My Thoughts from the 2017 GT Digital Building Laboratory Symposium

My Thoughts from the 2017 GT Digital Building Laboratory Symposium

On October 5th and 6th I had the opportunity to get back on the campus of my Alma Mater to attend some of the 2017 Georgia Tech Digital Building Laboratory Symposium. This is an interesting event focused on entrepreneurship and some of the research that is going on with Georgia Tech’s Digital Building Laboratory. There were two days slated for this event and both were absolutely packed full from a schedule standpoint and from an information standpoint. The information ranged from academic research to current real-world implementation – and there was no shortage of thought provoking presentations.

The first day was more focused on research and the emergence of a tech hub right there in the area surrounding Georgia Tech’s campus. The innovation, capital, and overall excitement that is being funneled into research for advancements and new technology implementation in the AEC space now is fairly fascinating. While we’ve seen a lot of advancements in BIM and really AEC technology in general we haven’t seen a lot of shifts in project process or delivery methods that have really allowed that technology to sing. There appears to be communities forming to start addressing that problem and not only that but money to support those communities. One of the best quotes from this session in my opinion was that “there is no limit to the questions that need (to be) solved in our industry.”

Much of the research discussed on day 1 was what you might expect – theoretical type research flowing from academia. As the rest of the presentations went on, however, it was apparent that all that research is providing the backbone and support for the shifts that some of these startup companies are trying to create. While I’ve always known that was the case, it was really exciting to see it happening.

The second day was a series of short presentations with a panel discussion at the end of each grouping of presentations. The groupings had themes and were very well organized. Personally, I found the two morning sessions to be the most interesting and, to repeat a statement made previously, thought provoking.  The first panel of the day focused more on how the business model in the AEC industry may need to shift to truly take advantage of the technologies and provide the increase in production that hasn’t been seen before. There were a couple of examples of companies exploring new models already, including Katerra and WeWork. We also got to hear from how a global force, like AECOM, is looking at business model adjustments. While these topics aren’t directly about technology it is the technology that allows and creates these conversations and shifts. In that light, these approaches may be more important than the technology itself. If the technology doesn’t change the way we do business, it’s largely just cool toys.

The second panel on Friday was more focused on taking Intellectual property that a company generally uses for software and turning it into a product. There were a number of mixed approaches to this on various scales, most of the scales were fairly large though. The one theme that did seem to resonate was that these firms wanted to, and needed to own the process. At the end of the day, the possibilities are endless. In the realm of software tool customization/development there was input from Autodesk that they are aware of some industry desires to have a greater ability to customize and develop their own solutions. Autodesk Forge is the beginnings of a tool that may assist in that moving forward. I have my reservations as to how that will work but I’m excited to hear that it is on the radar and will be watching closely.

All and all, it was a very interesting couple of days and I had the opportunity to run into a few other like-minded folks from the area that I hadn’t met before or haven’t seen in quite some time. I can say that I will most likely be heading back to the next Digital Building Lab Symposium and taking a few of these ideas back to the office for discussion.

Thanks Georgia Tech!! Go Jackets!!

matt sweeney, bim manager Author: Matt Sweeney, PE

Matt is our BIM Program Manager; his focus is to provide BIM production support, internal Revit training, research and development of BIM strategies for future business services, and to support BIM marketing and business development initiatives. Matt has over 15 years of experience in structural engineering design and consulting for public and private clients on wide array projects types ranging from education facilities to retail facilities.

Matt can be reached at msweeney@pesengineers.com.