Why it matters: Construction giant Suffolk Construction is at the forefront of an industrywide embrace of technology advances.
Josh Christensen is going to help make construction cool again in 2018.
The vice president of operations for the west coast division of national construction giant Suffolk, Christensen's path to cool includes virtual reality, digital walls and 3-D visuals. All of that, and more, will be inside Suffolk's new Smart Lab, scheduled to debut in Tampa by the end of January. The Tampa market was one of six Smart Labs selected by Boston-based Suffolk, which does $3 billion a year in revenue and has nearly 2,000 employees. Other Smart Labs are in operation in New York and San Francisco, and ones are forthcoming in Boston, Los Angeles and Miami.
The Smart Labs are wrapped around what Suffolk executives call “immersive project planning.” There's a data wall, which consists of six integrated interactive displays with performance analytics on projects. Those panels can be connected for a 3-D display. There's also a huddle wall, which can link with other Suffolk Smart Labs nationwide. A third wall can live stream projects, for both employees and clients. The technology, executives add in a statement, is more than cool — it also allows clients to “step foot inside their building before it's built.”
A 20-year building industry executive, Christensen has been to the Smart Labs in New York and San Francisco, and he was blown away with the gadgets, and the competitive advantages it offers Suffolk. “There are all kinds of really cool technologies that will allow us to work more collaboratively with clients,” Christensen says. “This will be something people can feel and touch. It's not a museum. It's really cool space.”