It’s been said that knowledge drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, and productivity drives growth. At the Welty Building Company, an innovative culture, and the novel ideas of a creative construction expert about how to address and improve building techniques are not only improving productivity but also driving bottom-line growth.
Phil Nagle, Welty’s senior virtual design construction manager (VCM) is consistently identifying and implementing new building information modeling (BIM) technologies that enable him to gather information that helps overcome challenges and saves time and money by visualizing construction before the actual work takes place.
BIM refers to a digital representation or modeling of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. VDC is the management of the models.
Along with co-worker and VDC engineer Neale Whitehead, Phil uses 3D modeling, laser scanning, virtual reality, and robotics to help solve problems and streamline construction by gathering and making information more visible and usable by the Welty Building Company team and by trade partners involved in erecting new buildings or renovating older ones.
According to Phil, the core focus is on using 3D laser scanning and other advanced technologies to help coordinate the construction activities of everyone involved in a project, especially trade partners. After scanning an existing environment, they can create models that are exact to within 1/16 of an inch. That helps understand the nuances of a building and enables them to anticipate issues before construction begins and the actual work takes place. They can identify issues before they become problems that cause schedule delays and cost overruns. The Welty Building Company reviews end results that provide happy customers and increased profit margins.
Two projects, the Kay Jeweler’s Pavilion and Considine Professional Building at Akron Children’s Hospital are perfect examples. Virtual reality goggles were used during walk throughs with the mechanical team to help create models that showed all the systems within the design. Afterward, they met with the facilities manager who, using the same technology, was able to walk through the space and see clearances that enabled him to provide feedback on ways to improve the space six months before it was built.
Neale adds his own spin when it comes to applying these technologies on the job. His hands-on approach and field experience helps keep a pulse on current challenges and leverages model data to help the team make smarter decisions in the order of operations. One innovation Neale has implemented is capturing underground utility progress via 3D laser scanning as systems are being placed. Once scanned, he tracks it against coordinated MEP models to ensure correct placement and elevation. “With this process, we can move forward confidently with slab pours and other critical construction elements knowing that we won’t have to go back and fix mistakes,” Phil said.
Phil is also testing the use of autonomous, small rolling robots programmed with automated paths to help layout the models and help identify basic elements of the construction such as where the walls should go after slabs are poured.
“Neale and I are keeping pace with the most advanced companies and can do all the processes ourselves internally. We enjoy being in the field and working with the contractors to put the information we gather into the models, making sure they have the most up-to-date information, that the systems are modeled accurately and that little things aren’t missed. The entrepreneurial culture at Welty allows us to be innovative — getting the job done without dealing with a lot of bureaucracy,” said Phil.
But Phil’s innovative spirit and novel approach to things are not confined to the workplace. He has been known to catch the attention of his co-workers by arriving to work by way of a paraglider, landing in the field just behind the company’s parking area. He was also the first person in the United States to bicycle solo through all 48 continental states continuously, with a daily average of 150 miles over 52 days. His trip raised $10,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The same goes for his novel idea of the perfect pet. He and his wife, Rachel, are the loving owners of two African porcupines. They also are accomplished adventurers, having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. As Phil says, “We have yet to take a traditional vacation, ours usually involve a degree of physical discomfort.”
Though he may be okay with being uncomfortable, Welty’s blue-chip clients are at ease knowing that his novel ideas and use of state-of-the-art technology are helping construct their buildings efficiently, cost-effectively, and on time.