Posts Tagged ‘commercial construction’

Top 10 Reasons Sharepoint Sucks for Photos

January 2, 2012

I talk to a lot of GC’s and Architects that use Sharepoint(tm) to store their photos. When I ask them why, their answers usually include something about security (a questionable claim in my mind; Are your needles secure, just because you know which haystack they’re in?) and company policy. Then the grumbling begins.

Here’s a breakdown of Sharepoint’s shortcoming’s as a photo management solution:

#10 Too much typing & clicking required – To file photos in way that provides any meaningful information later on (you know, when your really need them), Sharepoint requires you to spend time creating unique folders or typing LOTS of unique filenames. (e.g. ProgressLevel4DeckPrepour11032011.jpg, oh my)

#9 One-dimensional searching – If I need to verify the window flashing installation on ten different levels, it would be nice if I didn’t need to scroll through hundreds (thousands? millions?) of photos of rebar and framing on each and every one of those same ten levels.

#8 Picture Library doesn’t support sorting – Wouldn’t it be nice to have Excel-style sorting capabilities, while being able to simultaneously view the photos too?

#7 Can’t define a range of search values – How much quicker would it be if you could define a range of search values? E.g. Verifying the curtain wall anchors on the northeast corner of the top four floors.

#6 No comment – In the age of social media, is it too much to expect to be able to add comments to construction  photos?

#5 No sharing – Isn’t a tad bit ironic that there’s no built-in photo sharing in a solution that has “Share” in it’s name?

#4 Upside down? – Does your neck hurt from viewing upside down photos with no way to fix them without opening them in another application and then re-saving them?

#3 No rules – Usually, a 7-person team will adopt 7 different photo naming and filing conventions.

#2 Patient searching required  – “No Files Found” , is a painful phrase. How many times have you gotten this result repeatedly after struggling to come up with the right search criteria? An interactive search panel that allows for “tweaking” searches would be a real time saver.

#1 Starting from scratch – A new project means a blank slate and recreating your file names, folders and organization all – over – again.

Is there a better way? Most definitely the answer is yes.

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Geedra vs Sharepoint

January 2, 2012
Photos on Geedra™ Photos on SharePoint™

Automated photo filing on Upload

Yes. Photos filed according to user profile, project profile, time, date and other data assigned by camera. No. User manually files photos by file and folder names.
Menu-driven, point-and-click photo tags Yes. No.
Construction-specific tags Yes. Tag types include: gridline, level, room number, camera orientation, multi-building designations, CSI division codes + text-based tags No – text based tags only.
Searching by single tag values Yes. No.[1]
Searching by multiple tag values Yes. No.[1]
Searching by a range of tag values Yes. No.
“Excel-style” photo sorting by tag value. Yes. No.[2]
Instant Search Experience (Search results appear as search criteria are entered) Yes. No.
Integrated Photo Sharing Yes. No. Share by email.
Integrated Report Builder Yes. No.
Photo-detail view Yes. Yes.
Individual photo comments journal. Yes. No.
Pre-defined comments menu Yes. No.
Hiding redundant photos Yes. No.
Automatic filtering of duplicate photos Yes. Even works when filename is changed. No.
Built-in photo rotation Yes. No.
Remote web access. Yes. Yes.
Cloud-based storage Yes. Office 365 only.
Seamless user experience from any Browser or Operating System Yes. No.[3]
iPad compatible Yes. Yes. (Separate app required)

[1] Requires extensive additional configuration and customization by administrator.

[2] SharePoint Picture Library views do not support column-based sorting.

[3] Certain features require Microsoft Windows and Office.

The Construction Project: A Startup That’s Built to Close

November 29, 2011

It is extremely difficult for someone who has not participated in a construction project to comprehend the complexity involved. As I have said before, a construction project is akin to starting a factory that makes buildings. Only after you do all of the personnel and partner recruiting, product design, process planning, procurement, infrastructure building, quality system design, customer service and warranty planning, you shut down the factory after the first completed unit rolls off the line.

Trailer-Ready Technology

March 9, 2011

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 🙂

Turning BIM Models Into Buildings

December 13, 2010

I have written in the past about the various aspects of as-built construction and the construction process that can’t (and shouldn’t) be represented in a BIM model. While there are countless articles, blog posts and Tweets covering the wonders of BIM in the weeks and months leading up to construction, you never hear any stories about the experiences of the construction managers, consultants and project managers who interact with the model once construction begins.

I am curious to hear about the experiences of others who have ground-level knowledge from BIM projects.

  • How has BIM affected the number of RFI’s that you would normally expect for this type of project if it had been designed using traditional methodology?
  • Are there certain types of RFI’s that prevail despite the use of BIM?
  • What types of issues do you experience when updates to the BIM model become necessary?
  • Where do you see gaps when comparing the BIM model to As-Built conditions on your project?
  • What has surprised you (good and bad) about building to the BIM model?
  • Has BIM had an impact on your coordination or sequencing efforts?
  • How have you utilized the BIM model for regulatory compliance?
  • What will you differently on your next BIM project?

Top 10 Tasks for Construction Superintendents

September 8, 2010
Stumbled upon this on the state of Washington Workforce Explorer site.  In reviewing this list, it occurred to me that jobsite photos and video should play a critical role in supporting most of these tasks. I have added comments next to each task (where appropriate) to specify the role that visual media can(should) play in performing the task.

