Like Aspirin for a Hangover

November 26, 2011 by

I get the same kinds of questions over and over. Does Geedra prevent construction defects? Does Geedra make litigation go away? Will Geedra keep a project on schedule? And my answers are always the same; Construction risk will never go away, though Geedra can often help mitigate that risk.

There is no single solution that can prevent many of the most vexing problems in construction. However, by enabling project teams to readily research construction conditions at any time, Geedra reduces the time and effort necessary to resolve such problems.  After all, it’s often not the single issue itself, but the countless hours of investigation, forensics, depositions and expert testimony that drive the cost of resolution.

As anyone that has had a hangover will tell you, a couple of aspirin in the morning doesn’t make the hard drinking of the night before go away. It just makes it less painful.

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Re-Imagining the Contingency Budget

November 9, 2011 by

*RP - Risk of the Past


In an earlier post I discussed the risk of the past (RP) and the ways in which it impacts the contingency budget of a construction project. The table above presents a “before and after” scenario, where the effects of the RP are reduced through effective use of media to capture and record events and conditions in real time so that they may be examined later.  By effectively leveraging media to lessen the uncertainty over past conditions, the contingency budget can be reduced in many ways as explained below.

Scope Change

Collateral work is the biggest driver of unanticipated scope change costs. Owners can fail to fully comprehend the impact on construction of what may seem to be a minor change request. While inaccurate or incomplete progress reports by the contractor, may lead an owner to believe that sufficient time exists to implement a change without incurring major rework.

Contractors can use media effectively to clearly convey project progress to owners and then build on that knowledge to illustrate the impact of design change costs. In doing so, both parties know what they are in for when approving a design change.

Coordination

Work that is completed out of sequence harms productivity and can lead to unnecessary charges. Often a single instance of out-of-sequence-work can lead to a pattern that spirals out of control. Contractors can use media to capture and share lessons learned immediately to correct these issues and prevent further loss, rather than waiting until the end of the project when the damage is done.

Design Deficiencies

Let’s face it, the RFI is overkill for many contractor inquiries. How many times does the response to an RFI read something like “See detail D-1”? For example when it comes to process related questions such as window installation, Architects can utilize photos and video to clearly convey to prescribed process for proper installation providing for an easily repeatable process throughout a project.  In the case of a valid RFI request, media provide an effective tool for contractor and architect alike for confirmation of compliance.

Delay Claims

This is an area where the answer is almost never as clear as black and white. Clear evidence of jobsite conditions can allow for a thorough examination of factors contributing to delay claims and often bring to light details that do not survive through recollection and typical documentation alone. For example, even severe weather events are often not the “show stopper” that they might appear to be in hindsight. A jobsite bogged down in mud, might still be quite productive when it comes to interior work, for example. Photos and video can also conclusively settle issues of materiel delivery schedules or access by subcontractors.

Post Construction Legal Expenses

Well, the lawyers are going to get theirs anyway. Aren’t they?

Eliminating the Risk of the Past

November 9, 2011 by

Why do construction budgets need contingencies?

There are many facets to the answer but they boil down to two; the risk of the future and the risk of the past. While there are many things we can do to mitigate the risk of the future, it is a fact of life. Weather will change, buildings will leak and misunderstandings will continue. However, effectively eliminating the risk of the past is well within our reach.

What is the risk of the past?

It’s the decay of knowledge over time. As knowledge decays, uncertainty rises and our ability to make informed decisions suffers. Certain facts blur into vague recollections raising doubts and costs in the process.

How do we eliminate the risk of the past?

By recording the present, of course! Photos, video, sound and written notes are all key components of capturing the existing conditions on a site. The more facts we capture surrounding an event or condition, the more accurately we can examine it at a later date.

How does eliminating the risk of the past effect the construction contingency?

The right photo can eliminate the need for hundreds of hours of discovery, depositions and expert testimony.  Claims about sidewalk damage, impaired access or performance milestone melt away in presence of irrefutable evidence.

In my next post, we’ll take a look at the effects of reduced risk of the past on a contingency budget.

This is How we Roll at Geedra

October 28, 2011 by

The official Geedra coffee grinder. We walk the talk.

Photo-Shopped? Need a New Term

October 20, 2011 by

New advanced software allows for the placement of objects into photos with a completely authentic feel. Keep this in mind the next time you see photographic evidence and question the likelihood that what you are seeing is true.

