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Q&A with Pepper DVC Kevin Bredeson

Q&A with Pepper DVC Kevin Bredeson

by ROB McMANAMY | May 31, 2015

Earlier this spring, I had the chance to moderate a lively panel for the Chicago Building Congress on the expanding capabilities of technology use in our fast-evolving industry. Entitled Optimizing the Process: CBC's Virtual Construction Panel, the program yielded several wonderful insights from a strong group of experts. But time limited how much information each could share.


With that in mind, we now begin a content series here featuring panelists' answers that never saw the light of day, but remain relevant and worthy of attention. One participant was Kevin Bredeson, director of virtual construction for Chicago-based Pepper Construction. Here are his responses to queries that were posed to him separately before the recent CBC event:

Over the past five years, where do you think the industry has shown growth in the adoption of technology such as building information modeling (BIM)?  Where do you still see struggles?

Pepper's Kevin Bredeson

Pepper's Kevin Bredeson

Here in the Midwest, our industry has shown decent growth in its adoption of technology, most notably advancements in BIM and the expanded use of tech on job sites. More owners now are asking for BIM, and in some cases, even requiring it on their projects. As far as hardware and software go, the advancement of BIM-authoring tools is constantly maturing, and the amount of analysis and simulation software hitting the marketplace is growing. On our job sites, we are relying more and more on technology to give our teams near- to real-time information.  

All that being said, the struggles I see constantly are the knowledge and understanding of what these tools can do, as well as the benefits they provide. This struggle can be with clients, designers, engineers, subcontractors, and even our own project team members. Additionally, the design professionals we collaborate with are still pretty scattered on their philosophy and use of these tools through the entire project. So we encourage strategy meetings with the entire project team at the onset of a project to discuss these issues. We set the level of expectation, discuss how far we will develop our content, and then get these conversations memorialized across the team. 

In the four years you’ve been at Pepper, you have grown a sizable group of BIM experts. What are the educational backgrounds, skill sets, and/or personality traits that you look for in a potential candidate?

Typically, I have had good luck with either candidates who have architectural backgrounds or construction management degrees with a focus and/or passion for technology. Those candidates have a good foundation in understanding the process of design and being able to read and interpret contract documents. It goes without saying that knowledge of working in 3D tools is a must.  Outside of the technical skill sets, I’m looking for a team member. They need to be comfortable working in a highly collaborative environment, be self-starters, and excellent problem solvers.  Someone who will not be afraid to contribute and who thrives in an integrated group. The technical skill sets are hard enough to find, but coupling those with the personality traits makes it extremely difficult to recruit worthy candidates. So when you find them, you need to hold on to them.  

Back to the future: Below, from late 2011, Pepper's take on BIM in Bredeson's first year as DVC...

Looking ahead, can you name three significant technologies and/or trends that you believe will have substantial impact on our industry?

The three that stick out, and that we are investing a tremendous amount of time in understanding are: Reality Capture, Virtual & Augmented Reality, and Additive Manufacturing.  

For Reality Capture, we invested over three years ago in a laser scanner, and have really streamlined the process for acquiring, processing and registering existing condition, or as-built information. We have completed many projects using our scanner and it seems that we are constantly looking for new ways to use this information throughout the project. We do struggle with the hand-off of these data sets, though, mainly due to size of the files being delivering, but also because various team members have limited experience working with this type of information. In addition to our scanner, we are researching the use of photogrammetry and other sensors to capture these realities. UAVs, or drones, is another technology that we continue to research and we follow very closely the rules and regulations that are continuing to evolve from the FAA.

BuiltWorlds HQ: A recent scan of our offices, done by Bredeson, himself, in March at the AEC Hackathon 2.0.

BuiltWorlds HQ: A recent scan of our offices, done by Bredeson, himself, in March at the AEC Hackathon 2.0.

VR & AR technologies are giving us a great way to start to visualize all the 3D information that we are producing. With advances in VR headsets and various AR applications, the ability to have a customized experience with 3D data is becoming more mainstream. Last fall, we hosted an event at Blue Marble 3D in Des Plaines IL to showcase these various technologies for our healthcare clients and it was very well-received. It will be amazing to see how this technology will evolve in the next few years, and it will have an impact in many markets, not just AEC.  

Additive manufacturing continues to gain a lot of traction. 3D printers are all the rage right now but until recently the types of materials they were capable of printing was pretty limited.  Now I’m hearing of 3D printers that are printing metals, cellular tissue, and intricate food, to name just a few. A year ago, I was at Autodesk’s San Francisco headquarters as part of a construction customer council, and CEO Carl Bass came in to share his thoughts about some trends they were exploring. He mentioned the amount of research Autodesk was doing in the additive manufacturing space and noted collaborative work with NASA to enable 3D printing in space. More than half of the Space Station is dedicated to warehousing tools and parts for repairs if anything fails or breaks. If you could 3D print those items in a zero gravity environment, there would be a lot of room freed up for other things. Another example would be the large-scale 3D printing that China is currently performing.  Last year, they were claiming to have 3D-printed 10 new houses in one day, and earlier this year, they were able to "print" a 5-story apartment building. Five to 10 years from now, I think all of these technologies will be very common and have significant impact on our business.

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