Takeaways and recap from BD+C's Accelerate Live! innovation conference

BD+C Senior Editor John Caulfield offers takeaways and highlights from each speaker track at Accelerate Live!, which took place on May 10, in Chicago.

May 11, 2018 |

Accelerate Live!, Venue Six10, Chicago

TRACK #1: The Changing Built Environment

Eric Carbonnier, VP-Sustainability for HMC Architects, raised the provocative question about whether sustainability is the right design and construction model for a world that wants to conserve and grow at the same time, especially given the fact that last year, the world extracted 2.5 times more resources than it did the same year a half century ago.  He prefers a “regenerative” approach, where buildings and their surrounding communities work in tandem to generate resources rather than deplete them. To that end, HMC has established a Designing Futures Foundation to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders to leverage human and financial capital for communities. “We need to get the surpluses back up,” he said.

Aeron Hodges, Senior Designer/Manager for Stantec Architecture, advocated for a “micro” design strategy to meet the demands of more people who want to live in or near cities, but are increasingly being priced out of that option because of supply. She showed examples of downsized offices, microhospitals, and hotels. Hodges also noted how Millennials—who account for two-thirds of the population of Boston, her hometown—are willing to make space sacrifices to live closer to where they work. Stantec has developed a prototype called Hearth House, with zero parking, 250-sf micro apartments with prefab kitchens and baths, and social spaces, which Stantec contends can rent for $1,000 per month. Her firm is now looking at multiple sites in Boston to build this prototype.

Jeff Carpenter, IMEG Corp.'s National Director of Technology, made the argument that while the AEC industry has been talking about smart buildings for two decades, there are very few actual examples. Indeed, the term “smart building” is being upended by more specific terms like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Big Data. While precision is always preferable, Carpenter nevertheless thinks the AEC industry is in danger of relinquishing its thought leadership role to Silicon Valley, “which wants to turn buildings into vessels for their products.” He sees this as an existential moment for the AEC industry, which needs to articulate a “top-down vision” for the applications of these ideas in the built environment. One pathway, Carpenter recommended, is for firms to stop separating their teams into silos.

Tom Jacobs, Principal, Krueck + Sexton Architects, used his firm's expertise as a designer of fortified U.S. embassies around the world as the platform for urging his listeners to engage the communities they design and build in to better understand their clients' “hierarchy of needs.” He pointed specifically to a project his firm has been working on in West Engelwood, Ill., one of Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods, where the community is slowly taking back buildings and land that are being redeveloped to foment safety, security, and job creation. Jacobs said that the AD industry “needs to be more attuned to” its communities' needs.

TRACK #2: Project + Process Innovation

Rick Khan, Senior Director of Innovation for Mortenson Construction, teamed with Rene Morkos, CEO of Alice Technologies, to discuss how Mortenson is deploying Alice's system that applies artificial intelligence for optimizing project scheduling. On a healthcare project in Denver, Alice was able to create 66 million scheduling options, and provide Mortenson with the best 50 options, based in multiple design approaches. As a result, Mortenson shaved 84 days from the production schedule. “Alice provided us with a systematic way to find the best ‘what if,’ ” said Khan. He added that Mortenson's ultimate goal is to use technology in ways that allow for more and better human collaboration. 

Mark Skender, CEO of Skender, the construction company, shared the stage with his company's new Chief Design Officer Tim Swanson to talk about Skender's move toward lean principles that is combining design, manufacturing, and construction. Two months ago, Skender hired Swanson (from CannonDesign's Chicago office), acquired a design company, and launched a manufacturing company that will produce prefabricated components. Mark Skender called this mash up his company's “single source of truth” that will lead to “robust technology platforms” that it can use as a model for its supply-chain partners. Swanson pointed specifically to a multifamily project Skender is working on that is comprised of 208 modules; the only site work was bolting the modules together. Swanson can also envision the day when Skender develops control systems that track the performance of its buildings over time.

Steve Cavanaugh, Principal and Design Leader for DLR Group, espoused the virtues of mass timber as a construction material. He talked specifically about DLR's work on T3, a 220,000-sf loft mass timber office building in Minnesota that was developed by Hines. He said this building is located in a redevelopment district whose density parameters were well suited to using mass timber. DLR also designed the building's facade to be contextual with the surrounding industrial brick-made buildings. Cavanaugh said that using mass wood has several benefits, including that the material is renewable and that its production has a lower carbon footprint than steel or concrete. “And the most exciting thing for me is that the building is financially viable.” Next week, T3 Atlanta breaks ground, and a T3 mass timber office building in Chicago is in the planning stages.

