Metrics demonstrate how BIM benefits building owners – and more

BIM is talked about so much in the world of architecture, engineering and construction, but what value does it bring to the AEC team and more importantly, to the building owner?

We now have solid metrics that demonstrate BIM’s benefits to stakeholders, thanks to the just-released SmartMarket Report entitled “Measuring the Impact of BIM on Complex Buildings,” as published by Dodge Data and Analytics and with support by Skanska. Based on interviews and surveys done with nearly 400 owners, general contractors, architects and engineers, the findings show that the use of BIM has a high impact on reducing the risks and increasing the success of such complex projects as hospitals, labs, airports and high-tech manufacturing facilities. (Click here to access the free 58-page report.)

Specific benefits from BIM cited by respondents included:

– Lower final construction costs, according to 85 percent of those surveyed,

– Accelerated completion, said 88 percent of survey participants,

– Reportable incident declines, according to 76 percent of the group, and

– Increased labor productivity, 87 percent said.

“This report underscores what many of us working in BIM and VDC have known: these technologies drive value for project owners and their stakeholders,” said Tony Colonna, Skanska USA senior vice president. “The report should be a call to action for everyone involved with delivering buildings – and we are ready to answer.”


BIM–enabled multi-trade prefabrication – including 144 bathroom pods – saved about two months on the overall schedule for our Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children project.

We are proud to share some of our own BIM successes in the report. Most notably, how using BIM helped us successfully deliver a 450,000-square-foot expansion for Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. The entire building was designed on a six-degree radius, so such BIM uses as digital layout, prefabrication and 4-D scheduling helped us ensure accurate, safe and high-quality work on a tight schedule. BIM enabled our ability to prefabricate bathroom pods, patient room headwalls and overhead utility racks, which saved about two months on the overall project schedule.

We’re also excited about a new way we’re using BIM: virtual reality. For example, on healthcare projects virtual reality models – built with technology used for video games – enables nurses to help us identify possible patient flow and safety issues.  And on projects of any type, virtual reality helps us see behind walls to identify potential hazards.

Furthermore, we are developing a virtual reality simulation that systematically guides superintendents through a series of scenarios to see if they can identify different hazards. It uses industry safety data to present scenarios that pull from real-life circumstances. This simulation is a collaboration between our Environment, Health and Safety group and Innovation team, and we hope this tool can soon be used to enhance safety training for our field personnel.

To learn more about how using BIM as part of virtual design and construction can benefit your project, please click here.


Awards, milestones and BIM – what we’re reading this week

At Skanska, we’re proud to work on some of the largest, most innovative and iconic building projects in the U.S. These exciting projects challenge us to find new ways to build efficiently, sustainably and safely.  This week’s Weekend Reading features news from two hallmark projects, plus some useful ideas for maximizing the uses of BIM.

An inside look at the 2014 Building Project of the Year


From the very beginning, our team at Florida Polytechnic University’s Innovation, Science and Technology Building recognized that bringing Santiago Calatrava’s intricate design to life was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As our project leader Chuck Jablon said: “We knew it was something special at the beginning, but when we saw Calatrava’s vision and design actually working, and capturing everybody’s attention, it made it extra special to know that we were the ones delivering it.”  This week, ENR Southeast magazine named this project – with its signature 94 operable rooftop louver arms – as its Building Project of the Year. Read about our team’s collaborative and innovative work to transform Calatrava’s vision from concept to reality, here.

One tunnel element submersed, 10 more to go

Our joint venture team at Virginia’s Elizabeth River Tunnels project reached a major construction milestone this week when the first hollow concrete element for the Midtown Tunnel’s second tube was fully lowered into place under the river. The team completed the 18-hour placement process on Tuesday. What’s next? With ten more tunnel elements to submerse, the team will be placing one tunnel element every five weeks from the Portsmouth side moving across the river to Norfolk. What does the placement process look like? Check out this time lapse video:

Getting the most from BIM

As more facility owners come to recognize the value of building information modeling for design and construction, the next step for designers and builders is helping owners utilize BIM data to improve facilities management and over the building lifecycle. From writing a plan to focusing on the total cost of ownership, Skanska’s Hal Jones, virtual design and construction director, shares six ways for owners to maximize the value of their BIM-enabled design and construction team. Check out our latest blog, here.

How facility owners can make the most of BIM

More and more facility owners are seeing the benefits that building information modeling can bring to their projects, according to a new McGraw Hill Construction SmartMarket Report, “The Business Value of BIM for Owners.” Those benefits include enhanced team collaboration, streamlined facility maintenance, easier understanding of concepts, improved accuracy and potential cost savings.

