February 15, 2019
October 18, 2018
Senior Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) Manager Mark Epstein was recently named among ENR Texas & Louisiana’s 2019 Top Young Professionals. After completing two concurrent master’s degrees in architecture and construction management at Washington University in St. Louis in 2010, Mark accepted his first position as a project engineer with a construction management firm. He later moved into an architecture role with Gensler in Austin, Texas, where he spent three years learning to produce high-quality construction documents and eventually became a project manager. Soon after, a friend introduced Mark to Sundt Construction in San Antonio, where he now leads our BIM and VDC strategies. Mark is advancing Sundt’s technology capabilities with a full immersion of the Texas Building Group into BIM and VDC processes. Part of his goal is to strengthen communication between the office and field, and better transform concept into reality. But there’s a lot more to Mark and to his work than meets the eye.
With your unique background in both construction and architecture, what drew you to Sundt, and how is it being back in construction?
The transition back to construction has been really refreshing. It’s been good to get on the jobsite and touch and feel the work—not just in the digital form or detail form on paper, but to be out around the work, the people performing it, and then to learn from their expertise. Some of these guys have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive. I have a huge amount to learn, and I appreciate that. On the contractor side, there’s that ability to learn and people’s willingness to teach and take you under their wing, and in architecture I’d say it’s just much more limited in that regard. So, yeah, it’s been a great transition.
Speaking of that dynamic, how has the team in San Antonio taken you in and supported you in your role?
The leadership down here is incredible. Eric Hedlund and Todd Calder have really high aspirations for what they want us to do, but at the same time they provide us with the resources that we need to do it. That, to me, shows that they’re serious about accomplishing these goals. When I came to San Antonio, they knew I had an architecture background; I was working with “backbone” technologies like Revit and Navisworks, which are cross-disciplinary for the architecture and contractor side. So, they’re leveraging that experience to build upon what they want to achieve with technology here, and they’ve been extremely supportive.
What are some innovative things you’ve been working on recently, things that you get excited about?
Well, I give credit again to the leadership and resources that Sundt has provided. Dominic Daughtrey with the Continuous Improvement Department has gotten me up and running with a drone fleet here, so that’s been a great way to explore technology and implementation. You’ve got the hardware aspect, but then you also have the data and deliverables to manage and distribute. That’s been a real game-changer to experience how that data can affect how we do work on site, you know, bridging that gap from computer to the field. That’s not necessarily the most innovative thing in the world, but it’s just been eye-opening to see where else it can go, for example, taking that jump from basic drone flights to importing footage into augmented reality applications and 4D scheduling.
But, you know, the innovation isn’t the tech itself; the innovation is how we’re deploying the hardware and software packages with our project teams. It’s helping project engineers, managers, and superintendents understand how technology can help them do their job, to be safer and more efficient, to have less rework. I mean, you can hire a “tech person” or a few “tech people” in this role. But that’s not what we’re doing here; we’re infiltrating the jobsite with this tech, having superintendents and project engineers know it, and having people at the project level buy into technology as a comprehensive approach. We’ve actually got a guy here, age 60, who’s really excited about using 4D scheduling—not to sound ageist, but across the industry, you have a lot of construction veterans who typically don’t want to learn that stuff. But when we have people here buying in, that’s a big deal. To me, that’s innovation. That’s success.
October 5, 2018
“I’ll support anything that supports our people,” says Dominic Daughtrey, Continuous Improvement (CI) Program Manager at Sundt. Dominic spoke at the Bluebeam Extreme Conference (XCON) in Austin, Texas last month, where he shared about Sundt’s use of drone technology and our pilot program with the Raken Daily Reporting App. Dominic has over 17 years of experience in the field, going back to his start as a concrete laborer when he was just 18. In other words, he understands the issues faced on a jobsite every day: “You need to have proximity to people’s problems to have empathy with them.” These problems were the focus of Sundt’s pilot program using the Raken app, which is becoming a success story of new technology simplifying—not further complicating—people’s day-to-day jobs.
Dominic Daughtrey presenting at the Bluebeam Extreme Conference in Austin, TX
Some issues our CI team identified across projects were: a) a lack of value from daily reports and b) an increasing number of tasks placed on the superintendent position. “I call the superintendent ‘the forgotten man (or woman)’” says Dominic. “They’re asked to do a lot more than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago, but they’re given the same old tools.” One area in need of improvement across jobsites is the daily reporting process, which includes lots of paper-based forms and manual data entry. The reports are not that important per se—that is, until there’s a delay, or dispute, or a claim that requires a paper trail. “So, you have these highly trained and well-paid professionals spending a good chunk of their day checking boxes, instead of being present on site.” Or, when daily reports aren’t done right (or done at all), small ambiguities can morph into bigger conflicts, which can become slowdowns or even legal disputes.
Project Superintendent Dave Storvis, a third-generation 35-year construction veteran, who uses the Raken app
Using the Raken app, however, our pilot sites are seeing value from their daily reports, less miscommunications, and more capacity at various levels. “We have multiple roles out in the field feeding notes and photos into an automated system, and we’re seeing people freed up to do their jobs better,” Dominic says. Another benefit is the app’s dashboard: “Here I am at this conference, and I can pull up a jobsite on my phone or laptop and see all of these insights. And I’m 400 miles away.” Still, the cool factor isn’t the rationale; on top of streamlining daily reports, the app offers better coordination with subcontractors, more detailed reports to executives and owners, and a host of other practical improvements. “One of our goals in the CI program is ‘Disciplined Innovation,’” Dominic explains. “Getting a ‘thumbs-up’ on some fancy new technology doesn’t really give us anything. We’re looking for data that can drive business decisions.” With that end in mind, Sundt looks to keep investing in tech and best practices that let our people do what we do best: being builders.
