Conference Report: SPAR 2018

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The Expo is the Mecca of technology in a world of professional measurement. Solutions, professionals, and technologies synergize under one huge rooftop.

The SPAR 3D EXPO and CONFERENCE was held in tandem with the AEC NEXT EXPO and CONFERENCE at the Anaheim Convention Center. That’s no coincidence because this show really is the Magic Kingdom to all of the knights of the gigabytes, lords of the LIDAR, and pixel princesses who have embraced measurement, mapping, and modeling as their chosen profession. Both the venues of SPAR 3D and AEC NEXT meld into a single collaborative harmony like the Beatles in a Hamburg club during 1962. And that is the point of this venue. The reality we embrace with technology is the larger professional collaboration of teams managing information flowing in concert before, during, and after the completion of a project. Coordinating the flow of project activity at the speed of gigahertz is finally possible through our everyday connectivity solutions. So y’alltube, instacram and faceplant are all just incidental goodies in a big picture where industry and productivity are the mass transit of bandwidth.

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The future is here and the headset is the user interface of virtual reality. Operators can move through designs as the proposed pixels overlay and intertwine with the brick, mortar, pipe, asphalt, concrete, and dirt.

Digital technologies have revolutionized just about every industry including surveying. However, barber shops and construction have really not seen any appreciable large scale gains since, oh I dunno, maybe the 1920’s with the advent of electric hair clippers and the bulldozer. That was the last time either had a redefining game changer that exponentially inflated productivity. Well, it’s apparent from the attendees, presenters, vendors, and equipment displayed at SPAR/AEC that we are at the horizon and it is dawn on the D-day of virtual realization in construction management.

Jennifer Suerth, Vice President of Technical Services at Pepper Construction, Chicago, Illinois, shared her real world experience with attendees. Pepper Construction about-pepper-construction is a leader in the construction industry. They can bond projects at one billion dollars, yes billion with a “Bee”. Pepper is leveraging technology and seeing tangible gains. Upfront and before a project is even awarded Pepper is collaborating with owners and modeling the project in order to prepare meaningful takeoffs and estimates that expose project hurdles and challenges. The benefit and industrial leap is providing investors a stabile estimate of cost and return on investment. Nobody knows how good the corn on the cob is until after they pay for it and peel off the husk. Pepper has taken that giant leap for mankind and said to the project owner “Let’s peel back the husk The legendary flux capacitor stole the and see what we’re getting into show despite being before we buy.” The technologies three decades old. showcased at SPAR/AEC are what make this possible. So now we have the means, the motive, and guess what? The Peppers, and Bechtels, and TAS Concretes are all working out the methods… AS I AM TYPING!

Among an ocean of snappily dressed vendors and casually clothed consumers stood a bright orange beacon towering over the crowd. I thought “hell yeah! We got us a real boots-on-the-ground surveyor at the show. Joe Williard, P.L.S. is about 6’-5” tall and a real workhorse of a surveyor from Yucca Valley, California. He operates Southwest Surveying, Inc. I asked Joe why he attended the show. He started off with technology being an attraction and sometime later we ended up on his innovative business model. He’s leveraged his knowledge and license to support an excavation contractor’s measurement needs. Not just stakes, but it’s his experience that helps the project flow smoothly toward profitability and success. Sounds like he’s integrated himself as a functioning part of the team by asserting the value of his knowledge. Last I checked, that’s not “dying”, it’s called evolving. That’s exactly what the Pepper’s, Bechtel’s and TAS’s are doing with structural and concrete. So now we have money, design, structural, concrete, and dirt all dancing around the maypole.

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The legendary flux capacitor stole the show despite being three decades old.

The same thing is happening over on the other side of the universe in facilities and property management. Building Information Models are employed to track assets, trends, and costs throughout the lifespan of a building. Honestly, as a project surveyor I have never really pondered anything beyond an as-built for a certificate of occupancy, except maybe the opportunity to do an ALTA/NSPS survey when the property changes hands. Well, Wall Street happens to be on this side of the universe and the native language is “financial” with a strong dialect of profitability. Investors see a much larger picture beginning with a concept, design, site development, and construction all filling a short gestation period of a property investment. Seriously, it’s so much like a human life cycle. The first nine months are tumultuous, uncomfortable, painful, emotional, costly, uncertain, and have yet to be automated, whereas the next 80 years are pretty much growth, maintenance, repair, and maturation that can be managed by a water resistant silicone chip on a wristband. Don’t get me wrong, facilities management has just as many great challenges as construction management. I suspect they appear less daunting to investors because the owner controls the opportunity to grab the saddle horn whereas a construction GC might be viewed as a middleman or insulator in the control loop of construction.

