AU Day 2 Recap: Top Insights from Construction Sessions

day 2 recap construction autodesk university au 2020

We hope you are enjoying all that Autodesk University has to offer so far! On Day 1, we heard about several exciting construction announcements at the opening keynotes. Today, there was an incredible selection of live classes engaging on topics such as diversity in construction, lessons learned in 2020, and project delivery. 

We've recapped some of the top sessions that premiered on Day 2 of AU 2020:

Don't forget; you can still catch them on-demand (as well as hundreds more). Visit our Session list and Construction Hub for more Autodesk University content! 

How the Construction industry & Media Can Work Together to Attract More Diversity

Moderated by Niyati Desai, PR & Communications Manager at Autodesk, this panel's goal was to inspire discussion and action within the marketing and media landscape to present content with inclusion in mind to attract more diversity to the construction industry. 

Niyati was joined by Janice Tuchman, Editor-in-Chief, ENR, Elizabeth Manning, Managing Editor, Construction Business Owner, Anna Cangialosi, Communications Manager, Barton Malow, Clifton (Cliff) Cole, VDC Director, PENTA Building Group. 

After the moderator and panelists introduced themselves and explained why this was a topic of passion personally, the conversation shifted into encouraging more diversity in the construction industry. We want to encourage good talent to show up. We spend so much time and energy on recruitment, but if there’s little representation in how the construction industry presents in media and marketing, then are we really encouraging the best talent out there to apply to positions and fill our workforce? Several of the panelists mentioned programs and initiatives to help young women and lower-income communities learn more about the construction industry. Cliff said, "These programs bring awareness and give back to the community." 

From a media perspective, Elizabeth stressed that there needs to be a focus on "seeking stories that need to be told – even when it's not comfortable." Janice added that it's about spending time with diverse groups.

"When we make decisions and selections [about stories], we need to make sure we create a diverse group." - Elizabeth Manning, Managing Editor, Construction Business Owner

From a large contractor's point of view, Anna shared the importance of internal organizational support – such as diversity & inclusion committees and groups. Cliff shared how important leadership is to the equation. "Leadership is critical and needs to be open to opportunities. Having a voice helps push D&I. It's a team effort to make a true change," he said. Janice also added that it's critical to have leaders allow someone of color and/or a woman to speak and be the face of the company. As Niyati recapped, "it's about stage sharing."

The conversation moved on to advocacy. Elizabeth noted the importance of company culture – particularly one that values diversity & inclusion efforts. Elizabeth and Janice both agreed that the media has a role in being advocates by providing a marketplace of ideas and being intentional about what they're covering in their publications. 

As part of the Live Q&A, one of the attendees asked: As a white male with a minority daughter, how can I introduce her to the construction industry? 

Janice drew on her own experience when her father took her to a construction site growing up. "So many females in the construction industry today joined because they said their fathers took them to a jobsite when they were younger."

The session included many other powerful insights and conversation topics. Make sure you watch the full session here

2020: The Aftermath

This session was moderated by Jeff Sample, the Ironman of IT and involved a retrospect of the changes in construction over the last year. Jeff was joined by Alex Belkofer, CM-BIM, Virtual Design & Construction Director, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., Sal D'Ambrosia, Director of Construction Technology, Wm. Blanchard Co., and Jonathan Marash, CEO, SteelToe Consulting, LLC. 

Jeff opened by stressing the importance of looking at this year with honesty to move forward. "We have to look at the negative and be honest about it," he said. 

Jeff mentioned how, at the start of the pandemic, the unknown was perhaps the biggest issue. "The worst thing was that we didn't know what to expect when it started," he noted. Alex commented on just how much changed overnight. "People weren't used to doing online meetings, and the job was already hard enough as it is." For the people that previously resisted technology, Sal commented that they "got hit with 2020 real hard because they had to adapt quickly." 

Nevertheless, Alex was encouraged how teams "turned a negative into a positive" and took online work to their advantage. Jonathan noted some of the positive innovations and inspirations he saw this year, too. He said, "People are fully dialed into their tech now. They are collaborating virtually, and this gets rid of the constraints of having to be in-person to be productive." 

The conversation then shifted to the lessons learned from this year in the AEC industry. The panelists agreed that success comes from getting people into a good process with the least amount of tools and the best result. The panelists saw a lot of benefits for Big Rooms in particular. "We can test the boundaries of what the Big Room could be," said Alex. 

