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10 Minutes with Juan Rodriguez, P.E.

In his 20 years as an engineer, Juan Rodriguez has done it all. He’s been a project manager on solar and wind projects, and his experience ranges from procurement to field work. It’s no wonder he writes about worksite practices, safety, and technology for About.com.

ARC Document Solutions spoke with Rodriguez recently about trends in construction, new technology, BIM, drones and other topics.

ARC: How often is state of the art technology being used for estimating in the industry?

JR: Most of the larger contractors (with annual revenues of $50 million and up) are using state of the art estimating software. At least half of the smaller contractors are doing the same. It’s important to have a specialized team of estimators—workers who know how the logistics work.

That’s something that the specialized software itself will not get you: a good team backing you up, using historical data, trends, and technology.

ARC: How fast is BIM use trending upward?

JR: Right now there’s a huge trend. About 70 percent of the industry has at least shown interest in using BIM. In projects where there are large buildings, like in residential, that’s when BIM really has the value—partly because you can sequence construction activities. You can also show the owners, ahead of time, what the final project will look like. It’s an emerging trend. Many contractors lately have been required to use BIM for certain projects.

ARC: Is drone technology use also growing?

JR: Yes, because it’s a great tool for providing inspections of areas that are hard for a person to view—like under beams on a large bridge over water. Drones are being used for preventative maintenance; for example, instead of having a barge with employees on it or employees in a helicopter inspecting an area doing a damage assessment after a storm, you use a drone. Companies are owning the drone systems themselves because they’re so easy to use. Some are also using drones for surveying.

ARC: How much longer will some companies be able to get away with using old technology to handle tasks that newer technology handles well?

JR: It’s only a matter of time—in less than five years, everything will be virtual. The change is being driven by stakeholders. The industry is evolving toward virtual reality.

ARC: Does all of the project management software available to companies help their workers think and work smarter?

JR: The software is a guide that you can use. As long as you have the right employee using it, it can be helpful; otherwise, it’s useless.

ARC: Have owners’ expectations of contractors’ performance been raised by the widely available technology?

JR: The tolerance for re-work and errors is now lower because there are tools that help you avoid these issues.

ARC: Are more owners expecting to be able to do virtual walk-throughs of their projects, even before they’ve awarded bids to contractors?

JR: Yes. Every day more and more stakeholders are asking contractors to show them how the project will look when it’s built. The new trend is 3D printing. Some firms are interested in using 3D printing so they can see exactly how everything will be put together.

ARC: Are contractors becoming more tech savvy?

JR: They are becoming more tech savvy. You can see that even in the workforce. Companies are looking for employees who can use this technology, and older employees are looking to catch up with those technologies and stay caught up.

ARC: When will companies move from 3D BIM to 4D?

JR: It’s already happening. Some are still working in 3D. In the near future, we’ll be moving all the way to 5D.

ARC: Do you think project management apps are becoming more user-friendly and easier to use?

JR: That’s right. Now, you can see guys at the site using iPads and tablets, taking photos for issues. Every day, daily reports are being done with these devices. Some of these [software] tools will tell you when things need to be addressed.

ARC: Are more companies using hyperlinking to improve workflows and to update legacy construction documents?

JR: Yes, they are using options in the cloud to send updates. It’s because the cloud allows the information to be easily shared, and it offers savings through less paper use.

ARC: Are non-native English speakers being empowered on the jobsite by using construction apps?

JR: There are some really good apps out there, but they are not available in different languages. Those apps are being used by different trades to point out issues for progress reports. Some of the new apps are bilingual, allowing you to switch from English to Spanish.

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