Tech Support for Design and Construction
"Tech support" most commonly conjures up the image of a knowledgeable guy guiding us through a troubleshooting exercise with our computer over the phone, or perhaps at work. But tech support can mean technology supporting and bolstering an otherwise untechnical work effort.
Design and construction can really benefit from tech support. After all, construction is a fairly technology-barren enterprise. Complaints about lack of productivity gains in the industry focus on the fact we are still constructing buildings, more or less, the same way we have been for hundreds of years. In the history of building, 19th century concepts like the balloon frame and cavity wall are still considered "recent" innovations in construction.
Design-build is perhaps the most advanced form of building in the market. This is because it is so integrated with the design and engineering side, which are drivers of technology adoption and application.
However, ironically a tool like Building Information Modeling (BIM) is really a more beneficial tool (for the project and financially for the client) on the construction side of a project than the design side. BIM helps avoid more field mistakes, rework, RFIs, and provides accuracy for estimates and work sequencing among other things—which far exceed the value of any efficiency in the office for architects and engineers.
BIM is only one example of "tech support" for your team; there are many other advances in techology—mobile devices, GPS, materials research—that will hopefully move the needle significantly in the near future in regard to construction productivity.
Just as a skilled craftsman never blames his tools for a mistake, the emphasis in design and construction should not be on the tool itself, but how it is used. In other words, what is more important than the tool is its utility, its benefit to the task at hand, which confirms its value.
Too many construction (and design) firms resist employing new technology, which is fine if a builder works only for himself. But we design and build for clients, for the betterment of healthcare and community. To not investigate and utilize beneficial technology on the construction side is like a doctor not investigating a new treatment that might be beneficial to a patient. It is borderline negligent behavior.
Sadly, many companies end up buying software to check a box. They want to be able to say, "Yeah, we do BIM" when asked the question. Yet, it is not good enough to simply buy the program; it must be mastered and used.
Healthcare administrators are hammered with the term "meaningful use" these days. This is a very relevant concept in design and construction technology as well. A lot of companies own the technology, but they are still babies learning to crawl with it—and some do it kicking and screaming. Hospitals need architects and contractors who are mature, masters of the technology, running with it.
When it comes time to kick the tires on possible architects and contractors, design-builders for your next project, find out how many employ their tech support with meaningful use? How many can answer they have chosen their project management software, BIM, and energy modeling platforms for strategic reasons? How many can say they have committed to full integration of the technology with their entire team, office and field, and it positively affects their work every day?
Hospitals need project expertise that has thoughtfully chosen its tools, and invested 100% in them for the benefit of the project and client. In your RFQs, meetings, and short list interviews, ask teams the hard questions about meaningful use, "tech support", integration of design and construction, and 100% commitment to project betterment.
Hopefully, you will get a defensible position related to your bottom line. If not, you may be put on hold and sent to a rather unhelpful call center. In that case, hang up.