Jonathan commented on how beneficial new ways of working are for some people like introverts, "If you give them enough time, they'll think about it and give you a good answer as long as they don't have to scream over someone." He also noted that he has never spoken to the owner as much as he does not virtually. 

When asked about the top programs they learned due to the pandemic, the panelists mentioned Lucidchart, Mural, Slack, and even advancing their skills with basic programs.

Finally, the panelists were asked what would be a tragedy if we didn't learn from this year. Alex summarized it perfectly, stressing how at the end of the day, it's about humans.

"Step back as a human and learn to work together. We need to be understanding of people's situations."  - Alex Belkofer, CM-BIM, Virtual Design & Construction Director, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

Don't miss out on all the valuable lessons and conversations this session covered – we only scraped the surface in our recap. Make sure you watch the full session here

What Project Delivery Method Is Best for Your Project, and Why? 

This session was hosted by Marin Pastar AIA, NCARB, ASHE, Global Technology Leader, Jacobs. He was joined by his colleague Brian Myers, CM-BIM, Senior Digital Delivery Leader, Jacobs. However, the session was mostly an open conversation about project delivery and was an interactive experience garnering live feedback from session attendees. 

Marin started with a quick overview of project delivery methods. "Every project is a factor of time and money," he noted. However, he stressed that in each handover point – whether its architects to construction managers or to operations – some information is always lost. "These are areas where non-optimal activities happen. This is where time and money is wasted – change orders, RFIs, etc."

The key to reducing this disconnected world is to leverage virtual design and construction technologies and an integrated design process. "It's a team-centric approach," he said 

He proceeded to go over contractual agreements, benefits, and drawbacks of several key delivery methods, including Design-Bid-Build (DBB), CM at Risk (CMAR), Design-Build (DB), and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). 

The conversation moved onto a discussion about how projects are delivered traditionally with 2D documents – but how they are not necessarily a good way to communicate design intent when 3D can work much better. Instead, he noted the importance of integrating everyone into the design team upfront. 

Brian added, "[2D] is the traditional way of doing our jobs for the last hundred years. But there's a lot of room for error and duplication of work when you rely on 2D. 3D definitely has its own place, and in many ways, it can be superior, especially when we're talking about something like clash detection." 

Nevertheless, depending on delivery models, there are significant challenges about sharing models due to liabilities. For instance, one of the attendees brought up how insurance restrictions restricted them from sharing models. "It all goes back to the legal aspect of what we can do." 

Still, Marin advocated throughout the presentation of the importance of upfront alignment. "Without setting those goals early in the project delivery process, a lot of those efficiencies (from technology) can be lost," he said. 

When the audience was polled on which project delivery method they thought was best, nearly 40% agreed IPD was the favored choice. This nicely shifted to a conversation on collaboration and the use of technology. Often, designers, engineers, and contractors are limited by usage of technology by the owner. "We need to be owners' reps and communicate what technology can gain them – not just cost them," said an attendee. 

One of the attendees asked, should the owner own or dictate the collaboration tools or the designer? Marin reiterated that it varies. Every owner has different standards on how they want projects delivered. He mentioned that when owners take that control and create standards, it helps keep project delivery unified. 

"We work – and should work – in much more collaborative ways. But we seem to be all over the place in how we deliver projects," he said.

"If we didn't have to worry about liability, I think we would be working in a much more collaborative way than any of these procurement methods." - Marin Pastar AIA, NCARB, ASHE, Global Technology Leader, Jacobs

The attendees were asked what project delivery method is best when it comes to team collaboration and use of technology. An overwhelming majority, nearly 80%, thought IPD was best. 

The conversation moved on to roles and responsibilities in the delivery process. "Communication, transparency are key to ensuring a very collaborative design process," Marin said. "Share as often as you can with owners." 

Interestingly enough, when the attendees were polled about which delivery method they thought set up the delivery team's clearest rules and responsibilities, the majority thought it was DBB. 

Again though, it's about setting expectations from the start of a project. "Understanding the project client and constraints upfront before selecting a project delivery method is the best way to ensure success," he added. 

There's plenty more to learn from the session on project delivery methods. Make sure you watch the full session here

More Recaps Coming Soon

We'll be recapping the construction highlights from Day 3-4 of Autodesk University in the next couple of days. Stay tuned and subscribe to our blog to get updates delivered to your inbox! 

Alexa De La Parra Ramirez

Content & Communications Coordinator, Autodesk Construction Solutions