Good Photo Practices and Soft Claims Protection

September 20, 2011 by

This article does an excellent job of detailing another fine application of photo-data for construction applications. The author does an excellent job in detailing the reason’s why you should use photos and video to document the conditions surrounding a soft cost claim and what exactly you should document. However, a discussion of how you record and store photos and video warrants additional attention. After all, even though photos can provide the most compelling, irrefutable evidence there is in these cases, you can’t use that evidence if you can’t find the photo.

  • First, assigning a dedicated person to shoot photos or video with intimate knowledge of the project and construction expertise maximizes the chances that all necessary critical information is recorded.
  • Pay money for your designated photographer to take a course in basic photography. Consider it an insurance policy against photos that are un-readable due to poor lighting, focus or other preventable reasons.
  • Be prepared with extra batteries, a spare lens or flash (for SLRs) or even a simple backup camera. You never want to get derailed by a dropped camera when you’re 10 floors up.
  • Graphic representations of damage, as mentioned in the article, are important and can be made even more impactful when combined with photos and/or video of the actual installations in question.
  • Organize the photos as they are shot. Be diligent or you will be overwhelmed. Inconsistency is as bad as disorganization in these circumstances resulting in lost photos.
  • Use offsite storage from a third party provider like (shameless plug) Geedra, but even Dropbox or Box.net can provide the redundant, secure storage that many construction teams neglect.
  • Utilize signage (e.g. a whiteboard, printed placards, etc.)  in your photos to capture key information that will orient someone viewing the photos months or years later. Compass direction. location information and  issue identifiers (such as RFI#’s)  are good examples.

BIM’s First-Mile Problem

June 1, 2011 by

Here’s a Pecha Kucha presentation that I gave recently to an AEC audience at KAConnect in San Francisco.

Video from KA Connect 2011

BIM’s First-Mile Problem

Construction Needs Troublemakers

April 6, 2011 by

I had lunch with Josh (not his real name) the other day.  Josh joined a large General Contractor last year as its first BIM director because the company’s owner came to the realization that his company was falling behind in technology innovation and need to get involved “in that BIM stuff” (my words, not his).  So, he hired Josh.

Josh is a guy that’s always looking to tinker. He finds out about new technologies, new processes, new services, and he’s the first one to start thinking about ways to adapt them to his organization. He won’t let a title like “BIM Director” limit his scope to just BIM. So, he’s made himself the inhouse expert in IPD projects, cloud computing applications and smart phone apps. The IT department thinks Josh is a real troublemaker, because he’s pushing them constantly to change their “old tech”/ “we can host anything”/ “MS Exchange Server Rules” mentality.

Guys like Josh weren’t hired by construction companies 10 years ago. But in these days of thin profit margins and hyper competitive bidding, contractors are chanting the “innovate or die” mantra a lot more often than they used to. However, they have a lot to learn about truly embracing innovation within their organizations.

Josh has his hands full for sure. Why? Well, he’s trying to turn his oil tanker with a canoe paddle. while the captain is in the wheelhouse trying to hold the line. Rather than give Josh the authority that he needs to boldly innovate, his company has tied his hands by forcing him to work with (i.e. around) his IT organization, which, in a nod to the “Greatest Hits” of 70’s management structure, still reports to the CFO. While Josh is committed to finding new, better ways of doing things, IT is focused on maintaining the status quo.

The owners at Josh’s company haven’t yet realized that they are in an innovation dip. It’s up to Josh to stir up enough trouble to make them wake up to the fact that innovation requires abandoning old practices in addition to introducing new ones.

From Photos to Photo-Data

March 23, 2011 by

Some time in the 1970’s, dedicated word processors were introduced to the world providing writers with a set of tools that enabled them to control the presentation of their words, not just the content. For the first time since Mr. Gutenberg made the pen obsolete as a publishing mechanism, writers regained a measure of control of the presentation of their words from the typesetter. Thus began a transformation where communication with written words moved from a sterile process of repeating the authors characters to a nuanced presentation that conveyed, context, emphasis and intent.

In 1983, Microsoft introduced Word. Word not only continued the evolution of the presentation tools of its earlier counterparts, but it eventually established .doc as a generally accepted standard for digital document files. And with standardization, comes efficiency, predictability and eventually innovation. Since the files in an archive of .doc’s all behave in the same way, it is possible to explore millions of documents at a time and zero-in on the nuance of a four-word phrase within seconds.

Such innovation in searching eventually led to the use of tags (or metadata) to identify details within a document, allowing for categorized searching. A practice commonly used in blogs and social media (aka Web 2.0 applications.)

