The Best Kept Secret in Construction | Michael Johnson | TEDxDavenport

I want you all to take a second take a

second to come up with the first two or

three words that come to mind when you

hear this term general contractor now

maybe you associate it with someone you

know maybe it's a prior experience or

maybe more recently you put it towards a

the popular contractor TV shows on cable

TV got your words good now keep them to

yourself I want you to keep them to

yourself because more than likely some

of them were negative and I know that

because a while back I sent out an

anonymous survey asking just this

question and these are a few of the

responses I received so if you haven't

heard a guest I'm a general contractor

more specifically I work in commercial

construction and throughout my career

I've learned that this term contractor

is looked at pretty negatively now some

of the responses I just showed I'm not

gonna touch those are for another talk

but I do want to touch on my favorite

one antiquated or old fashioned now I'll

admit there's a portion of this industry

that is stuck saying but that's the way

we've always done it and we'll get back

to them but first a confession I have to

confess something that's got to stay

between us friends in here I'm not only

a contractor I'm also an architect and

if you know anything about our industry

contractors and architects don't always

get along there's a metaphor somewhere

about cats and dogs or something like

that so please keep it here because it

would make me very unpopular back at the

office but to understand why an

architect would want to live in a

contractors world we have to go way back

in time all the way to 2014

now you laugh but I'm a millennial

that's a long time ago I'm supposed to

have had like 10 or 12 jobs and to

sabbaticals since so anyway this is an

actual picture of me I'm at a

traditional architecture firm and I'm

roughly a year from what I thought was

the Holy Grail something I had worked

toward my entire life I was gonna become

a licensed architect and of course I was

going to change the world until an

opportunity for career change came up

that seaward we talked about contractor

after some contemplation I decided I was

gonna quit I talked to my current

employer I talked to my wife did all the

things necessary to make a clean break

except for one one that would prove to

be the hardest yet I had to tell my mom


hey mom guess what I said per usual when

I have some idea she said or she showed

some concern and she said no Michael you

can't move back home we've already

turned your bedroom into an Airbnb and I

said come on mom I'm not moving back

home it's way worse I'm becoming a

contractor I thought she was gonna cry

all that time all that money all that

education wasted never you'll swing a

hammer you'll never be the next Franklin

right my mom's an insurance she's not an

architect now what I didn't know was

this was the first time I would describe

what I called the best kept secret in

construction something I've talked about

no less than a thousand times since I

had gotten a taste of what s Architects

called the dark side and I was hooked I

didn't care about being my favorite

architect Franklin right

so why the change let's take a look at

the history of innovation and

construction as told by Michael

disclaimer I made this up if you can't

tell by the fact that it goes from two

million BC to just yesterday and I show

it jokingly but it's nearly accurate of

course there have been incremental

changes throughout time but you see this

term BIM driving the curve of innovation

BIM is proving to be the biggest

disruptor that anyone in the current

architecture engineering or construction

industry has ever seen now I know you're

saying what is BIM BIM is an acronym for

Building Information modeling and now

you're saying what the hell is building

information modeling then this 3d

modeling technology it's the technology

that allows us to virtually build

visualize coordinate and troubleshoot an

entire building far before we ever put a

shovel in the ground there's a cliche

you've all heard measure twice cut once

think of Ben as that for an entire

building project we start with a

baseline model on top of that baseline

we iterate and we search for problems

and we do it again and again and again

until we've eliminated as many problems

as possible this gives us a high level

of confidence that what we've modeled

will be installed in the field correctly

only then do we build buildings are

getting continuously more complex and at

the same time demands on budget and

schedule are getting higher by utilizing

BIM we can continuously improve with the

goal of less rework less waste and

higher efficiency after all one study

shows that 50 3.4 million tons of waste

per year are attributed to construction

and that doesn't include demolition

shouldn't we do our best to reduce that

but BIM is only the beginning

one of the hardest parts for our clients

is truly understanding their building

based on 2d drawings these are

traditional 2d building elevations

before the expectation was that given

these floor plan and the occasional 3d

rendering you'd really understand what


getting now we're visual learners I

think that's a little unrealistic but

how do we solve it

one answer lies in video game technology

utilizing this technology we can provide

walkthroughs fly throughs in near

real-time we can provide photo real

renderings allowing you to truly

understand your building as it evolves

but let's take a step further if you're

one of the few the brave who are willing

to forget about looking cool you'll put

on the VR headset virtual reality has

become so accessible that we can walk

you through your building while we

simultaneously coordinate the work that

will go into place again the goal is to

allow you to feel your building to truly

understand it and make any necessary


virtually skipping the cost and

inefficiency of making them physically

so let's do a quick recap BIM takes the

digital into the physical virtual

reality and other enhanced visualisation

techniques allow you to truly understand

the product that you're getting at the

end but what about taking the physical

into the digital in the past I can go to

a job site take literally hundreds of

dimensions come back to the office only

to realize that I don't have the one I

need that's the same picture of me back

at the traditional firms and I don't use

the word shucks the word I use rhymes

with shucks


today we use reality capture tools to

eliminate those laborious dimensions and

instead scan millions of digital points

and pull them into the model this model

has every dimension I could ever want

and that can prove invaluable for

projects such as this one a fire station

built in 1902 with little original

documentation but we aren't only using

reality capture to verify we can also

document today we can provide you with a

model that sees behind walls so you're

aware forever no more old decaying as

built drawing sitting in your basement

and no more accidentally slamming

through a plumbing pipe during your next

renovation so I don't know about you but

I think all this is pretty cool but what

does the future hold I recently read an

article that said we are entering the

golden age of construction and I believe

that wholeheartedly I think we're just

beginning our our industry is

experimenting with advanced construction

technologies for modular 2

prefabrication to 3d printing entire

structures we're using augmented reality

wearables and drones and we're utilizing

our data to make quicker and better

informed decisions so to those in the

industry who say but that's the way

we've always done it I promise you this

is better than the old way we can build

better waste less do it more efficiently

and do it all at the higher demands of

today's construction environment I call

this the best kept secret in

construction because I bet prior to us

talking you weren't aware of the

technology that we're using in

construction I bet you associated it

only with our friends architects and

engineers but I hope I'm showing you

that the line between us is blurring

each and every day so let's go back to

those responses I hope that after seeing

this the tune has changed instead of


how about interesting how about


how about awesome I like awesome it's

simple and at the end of the day what

we're doing is awesome the built

environment is pretty awesome my hope is

that you value contractors in the same

light that you value our counterparts

architects and engineers we get to apply

technology to an industry that each and

every one of us experience each and

every day we are changing the way your

built environment is delivered so I only

ask one thing the next time you go to

build or better yet the next time you or

your son or your daughter or thinking

about entering our industry

don't settle for that old fashioned

contractor ask for an awesome one thank