Skanska’s Hal Jones, virtual design and construction director, was quoted several times in the report, which also features Skanska’s Connect Plus M25 consortium that is managing and improving one of Europe’s busiest highways. Here, Jones expands upon some of the thoughts he provided to McGraw Hill on how to extract the most value out of a BIM-enabled design and construction team:

Engage the team early and write a plan. First, develop clear guidelines for the use of BIM that reflect the requirements and capabilities of the entire project team. By focusing on what the team can expect to produce and how they should collaborate, the owner is establishing a steady set of ground rules for success. An owner can also minimize duplicate work by engaging a construction manager early in constructability review/coordination and by using trade contractors in design-assist roles.

…and stay involved, yourself. In order to maximize the collaboration amongst the AEC team, the owner should be an active participant in the project. It’s in the owner’s best interest to be accessible and engaged. It promotes both team unity and accountability when the owner is involved in the day to day decision making.

Begin with the end in mind. As early as possible, clearly define how you want to use project data and BIM post-construction so that the AEC team can more readily support your facilities management needs. By establishing this in the beginning, the owner is more empowered to get the information they need in a format that is effective for their life cycle management goals.

Focus on total cost of ownership. It’s important for owners to remember that the value (savings) of BIM on a project is often in the form of money or time not wasted, rather than a quantifiable reduction in total cost or schedule. Likewise, do not focus on the perceived up-front cost of BIM, but rather the total value brought to the project.

Use BIM as the basis for contract documents. Consider generating contract documents from the model and require that the design team maintain and update models through the construction phase. This assures that the model and documents accurately reflect each other throughout the project life cycle, while also allowing the owner to use the model as part of their facilities management program, if desired.

Promote a collaborative environment. Collaboration among the team is paramount. Good BIM-enabled projects cannot be successful without a means to collaborate quickly and easily. By using the model as the vehicle for communication of updates, changes, and so forth, the team can more readily recognize problems and identify solutions together. It is also important to clearly define the platform that will be used for collaboration and file sharing. Tools like Microsoft Sharepoint, Bluebeam, and BIM 360 Glue empower teams to share and cooperate. These tools should be identified and agreed upon early so they can align with the intended use of BIM by the team in addition to the final deliverables.



Awash in BIM data? Here’s one way to get the information you need

Over the past year, data has become more and more of an issue: from concerns over consumer privacy to the buzz surrounding big data’s potential for digesting large quantities of information quickly. When it comes to buildings, we’re in the midst of our own data frenzy, as technology like building information modeling (BIM) takes design and construction virtual, and generates important information for building teams and owners alike. BIM allows for the creation and use of coordinated, consistent, computable information about a building project in design and construction.

Awash in data

How can you avoid a data tsunami?

photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc

Consider these stats:  71 percent of AEC companies (architects, engineers and contractors) used BIM in 2012. What’s more, McGraw-Hill Construction found almost 40 percent of BIM users are heavily committed to using BIM, and do over 60 percent of their work in BIM.  The desire to use BIM is coming not just from the construction side, but from owners as well. While there’s no denying that BIM can help save time, money and improve a project’s safety and efficiency,   BIM is not a one-size fits all technology.  As we move forward with BIM we need to be more thoughtful about how we’re applying the technology and when.

BIM adds value only when properly planned.  When we collect data, we need to think about what we need, how it might be useful, and put it into formats and systems to make sharing the content that much easier. All too often we generate information and lose site of the bigger picture.

I’ve found that a great way to drive efficiency and organization into the modeling process is to develop a BIM execution plan for the start of each project.  It needs to start with a detailed conversation with the client on their current capabilities and future desires for use of any electronic information.  Then, having a collaborative conversation between the designer and contractor can be much more productive. This kind of forward-thinking plan and active discussion allows for a collective understanding between design and construction teams and client. Doing so is intended to saves time and money and keeps you from generating information you do not need!

What’s really important:  just because you can generate the data doesn’t mean you should. You need to make sure it actually meets the client’s goals. Identify the problem you’re trying to solve, and then find the solution; rather than starting with the solution to try and find the problems.


Looking Back on 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the projects, the people, and the values that propelled our company in building what matters this past year.  Across the country, in urban centers and suburban neighborhoods, we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to develop and construct the roads and bridges, hospitals and schools, aviation and transit projects and more that connect communities and make our world a better place. These are just a few of our favorites.

We’d love to know what your favorite Constructive Thinking post was from the past year. Follow us on twitter and share a post – and tag @SkanskaUSA in the message.


A worker’s perspective on the Oculus and PATH Hall at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub – One of our workers coined it “the most important project I’ll ever build,” because if its significance not only to New York but to the entire country. From our work on the original Twin Towers in the 1970s to the Santiago Calatrava-designed terminal dubbed “an instant selfie magnet” by the New York Times, Skanska has come full circle at the 16-acre site.

A Seaport Renaissance in Boston – The news that we sold our 101 Seaport commercial development property in Boston was reason for celebration. The 17-story, 440,000-square-foot LEED® Platinum office building in the Seaport District was completed in record time, helping this neighborhood springing to new life.


