Estero, Fla. – Suffolk recently opened their first Florida Smart Labs at their offices in Tampa and Miami.
Similar Labs opened in late 2017 in Boston, New York City and San Francisco.
The Smart Lab is a collaborative environment where Suffolk’s team identifies, tests, pilots and implements solutions and innovations that are revolutionizing the construction industry.
The Lab includes the Data Wall, a Huddlewall, live jobsite feeds, a Virtual Reality Cave and collaborative space.
The Data Wall is six integrated, 50-inch displays for interactively presenting predictive analytics and operational performance indicators. By linking together the panels into a single display, the wall can be used as a large canvas for 3D visualizations with headsets.
The expansive, touch-responsive Huddlewall is used for Lean pull planning which allows players from every aspect of the construction process including plumbers, electricians, painters, etc. to compare notes and collaborate on their current project in real time.The wall functions like a series of stickie notes in a visual flow chart. Information like square-footage and the choice of materials to how many workers will be needed on a certain project can be accessed and updated, all with a swipe across the screen. Changes and updates transfer instantly to a work schedule displayed on another series of Smart Boards, spelling out each trade partner’s assignment and timing and real-time price estimates. If a client wants to switch a flooring choice, a note on one screen will adjust each additional screen within seconds to show how that change will impact the project’s timing and cost.
A third wall of displays is devoted to showing live streams or time-lapse images from jobsite cameras and side-by-side comparisons of the construction phase at various stages.
The lab also has an immersive CAVE, or “computer aided virtual environment,” for advanced 3D-model visualization. By putting on an HTC Vive headset, Suffolk clients walk through a photorealistic 3D model of their project that has been created from architectural blueprints and drawings. The CAVE also allows a group of people to explore a virtual environment together while wearing WorldViz VR 3D glasses.
The CAVE allows team members and clients to walk through a work site to make sure the hallways are wide enough for construction materials and equipment; ride elevators from the ground floor to the roof of a project or step into a posh hotel room and change the color of the wallpaper or countertops with the click of a handheld controller.
In addition to the technology-focused spaces, the lab includes a training-and-innovation development area that is part of the company’s Build Smart initiative.
In the regional labs like Tampa, project managers will be introduced to new tools and draw feedback from their results. Regional Smart Lab managers then roll up that information to the national level of the company.
“The goal is to make the building process, design to completion, more efficient, more cost effective and more collaborative,” said Christopher Mayer, executive vice president and chief innovation officer for Suffolk. “These labs showcase our technology engagement to prospective customers, but they are designed, equipped and staffed primarily to create a support system for data-based decision-making, innovation assessment, and sharing and scaling up the deployment of productivity-enhancing tools, from trials to jobsites and, ultimately, throughout the company.”
According to Suffolk’sVice President, Operations, Josh Christensen, sorting out construction details digitally is more cost effective.
“Pixels cost less than bricks,” he said. “Using this type of technology enables us to be able to look ahead at potential issues that may arise in a project, and make design decisions early on, so they don’t impact the schedule and ultimately the cost of the project. Instead of clients saying ‘I hope it’s going to look like this,’ we can say, ‘Here’s what it’s going to look like’”.
“There has been a lot of new technology in the last decade, but it hasn’t really played into the construction industry until now,” said Mayer. “And our clients love it. Instead of being intimidated by it, they are saying this is what they want.”
Suffolk is a national building contractor with $2.7 billion in annual revenue and offices in Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Estero, Dallas, Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. We service clients in every major industry sector, including healthcare, science and technology, education, federal government, gaming, aviation and commercial. The southeast region of the company was established in 1994 and was recently recognized as Engineering News Record’s 2016 Southeast Contractor of the Year.
Suffolk’s vision is to “transform the construction experience by building smart.” We believe in the power of innovation and people, and we empower our teams to think differently, work collaboratively and executive flawlessly on the most complex and sophisticated projects in the country. Our strong culture of innovation, combined with the most advanced tools such as virtual design and construction (VDC), virtual reality technologies and lean construction principles, is revolutionizing our industry and redefining what it means to be a builder.
Suffolk is a community-conscious organization dedicated to sustainable business practices and making a positive impact in the communities where we build. For more information, visit www.suffolk.com and/or follow Suffolk on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and Instagram.