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From the Field
HPAC Engineering - 2018

Editor's Note: Buckle Up, Buck Rodgers

If you don’t think our industry's relentless technology revolution applies to you because your projects are too small or too specialized, then think again. From BIM and 3D printing to Augmented Reality and real-time collaboration, the opportunities for increased profit and improved process have never been greater.

Before joining HPAC Engineering a year ago, I had served the previous three years as chief editor for the blog at BuiltWorlds, a media and events startup founded in 2014 by Chicago area general contractor Matt Gray. While startup life had its predictable ups and downs, the trajectory of the construction technology market that we covered was surprisingly consistent: always upward.

Today, even as mergers and consolidation in that sector continue to make headlines — the latest being Autodesk’s acquisition of Assemble Systems — the overall health and vitality of tech in this market seems as strong as ever. One particularly energetic advocate for greater tech use in the HVACR trades has been the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), which launched its own ambitious Technology Initiative for members some four years ago. In this issue, MCAA’s Sean McGuire, the group’s first-ever director of construction technology, updates us on the broader strategy now being implemented for giving members more case studies and solid research data upon which to base their tech investment decisions.

Toward that end, MCAA is also the lead sponsor for the 7th Annual Construction Technology Survey, just completed last month by industry tech evangelist JBKnowledge Inc. Some 2,800 firms across the U.S. participated in the survey this year, and results are still being tabulated for release in January. (For more on the type of data included, visit our story from February on last year's report.)

Now, if you don’t think any of this tech stuff will really affect you or your business because your projects are too small or too specialized, then think again. Heck, just leaf through this issue to get a taste of how technology is already being used to save time and money on projects of all sizes, through improved efficiency and 24/7 monitoring that controls energy use and extends the life of new equipment.

Wilder tech applications abound, too, but still with practical uses. Last month, for instance, global contractor Skanska announced that it had licensed an augmented reality (AR) system, which is designed to quickly visualize complex BIM models in the field. Available in the Autodesk App Store, the new VisualLive 3D (above) enables users either wearing Microsoft HoloLens goggles, or with an iPhone or an iPad, to experience Revit, Navisworks or CAD models at 1:1 scale on site. The images can even be “zoomed out on a conference table during meetings,” the tech firm says. And a basic version of the software is priced at just $2,000, for use on unlimited devices.

Of course, no societal advances are without risk. As “security fanaticNick Espinosa also notes in this issue, as well as in his new TEDx Talk (see below), “With innovation comes opportunity for exploitation.”

So, stay vigilant. But try new things. Tomorrow’s tech can make you both more competitive and more profitable. And using it will be easier than you think.

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TAGS: Columns
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