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By John Biggs
June 4, 2018
Before the first brick is laid or the first nail is hammered, a beehive of activity goes on at a construction site. It’s during this preconstruction process that the groundwork is (literally and figuratively) laid, and decisions made during this process set the tone and pace for the entire project.
As is the case with so much of the industry, preconstruction processes often require a lot of paperwork. Everything from the subcontractor bidding process, finalizing the design vision with the architect and engineer, worker and machinery scheduling requires page after page before construction can begin, and before technology helped streamline that process, much of it occurred in silos.
Taking advantage of the latest digital tools can greatly reduce the chances for a costly, unseen error from the outset that will result in time-consuming and expensive backtracking once construction is underway. Software is available today, like Procore, that digitizes processes like estimating and bidding, and perhaps most importantly, facilitates communication up and down the line of project stakeholders. These apps and software suites ensure all parties, supervisors, clients and managers are on the same page and have mutually agreed upon terms and details that are easily referenceable to everyone involved. This transparency facilitates collaboration, and reduces friction in the preconstruction process, Andy Leek, director of virtual design and construction at general contractor PARIC Corp. told Construction Dive.
“[The functionality] is helping to remove barriers. If we can throw it on the screen using tools like that, we can filter it down to pertinent pieces of the conversation, which results in a stronger understanding on the client’s part,” he said.
Workflows and punch lists have also moved into the digital realm, making it easier than ever to track each stage of the project. Once a specific part of the job is done, the platform notes the completion and automatically shifts the process to the next item on the list, which has been agreed upon and planned out in advance. This saves time in tracking what is done and what must still be completed, and having those tools and all of that information in a unified central platform enables managers to easily monitor progress and make adjustments as necessary. The information can be easily stored in the cloud and called up on demand from anywhere, a far cry from the days of frantically searching for paper documents filed away in an office file cabinet as deadlines approach.
Drone aircraft are being deployed at construction sites around the world during the preconstruction process to give managers a bird’s-eye view of the site, determine any potential issues and even generate detailed 3D survey models far faster than human surveyors could. Drones have found useful life throughout the construction process, but it’s during the preconstruction phase that the tiny unmanned aircraft really show their worth in saving companies time and effort.
Drones are a neat tool for quickly getting preconstruction tasks completed, but the real change to the industry has come from unified software platforms that bring together the full suite of tools and applications so many construction companies depend on to streamline processes, boost collaboration and shrink the margin of error. This connected workflow, helped along by technology like BIM, grants each member of each project team always-available access to the information they need to complete their specific tasks, without bogging everyone involved down with irrelevant or duplicate information. BIM also allows stakeholders to see the project as it evolves, tracking design changes and revealing how certain tweaks, additions or subtractions from a model in process will affect schedule or cost. That information can then be communicated seamlessly to every manager, team and client, keeping everyone on task and apprised of revisions and their effect on the job.
Construction’s technology adoption rate has been historically slow, but collaborative tools that digitize information have become too attractive and beneficial to ignore. Every hour saved during the preconstruction process means a more efficient operation throughout the job, and digital tools like those offered by Procore are making that process easier for everyone.
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