Expanding the Applications of Technology

by Balfour Beatty

In the construction industry, the use of technology is never one-size-fits-all. And while many contractors showcase the benefits of innovative tools and practices on large-scale projects due to their scale or inherent complexity, Balfour Beatty’s Texas team is proving how impactful investment in leading-edge technologies like OpenSpace can be on smaller projects completed within vastly tighter timelines.

The Digital Transformation

In the Special Projects Group (SPG) market, project schedules can be especially compressed—some even spanning only a few weeks or days. An added layer of complexity frequently stems from the limited hours in which work can occur. To help our clients maintain their day-to-day operations, project teams often execute work after hours, which requires careful coordination, strategic allocation of labor, and precise schedules for material and equipment deliveries. Working in fully operational buildings also involves additional measures to ensure Zero Harm such as cordoning off active work zones and laydown areas. 

At the height of the pandemic, Balfour Beatty’s Texas team was partnering with a longstanding confidential client on approximately 100 corporate upfit projects across Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona. The team, like many others in the industry, recognized the immediate need to shift the way they communicated with project partners to ensure timely completions. 

To maintain their momentum on this volume of work across vast geographies, Balfour Beatty’s SPG leaders turned to OpenSpace, a technology that, at the time, was quickly gaining popularity across the company because of its remote-enabled jobsite capture and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. 

Recognizing that their success depended on continuing to conduct effective owner, architect, and contractor (OAC) meetings, the team leveraged OpenSpace to showcase project progress in real-time and host virtual “tours” through the facilities. Although sometimes separated by hundreds of miles, clients and teams were able to provide real-time updates while also reducing the business’s carbon footprint by minimizing travel. 

A Continued Investment in Innovation

To this day, the team continues to reap the benefits of OpenSpace beyond their weekly OAC meetings.

“OpenSpace continues to empower our teams to collaborate even more closely on the front end of projects with our partners and client,” says David Friggel, project manager. “On every project, this tool is saving our clients and teams valuable time and money—two significant success factors when working on these quick-turn projects.” 

Applying OpenSpace has done more than allow the team to provide valuable project updates - it’s also saved the team time when it comes to completing requests for information (RFI). Instead of traveling to a jobsite to garner a full understanding of the state of the project, the team can quickly reference up-to-date jobsite captures to complete their RFIs.

During one of the OAC meetings for a project in Plano, Texas, our team was conducting a virtual tour via OpenSpace when the architect noticed the presence of an unexpected column. Had construction progressed without that critical detection, it would have resulted in an uneven surface in the conference room wall. 

With OpenSpace, the team quickly accessed images of the project and decided to fur out the wall, making it flush with the face of the column and creating a flat surface for the installation of the artwork and markerboards. OpenSpace also enabled the architect and the owner to collaboratively identify a solution to reposition the walls, saving valuable time within an already compressed project schedule. 

The technology also helped the team proactively prevent potentially costly mechanical, electrical and plumbing re-work. On a project in Houston, Texas, the real-time OpenSpace captures allowed the architect to discover that the external wrapped duct was not the desired finish within the open ceiling concept. The team promptly rectified what could have been a very costly and time-consuming re-work during an OAC meeting - ultimately saving the client approximately $120,000 and the team over three weeks to remove the mechanical systems, lighting, and finishes to achieve the desired visual aesthetic. 

Clients trust Balfour Beatty to efficiently deliver best-in-class projects, often on accelerated schedules with minimal impact on their business operations. While OpenSpace may not be a new technology, our teams are proving the value in continually seeking out innovative applications that enable a more seamless construction experience for our clients and partners on projects of diverse scopes and schedules.