GenCap Construction Corp is a general contractor and management firm, based in the greater Seattle area and specializing in the construction of large-scale multi-family residential developments, mixed-use retail developments, and tenant improvements. With collaboration and innovation at the forefront of their business model, they embed their technical expertise throughout the entire project lifecycle, from feasibility through building operations. GenCap is somewhat unique as it’s a part of a three-tier corporate structure within The Mainstreet Property Group. Under the Mainstreet Property Group Umbrella, MainStreet serves as the real estate development company that funds the project, GenCap is the general contractor that builds the project, and Insite Property Solutions is the property management company that manages the project. With a “build to operate” focus, quality is at the forefront of their project delivery goals and deploying technology on their projects help ensure the highest quality end product.
We sat down with Neil Gordon and Vishal Yarra, Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) Managers at GenCap, to learn more about GenCap’s journey towards digitizing their construction activities and how digital technologies have positively impacted their projects along the way. When discussing the deployment of digital technologies at GenCap, Neil emphasized that the cornerstone of success in his deep experience with deploying construction technology gaining team buy-in and engagement with regards to VDC. You need to get buy-in before you can push the tools. Therefore, rather than creating an individual or centralized department solely catered to conducting VDC operations, Neil’s strategy since day one in building these capabilities at GenCap was to embark on a decentralized structure and attempt to infuse VDC into the company culture itself, at every level across the chain of command. Neil’s strategy to achieve this objective was to establish a level of trust by collaborating closely with the extended construction operations team - right from the design team through to the superintendents.
“That’s one of the key things about cmBuilder, you can use this tool from the beginning all the way to the end of the project.”
- Neil Gordon - Virtual Design and Construction Manager at GenCap Construction Corp.
When Vishal joined the team in March of 2022, this foundation allowed Vishal to jump right into the team and instantly add value to their projects, as the buy-in was already in place and entire organization is benefiting from the roll out of various new technologies and platforms. A great initiative that illustrates this commitment to embedding technology into the broader team is the rollout of the VDC training studio, which equipped the team with the necessary skills and knowledge required to embark onto the VDC journey, as a team. Platforms like Procore and cmBuilder are part of this VDC training studio, allowing new users to get onboarding quickly with the platform and maximize the value of 4D site logistics on GenCap projects.
Neil and Vishal shared a number of project highlights that touched on how 3D/4D site logistics modeling and sequencing simulations not only assisted in creating eye-catching visualizations, but also how these simulations were used to find potential issues that may arise in construction and how the design could be changed to mitigate these risks. Case in point was a recent project with a very high-water table, causing the design team to specify a dewatering system that was both costly and time consuming, putting pressure on the schedule. The GenCap VDC team built a 4D site logistics model of the project with cmBuilder that illustrated the proposed design, sequencing and duration of the project, and then used the 4D model to find a simplified design that works and saved schedule. The 4D model allowed the project team to understand the complexity in an easier way and come up with necessary modifications to the overall design of the structure that avoided the identified issues and saved schedule for the project.
Neil talked about another project that included a very complex layout, and described how “3-4 months before even breaking ground on this project, using cmBuilder as an early tool allowed us to make actual sense of how much planning is going to go into this project. Moreso, using cmBuilder to show the team and developer our plan of action and explain why we had to do things the way we decided to, it was a great asset”.
As the conversation evolved towards the future of construction technology and how the world might look in the coming years, Neil shared his prior experience with “box walks” in projects where Virtual Reality is utilized to get a firsthand understanding of the job site, however, he mentions that this is often done after the project has begun, making it more tedious to make changes; Neil sees an opportunity stemming from further advancements in augmented reality where his team’s “box walks” could take place with AR vs VR, allowing individuals to have a more realistic and interactive experience with their external environment as users are able to take physical steps in real-time and make changes in the Augmented world itself.