In Part I of our Trailblazers interview, Danielle Dy Buncio, co-founder and CEO of VIATechnik, discussed how innovation in architecture is often connected to technology and explores the biggest hurdles to innovation.
In Part II, Dy Buncio explores the biggest opportunities for AI and machine learning in the industry as well as what technologies can potentially help construction companies adjust to the new normal.
Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, leads the conversation.
DDB: I see a lot of different technologies with the role I play in the industry. To some extent I’ve become a little bit jaded. I’m not sure there will be one lone emerging technology that’s going to break away and become “the Uber or Airbnb for construction”. I’m convinced that it’s going to be this integration of multiple technologies.
Back to my point about these like two half-baked ideas colliding: I see a lot of emerging technologies coming out that are point solutions. This technology tackles, for example, labor productivity, construction scheduling, or how to go from BIM to fabrication.
If you start to put all of those together and think about the right workflow before integration, that’s when real change starts to occur.
There are a lot of challenges to making this happen. Instead of a company embracing one technology and making a change there, it needs to embrace ten technologies and figure out the right workflow for those ten. But if you start to think about how other industries were changed, it’s much less about one emerging technology and much more about process.
My husband and I often discuss the fact that Toyota changed the car industry through a process of lean manufacturing. I’m currently focused on the process of bringing multiple technologies together to really make an impact instead of just the technology alone.
But the challenge is very few people want to pay for processes. They want something shiny and tangible, so that is a constant challenge we push with our clients.
DDB: One of our board of advisors, Martin Fischer, was a professor of mine. Martin once told me that the world breaks down into science and art. He said that what is science can—and should be—automated. I’ve gone through the construction industry with that lens: What is science and what is art?
We make a lot of the things we’re doing "an art" when there could be more of a science behind it. One of the biggest areas of impact can be through construction scheduling. That sounds very basic, but there’s a lot to it.
If you can figure out how to optimize a construction schedule, you can start to tackle some of the major challenges that our industry is facing, like the skilled labor shortage and our stagnant, possibly declining, productivity rates.
We’re ultimately building projects cheaper and are moving on to the next project faster. There’s a lot of good that can come from improving construction scheduling which we often treat as an art.
For example, a seasoned superintendent is bringing years of experience to the construction site.
What if, instead of 50 projects worth of experience, we were bringing thousands of projects worth of experience? What’s holding us back right now is data collection and data integrity.
The industry hasn’t historically kept good data. Now that we are keeping data, we struggle to know how to combine it and make sense of it. We don’t necessarily have the right systems to put that all in place.
However, if we start thinking about what parts of our process—from design to construction to operations—are science, we can start tackling those one by one. We can collect and integrate targeted data to see what insights can be drawn from it. That’s where we’re going to start seeing the biggest impacts.
Read more Trailblazers posts here.
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