Road Trip! Midtown Tunnel Opens To Public Ahead of Schedule – The Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project opened one lane of its new Midtown Tunnel to traffic on Friday, June 17, six months early, marking the first time the public could use the new passage under the Elizabeth River connecting Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia.  It was the first of two deadlines we hit early for this massive public-private partnership that will help reduce commute times and vehicle emissions in the area.

At Duke University, a Remarkable Transformation – Our Duke West Union project restored the beloved on-campus dining halls designed by Horace Trumbauer in 1920 while inserting a new full-service dining environment and activity spaces for students to interact and socialize.  This ambitious renovation began in 2013 and was needed to accommodate a growing student body, while also providing a modern and exciting campus experience.


Not Your Grandpa’s Library – Asked to envision a library, one might conjure up images of stacks of musty books, dimly-lit wood-paneled rooms in hushed silence and cabinets of Dewey Decimal cards that lead to a prized tome. Our Dayton Metro Main Library project in Ohio is anything but that: with design elements that include glass, steel and earth tones that bring in natural light, open space and encourage social interaction in a model that turns traditional library construction on its head.

Building a home where Alzheimer’s patients can thrive – With the U.S. population aging, Alzheimer’s has become the sixth leading cause of death, affecting more than 5.3 million people.  Alzheimer patients require specific environments designed to alleviate some of the disease’s unique challenges. Abe’s Garden in Nashville, Tenn. was a special project for us, believed to be the first memory care community in the U.S. designed and built to demonstrate and disseminate best practices that will improve the lives of individuals and their care takers affected by Alzheimer’s disease.


Building What Matters: From “Grand to the Sand” in Los Angeles – Building what matters took on a new definition for our Los Angeles EVP Mike Aparicio, as he took us inside the Expo Line Phase 2 project, which opened to the public for the first time in May, connecting downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica beach by rail for the first time in 60 years. The project is getting people out of their cars (and out of legendary Los Angeles traffic), in some cases, cutting commute times in half.

Building Communities, Changing Lives, South of the Border – For the second year in a row, Skanska USA employees took time out of their weekends to lend a hand on a building project that would change people’s lives in a community in need. It was before dawn on Saturday, May 14, when approximately 30 Skanska colleagues piled into a bus to make the trip from our Riverside, CA office to Tecate, Mexico, to participate in the Skanska Corazon Build project.


Getting Ahead of the Curve – When it comes to driving value for customers, bringing innovative solutions to problems is a powerful asset. In our Skanska USA Building Business Unit, the preconstruction group has been utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and parametric estimating technology to help accelerate the building process from concept design to final estimate – to the growing delight of customers and colleagues. It started – as most great ideas do – with the need to solve a problem.


Living Buildings take Sustainability to the Next Level – For years, sustainability has been more than just a buzzword in the construction industry – and with good reason.  As stewards of a planet with limited natural resources, it’s in our own interest to build projects that consume less. The concept of Net-Zero construction has pushed the boundaries of sustainable green building farther, as we enter the era of the Living Building, the industry’s most rigorous performance standard to date.


Just like our Skanska USA projects aim to create new possibilities for our customers, this blog aims to help give a peek behind the curtain at our company and our industry.  Thank you for being part of our stories – here’s to more great projects in 2017.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

When it comes to driving value for customers, bringing innovative solutions to problems is a powerful asset.

In Skanska’s Building Division, the preconstruction group has been utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and parametric estimating technology to help accelerate the building process from concept design to final estimate – to the growing delight of customers and colleagues.

It started – as most great ideas do – with the need to solve a problem.

In Boston, Preconstruction Estimator Tony Meade and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) Managers Matt Emond and Jeremy Thibodeau  realized that their preconstruction work of estimating costs for projects was made challenging by the limited availability of information at the early stages of design. They knew enhancing early design concepts from designers by using advanced BIM technology tools could speed projects and help customers. So they developed a way to create their own models that would allow them to start their estimating work sooner.

“In early designs, the detailed information we rely on to estimate a job is often lacking,” says Matt Emond. “Estimating needs to start before a design has been fully fleshed out. By creating a 3D model and sharing it with the entire team, you eliminate those delays.”

2016-07 PHOTO-ParametricEstimatingTeam2-smaller

(left to right:) Kelsey Stein, David Kabasin, Jeff Courtney, and Teresa Morales, of the Tampa Preconstruction department, look over a parametric estimating job, also displayed on the screen behind them. Credit: Skanska USA.

Our preconstruction team in Tampa, FL is utilizing what it calls a “Revit Takeoff Template” to extract material quantities using 3D models. Estimator Kelsey Stein says the process helps express a design intent and include costs. The “Takeoff Template” is proving to be a very helpful estimate expediting tool, one which was developed along with a training lesson to share the knowledge with other Skanska Preconstruction Teams throughout the US, according to the team.

“We spend less time counting and measuring so we are able to spend more time addressing issues that make the project better,” says Stein. “We are also standardizing how we can express the quantities for a building.”

