With the explosive introduction of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence systems, cloud computing, and digital twins, technology adoption continues to evolve and gain steam within the construction industry. With this trend, industry leaders within both the technology and construction world are pursuing a “partnering” approach, which emphasizes increased collaboration and idea-sharing to drive meaningful impacts in the industry.
Two such leaders are Javier Glatt, Co-Founder of cmBuilder.io and Frank L. Ciminelli II, President & CEO of the Buffalo, NY-based firm, Arc Building Partners. Trained as an engineer, Frank is an established construction industry veteran and innovator that strives to push his firm forward by integrating knowledge with technology.
Javier and Frank sat down to discuss the multi-dimensional role of digital technologies in overall digital project delivery, client & risk management and, of course, construction site logistics simulations with the cmBuilder.io platform. Arc has embraced a number of these new technologies in their operations in order to set the standard for digital technology adoption and rise as an industry leader.
Some background on Arc Building Partners:
Within the ever-evolving construction industry, Arc has built and maintained a strong sense of purpose that is well embedded in their brand. An arc, such as the one in their logo, is much like a bridge, a shield and a story arc, symbolizing the many hats they wear for their clients and communities. As members of the construction industry, Arc plays a proactive role in defending the environment and the social fabric of the neighborhoods they serve. By pairing innovation and a whole lot of hard work with meaningful partnerships, Arc helps clients transform empty lots, vacant buildings and hazardous brownfields into buildings designed to better serve those that occupy them.
The transition to digital
As we zoom further into this story arc, Frank touches on the growing number of obstacles faced by the construction industry. From the expanding complexity of projects and building materials, to project delivery models (Design Build, Integrated Project Delivery, etc.). With complexity comes added risks, which have served as a forcing function for investment in new technologies and workflows that mitigate these risks and deliver value for clients. Being an early adopter of technologies, such as 3D, Building Information Modeling (BIM) coordination and cloud-based project management software like Procore, has been key to Arc’s mission of getting ahead of the curve. Frank put an emphasis on cloud-based collaboration technologies and how they can be critical to acting as a common data environment for stakeholders. This “hub of information enables everyone on the team to see the same thing and be on the same page.”
The utilization of digital
Frank details how Arc has specifically utilized digital technologies like 3D/4D site logistics modeling and BIM as a means to generate a “digital twin,” or a digital visual representation of a final asset. The digital twin serves as a pathway between the strategic plan and the final physical product. He also shed light on the potential of AI, where digital twins and 4D simulations can be fed into an AI engine to establish “digital feedback loops.” This allows for risk management and forecasting through the comparison of planned versus actual progress.
Another area Frank is passionate about is pushing digital models out to the field, to encourage better collaboration-centric models between all stakeholders on the project. At Arc, this has helped flatten the learning curve for their field teams and “demystify” the use of these technologies. The value unlock is to digitize the under-digitalized people out in the field to drive better decision making, produce a higher quality end product and further technology adoption.
One driving force to this acceleration of tech adoption at Arc has been the introduction of the cmBuilder platform to their project planning workflow for powerful, yet easy to perform 3D/4D site logistics simulations. Frank emphasized the importance of project planning, noting that cmBuilder has been critical to getting buy-in on the site logistics plan and validating that the proposed plan will work. As noted by Ana Alcocer, the VDC Manager at Arc, cmBuilder’s ease-of-accessibility has enabled Arc to effortlessly integrate the software into their operations, accommodating their multi-generational workforce that has varying levels of technological proficiency.
The next phase for digital
As we delved deeper into what the next decade holds for digital construction technologies, Frank shared an insightful opinion that focuses on the improvisation of the current processes. He believes that current obstacles are anchored within delivery models in the form of legal contracts, transactions, permissions and more. He stated that, “technology must be leveraged as a catalyst to force a different conversation as to what the appropriate delivery model must be – the right way to assemble a team in terms of bringing the right people into the project at the right time, with the right subject matter expertise and with the necessary governance around it.” The engineer in Frank is always thinking process first. He notes that even with the most powerful digital technologies, it is vital to first find the best project delivery models and risk sharing structures to deploy them. Otherwise, the impacts will be diminished.