Behind the Build: Interview with Chris Baze, Director of Construction Technology, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. 

Fact: change is almost always met with resistance. Humans are creatures of habit, so our first instinct is to stay in places or situations familiar to us. However, if teams and organizations want to continue progressing, we must embrace change—especially when adopting tools that level up our processes. 

This is why it's always great to have technology champions in your team. Rather than being afraid of change, these trailblazers stay open to innovation and strive to bring others along. 

One such example of a tech champion is Chris Baze, Architect and BIM Manager at Hawaiian Dredging Co. Throughout his career, Chris has advocated for using new tools to improve team communication and productivity.  

We recently caught up with Chris and asked him about his career journey, his perspective on the construction industry, and what it takes to succeed.  

Check out what he has to say.  

Tell me a little bit about Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company and what you specialize in. 

Hawaiian Dredging is the largest and one of the oldest general contractors in Hawaii, having gotten their start dredging Pearl Harbor. The business model is geared towards anything large construction in Hawaii.  

We're also very diverse. We have five operating divisions—building, commercial, power and industrial, heavy, and waterfront. Since we have labor and equipment and know how to use them in this geographically isolated area, we're able to support all these different divisions.  

My role is Director of Construction Technology, and I've been with the company for 15 years now. I started on-site at Aulani, the Disney Resort here in Oahu. I was out on site for two years, and I've been a main office BIM manager for many years before moving into my new role.  

I've been expanding to other areas with technology and growing with Autodesk. As Autodesk Construction Cloud has expanded beyond the BIM realm, so have I. 

Walk me through your career and what led you to becoming Architect, BIM Manager. 

I've been a longtime Autodesk user and taught my first AutoCAD class before graduating high school. I went through Virginia Tech architecture school. They didn't focus on software there, so a lot of it was self-taught.  

After I graduated, I moved to Hawaii and worked for an architecture firm for a couple of years. We were provided with Revit, but no one knew how to use it yet. I think the project architects were apprehensive about it, so I spent my time after work redrawing everything that I did in AutoCAD during the day in Revit at night. 

Back then, we were working on a large tower project at 10th and Market in San Francisco. Around 2009, there was a recession, and the firm I was working for decreased in size from about 30 people to eight people, and I was one of the remaining eight.  

As for Hawaiian Dredging, one of my colleagues had already made the jump there from architecture to construction. Hawaiian Dredging was interested in doing a BIM model for this massive Aulani project. At the time, I was one of the only people in the state with experience doing large projects in Revit because of my 10th and Market experience. So, I put in my personal time to learn the software, which paid off because it created this opportunity for me. 

What is your proudest accomplishment in your career at Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company? 

I can identify a handful of situations and projects, but I get a lot of job satisfaction from job sites asking me for tech that I previously had to encourage projects to roll out. Adopting new technology is usually more of a push effort of, "Hey, we should try this. There's value in it." It's kind of like begging people to use it.  

But when the tech gets adopted well, everyone's asking for it in the next project. We've had that happen with drone photogrammetry and with crane-hook technology called Versatile, which we're using. We're starting to use Genda for real-time location services inside our buildings.  

So, seeing tech stick is really what keeps me driven and eager to innovate more. 

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role? How does technology help you overcome those challenges? 

The biggest challenge on a construction site, in general, is communication. Did the right people have the right information at the right time?  

With that in mind, BIM is essentially a communication tool. It helps you compile all this information from your drawings and specs and put it in this digital twin format to represent what you're building. That's been the way that we've approached the implementation of BIM, and it has paid dividends for us. 

The other aspect we're getting more into now is, "Okay, we've got this beautiful 3D model of what we're trying to build, but how do we keep better tabs on what's built?" 

So, it's the blending of reality capture, the physical world, and the digital world. I think that's one of the biggest struggles in the industry. How do you do that efficiently now that we have all these IoT devices measuring various aspects of the job at different cadences?  