Some iterations of the technologies allow project details to be changed on the fly and provide cost changes for the customer, instantly. “We can move a wall or change a finish and the estimate can rise or fall based on the change, right there on the screen. That’s an enormous advantage,” says Emond.

USF - Parametric Estimating

An example of parametric estimating that allows real-time adjustments to material costs (at left) as the design of a building is modified (at right). The result speeds projects through multiple iterations keeping a close eye on cost.

The innovation has had added benefits – with seasoned estimators and younger technical experts sharing information in both directions – a kind of two-way mentoring system.  “Experienced team members are learning model usage to their benefit and our tech savvy model users are climbing the estimating learning curve quicker by working together behind the wheel of a BIM model,” says Steve Stouthamer, EVP for Project Planning.

“From an architectural standpoint, this is the future of construction,” says Tampa-based Preconstruction Manager Jeff Courtney. “We’re looking to take lessons learned from this template to develop other 3D tools; this is just the beginning.”

Thibodeau, a member of Skanska’s Innovative Construction Solutions Group, says the merger of images and bottom-line cost can help avoid having customers fixate only on the budget of a project, and allow a discussion about the benefits of building something to its maximum potential.

“A client was flipping through a project cost proposal and had a question, and recalled the model we had created. It demonstrated the power of images and how they connect to the data. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment for us, knowing we had moved the project in the right direction,” says Thibodeau.

“We want to use the extra time the models give us to add value to the project,” says Stein. “With the time we get back, we can more carefully scrutinize pricing levels, analyze sustainability options and review other important elements.  Everything we do in advance of construction makes the project better for the people who build it.”

“I see us doing more and more of this because it’s a benefit to the client, and it helps us build better,” says Emond.

Building the future at Autodesk University: 4 technology takeaways

What happens when you go back to school? Every year we hit the “classroom” at Autodesk University. As one of the preeminent technology conferences in our industry, AU is where we get to learn about new tools of our trade, connect with a network of like-minded innovators, and explore ideas that challenge the status quo. AU also provides us a window into the applications of similar technology in other industries such as automotive, high tech and the film industry, which can spur innovative thought in construction. Skanska has been attending AU for more than ten years and each year we continue to see proof of how technology’s exponential growth is dramatically changing the way we collaborate, design, make and build. This year we were excited about four areas of research that will greatly impact our work. They include:

1.       Using smart machines for design and construction

The increased roles of machine learning — in which algorithms are used to learn from and make predictions on data — and artificial intelligence (AI) are making waves for the construction industry. With the vast amounts of data we create and are beginning to collect throughout a project’s life cycle, we will soon be in a position to use that data to inform better decision making. But getting to those decisions is an incredibly complex process, and that’s where machines are making it easier. Whereas human brains are naturally creative and great at pattern recognition, artificial intelligence can process information faster and simulate many outcomes based on an array of inputs

The result is a likely future where designers and AI-based applications can likely collaborate on designs — that future is closer than you might think. We also envision many roles for these types of tools in construction. Imagine using a model with built-in intelligence for logistics planning. As you make choices for site layout, you’d be given options from an intelligent system to make the site both safer and more efficient.

Today, machine learning is already having big impacts. It’s helping doctors analyze patient data for diagnosis and treatment, and helping banks monitor for fraud. Consider this: IBM’s Watson, a “cognitive computing” supercomputer that combines natural language processing and machine learning to glean insights from reams of data, can process 1,000 books a minute! Watson is also being used to fuel visualizations for accident analysis on jobsites, helping teams predict where accidents are most likely to occur or analyze the site factors influencing safety performance. It can also beat humans at Jeopardy:

While there is no replacing the tribal knowledge or hands-on experience of our people, artificial intelligence will help our teams by making historical knowledge more accessible and meaningful, allowing more time to apply people’s creativity and innovation to solve tomorrow’s new problems.

2.       Finding new ways to access and use data

Other industries benefit from full-scale prototyping processes to validate their designs prior to delivering the final commercial product. For obvious reasons, using similar processes in construction is very limited. However, 3-D models coupled with new virtual reality tools that make visualization more dynamic, immersive and empathetic have the potential to vastly improve design and construction processes. When we put ourselves closer to the design and planning process through virtual reality tools, we can experience the design before it’s built. This experience can help us understand the feasibility of that design sooner, and possibly simulate multiple approaches to construction before we put a shovel in the ground. As construction managers, the ability to utilize, synthesize and act on this information enables us to better partners to our design team.

BIMCITY-revised12.22.15The Skanska team visited “BIM City” at AU 2015.

