Behind the Build: Interview with Jeff Campbell, Building Solutions Manager, Burns & McDonnell

jeff campbell burns mcdonnell

What does it take to connect construction and design? How can we move forward as an industry to bring them together and best use our resources to deliver better results for our customers? These are the questions many of us are asking ourselves and our teams as we work to enhance our workflows and operations.

We were fortunate enough to ask Jeff Campbell, Building Solutions Manager for Burns & McDonnell, the same questions. He shared his diligent journey to connecting design and construction below. Read his story to get insightful ideas about the future of connected construction.

Tell me a little bit about Burns & McDonnell and what they specialize in.

Burns & McDonnell is a family of companies bringing together  7,600 engineers, construction professionals, architects, planners, technologists, and scientists. With an integrated construction and design mindset, we offer full-service capabilities across more than 55 offices, globally. Founded in 1898, we are a 100% employee-owned company and proud to be on Fortune’s 2020 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Burns & McDonnell serves a wide range of clients and projects in the Aviation; Chemicals, Oil & Gas; Commercial, Retail & Institutional; Environmental; Government, Military & Municipal; Manufacturing & Industrial; Power; Telecommunications; Transportation and Water sectors. 

Walk me through your career and what led you to become the Building Solutions Manager at Burns & McDonnell. 

I've been at Burns & McDonnell for 15 years. Prior to that, I was a university professor and taught in the Design & Graphics Department for the University of Central Missouri. Burns & McDonnell had an opening in what was then called the CAD Support Group. The group was comprised of seven individuals that provided the implementation and support for just under 2,000 employees at the time

As our team expanded with the growth of the company, so did our roles. I moved into a Senior Applications Specialist role, and helped our businesses implement BIM technology into our environments. We started with products like AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD MEP. I was assigned full-time to a large project that consisted of 55 buildings on a 35-acre shared basement. My primary role on that project was to provide direct support to the team and help with technology driven processes on the project.

After the project finished, I became heavily involved with the implementation of Revit and eventually took on the role of Building Solutions Manager. It's grown ever since. Now, I support all of our BIM initiatives across the majority of our businesses, especially if they're using Autodesk products. I’m proud I’ve been able to work with our business in order to implement and advance the use of BIM and construction technology in order to make sure our projects are successful.

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

One of the biggest challenges I have in my role is facilitating a clean handoff between design and construction. Technology helps us implement that seamless transfer of data and creates a single source of truth to aid in that communication between our design and our construction teams.

Speaking of connecting design and construction, what does connected construction mean to you?

What connected construction means to me is the seamless integration between design and construction. In a perfect world, there should be no differentiation between the teams.

With design-build/EPC jobs being the way they are, we need close communication to understand when the data should be ready and what’s needed on the construction side. To achieve this, the design side must also be willing to adjust their practices in order to meet construction’s needs.

At Burns & McDonnell, we use BIM 360, BuildingConnected, PlanGrid, and Assemble. BIM 360 is the hub of everything we do. It’s our common data environment, so we can leverage that system to bring the data from all of the platforms together in order to provide a single source of truth. Right now, we’re using Assemble for example to track construction indicators on quantities on a large water project. It helps us to make sure design moves forward and helps us keep an eye on costs, KPIs, and other important metrics. 

How have things changed for Burns & McDonnell this year? 

Now that we’re a distributed workforce, we’ve moved away from the traditional file-sharing environment. Instead, we’ve increased our usage of BIM 360 over the past six months by about 800%. It provided us with a resilient platform and an easy way for us to transfer data while helping our designers and engineers work effectively in a remote environment. 

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

Be change-aware. I don't think a lot of people come into this industry understanding just how much change in technology goes into it. We have to be willing to update our processes. We have to be able to adapt to new technology. That's what makes us flexible. It is also what helps us learn what works and what doesn't work. Be adaptable to change and be willing to understand that three months from now, we might have to re-architect an entire system or process.

Alyssa Jaber

As Manager of Customer Marketing at Autodesk, Alyssa Jaber has been partnering with Autodesk customers in the construction space for 5+ years to build their brands and powerfully tell their stories. Alyssa is a human-first leader who supports a team of talented individuals who always put the customer experience first.