Posts Tagged ‘construction video’

Risk Management Means Innovating Beyond Checklists

December 21, 2011

A recent report from McGraw-Hill (also discussed here) outlined the results of a survey of owners, architects and general contractors examines the ways in which project teams on $100 million projects handle risk management. The report suggests that formal risk control processes “beyond simple checklists”  are necessary for these projects to sufficiently mitigate their overall project risk.

The costs of risk in these projects are staggering. For example the average size of a post-construction disputes is $3 million dollars. But what’s striking to me is how common it is for these projects to be dealt a blow from risk related issues. Consider these statistics:

  • Almost a quarter of projects are hit with schedule delays.
  • Close to 20% of projects are over budget.
  • About 10% of projects experience disputes.

And these are the big boys. The best-in-class, technology savvy, resource-rich organizations that one would expect to have their act together. But even the best and brightest are subject to the ill effects of overruns, scope creep and safety and site conditions.  As a matter of fact, “unforeseen site conditions” was listed as one of the most difficult risks to quantify. It’s nice of the MH folks to formally recognize something we all know to be true; once you break ground, you never know what can happen next.

Site conditions change, often unpredictably so. However, as I’ve discussed before, unforeseen conditions present a challenge in dealing with the risk of the past where costs pile up as those charged with investigating, analyzing and negotiating a resolution struggle to recreate the conditions on the site at the time in question.  Capturing this critical information doesn’t happen by accident. If the principles of major projects are going to take a dent out of risk-related costs, it’s going to take organization-wide efforts to make recording site conditions a mandatory (and routine) practice.  Current methods rely on individual project managers to establish their own systems for recording information, leading to a different system for every project and predictably inconsistent results.

Eliminating the Risk of the Past

November 9, 2011

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.

From Photos to Photo-Data

March 23, 2011

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.

4D 5D Can’t Complete the Picture

July 29, 2010

For all the promise of 4D and 5D BIM technology, users can never capture the reality of jobsite conditions and their impact on a building.  Yes, including the dimensions of time and cost adds a stronger connection between design and construction. But there are many components of “as-built” construction that BIM can never capture. There are certain conditions that can only be accurately and comprehensively recorded in photos and video.

Here’s a partial list of conditions and I welcome you to add others:

  • installation processes
  • access issues
  • sequencing issues
  • use of specified materials
  • fabrication processes
  • water intrusion remediation
  • LEED point qualification

Finally, before you convince yourself that as-built conditions can be completely represented in a BIM model, remember that human beings are the connection between the two.

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.

What’s the Problem?

July 21, 2010

Dude, what's your problem?

Ask a project manager or construction manager about their chosen strategy for jobsite photos and you’ll get strange conglomeration of solutions. The three most popular of which are:

  • Sitecams (aka webcams)
  • Photo Documentation Services
  • Shared Document Management Systems

That’s quite an eclectic list of solutions, which leads me to ask the following; If those are the solutions, what’s the problem? After all, each solution offers its own distinct benefits.

  • Sitecams – Constant monitoring of jobsite. Remote Access. Provides transparency for the public.
  • Photo Documentation Services – A trained set of eyes behind the camera for improved compliance.
  • Document Management Systems – A secure system for archiving photos taken by the project team.

Those are all very desirable benefits that any team would embrace. It seems that each solution attempts to deliver ground level information from the project site. However, they don’t deliver that information in a format that can be immediately evaluated, like data on a spreadsheet. Instead, each solution presents visual media (in the form of digital photos or video), which serve to both store and communicate ground level project information.

There is a cost associated with extracting information from visual media so that it can be converted into a usable format.  The information extraction cost* is low  during construction when the context and subtle details (aka “tribal knowledge”) are fresh in the minds of project team members-see chart below.  However, as construction ends, the project team disperses and memories fade, the extraction cost continues to rise until the project’s tribal knowledge evaporates for good.

In my next post I will propose an alternative solution for preserving ground level project information indefinitely.

(c) 2010 Geedra, LLC

*Examples of Information Extraction Costs – time spent searching for media, reviewing media images for relevant information, interviewing project team members for background information, corroborating design data or consulting reports with visual evidence, etc.