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There was no shortage of mobile mapping systems. Incredible high speed systems are capable of producing 2 million measurements and 500 scan lines per second at highway speeds! Combining optional cameras with LiDAR enables precisely geo-referenced imagery.

I’ll remind everyone interested in this emerging realm that our current president is also a beneficiary of this trend. As a developer and real estate investor he may be our greatest asset in leveraging technologies to improve construction and facilities management. Like him or not, whereas his predecessor’s construction experience amounted to a statement of “you didn’t build that”, and we’re still uncertain about the guy before that, the current president did actually build that. We may have a fightin’ chance at getting some policies that could result in standardizing BIM elements and facility assets and features. Leaving politics aside, we can all agree that at least there’s someone in office that is a tenant of our cause.

What part do we play in this? The same roles we always have. Provide quality measurements and data before, during, and after construction. There is no one more qualified than a land surveyor to provide the service of linear measure, mapping, and linear guidance in 3d axes. I understand that Pepper Construction is implementing the technology through its tradesfolk and the union has embraced the technology and craft as a recognized skillset. The need for knowledgeable measuring is in high demand. According to Jennifer Suerth some trades folk are eager to implement the tech and others are still a little bit shy about it. Typically the tradesperson seems to be the collector of data and virtual explorer. Analysis of each discovery is looking like a great opportunity for the team to resolve an issue. The tradesperson and designer can work through scenarios and draw from each other’s expertise to right the ship. The money folks have gotta be seeing the number of “RFI’s” and change orders drop. Also think of the billable time that design folks save by not having to drive to the sight for inspections. These are persuasive benefits of a collaborative environment.

So, up to this point I’ve covered the genre of the industry and some of the current “haps”. Now it’s time for me to handout a few “props to da peeps and da trinketry”. So without further ado…the 2018 “Piece-of-measuring-equipment-that-I-always-dreamed-of-while-I-was cutting-line-and-being-raped-by-vulture-sized-mosquitoes award” goes to Kevin Dowling, PhD. of KAARTA 3D for his presentation late Wednesday of a site survey done with his baby the STENCIL lightweight mapping system. Don’t let the PhD fool you. Kevin talks just like the rest of us except he says brilliant things we all understand. He walked the STENCIL through thick woods as if he was illuminating a cave with a torch. Whammo, instant mapping with every step. I wore out an elbow long ago swinging a machete just to get about 1/10th the precision and a stick person’s worth of modeling data compared to this micro mapping tornado. I could cover some serious ground with this type of hardware!

Okay, the 2018 “Software-I-can’t-live-without” award goes to….all of them! I saw sooooo many cool software packages and chatted with their vendors that I can’t keep `em straight! SPAR/AEC is the place to connect with these folks. I will say that the industry focus is on software that bridges datasets from data capture devices to models. Great stuff!!!

And finally we have the 2018 “RopeStretcher-of- the-year” award…and it goes out to…..all six that I could identify or fessed up to being land surveyors. They are Robert Boyce of Washington State, Brian Duval of Oregon, the aforementioned Joe Williard of California, Kourosh Langari of California, Jason Kack of Arizona, and my homie Brian Fisher also of Arizona. Thanks fellas for being on the right side of history and representing the Loyal Order of the Bob Danglers! We also have an honorable mention in the Rope Stretcher category. Dr. Stewart Walker showed up in his photogrammetry kilt but after an overwhelming trip through the exhibit hall, he quickly fessed up to having cast a barley corn or two under the Queen’s robe.

Well, that’s my take on SPAR/AEC 2018. This is a fantastic show in a fantastic venue. I encourage every surveyor to attend next year’s event. PDH/CEU’s accompany the sessions so there’s some bonus value to participating. Rumor has it that there’s some big doings around the corner in Las Vegas at HxGN.

About the Author

Jason Foose, PS

Jason Foose originally hails from the Connecticut Western Reserve Township 3, range XIV West of Ellicott’s Line Surveyed in 1785 but now resides in Township 21 North, Range 17 West of the Gila & Salt River Base Line and Meridian. He is also the Managing Editor of the magazine.