Mechanical engineers are used to solving big problems with many moving parts. When Aaron Akehurst started his career with PCL 19 years ago as a field coordinator, he used those skills to tackle complex issues by optimizing planning processes as he worked his way up to becoming a project manager. Now, as a leader of PCL’s Integrated Construction Services department, Aaron’s applying everything he’s learned as an engineer in the field to help teams adopt the latest advancements in digital construction technology to enhance and streamline traditional construction methods on the job site. And clients are quickly seeing the value.
Aaron’s role requires advanced construction experience and knowledge to determine which new technology is best suited to improve on traditional construction methods. Some of these digital innovations are so transformative they are fundamentally changing the work his team does on a job site,creating measurable time and cost-savings for clients, trades and stakeholders.
Drones combined with advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology is a great example of this. His team quickly discovered that the value of GIS-enabled drones far outpaced traditional site survey techniques due to the sheer volume of data generated from a single drone flight. Think millions of data points rapidly mapped into point cloud and compared to a 3D BIM model to verify installed versus planned production. Not only is there more information to analyze and learn from, but advancements in cloud-based software also allow remote project teams to easily interact with the data in real time.
This level of data sharing is creating solutions to problems before they occur, which played out when Aaron’s team was working on the CA$1.7 billion new St. Paul’s Hospital project in the heart of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. During the excavation phase, they discovered that the ramp and crane foundation overlapped . Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) along with the point cloud drone data, the team quickly pivoted and moved the ramp to avoid an issue or expensive delay. to avoid an issue or expensive delay.
For Aaron, building a better future together means collaborating with all stakeholders to overcome project challenges — whether in the field or in the design of advanced smart buildings — by engaging technology, innovation and PCL’s solution provider approach. He admits applying new and innovative technology takes hard work and coordination to secure buy-in and adoption on a job site or through the design process. However, the cost savings to clients that flow from reduced risk, lean schedules, enhanced quality and safety through construction, or from improved building operations and maintenance post occupancy, already speak volumes.