You might do a weekly video walk or have a device running on-site 24/7 measuring something, but blending that into a cohesive record is challenging. I think that's the problem that the industry as a whole is trying to solve right now.   

Are you using Autodesk Construction Cloud on any unique and/or challenging projects? If so, what has been the impact of using Autodesk Construction Cloud for these projects? 

We've used all versions of Autodesk Construction Cloud and BIM 360 since they came out. Originally, we used it for storing models and model coordination. Then, it expanded. We recently started using Autodesk Construction Cloud for drawings instead of Bluebeam Studio, which we used for over a decade.  

The single source of truth mentality holds a lot of value. Also, Autodesk Construction Cloud constantly adds value by providing a great place to store your specs, drawings, models, RFIs, and submittals.  

We've been slowly expanding the realm of what Autodesk Construction Cloud encapsulates. Six years ago, we implemented an ERP system and adopted CMIC. Right now, we're playing with getting CMIC to talk to ACC to further deduplicate some of this data that's flowing into our systems. 

How has Autodesk Construction Cloud-driven more predictability and confidence in your projects? 

The explosion of tech has had the unintended consequence of designers making more changes because it's easier to do. As a result, the target of the built product moves a lot more frequently now that you can jump in and tweak things in a Revit model and publish it off the sheets. We're seeing a lot more addenda and changes.  

That's where the communication aspect of Autodesk Construction Cloud becomes even more critical. It's much harder to print out physical sheets and hand them to the field and not have that information obsolete by the time you start building.  

So, it's all about communication and decreasing the turnaround from receiving revised information to getting it into the hands of the people in the field. Autodesk Construction Cloud is the tool that we use to facilitate that. 

What do you value most about your partnership with Autodesk? 

Speaking to Autodesk Construction Cloud in particular, I love the pace at which it's being developed. We're used to this AutoCAD and Revit yearly cycle for major releases, and that's been accelerated on the Autodesk Construction Cloud side, which I think adds a lot of benefits. 

Autodesk Construction Cloud and Procore are the two platforms trying to take it all over. And that healthy competition drives both sides to innovate frequently. Being able to take advantage of that as an end user is great.  

The pace of change is accelerating. This industry has done the same things the same way for a very long time, so it's exciting to see new tech and platforms come in and change how that work is done. I think we'll see a lot more of that moving forward. 

When you think about the future, what are your plans to advance innovation and productivity at Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company? 

Autonomous systems and AI, of course, are huge buzzwords nowadays. We're trying to utilize them to eliminate as much grunt work as possible. For dull or dangerous jobs, if we can bring in robots and automation tools to remove some of these mundane tasks, it will keep the entire workforce happier, increase morale, and make us all more efficient.  

So, digital automation and physical autonomous systems are places that I'm looking heavily at. 

As for how AI will affect the workforce, I think jobs will shift. This is particularly true for knowledge workers—those who are not part of the union and physically swinging a hammer out in the field and completing work.  

The people who primarily work behind a computer will be affected the most by AI. And I think it will eliminate jobs and change things, but change is inevitable. AI will weed out the people who are willing to change from the ones who are not. It creates a great opportunity, especially for younger people in the workforce, to make a significant impact without needing that 20 or 30 years plus of experience at a company to climb up the ladder. 

What advice would you give to the next generation of men and women entering the industry? 

Never stop learning. Things change quickly. The ability to unlearn and relearn has always been important, but it'll be even more critical as the pace of change for these new tools on the market continues to accelerate. 

Learning might become more difficult as you age, but if you stay curious and keep learning all the time, that's the best thing anyone can do for their career. 

Kelsee Campbell

As a Senior Customer Advocacy Program Manager at Autodesk, Kelsee has the privilege of working with Autodesk customers to champion their stories on the Digital Builder Blog. Kelsee strives to create an engaging experience that amplifies customer perspectives, fostering a sense of community and connection.