“Let’s Fix It” Workshop Recap

Trends and challenges are affecting pre-construction departments from coast to coast. Beck Technology’s pre-conference workshop at the 2018 Advancing Building Estimation conference hit on four areas that are affecting pre-construction departments. Over 250 people attended the half-day workshop and participated in conversations with peers on how the industry can begin to solve these problems.

The speakers for the workshop included Matt Hammer of Haselden Construction, Matt Verst of Messer Construction, Jeff Ratcliff of The Beck Group, and Andy Leek of PARIC Corporation.

What is technology doing to pre-construction?

There is a variety of project delivery methods and most owners are not accustomed to pre-construction getting involved in earlier stages. With the rise of technological advancements, pre-construction teams can provide valuable information to project decisions. Even though getting involved early may lead to giving a (preliminary) price and that may lead to more questions from owners regarding the numbers it does create excitement about the project and owners get more educated on why their budget may or may not be enough.

However, there are a lot of “shiny new toys” in the market and before selecting one a company must ask themselves “why” – not “what can this technology do” but “why is this technology important to my company”. Companies need to make sure they have the right technological tool for the right situation. Just because a new tech worked at one company does not mean it will work at the next because each company has their own processes and workflows. Being able to structure teams internally to manage it all is key.

Today, pre-construction teams can tie estimates to models. Gone is the “Where’s Waldo” effect. Teams no longer need to stare at drawings to see what has changed. Even with this latest advancement there is a cultural shift happening to learn new technology. As processes get streamlined and integrated workflows get altered and change management comes into play.

Talent Acquisition and Retention

Most companies are realizing that cultural fit is a better indicator of a good employee rather than hiring for skill alone. In a straw poll of the room, 90% of attendees said they hire based on culture fit.

Haselden’s staged approach to hiring (salaried staff):

  • Screening call from HR to determine their skill level, speak a little about the company, ask about salary requirements.
  • Depending on the role, personality testing which scores the candidate against the company’s cultural values.
  • Screening call or in-person interview with the candidate’s prospective manager to determine technical capabilities and experience.
  • “Discovery Day” with people who would potentially work with the candidate, but also people who may not have day-to-day interactions with them. This interview is about interpersonal interaction and gives the candidate an opportunity to learn more about the company culture.
  • After Discovery Day, HR will lead a round table to discuss the candidate and provide a final recommendation of an offer to the hiring manager.

Work-life balance is becoming more important than salary and title to seasoned professionals. Some attendees noted that they have left companies for a better quality of life and took a pay cut to do so. With the growing need for talent in the construction industry, having a flexible work schedule and an office environment that is appealing to work in all resonate with potential new hires. We are seeing a shift in the employee’s primary motivation for keeping a job move from compensation and benefits towards the emotional rewards that a job can provide.

Predicting Construction Costs

Cost history is not as simple as cost per square foot. It is the metrics driving those costs. It is being able to analyze as-built data and then utilize that information to predict construction costs. Even then it goes beyond estimating data and looks at company data. The overarching goal of cost history is to provide unified information from the company regardless of location and/or market.

Gathering this type of data is a real challenge and much of the time it is the responsibility of the operations side of construction. However, when people leave one project and get on another one they are already two weeks behind on the new project. In this fast-paced industry being able to have the time necessary to gather historical information is not always possible. Some companies tie this effort to bonuses for operations staff so there is more incentive to get the data gathered as soon as possible.

What does pre-construction look like in 2028?

Project deliveries will become more collaborative so an influx of integrated projects as well as target value design will be more rampant. However, in order for this to come to fruition, the liability of projects (legal terms) will need to be ironed out in order to let this collaboration happen.

The multitude of file formats will converge to a few allowing for ease of access from multiple platforms. This will decrease the drudgery associated with pre-construction as systems become more standardized. The reduction of the effort to collate data will allow pre-construction teams more time to analyze the data and add additional value to projects.

Pre-fabrication will continue to increase on project sites. While this can reduce project waste it also comes with the need to manage the change from architects to pre-construction to subcontractors to field crews. This change management will also drive cross-training among disciplines to better understand motivators and create a collaborative project environment.

This workshop got the attendees discussing the hot topics affecting today’s construction industry. By sharing insights with peers everyone will be able to improve the challenges that need to be fixed.