Begin Search: "Ark of the Covenant"

A similar transformation is underway with digital photos. As a whole, the digital photo universe is just beginning to move beyond the storage and display of pictures on a screen to the nuanced presentation of photos complete with context, emphasis and intent. The Photo-Data era has begun.

Without tag data, photos are opaque collections of 1’s and 0’s that yield no information about the content represented by the visual images they contain. Tags offer us the ability to search through gobs of photo-data without the need for us to visually interpret each individual image.

The one drawback to tags is the tagging process itself.  Current methods for applying tags to digital photos in the consumer and professional photography markets rely on humans to review images and then select the appropriate tag(s) that describe the image content. The two problems with this process are that it is labor intensive and tag selection is subjective.  Given that there are an infinite number of tags available to describe general interest photos, and that different photos mean different things to different people, it would be next to impossible to develop an automated method for effectively tagging all photos.

However, if we instead consider a group of photos from a defined audience with a shared perspective (with variances), the tagging process can then become a candidate for automation. The construction industry is such an audience and each construction project provides an opportunity for shared perspective that enables a finite number of tags to have relevance for a bulk of the audience.  I look forward to exploring next leap in productivity gains that Photo-Data will make possible.

Trailer-Ready Technology

March 9, 2011 by

Here’s my perspective on the state of technology in construction today; it’s upside down. No matter what the application, (design, project management, punchlists, etc.) the universal theme of innovation in our industry centers around delivering “office-ready” applications to the jobsite with a mobile device.

What’s that you say? You have a tablet that puts your model, your schedule, your email and a ton of other information, right in the palm of your hand? There’s no refuting that technology gives us unprecedented access the critical information when and where you need it. But stop swiping and pinching your screen for a moment and take a look around you. Your standing in the mud! There’s a welder making sparks over your right shoulder, with the backup alarm from a loader blaring in your left ear. Is this the time and place for you to reply to that RFI response? Since you’re out on the jobsite, don’t you think you should focus your attention on the operations that are happening around you? After all, seeing is believing and there is no replacement for seeing actual construction in process (or recently completed) with your own eyes.

Let me clarify what I mean about technology in construction being upside down. All mobile applications have one fatal flaw. People. In that, every application ultimately relies on a human being for inputting new information by observing a condition and then relaying their impression of that condition, usually in text, but sometimes with the help of some other media (photo, audio, video, etc.)

What’s wrong with this use case:

  • There’s only one perspective. That of the person holding the mobile device.
  • The media provided is single purposed and dead-ended. It exists to support the observation and if you are not part of the audience interested in that observation, you would not have otherwise seen/heard the media.
  • As I alluded to before, this process is a grossly inefficient use of the user’s time. It’s also terrible way to capture ground-level data.

And furthermore:

  • There are far more people on site without that mobile device loaded with the same application than there are with that device/app. i.e. There are more people observing conditions on the ground than there are people capable of recording/reporting the conditions.
  • Wouldn’t it be better if the supporting media were available and searchable to anyone involved with the project for them to review for any number of purposes?
  • The conditions on the ground at that moment in time will, most likely, never exist again but could, quite possibly, be very important to a number of different people months or years later.

It is for these reasons that Geedra has embraced a new philosophy towards innovation in the construction world. We call it Trailer-Ready Technology™(TRT). The objective of TRT is to embrace the first-person perspective of individuals on the ground to capture 100% of observable information at the time of occurrence in order to deliver on-demand accessibility at any time in the future.

These are the guiding principles of TRT:

1. First, get the media

Geedra cannot accomplish anything without the recorded media. Identify and address any and all obstacles that might discourage a Geedra user from moving his/her media from a local device to a Geedra application. 

2. Design to accommodate existing behavior

Geedra applications should offer new users productivity improvements from the first time they log in. The interface should be inviting and next actions obvious.  Geedra applications should not require new users to modify their behavior in order to use them.  Asking people to change behavior in order to use your solution is the same as asking them not to use your solution.  However, once they have begun using their Geedra application, the application should incent them to explore new behavior.

3. No Typing

Typing should be the last option considered for data input.

4. Avoid dedicated hardware solutions

Users don’t like change. If you ask them to change and then hand them a new piece of hardware, that hardware can become the focus of their displeasure. It is better to initiate a change in behavior through their existing hardware and in order to ease the transition. If dedicated hardware is necessary, introduce it later after the new behavior becomes routine and ensure that it delivers a significant jump in productivity.

I’ll provide more details about our application in future posts. For now, keep your eyes open and watch out for that loader. Those things can leave a mark 🙂