An unexpected shortened project timeline catapults Choate Construction toward big efficiency gains.
Todd Barrett leads an intrepid Virtual Construction team at Choate Construction. Barrett is the Director of the VDC team responsible for piloting and implementing technology process innovations, and his team does things a little differently. Instead of having a large VDC team planted on a jobsite, Barrett’s team evaluates each project’s workflows and trains the superintendents and project teams to fit the unique needs of their projects.
A big challenge for his team? “The supers are a tough nut to crack,” admits Barrett. “These guys care so much about delivering the best results on time that it’s difficult to seamlessly switch to an entirely new digital system.” And then in 2012, Tim Watson came along. Choate had been using Bluebeam Revu for a couple of years already, and Watson, a new Virtual Construction Specialist, brought along a wealth of additional software and process innovation knowledge to further capitalize on Barrett’s implementations.
Choate Construction, founded in 1989 and headquartered in Atlanta, is an Engineering News-Record (ENR) Top Contractor specializing in preconstruction, design-build, LEED implementation and consultation, and construction management across multiple sectors. The firm, its projects and employees have all been honored with numerous industry awards and distinctions such as ENR’s National “Best of the Best Projects” award, which Choate was awarded twice, for two Southeast projects in 2014 alone.
Soon after Watson joined the firm, Choate was breaking ground on the new $41 million, 125,000-square-foot Rollins Campus Center project at Young Harris College with the goal of LEED certification. The project began in December 2012 and was slated to be completed by the start of the 2014 academic year. Truckloads of paper were being transported between the office and jobsite at project onset.Some of the key project workflows were being done manually, a daunting task for the project team building the new social and intellectual heart of a college campus. The Rollins Campus Center would be the largest building ever to be constructed at Young Harris College.
To complicate an already ambitious schedule, one of the worst winters in Southeast history hit the region in the middle of construction. Cumulatively, Choate lost 192 days of productivity to winter storms, equivalent to 30% of the project timeline. Transporting truckloads of paper and relying on manual processes were taking too much time.
Seeing an opportunity to further optimize the project’s processes and digital workflows, Barrett and Watson arrived with the Choate VDC team to survey project needs, pilot a new digital documentation and delivery process, and train the superintendents and project team. Barrett and Watson planned to integrate the project with all the digital tools available to further improve their efficiency with Revu being central to their plan.
The first hurdle was getting the superintendents on board. Watson and Barrett used iPads and digital kiosks to demonstrate critical Revu features on the spot. “If the field guys see the immediate benefit in front of them, they’re immediately on board,” explains Barrett.
Once the superintendents and site crew were engaged, the Choate project team transitioned from their manual processes to digital documentation and delivery by:
Organizing their construction documents – All PDFs were processed in Revu to create an entirely digital and hyperlinked document organization system. This gave the project team easy and instant access to the documents they needed.
Instantly updating their document sets – Keeping documents up to date no longer required the commute back and forth between the office and jobsite with truckloads of paper. Given the inclement weather conditions, it wasn’t even always possible to make the drive. With Revu, team members in the Atlanta office could update a document, and the changes were immediately reflected on the jobsite. Subcontractors could also immediately see document updates, and, in fact, were so eager about it that the Choate team would even receive proactive requests from their subs asking for document updates.
Accessing information in the field – The superintendents, project managers and jobsite workers had instant access to documents on the digital jobsite kiosks, which were fully equipped with WiFi and 60-inch monitors, as well as on iPads. “Now, Superintendents know about submittals before even being told, because they’re accessible instantly on their iPads,” said Watson. And trekking across the jobsite to view documents was no longer necessary. Over the course of the project this saved more than 45 days’ worth of time.
Creating and viewing 3D PDFs – In an effort to make up for lost time, building and site work were completed simultaneously on the Young Harris Campus project. This necessitated creating, viewing and sharing 3D digital mockups as quickly as possible without having to rely on special modelling software. “The ability to do that using Revu was huge,” said Watson.
In September 2014, students flooded into the stunning new Young Harris College Rollins Campus Center. Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenge of having to complete a 21-month project within 14 months and in grueling weather conditions, Choate Construction finished on time and established more efficient processes using critical tools like Bluebeam Revu.
Barrett’s VDC team considers the digital transition to be a milestone. The team set a new, company-wide standard for digital document organization and delivery using key Revu features, such as batch hyperlinking. “What would have taken us a week or more now only takes us a few hours,” says Barrett. “Why would we not do this?”
Since the completion of the Rollins Campus Center project, Revu has become the organization’s standard PDF markup and digital documentation solution. Adopting Revu has even influenced the purchase of equipment, such as iPads and field monitors, which ensure that their documents will be immediately accessible to all stakeholders on the jobsite.
“This project definitely changed the way we operate,” reiterates Barrett.“Winning over the supers was a big deal. Afterward, they spoke up to say that they’re taking Revu and the digital kiosks with them. They won’t do another job without them.”
Today at Choate, the VDC team continues to find ways to incorporate Revu into their workflows for greater efficiency. Team members are regularly leveraging additional features in Revu, such as hyperlinking, as part of the standard project management checklist. Choate has an internal IT training program that now includes Revu basics. Revu is even integrated into Choate’s onboarding processes, and soon Choate will begin offering online training for Bluebeam Revu. And Watson and Barrett are busier than ever instituting their now tried-and-true “train the project team” approach.