MCAA presents its first technology conference

The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) will host its first technology conference, “The Best of Now, The Best of Next,” from June 8 - 9, at the Hamburger U in Oak Brook, Ill. The conference will offer a high-level look at how contractors are currently and will be using technology, while also showcasing technology in service, modeling, virtual construction, business development, collaboration and productivity enhancement.

The conference curriculum is interactive, so MCAA encourages contractors to bring key strategy team members. Registration is $495 per person and includes the exhibit, opening reception, meals, and educational program.

Following is Sean McGuire’s, director of Construction Technology at MCAA, preview of the conference.

PHC: How did the technology conference come about?

SM: It all started with a board meeting for MCAA last summer where we did a strategic analysis and realized that one of the areas of immediate concern that we weren’t reaching was construction technology. The pace of technology is increasing, and it’s getting harder for contractors to keep up. The contractors we polled said some of their employees were spending too much time researching new technology or trying to keep up with all the changes coming around. If there’s any way we can help with that process, then we take on that challenge.

We decided to research the possibility of having a construction technology conference the following summer. So, we put together a task force of a number of contractors. The first thing that came up was BIM, building information modeling technology. It’s not really new. Seven years ago, contractors were getting involved because they were working on really high-tech projects with general contractors who demanded things are done in innovative ways. Or they were taking on the burden themselves, saying they could do jobs more efficiently if they used BIM.

PHC: As a result of planning for the conference, what has MCAA learned about BIM?

SM: We actually have a BIM committee that has been formed for the past few years. This year, they did a survey and it’s going to be published this summer. The survey found that 91 percent of mechanical contractors have utilized BIM concepts on their projects. That was higher than we thought, and that number has grown quite a bit in the past year. When you dig a little deeper into that, 66 percent are performing BIM fully in house. About 27 percent are doing it where there is maybe one guy in-house and the rest is outsourced. And then, there are 7 percent who outsource everything because they don’t have the resources or haven’t quite gotten their processes in place to do that.

When we were looking at industry stats a couple years ago, it was closer to 30 percent that were using BIM. BIM has become a great way that our contractors are starting to do business. Drawings are three-dimensional and can have embedded intelligence, there’s more communication between the fabrication shop, the BIM department, and the field, and then there’s the communication with other trades to make sure that things that would normally be happening on-site are now happening earlier in the design phase.

PHC: What should attendees expect?

SM: One of the things we're looking at for the conference is processes. The way contractors are currently using leading-edge construction technology has changed the way they perform estimating, fabricating, or work in the field. We are also trying to showcase some of the technology that is just on the horizon. Overall, the conference is going to be two parts – what we are calling “The Best of Now” and “The Best of Next.”

We’ve got two sessions that we have that are contractor sessions, called “Technology-driven Contracting.” The first one covers something called integrated databases. What that means is people have started using BIM to estimate and bid jobs out of that model. Once they win a job, they use the limited models they developed for the bid and migrate them into their project management team to build the fully developed model. It is beneficial because if they get the job they can be 30 percent ahead of the schedule with the design and showcase their value as a contractor in a tangible method. There is risk to it because, at the same time, you’re jeopardizing the time spent building a model for a job that you might not necessarily get. We have found that contractors are doing this for the clients they want to work with, the upper level general contractors, and the owners they have proven relationships with, and they are also winning more bids because of it.

The second case study is on 3-D laser scanning with a company called H.T. Lyons. What they’re doing is when they go into a project that’s got major renovations or using existing equipment, instead of taking all of the measurements and building a model around it, they’re using 3-D laser scanners on tripods to capture the exact space in what they call a “point cloud.” The point cloud is millions of precise measurements that allow you to recreate the space in an exact 3-D model. They can then manipulate the model to virtually remove equipment and build in the new equipment.

PHC: Will there be any hands-on activities?

SM: Yes, we’ve partnered with this really cool group out of Chicago called BuiltWorlds. BuiltWorlds basically is a representative for a whole bunch of tech startup companies that have to do with construction. They’re going to bring in four companies and do live demos to our contractors then let them play with them through an exhibit format at lunch. These companies use new technologies like augmented reality, wearable technology, 3-D printing, and virtual reality.

Our exhibit will also have representatives from Trimble, AutoDesk, Siemens, Johnson Controls, SysQue, Leica and Penta Technologies. We reached out to these companies because they offer products and services that we are covering in the curriculum – Smart Buildings, RFID tracking, 3-D scanning, and Integrated Databases. These companies are all very established and great to work with, and many of them have taken on the spirit of this conference with their exhibit. They will be demonstrating some products that are still in development, or not yet to market, to build enthusiasm and get feedback from our attendees. l

For questions, visit www.mcaameetings.org or contact the MCAA Meetings Department at: 301-869-5800; or Meetings Dept., MCAA, 1385 Piccard Drive, Rockville, Md., 20850.

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