If you’re not using photos in this manner, you should ask yourself why not.

Top 10 Tasks

  • Examine and inspect work progress, equipment, and construction sites to verify safety and to ensure that specifications are met. – Photos used to record progress and report conditions.
  • Read specifications such as blueprints to determine construction requirements and to plan procedures.
  • Estimate material and worker requirements to complete jobs. – Photo archives can provide visual references for similar jobs from the past.
  • Supervise, coordinate, and schedule the activities of construction or extractive workers. – Photos serve as a reference to confirm access, availability of materials and equipment.
  • Confer with managerial and technical personnel, other departments, and contractors in order to resolve problems and to coordinate activities. – Photos augment written and verbal communication and provide confirmation of resolution.
  • Coordinate work activities with other construction project activities. – As mentioned above, photos provide information on current site conditions.
  • Order or requisition materials and supplies. – Webcams and photos confirm receipt of materials, preventing over-ordering.
  • Locate, measure, and mark site locations and placement of structures and equipment, using measuring and marking equipment. – Photos used to augment measurements and markings.
  • Record information such as personnel, production, and operational data on specified forms and reports. – Photos augment written records and allow for forensic research of conditions not properly recorded.
  • Assign work to employees, based on material and worker requirements of specific jobs.

Bigger Haystacks

August 23, 2010

Digital photos are free. Which means that if you have gone through the expense to put a camera on a jobsite, it makes sense for that camera to take as many pictures as possible. Usually more than is necessary (after all, they’re free right???)

Then let’s consider all of the stakeholders who take pictures on a jobsite; There’s the General Contractor of course, then the owner and owner’s reps; the architect and the cajillion consultants retained by the architect; inspectors, municipal, regulatory and otherwise; subcontractors, and oh yeah, anybody else with a hardhat and a camera phone. Did I forget to mention aerial photos and fixed site cameras?

Do all of these photos add up to better coverage of jobsite activity? More coverage definitely, but better? That’s debatable, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many photos you have if you can’t find that critical piece of information that you’re looking for.

Found it! Er, wait. Wrong floor...

What’s Your Jobsite Photo Strategy?

August 4, 2010

When speaking with managers and executives from general contractor firms I make it a point to ask about their corporate strategy for jobsite photos. Ninety nine percent of the time, the response is “well, we don’t have one.”  Wow.

I’m sure if I asked the same question about estimating, scheduling, project management or accounting, one hundred percent would be able to convey their strategy to me. Yet, the one resource they have with the potential to irrefutably convey the value of their work isn’t worthy of a corporate strategy. Talk about an under-appreciated resource.

The Photo-Data Transformation

July 22, 2010

In my previous post I identified the cost associated with extracting information from the photos and video used to capture ground level information from construction project sites. Information extraction costs are a function of time once the project ends and eventually reach impractical levels as the project team disbands and their tribal knowledge of the project evaporates forever.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if the project team could encapsulate their tribal knowledge into an archive that remained accessible to the project team and the owner of the finished building for the duration of the building’s life? – Time out. You may be thinking, um, OK Geedra blog dude. Are we talking about some kind of Vulcan Mind Meld?

By packaging the visual media (photos and/or video) with the project team’s intimate knowledge of the images in the media into photo-data, we can make that information accessible without incurring the extraction costs associated with current forensic research efforts using construction photos and video. The components of photo-data include data tags (for indexing and research), annotations (tells the story of the image), contextual references (other photos, floor plans, reports) and any other supporting information.

(c) 2010 Geedra, LLC

Once converted, photo-data information will be resistant to degradation over time, making it as accessible 10 years after completion as it was 10 minutes after the photos were taken. Facility managers and building owners can not only benefit from knowing the history of their building’s past, but can continue to build upon their photo-database by adding new photos to capture conditions during building improvements and major maintenance overhauls. In doing so, they are making a major improvement to the value of the physical asset in a move that will lower operating costs and reduce operation risk for the life of the building.

Flat Fee Construction: An Opportunity for Innovation

March 3, 2010

When you hear construction and The Great Recession in the same sentence, you wouldn’t expect it to be good news. But I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal that has me brimming with excitement over what the future holds for our industry.

Given a choice between going out of business or keeping their construction businesses alive, contractors are striking flat fee deals with banks to build/finish the houses of failed development projects.  Sure, the contractors quoted in the article mention that such contracts “help stop the bleeding” but how long would you expect any business to continue to work just for the sake of keeping the lights on? The strongest contractors will innovate in order to improve (create) their profits.

Where will the innovation come from? Well, I hope jobsite technology gets a good, hard look (OK, I’m biased). But you can’t predict these things. Maybe it’s more efficient use of materials or labor, new contract structures or creative insurance policies. Who knows? Every penny gained through innovation goes directly to the bottom line. Now’s the time to try things!

Given the large inventory of unfinished work in the now infamous markets of Florida, Arizona, California and Nevada, flat fee contracts with banks offer contractors a solid alternative to the bare-knuckled bidding wars that are taking place for government projects. Contractors in these markets can work in familiar territory to improve themselves.

What about you? What are your recession-inspired innovations?