It’s important to recognize that 3-D models and building information modeling (BIM) are more than just geometric representations of buildings – they are also a repository for a wealth of information. Throughout the design and construction phases of a project, we create and capture information that is extremely valuable to an owner for use in operating their building. Finding best ways to store and extract this data is a huge issue. The sheer number of discussions, classes and casual mentions at AU about extracting data from building information models (BIM) to leverage for operations was staggering, and a clear marker that the industry has recognized the need for better tools and processes to benefit owners. For the last few years, Skanska has been collaborating with some of our customers to explore the best ways for them and other owners to quickly access the information they need, and use it in a way that is most effective for apply it in a meaningful way to support their operations.

For example, we collaborated with George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to create protocols for developing building information models, so that design and construction model data can be more easily used by GW for operations and maintenance. This pioneering work resulted in GW’s Facilities Information Management Procedures Manual, a step toward much greater efficiency that few building owners have taken. With these standards set up front, GW’s designers and builders can create and maintain models that meet the university’s requirements to use them for operations and maintenance.

3. Recruiting millennial technology masters who offer fresh ideas

The AEC industry is on a precipice of change, and in order to truly forge ahead we need the ideas and energy of the next generation. A key challenge is attracting and retaining talent in an industry that has been historically slow to change and adapt new technology.

BIM enables new means of collaboration and makes information more accessible than ever before, which influences our decision making as well as our project approaches. In order to leverage new tools and information like BIM to Build What Matters, we need talented people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The rise of new technology means that our tech-savvy employees – those with aptitude and interests in computer science, gaming and similar fields – will have a unique opportunity to shape our future. This also means that we need to think creatively about the people we’re hiring – the skills and backgrounds that made a great construction manager yesterday will be vastly different by 2020. Our talent pool and recruiting strategies are going to have to change to leverage technology and information.

Go behind the scenes at AU 2015 in 90 seconds.

With the BIM adoption rate going up across our industry, both Millennials and more experienced employees need have the skills to work with models. In response to this need, the University of Washington teamed with Skanska to establish a professional certificate in BIM. This program complements a professional degree or real-world experience by providing hands-on training with BIM tools – the technical focus of our course is a clear differentiator.

But as technology gets smarter and faster, the growing worries about what AEC jobs will look like in the future is real. As Autodesk Chief Technology Officer Jeff Kowalski mentioned in his keynote discussion about the future of our work, “A robot will not take your job – someone who uses a robot better than you will take your job.” The best thing we can do is help make sure our people are prepared to take on that challenge.

4. Enabling broader means of collaboration

Autodesk’s BIM 360 platform, which gives project teams the power to access project models and data in real time, continues to get more robust. We’ve been using it for years and our research indicates it typically saves more than 15 percent of a superintendent’s time in the field. Autodesk’s most recent addition to this platform – BIM 360 Docs – has the potential to streamline a number of our processes and drive efficiency in planning, preconstruction and in the field. We will be working closely with Autodesk to pilot this platform in early 2016.

The next evolution in making information more available is wearable devices. For instance, we’re currently testing applications of DAQRI, an augmented reality helmet that projects data and models directly onto a hands-free display to provide intuitive instructions for jobsite teams: we see this helping improve project safety.

Albert Zulps testing a DAQRI prototype

Skanska’s Albert Zulps tests a DAQRI at AU 2015.

But we see much greater potential than just streamlining the flow of information to project teams: we also see information flow becoming bi-directional. An example of this highlighted at AU is the real-time location system (RTLS) produced by Redpoint Positioning. Skanska recently teamed with Redpoint to test their RTLS technology on our 101 Seaport commercial development project in Boston’s Innovation District. Together, we combined their sensor technology with our BIM models to precisely track construction materials and team members during simulations. RTLS has the potential to leverage BIM so that teams can see actual 3-D location views as they walk a jobsite.

With safety, we used RTLS to define and demarcate zones in the model that contained a simulated risk – such as a fall hazard. When a worker wearing a safety vest connected to the location system entered that zone, the vest would flash to warn of the danger, providing instant feedback and environmental awareness. Additionally, as part of lean planning we are exploring how RTLS can help us better measure and refine manpower efficiency and constantly improve our construction schedules. We’ve built this technology into our new Skanska Boston office space at 101 Seaport, turning it into a living lab environment where we can dig deeper into the potential of RTLS, and show customers how it may benefit them.


The team at 101 Seaport tests the Redpoint System.

We’re in the midst of some sea changes in the AEC industry, as technologies are emerging to better solve important customer needs. For those companies oriented around innovation, and planning for disruption, the opportunities are immense.

If you missed AU 2015, be sure to check out all the classes, keynotes and innovation forums available online:



These 3 emerging technologies may help improve jobsite safety

Skanska is relentless in our efforts to ensure that project sites are injury-free, and a key aspect of that is developing, testing and evaluating solutions intended to reduce risk and prevent incidents. Below are three such technologies we’re currently exploring. For an even deeper dive, we’ll be discussing some of this at ENR’s FutureTech East Conference September 30 to October 1 in New York City.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) ties construction processes and safety protocols together by harnessing the potential that comes from being immersed in a 3-D environment: there’s no need to imagine a safety scenario when you’re able to physically experience a space that may not yet be built. Our virtual reality and gaming journey has included conducting research with the University of Washington and Virginia Tech, testing cave automatic virtual environments – better known by the acronym CAVE – and determining the possibilities of smart helmets such as DAQRI, an augmented reality helmet that projects data and models directly onto a hands-free display to provide intuitive instructions for jobsite teams. We’re excited about where we are today with this: employing technology to find better ways to achieve injury-free environments.