September 18, 2017
Like many innovators who came before them, Eric Cylwik and Ryan Haines were never seeking recognition. They just wanted to do their jobs better—and save people’s time and money in the process. The two saw a problem in the construction industry, and they set out to fix it. Eric and Ryan’s selection as finalists for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) Autodesk Innovation Award was a nice bonus, but the real success is what the industry at large stands to gain from their new technology. Its name? The civil Construction Toolkit, or “CTK.”
Virtual Construction App Developer Ryan Haines (center) and Sr. Virtual Construction Engineer Eric Cylwik (right) accept the AGC Innovation 3rd-place Award
CTK technology began as a response to larger issues in the civil sector causing huge inefficiencies. A nationwide trend toward 3D modeling in the preconstruction process has generated loads of data. But by itself, this data isn’t actionable information. Also, most of it is siloed off between designers, contractors, and engineers, instead of flowing into a single stream of information for a project. Estimators in particular spend hours counting the “what” of a project (volumes, areas, lengths, counts, and weights)—6.4 million hours in the past year to be exact, the equivalent of 70 full-length careers. Instead of counting the “what,” Eric and Ryan thought, these professionals could spend more time on the “how” and, in the process, become more of an asset to their companies.
CTK user quickly quantifies the entire project model, by phase, in Autodesk Civil 3D
Enter: the CTK, a technology that supports parametric modeling. In the absence of a 3D design model, a CTK user can take lots of numbers from construction documents and convert them into 3D models, with a few mouse clicks. These models can then be quantified to cover all construction estimating needs, including sequencing and phasing of a project, and provide visualization for design all in a matter of hours instead of weeks. The same models can even be used for automated machine guidance (AMG) by heavy equipment operators in the field. “This technology shifts the focus from construction being a reactionary industry to an industry that proactively adds value,” Eric said. “Proper planning ensures efficient construction, and by removing mundane tasks from a construction service provider it enables them to focus on predictable services.”
Sundt uses the CTK on a daily basis and has seen immense added value across projects for both our employee-owners and our clients
In presenting the CTK to various industry groups, including the AGC, Eric and Ryan were often asked: How did you convince your company to invest in this? “The funny thing is,” Ryan said, “this was already part of our jobs and company culture. The return on investment had been established, just in the huge amounts of time we were saving in our own jobs, across multiple projects.” Eric pointed out that he and Ryan were also recognized for the CTK by Sundt a year ago, with the Going Beyond the Expected Award. “It’s just part of what we do at Sundt. We’re builders. And by virtue of that fact, we’re innovators.” Overall, CTK is a means of delivering better infrastructure. “When we design, estimate, and build from the same information,” Ryan said, “everyone wins with better quality and efficiency.” For a company whose mission is to be the most skilled builder in America, having innovative people on our team is a win indeed.
September 15, 2017
Sundt Senior Virtual Construction Engineer Eric Cylwik speaks to a class at Arizona State University’s Del E. Webb School of Construction.
Sundt Senior Virtual Construction Engineer Eric Cylwik recently went back to school to share some of the many ways technology can improve the way general contractors serve their clients.
Eric spoke to an upper-level class at Arizona State University’s Del E. Webb School of Construction about the many advantages Building Information Modeling (BIM) can provide on a project. BIM involves generating and modeling both the physical and logistical characteristics of a building.
“I am convinced that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it,” Eric said. “The complicated subject of how BIM interfaces with every individual on a project is a difficult story to tell in under an hour, so it really forces me to refine how I approach technology. Engaging with the students is also an excellent opportunity to meet new people entering the industry. Ultimately, they’re the ones who will be using all of this technology.”
The fundamental idea Eric teaches the upcoming generation of builders is that technology will inevitably be the backbone of the construction industry.
“My background is in digital visualization, so I love being able to dive in to the technical details of how 3D models are created from photogrammetry and the puzzle of building complicated geometry in 3D,” Eric said. “Constructors take on significant risk with the selected means and methods for any project, so it is always a challenge to select the correct modeling tool to visualize that risk.”
Eric is quickly becoming popular on the college speaking circuit. He will be presenting to a class at the University of Arizona in November.
Sundt Virtual Construction Application Developer Ryan Haines.
Sundt Virtual Construction Application Developer Ryan Haines is a Phoenix native and has enjoyed traveling across the U.S. and abroad. He grew up around construction, working for his father’s local general contracting company during summers while in school.
Ryan studied mathematics at Arizona State University, where he had his first experience in computer programming. He has enjoyed pairing these unique experiences at Sundt through construction technology.
What does a Virtual Construction Application Developer do?
Application development for virtual design and construction (VDC) is about efficiency and innovation. To build and consume large 3D models for our construction projects requires sound standards. It also means transferring many thousands of data points, from model creation to quality control in the field. This is where custom digital tools produce efficiency gains.
How does what you do help the construction team once it starts work on a project?
My focus is for our VDC teams to deliver potent results from 3D models. In the Building Group, this means having the right tools to effectively coordinate mechanical, electrical and plumbing design. In Industrial, we are able to track piping components in the 3D model for quality control upon field installation. In Transportation, our VDC teams and estimators can extract phased material quantities based on project schedule. Ultimately, we are providing ways to leverage digital information to mitigate risk and minimize rework.
What does it say about the company that we have the flexibility to put people in departments that better suit their work?
Sundt cares about its employee-owners and is willing to align skills and interests with business needs. Sundt is known for being innovative, and that only continues as we leverage great technology on our projects.
What are your hobbies away from work?
I love being outdoors, including hiking, hunting and fishing. I also like to work with my hands doing welding or helping others with small building projects. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, including my little nieces and nephew.
What the best advice you’ve received from a mentor or coworker?
Trust God. This advice has already paid great dividends in my life.