A Clear insight into the industry with Kelly Cone

We recently caught up to one of our stand-out speakers, not only for past European events, but for BILT events globally, and we asked his opinion on the state of the industry and where we may be heading. He believes the single biggest problem in the AEC industry is the perverse incentive structure on projects that drives some of the most prevalent—and costly—negative behaviors across the industry.

Lucky for us, Kelly Cone, VP of Product Management at ClearEdge 3D, is incredibly passionate about process and technology innovation and how they can change industries—and people’s lives—for the better.

1. Who are you — tell us what you really do and help us get to know you a little better (i.e., what got you excited last Wednesday?

I am a total Geek and love anything related to space or computer technology! Professionally, I have implemented various practice technologies into design, estimating, and construction teams and workflows; worked on amazing projects such as the SaRang Global Ministry center in Seoul as a designer; and Renzo Piano’s addition to the Louis Kahn Kimbell Art Museum as a contractor; and have had the privilege of growing and leading one of the most talented VDC & process innovation teams in the industry. Those experiences have taught me that there’s a better way to create our built environment—and I’ve made it my mission to bring it to reality. That’s why I joined ClearEdge3D! I’m now helping to develop the tools necessary for design and construction firms to get the most out of reality capture within the AEC industry and with the goal of closing the gap between the virtual and real worlds.

2. What’s interesting to you outside of work?

Lots of things! I’m a former dance instructor (swing) and play guitar and sing (but only on the occasions I’m drunk enough!). I LOVE boats, being on boats, being near boats… Boats, boats, boats! Preferably ones with motors though. I’m too much of a control freak for sailing; if I can learn how to control the direction the wind, then I’d probably like sailing, too.  And it goes without saying that I enjoy doing just about anything with my family and friends (especially if it involves space, computers, and boats)!


3. Tell us a little about your product and what makes it unique.

Well, if you wish your software would do 60—80% of your work for you, then you’re reading the right profile!  That’s pretty much what we do for people who want to take laser scans and turn them into BIMs or compare them against models for QA purposes. Our goal is to give you one heck of a head start using fancy things like computer vision algorithms to get a lot of the work done automatically. So, if you need to make sure your subcontractors are following the coordinated fabrication models during installation, or that your team or service provider modelled accurately from a laser scan, or if you need to create a BIM from a bunch of laser scans—our applications, EdgeWise and Verity, are the only software tools that will automate such a big chunk of that work for you with precision accuracy.

4. What do you feel is most lacking in our industry currently? And how do you think this can be changed?

Well, the biggest problem I see is the irrational incentive structure on our projects that drives negative behaviors across the industry. The AEC industry has somehow fallen into a situation where our profits are all based on the wrong metrics. If you put a contractor on a % fee, the way they increase revenue is to increase the cost of the project. So why are we so shocked that most projects are over budget? If you put a design firm on a lump sum fee based on the size of the project, the way they increase revenue is to increase the size and cost of the project. And the way they make profit is to do as little work as possible while meeting minimum requirements for permitting and insurance coverage. So why are we so shocked that our buildings are getting larger and more expensive, and that our drawings are junk? For the industry to change, the people with the money (owners) need to change how they pay for our work. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity… which is exactly what the industry is right now—insane.


5. The Implementation of BIM is growing in Europe but is still not universally used or implemented. Why do you think this is, and what can we do to change this? Given you are from the U.S., how is the market different there to here?

Speaking from a global perspective, there are different levels and factors towards adoption when comparing the US to Europe. While BIM isn’t universally used in the US, adoption in the US is generally driven by efficiency (better profit margins) and by competition (winning work by using new technology). So, BIM has grown rapidly and organically because firms started out using BIM to differentiate themselves and win work. As soon as firm B lost to firm A because of BIM, firm B bought BIM. This created a rapid, broad, but shallow adoption in the mid-to-late 2000s. But, most firms promoted or hired people to manage their fledgling BIM implementations and if you have someone on staff whose job is to implement and spread BIM, they usually try and do a good job of it. So, the U.S.’s broad and shallow adoption grew pretty deep in those firms over the following years. And, fortunately, BIM has been enough of an efficiency improvement when properly implemented that firms buy in whole-heartedly once they see improvements in their profit margins or reductions in their risk.

I think that the EU/UK market isn’t as driven by competitive forces and that BIM has frequently been outsourced in larger firms. The EU/UK is also far more accepting of regulation than the U.S. (even requesting it) and is relying upon recent regulation to help drive adoption. This is not to say either scenario is right or wrong, good or bad, but I think it helps explain the differences in adoption.


6. Many people in the industry say the Construction and Operations Industry is still an emerging market in the implementation of BIM. Why do you think this is? Or why are they wrong?

Adoption certainly varies by country and region. When looking at construction and operations, I think these two areas haven’t had software for very long to allow them to leverage BIM in meaningful ways. So this lack of technology that would allow C/O organizations to utilize BIM data has certainly caused a lag in BIM adoption. I agree that there is a lot of growth and innovation to come for BIM in construction and facility operations.


7. What are some issues that your customers face and how has ClearEdge3D managed to help overcome these issues?

Fundamentally, the biggest thing we all lack in this profession is time. Across the board our fees have been cut in half over the last 50 to 75 years, buildings are growing more complex, and together that means we have a much tougher job to get done in half the time. That’s why we focus on automation and look for tasks that a computer can be trained to do so that we can free up the human to do other things that need their attention.

So, when people buy our software, I like to think that what they’re actually buying is time. Time to answer their client’s e-mails. Time to focus on challenging design problems rather than modeling existing conditions. Time to resolve issues before they cause a delay and rework out on the site. And most importantly, time to spend with our families outside of work. The best compliment I’ve received about our software was from a customer who called me to say thank you for helping him finish a job so that he could spend his weekend with his family instead of working at the office. That was a good feeling.


8. Tell us a little about your session – what was the motivation behind it and why should delegates attend? Who are you hoping to reach with your sessions and why these people in particular? What are you hoping delegates will gain from attending your session?

We’re going to be teaching people how to use our EdgeWise automated feature extraction software as well as our Verity construction verification software. So, if a BILT attendee works with laser scans to generate BIMs or as part of their quality of work initiatives (or they want to), they should definitely come by and learn how we can cut the time it takes to do that in half (or more)!


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