A great example of this is how we’re seeking to leverage VR to improve the Global Safety Stand Downs we hold whenever a serious incident occurs on any of our projects. Today, this important aspect of our safety culture involves our teams, company-wide, stopping work to discuss what occurred, sometimes with 3-D renderings of the incident scene supporting those conversations. But imagine how much more effective these stand downs would be if they included interactive animations of what happened. Even better, what if – through gaming technology – you could make choices, possibly leading to a different outcome in the animation? By engaging people on so many levels, VR enables learning via empathy since it places individuals at the center of the experience, which is quite powerful. Creating a library of interactive safety simulations is a current focus of ours, and we’re glad that OSHA shares our thinking, as seen through its Hazard Identification Training Tool.


We’re creating a library of interactive safety simulations to improve our safety training.

Real-time location systems

Real-time location systems (RTLS), such as Bluetooth-powered beacons or sensors, are being deployed to connect the physical and digital worlds in ways that make our lives easier and safer: they essentially function as an indoor GPS. For example, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority in Boston is testing beacons that utilize a smartphone app to better track and understand rider behavior. And in healthcare, RTLS helps hospitals track critical equipment such as dialysis machines and “crash carts” for medical emergencies so they can be instantly located by staff.

We see great potential for RTLS in construction, especially as it relates to synchronizing BIM with the built environment to increase jobsite safety and efficiency. At our 101 Seaport commercial development project in Boston, we are teaming with Redpoint Positioning to test their RTLS technology with our BIM models to accurately and dynamically track materials and team members, giving us real-time visibility into jobsite operations. The safety implications here are tremendous: at any given time we can tell where a tool, material or person is on the jobsite and plan accordingly. For example, our teams can use the sensors with BIM models to define a hazardous area, such as a fall hazard. When a worker wearing a safety vest connected to the location system enters that hazardous zone, the vest will start flashing to warn of the danger, providing instant feedback and environmental awareness. This information is also transmitted to the appropriate manager, who can use it to log incidents and plan for more learning opportunities. Additionally, for lean planning, we will be exploring how RTLS helps drive manpower efficiency and continuous improvement for our construction schedules.

We see RTLS powering better ways of operating buildings too, such as  creating an interactive wayfinding experience for customers in an airport terminal or large mall; adding a layer of augmented reality to a hospitality or entertainment experience; increasing security for personnel or critical assets; or creating the infrastructure for a smart building that can aid building management and operations.  To further explore this technology, we’re building it into Skanska’s new Boston office, which will be at 101 Seaport. For more on how we’re testing real time location systems, check out this video:


By enabling us to better understand projects, drones have tremendous potential to help mitigate jobsite risks and enable smarter ways of building. And now that we have received our first drone certification from the FAA, we are excited to start using drones on some of our projects. For example, our joint venture on San Diego’s I-5 North Coast Corridor highway widening project is planning to use a drone for surveying in an environmentally sensitive lagoon that is off-limits to a conventional manned survey. Overall, we see drones becoming an important part of our project planning process. There are huge upsides with this emerging technology, and also significant challenges too. We’re working closely with the FAA to determine the best practices for jobsites.

Civil drone training session - CA

As we train more employees to use drones, we expect scenes like this to become more common on our construction sites. 

The future

Looking even further into the future of construction, we see artificial intelligence becoming key This might involve predictive analytics to forecast future outcomes and trends, self-driving construction vehicle, and robots – such as what we’re researching in the UK – that reduce the chance for human error. Furthermore, we see project sites becoming more industrialized through the use of prefabricated and modular construction, and 3-D printing becoming more mainstream.

Ultimately, these advances have significant potential to help both Skanska and the broader construction industry eliminate jobsite injuries. We can’t reach that target soon enough.

The path to ENR magazine’s highest honor

We didn’t set out to win awards when tasked with constructing Florida Polytechnic University’s Innovation, Science and Technology Building. We were too focused on the great puzzle before us: finding a way to erect this Santiago Calatrava design – with the centerpiece being incredible rooftop louver arms that would raise and lower each day like butterfly wings to shade the interior – on a strict academic year schedule and an immovable $60 million budget. Even more, there was the extreme precision the design required. There was no roadmap for a project like this. Still, the entire project team – Skanska, the architects, engineers and specialty contractors – was motivated by the opportunity to execute Calatrava’s design without compromise.  If anyone could realize his vision, surely it was this team.