Rohit Arora, Founder of Vin'R Technologies, guided the audience through the seven technologies—VR, AR, real-time rendering, AI, computer vision, drones, and robotics—that he believes are essential for the AEC industry to embrace. He showed how groups of these technologies intersect, and break down silos and barriers. (Two weeks ago, Arora started working as a software engineer for Katerra, the prefab manufacturer that amalgamates design, production, and construction.) Arora's vision foresees designers using VR headsets and robotics to design on-site, and collaborate with a projects' trades in the process. “The silos go away,” he said.

TRACK #3: AEC Technology Innovation

Using predictive jobsite analysis to make construction sites smarter was the topic of a presentation that centered on a strategic alliance between the startup Reconstruct Inc. and Oracle. Reconstruct is the first construction and engineering firm to be invited to join Oracle's Scaleup program. Mani Golparvar, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who is also Reconstruct's founder, explained how his company's solution presents an opportunity to tap into visual data, like drone photography, to create a 4D visual risk management SaaS platform, not only to show what is happening on a jobsite now, but also to predict what might happen in the future. Reconstruct is working with Clayco, the construction company, to use its system, which can be overlaid with BIM imagery.  This system also creates progress and productivity reports for clients.

David Polzin, CannonDesign's Executive Director of Design, and Jimmy Rotella, the firm's Digital Practice Director, discussed the advantages of multi-user virtual reality. Until recently, what people saw in VR wasn't all that much different from conventional renderings, and there was no interaction with other users. Now, though, VR is getting closer to recreating real-life images, and it's possible for different users to look at the same thing simultanously (even if they're in different cities). The next step, says Rotella, is to create consistent design models that live beyond the VR experience. He also anticipates data capture in VR environments. Polzin notes that VR could become so prevalent that competitions will consist of clients “walking through” VR designs, and picking what they like best.

Two executives from Skimore, Owings & Merrill — Lucas Tryggestad, its Technical Director; and Kyle Vansice, its Architectural Professional — talked about how SOM is linking structural research with fabrication methods. The prime example is AMIE — which stands for Additive Manufacturing & Integrated Energy, a zero-waste, energy efficient 3D-printed structure that SOM built in collaboration with the DOE's Oakridge Laboratories. What SOM learned from this project, said Tryggestad,  is that it can apply complex geometries to 3D printing; how to put the panels and forms together; and how to integrate 3D printed materials with conventional materials like steel and glass. Vansice said that SOM is interested in other ways of looking at structures geometrically, too, and has recently entered aligned with the University of Michigan to take conventional structural processes into 3D renderings.

Senior Designer Anthony Viola used his presentation to describe the design methodology of his firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, on three projects: the 600-meter-tall Wuhan Greenland Center in China, which through different design iterations was able to save 15% of the structural steel used on the building; the Expo 2017 project in Kazakhstan, where energy efficiency was a major factor in the design; and the Mobility Pavilion for the Expo 2020 in Dubai. “Our process doesn't necessarily presuppose the outcome” of the building, Viola explained. And his main point is that design investigations within the firm often lead to larger conversations about the project. 

TRACK #4: AEC Business Innovation

Chris Flint Chatto, Principal with ZGF Architects, discussed the next frontier for Post-Occupancy Evaluations (POEs), something that ZGF is just getting into but eventually wants to conduct on all of its projects. He touched on some of the ways — both complex and simple — his company has approached this. The takeaways so far, he said, are that AEC firms should start small but think big; that pre-occupancy surveying will inevitably inform POEs; and that the evaluations ultimately benefit the entire integrated project team.

Catherine Rose, Skanska USA's Director of Staff Development, has a background that includes stints with Proctor & Gamble, Lucent Technologies and Duke Energy. She has been helping Skanska corral the data it's been gathering and using by pushing the firm toward consistency and a collaborative framework. “We must connect the data, establish standards and support within the organization to connect the data, make greater use of AI, and see beyond the fog in order to see the future,” she said.

Greg Schleusner, Principal and Director of Design Technology for HOK, used the emergence of blockchain — and, more humorously, the omnipresence of cats on the Internet — to get into his discussion about how the industry might benefit from a less centralized way of sharing info and working together. He suggested that a co-op model that supports open source tools could be the best solution, and he's part of a five-firm group that is looking into putting something like that together for the industry.

David Morgareidge, Page's Predictive Analystics Director and Associate Principal, ended Accelerative Live! with a discussion about the digital transformation of the AEC industry, which has been triggered by greater data availability (through everything from sensors to IoT devices), computational capability, and the entry of new players that include giants like Google (through its Flux.io platform) and IBM (through the AI platform Watson), to startups like Aditazz. “The tools and talent are out there” for AEC firms to hop onto this digital revolution, he asserted. “All it takes is the vision to assemble them.”

