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FutureTech West: Enter the 'Intrapreneur'

FutureTech West:
Enter the 'Intrapreneur'

by TODD STOLARSKI in San Francisco | March 19, 2015

In the giant shadow of Silicon Valley, Engineering News-Record (ENR) this month hosted its fifth FutureTech conference, returning to San Francisco for an action-packed, two-day event featuring speakers and vendors from across the U.S. and around the globe. With the word future in the name, anticipation was high among the 320+ attendees who flocked to see what upcoming adaptations and evolutions the tech world would soon bestow on the built environment.

With a wide range of topics on the docket, including everything from UAVs on job sites, BIM modeling, and sustainable architecture, to green energy practices, advanced mobile apps and reality capture via laser scanning, one underlying thread kept surfacing: the intra-preneurial spirit.  

Pinchot (second from right) dropping his intrapreneurial knowledge in SF.   

Pinchot (second from right) dropping his intrapreneurial knowledge in SF.   

Not unlike an entrepreneur, the "intrapreneur" is a self-appointed driver of a new idea within a corporation. The term was actually coined by conference keynote Gordon Pinchot III in the early 1980s, but this week he elaborated on the growth of the modern intrapreneur in today's workforce, regardless of company size or industry. Unlike an entrepreneur, the intrapreneur does not own his/her place of business, but they are intuitive and analytic people who flat out care. If they have to bend the rules in an honest fashion to advance the goals of the larger enterprise, they will. While they are moderate about risk-taking, they are passionate about values. Pinchot applied this work ethic to the Millennials now flooding the job market. Put plainly, "they don't want work that doesn't have a meaning," he explained.

From there, the conference proceeded to re-define the concept of "meaning" in the AEC space, as detailed by a cavalcade of tech prognosticators. Drones and Building Information Modeling (BIM) grabbed the spotlight and took center stage. BIM is a standard practice within AEC space now, but Dodge Data & AnalyticsStephen Jones, the conference chairman, spoke about it now as more of a placeholder until expected advances arrive in the not-too-distant future. "BIM is not the thing," he said. "BIM is the thing that will get us to the thing." 

They don’t want work that doesn’t have a meaning.
— Gifford Pinchot III
The Kespry grounded, but still showing off.

The Kespry grounded, but still showing off.

Of course, flying things, aka drones (UAVs), already are here, and they were a hot topic at the event. Despite current Federal Aviation Administration hurdles, we're well aware that drones are here to stay. (In India, they're already delivering pizza, for goodness sake!) The experts agree, in fact, that drone use on job sites will increase exponentially on job sites in the years to come. Drone manufacturer Kespry was an exhibitor, showing off its new, ultra light model specifically tailored for construction, controlled by a native mobile app. During the Field/Site Technology panel, Scott Widmann, a project manager with DPR Construction, who may (or may not) be working on a top secret project --building a certain fruit-named company's wild new HQ in Cupertino, CA-- demonstrated the capabilities of its drone assistants. Fellow panelist Todd Wynne of Rogers-O'Brien Construction, then displayed drones which will soon be hauling bricks and delivering concrete to our sites. So, watch out. The future will literally be flying right at us. 

BIM is not the thing. BIM is the thing that will get us to the thing.
— Stephen Jones, Dodge Data & Analytics
So important, CASE's David Fano both said this message AND typed it.

So important, CASE's David Fano both said this message AND typed it.

Rosanna Wong, executive director of Hong Kong-based Yau Lee Holdings Limited took to the podium for the final speech. With a wide range of AEC topics discussed prior to her address, Ms. Wong tied it all together, noting Yau Lee's use of: BIM; drones to survey projects; more green energy; and greater sustainable building practices. Appropriately enough, the closing keynote revealed herself to be an ardent advocate of such practices within her large company. So, she embodied the very "intrapeneural" change agent that Pinchot had heralded. "Time is the urgency which makes us transform," she said. Throughout FutureTech, it was easy to be absorbed by the visionary people who have changed technology over time to transform how we will adapt to and thrive in the future.

As we continue to plunge deeper into this Cambrian explosion of AEC tech, the words of FutureTech presenter Todd Wynne kept echoing in my mind on my redeye flight back to Chicago. "The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it," he stated.

At this point, fortunately, drones can't do any of that... probably a very good thing.

BONUS: Check out this dazzling video shown by EarthCam at the conference...

Six years, $6-billion, 4 minutes: EarthCam presented this remarkable time-lapse video, depicting creation of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. First released 19 months ago, the film captures more than 42,000 hours of work. EarthCam recorded nearly 2 million images.

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