This week, a year after students moved into this 160,000-square-foot sculpture of classrooms, research and teaching labs, grand public spaces and offices, we learned that the IST Building has won Engineering News-Record (ENR) magazine’s highest honor: Global Project of the Year. This building, the founding structure of a new university dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is “the most outstanding example of the risks and rewards – and the hurdles overcome – of designing and building internationally.” The entire team couldn’t be more honored and proud of this recognition. Days later, I’m still smiling from hearing the news.

All involved with the project learned a great deal. Here are a few highlights of our approach and of what this team created.

Work as a broader team:  We pushed team members to break down the barriers that normally exist between designers and builders, and between construction trades. As I’ve described to ENR, I wanted each partner firm to work beyond contractual responsibilities to seek broader, shared solutions. This included having specialty contractors and design consultants participate early in the project in design-assist roles. All of us were a team that worked as one. How did we do this? By making the project personal. From the day anyone stepped onto the site, we let them know that through this special project, they had an opportunity to make America stronger and smarter. Florida Polytechnic students are going to challenge the limits of STEM just like we were challenging the limits of building. John F. Kennedy once spoke of the great outcomes that come from closely collaborating and never accepting average – that’s the approach we took at Polytechnic.

Don’t compromise the design:  The biggest issue to world-renowned architects like Calatrava is that they’re worried their design is going to be compromised during construction. If anything, Skanska wants to enhance it, if we can. Understanding the complex geometry of the Polytechnic design – where nearly everything is on a radius – required my team to become one with it. That helped build trust between Skanska and the architects, and it enabled us to convey our understanding to the specialty contractors. At first, Calatrava’s design captures your curiosity, then it captures your heart, and then your soul. There are not many architects in the world about which you can say that. For us as builders, this is the type of project we dream about doing in our careers.


Collaborate to fly: The building’s identity is tied to the rooftop louver arms. Originally, the design concept for those wings was a pair of matched structural-steel elements – each with 47 arms – that would move via hydraulic equipment at each end. That approach proved unfeasible because of the extreme stresses it would have put on the building. The path forward became a series of charrettes over two years, which typified our teamwork approach. Out of those collaborations, the team proposed an alternative system of lighter aluminum louvers, each operating with an independent hydraulic cylinder at the base of each arm. Today those louvers rise to 12 stories above the ground to ensure the proper amount of light enters the building. This approach maintained the look and functionality that Calatrava had intended.

Be precise:  Precision was fundamental, given that it would not be possible to cover any imperfections. The rooftop louvers – with a 1/16 of an inch tolerance – had to function. The interior concrete is exposed, including the dramatic concrete raker beams at both ends of the building that converge at oval skylights. Building information modeling (BIM) was part of the solution, and so was bringing in the best craft workers from across Florida. More importantly, we made sure everyone understood the effect that even the smallest deviance would have on other components. Our team’s mindset was to make sure all components were installed with zero tolerance, or the design intent would not be achieved. We convinced the craft workers that if any project was worth their best effort, it was this.


Building up the team: To me, building and motivating my Skanska team was just as important as constructing this magnificent structure. My approach is this: I discover what each person is best at doing that helps the project, and then I challenge them to develop those skills even more. I involve them with as much as they can handle. I motivate them every day. I reward them. I compliment them as much as I possibly can, and I have their back at all times so they can do what I need them to do.

Safety above all else: From everything I’ve shared so far, you might think that delivering this showpiece project was our team’s highest priority. If so, you are wrong. You can build the most beautiful, the most perfect building in the world, but if someone gets hurt doing so, the end result doesn’t mean anything. For the IST project, our most important target was achieving an Injury-Free Environment®. We managed that goal on a daily basis, starting with the safety orientations we provided to some 1,200 workers. In those sessions, we made it clear that our top priorities are safety, jobsite cleanliness and quality – and really, those three items are intertwined. We reached our target, with no lost-time incidents over the 750,000 hours it took to build the project.


Moving ahead, the IST Building demonstrates how Skanska is committed to challenging the limits of design and construction. We want to continually find more effective ways of providing safe work environments, efficiently delivering high-quality projects, realizing the architect’s intent, and maximizing what the client can obtain for a given budget. I’ve spent 12 years building for Skanska, and I’m prouder than ever to be part of one of the world’s premier builders – especially when I get to be part of projects that shape the future of America, like this one.

This thesis shows how performance management can improve client satisfaction

Early in her construction career, Wendy (Li) MacLeod-Roemer realized there was significant room to improve construction delivery beyond traditional means. To help advance our industry, she decided to pursue a PhD in organization management to understand what changes would be most effective. She dedicated her thesis to exploring how performance management can transform construction projects. Here, Wendy – now one of our senior project managers – explains how her research shows that cost isn’t what is most important to clients.

What inspired your thesis?

I had worked for several years for another general contractor, and I felt that, in general, the architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) industry is very conservative and, innovation-wise, operating backward from other industries. I was motivated to improve that and wanted to explore any tools the A/E/C industry can adopt from other industries.