 

 

The 2018 Accelerate Live! speaker roster:

TRACK #1: The Changing Built Environment

Sponsored by: SageGlass & SAFTI FIRST

 

8:30am - 8:45am
TALK #1 - Regenerative Design: When Sustainability is Not Enough
Eric Carbonnier, PhD, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President of Sustainability, Associate Principal, HMC Architects

 

8:50am - 9:05am
TALK #2 - From Micro Schools to Tiny Houses: What's Driving the Downsizing Economy?
Aeron Hodges, AIA, Senior Designer/Manager, Associate, Stantec Architecture

 

9:10am - 9:20am
Sponsor Talk: SageGlass, Dr. Alan D W McLenaghan, CEO, SageGlass

 

9:25am – 9:40am
TALK #3 - The IoT: Why The AEC Industry Must Adapt
Jeff Carpenter, National Director of Technology, IMEG Corp.

 

9:45am – 10:00am
TALK #4 - Security and the Built Environment: Insights From an Embassy Designer
Tom Jacobs, AIA, LEED BD+C, Principal, Krueck + Sexton Architects

 

10:05am – 10:15am
Sponsor Talk: SAFTI FIRST, Tim Nass, VP of Sales, SAFTI FIRST Fire Rated Glazing Solutions

 

 

TRACK #2: Project + Process Innovation

Sponsored by: Bluebeam

 

10:40am – 10:55am
TALK #5 - Using Artificial Intelligence For the Future State of Construction Scheduling
Rick Khan, Senior Director of Innovation, Mortenson Construction
Rene Morkos, CEO, ALICE Technologies

 

11:00am – 11:15am
TALK #6 - Cracking the Code on Manufacturing in Construction: An AEC Giant's Roadmap For Integrating Design, Manufacturing, and Construction
Mark Skender, CEO, Skender
Tim Swanson, Chief Design Officer, Skender

 

11:20am - 11:30am
Sponsor Talk: Bluebeam, Jeong Woo, PhD, Program Director of Construction Management, Associate Professor Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management, Milwaukee School of Engineering

 

11:35am – 11:50am
TALK #7 - T3 Mass Timber Office Buildings
Steve Cavanaugh, AIA, LEED AP, Architect, Principal, and Design Leader, DLR Group

 

11:55am – 12:10pm
TALK #8 - Seven Technologies That Restore Glory to the Master Builder
Rohit Arora, Founder, Vin’R Technologies

 

 

TRACK #3: AEC Technology Innovation

1:30pm - 1:45pm
TALK #9 - The Smart Jobsite: Predictive Visual Data Analytics
Mani Golparvar, PhD, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; CEO, Reconstruct Inc.
Tomislav Žigo, AIA, LEED AP, Vice President, Virtual Design and Construction, Clayco Inc.

 

1:50pm – 2:05pm
TALK #10 - The Rise of Multi-user Virtual Reality
David Polzin, AIA, LEED AP, Executive Director of Design, CannonDesign
Jimmy Rotella, Digital Practice Director, CannonDesign

 

2:10pm – 2:25pm
TALK #11 - Material Meets Data: How Advanced Digital Fabrication Techniques Are Driving Design Innovation
Lucas Tryggestad, AIA, LEED AP, Technical Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Kyle Vansice, Architectural Professional, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

 

2:30pm – 2:45pm
TALK #12 - Methods in Making: Design Innovation at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Anthony Viola, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Designer, Team Leader, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

 

TRACK #4: AEC Business Innovation

3:15pm – 3:30pm
TALK #13 - The Next Frontier of Post-Occupancy Evaluations
Chris Flint Chatto, Assoc. AIA, Principal, ZGF Architects

 

3:35pm – 3:50pm
TALK #14 - AEC Data Hunter: How a Fortune 500 Data Guru Is Transforming a Construction Giant
Catherine Rose, PhD, MBA, Director of Staff Development, Skanska USA

 

3:55pm - 4:10pm
TALK #15 - "AEC can has Blockchains?"
Greg Schleusner, AIA, Principal, Director of Design Technology Innovation, HOK

 

4:15pm - 4:30pm
TALK #16 - AEC + Data + AI: Poison For Some, Elixir For Others — What's Your Firm Drinking?
David L. Morgareidge, Predictive Analytics Director, Associate Principal, Page

 

4:35pm – 4:45pm
CONCLUSION + TAKEAWAYS

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