Interviewing the Educators: A Talk With Professor Brad Hyatt
Construction management education, labor shortages and the future of AEC
Professor Brad Hyatt is at the forefront of a movement to bring construction into the 21st century. An associate professor and chair of the Department of Construction Management in the Lyles College of Engineering at California State University, Fresno, Hyatt teaches courses on a wide array of construction management skills and conducts research on data and predictive analytics in construction, leadership in construction, lean construction practices, and integrating technology into construction education. In addition to his work preparing future generations to build their world, Hyatt is a working engineer with over 20 years of experience in program and project management of facilities, engineering and construction projects.
His broad expertise includes sustainable design and construction, facilities management, construction management, capital improvements planning, energy management, disaster response and construction work force shaping. Hyatt has managed a variety of projects from a large, complex replacement hospital to small fuel tank renovations. In other words, when it comes to construction, Hyatt has got the goods. We recently spoke with him about technology in AEC, tools for teaching and where the industry is headed.
StrXur: How has technology changed the AEC industry?
Hyatt: This is a very exciting time for the AEC industry. Technology seems to be changing on a daily basis. Many of our students are very excited about these changes and look forward to being part of the solution as they will help companies integrate this technology. I firmly believe that technology will look very different in just a few short years. This is an exciting time, but it will also place stress on many companies that are not prepared to effectively incorporate these technologies. Most AEC companies are risk averse with little (or no) budget for research and development. This means that they have to wait until technologies are proven in the industry.
StrXur: What do you think is the biggest challenge future AEC professionals will face?
Hyatt: I believe that the biggest challenges for future AEC professionals will be related to labor shortages and an increased focus on making sure that technologies truly add value to projects. This will mean that an AEC professional will need to know how to evaluate as well as implement technologies. It will also place more pressure on professionals to effectively leverage technology to do the work in areas with the most labor shortages. The companies that are able to address these needs in the most efficient manner will be best positioned for increased opportunities and revenues. Data science and data analytics will provide AEC professionals with the insights necessary to identify and address these needs. Managing data and information will be the biggest challenge, but provide the biggest opportunity for the AEC industry in the coming years.
StrXur: How do you use Bluebeam Revu in the classroom?
Hyatt: We use Revu in the classroom in several different ways. The first way is by teaching basic quantity takeoff functionality in our sophomore-level course titled Construction Documents. This course ultimately requires students to learn how to perform various quantity takeoffs and about various types of construction specifications. This is a very important class in our curriculum as it provides a venue for us to begin discussing how technology is used within the construction industry. Most of our upper level courses also use Revu in some form. These courses include construction estimating, construction scheduling and construction project controls. We do our best to ensure that students not only learn the basic functions of Revu but also more advanced functions as well.
StrXur: What has some of the feedback from students been after you’ve taught them Revu?
Hyatt: Many students are excited that they get to be introduced to Revu early in our curriculum. Most of them will utilize Revu in their projects during internships and after they leave our program. Therefore, introducing it early in their studies is essential.
StrXur: What other technologies do you consider essential for people who plan to work in AEC?
Hyatt: A good online project management system and an integrated document control system. These are critical for managing any project. There many platforms available, but we utilize Procore and have done so for the past decade. Additionally, students need to get hands-on with many different technologies such AutoCAD, BIM, data analytics, drones, AR, VR and total stations for surveying, to name a few.
StrXur: How has your view of technology in the AEC workplace evolved over the years?
Hyatt: My view of technology hasn’t really changed over the years. I’ve always seen technology as something that is necessary and required for professionals within our industry. However, what has changed is the speed in which technology is integrated in the AEC industry. As I previously stated, the “winners” in our industry will be those that can quickly leverage technology and information to make smart decisions and to position their firms for success. The speed of change will only increase, so our AEC professionals must learn how to quickly adjust in this fast-paced environment.