What were the main tools you tried to adopt?

I read a lot about lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System, and thought it was particularly of interest how the company continuously tracks and visually displays its performance to all workers – from those on the front lines all the way up to the executive level. This constant feedback helps them stay on top of their work, catch potential problems and course correct with agility – all important factors in the success of a project. I thought to myself: “This is such a simple thing, why doesn’t everyone do it?” On construction projects, no matter how many people you ask you’ll probably get a different answer regarding how each individual thinks the project is doing in terms of performance. I explored the “why” behind this and tried to see if construction could adopt what Toyota and other manufacturing industry leaders have been using to see similar successes with improving client satisfaction and performance. I needed to measure the data against something, and so I chose client satisfaction, the foremost indicator of project success.

How did you collect your data?

Project team members involved in day-to-day operations – including project managers and engineers, superintendents, design consultants and client representatives – were sent a handful of survey questions each week surrounding project performance metrics most closely related to their involvement on the project. The metrics included such subjects as commitment reliability (relating to how often promises made – such as for requests for information, submittals and meeting action items – were kept); constraint removal (relating to whatever is preventing a task from proceeding) and such subjective measures as leadership and meeting effectiveness.

The entire team would then receive feedback a couple of days after the survey: circling back this way helped project leaders know which areas to prioritize to improve day-to-day planning and overall project performance. Ultimately, I wanted to collect lots of data so I could see which areas of performance mattered most to the client at any given time – which areas truly predict project success. Is it really cost and schedule, as it often assumed?

What did you find?

Through looking at survey answers and talking with the clients, I found that it wasn’t cost that made them most happy, but rather overall project performance predictability. It is more important to clients that the team is effective and keeps the client in the loop on what is happening and what is planned to happen. This is in part because with complex projects with evolving needs throughout construction, cost can be somewhat fluid.

Another meaningful finding is that greater building information modeling (BIM) use and higher perceived BIM value leads to higher client satisfaction. Perceived BIM value refers to the benefits that construction team members believe that BIM brings to their projects. By using more effective BIM techniques, data showed that it ultimately led to happier clients. This is likely an indirect correlation – perhaps BIM improved the quality of design, which in turn improved on-site work, thus leading to happier clients.


Sample dashboards used as feedback for the teams.

How was the performance management data displayed to the team?

Every week for three years, we emailed them the visual performance dashboard summarizing the survey results, and some projects would also post it in their office. The data was displayed much like a dashboard in your car. It had visual graphics like pie charts, line graphs and had traffic lights – green, yellow and red – to illustrate where you should focus your resources. When it showed yellow, it meant you needed to keep an eye on the issue, and red lights showed where you needed put your attention immediately. One of the drivers in creating the dashboard was that everyone is busy and has limited resources – a red light immediately draws your attention to something that’s wrong now.

I studied this on five projects over three years: these were the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s San Carlos Center near San Francisco for which Skanska was part of the integrated project delivery team, and four projects for Walt Disney Imagineering. I picked San Carlos Center because the client – Sutter Health – is at the forefront of innovation and lean adoption, and Disney is also a leader in using lean for facilities delivery. Survey participation was voluntary, and, during the research period, I had over 10,700 responses from all the project teams, data was collected every single week. Additionally, by introducing this performance management tracking and feedback method, client satisfaction volatility was reduced by 13 percent across all five case studies. Reducing volatility is the first step to increasing satisfaction!

For general contractors, is this something you could use for trade contractors or craft workers?

It’s very flexible. It can be geared toward anything you want to manage. As project teams, you can send the surveys out to your trade contractors to get their feedback to measure specific scopes of work. You can vary the metrics and ask questions more specific to project controls or preconstruction.


A snapshot of labor productivity over the last 40 years. The blue line shows the increase in productivity across industries with the exception of construction, portrayed by the red line, which has decreased.

How do you envision this method being implemented in the future?

No formal method has been widely disseminated to keep track of construction project performance. To fill this gap, my method offers a very simple and intuitive approach. The survey and statistical analysis tools I used already exist and are easy to use. Ideally, in the future a program could automate all of this and put it together to include both metric data collection and dashboard feedback. It’s kind of like how BIM use diffused throughout the A/E/C industry. There was some resistance at first, but compared to BIM this is much easier to implement. It’s one of my goals to hopefully get Skanska to use this metric-based performance feedback methodology (called MetPerforma) at the regional level where I am, and then adopt it across the board.

All other industries have improved in terms of labor productivity in the last 40 years except for construction, which went down 20 percent! This even included farming, which shot straight up on the index. Economists found that performance management as a practice is directly correlated to productivity, among other contributing factors. My PhD research validated that MetPerforma improves construction performance management as a practice. My vision is for it to ultimately improve field productivity industry-wide.

For more information on Wendy’s dissertation check out her presentation here: