piloting Smartvid.io, are also looking to technology to target and prioritize the most pressing risks on jobsites. When trends come to light via this or other technologies, “you use those tools to help create the kind of conversation that you want,” Webcor Builders VP Greg Chauhan told Construction Dive. Managers might use the next toolbox talk or morning huddle to review best practices for an area that’s seeing safety lapses, he suggested.
Major players in the construction realm are spending money to help generate new tech-based ideas (click here for a rundown of the top firms). For instance, Messer Construction — No. 83 on ENR's list — has invested in a venture capital company focused on researching new construction technologies. The initiative “gives us a front row seat to observe what’s being developed and the opportunity to partner deeper with those companies if we see value in it for the industry,” Messer’s COO Mark Luegering told ENR.
In addition, No. 92 Moss is investing in a new technology company called TRIVA that has a unique application to monitor the movement of equipment and people to improve efficiency and safety.
Many top firms are experimenting with AI image recognition tools for risk mitigation. For example, Shawmut is using Microsoft Power BI to pull data into a structured dashboard with more comprehensive insights than each source could provide on its own. It’s a work in progress, as the contractor determines which information will offer the most value, Hiscoe told Construction Dive.
Webcor is customizing the same tool to leverage better insight on leading and lagging indicators, according to Chauhan. The ability to eventually review a dashboard from the field for project-specific trends on risks, injuries or real-time environmental conditions, he told Construction Dive, “helps reinforce … that we’re creating a culture that’s going to take care of workers.”
BIM software is taking on more of a role within large construction companies as well. In a test earlier this year, Paric Construction (No. 177) used Autodesk's BIM 360 Construction IQ software to reduce its quality and safety issues on site. The machine learning tool analyzes large swaths of project data to rate safety and quality issues by risk level. Its algorithms can sort through hundreds or thousands of issues from projects using BIM 360 to compile a daily risk assessment dashboard, according to the company, and issues that rise to the top typically involve the risk of a fall, water hazards, a pending safety inspection or overdue action item.
Paric Construction’s VP of technology and innovation, Andy Leek, told Construction Dive that company workflows have changed since implementing the tool during pre-release and now across all projects. “It moves us away from reporting,” he said, where someone has to run a report on a regular basis, disseminate the information and sometimes run further reports based on a leader’s request for more information.
The company now has a project manager, superintendent or project engineer complete a checklist each day with about 50 items and report any issue that they observe on the spot. “Instead of a report having to be generated, the checklist collects all these issues that are automatically feeding into the dashboard,” Leek said.
AECOM, the country's fourth-largest construction firm according to ENR, recently deployed Revizto software on five major commercial high-rise projects in New York City, including 30 Hudson Yards, One Vanderbilt and One Manhattan West. The cloud-based system converts BIM models into collaborative 3D environments.
AECOM's internal Future of Construction initiative will keep the innovations coming, Mike Lorenzo, director of emerging technologies with AECOM Building Construction, told Construction Dive.
“In terms of the technology we use, we’re at a different place now than we were 10 or 15 years ago, when there were one or two folks on a job that were assigned to be the ‘tech guys’ but nobody else had to know about it,” he said. “We’re investing the time and resources to make company-wide leaps to new types of technology every year.”