‘There Is So Much More Information’
An interview with Mandy Albrecht, Associate Professor and Director of the Construction Management Program at the University of Cincinnati
Mandy Albrecht is an associate professor and director of the Construction Management Program at the University of Cincinnati. She also maintains a solo legal practice specializing in construction matters. She holds degrees in civil engineering (B.S.) and construction management (M.S.) from Washington University in St. Louis and a J.D. from University Cincinnati. She’s a registered professional engineer and a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio, and has worked for a commercial general contractor/developer, where she was responsible for project management, estimating, scheduling, contracting, and job cost reporting. Albrecht has also worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where she served as both a geotechnical engineer and project engineer.
Professor Albrecht teaches courses covering topics in scheduling, estimating and construction law, among other topics. In addition to her teaching duties at University of Cincinnati, Albrecht advises several student groups including the Construction Student Association, Construction Competition Club, Student Women in Construction, the Sigma Lambda Chi honor society, and numerous award-winning student competition teams. The Bluebeam Blog recently sat down with Professor Albrecht to talk about her experiences in the front of the class.
Bluebeam Blog: How do you use Revu in the classroom?
Albrecht: At the University of Cincinnati, our students use Bluebeam Revu as a collaboration tool in their construction management capstone course. In the CM capstone, the students prepare a proposal on a real-life project, as if they are a general contractor bidding on the work. Each team can make use of Revu however they choose, but they use it do their takeoffs and share notes, as well as to organize and assemble their final proposal documents.
Additionally, our students of all levels participate in about a dozen different construction management competitions throughout the year. Students on competition teams use Revu in much the same way as the capstone students do, for collaboration, takeoff, and as a powerful PDF editor for their proposal documents.
Bluebeam Blog: What other technologies do you consider essential for people who plan to work in AEC?
Albrecht: There are some obvious answers here that are firmly entrenched in our industry—Revu (of course), AutoCAD, Revit, Navisworks, Microsoft Project or P6, and of course good ol’ Microsoft Excel are all important parts of modern AEC work. But more important is the ability to learn and flexibility to adapt as new software and new tools become available in the future. I hope that we are teaching our students not only the skills that they need to operate in industry today, but the critical thinking and learning skills they’ll need to excel as the industry changes in the future.
Much more data is communicated through 3D models and point clouds than paper plans. There is so much more information available and we’re just learning how to leverage all of it.
Bluebeam Blog: How has technology changed the AEC industry?
Albrecht: Technology has made it easier to collaborate in our industry because it has improved the flow of information among project teams. It has also allowed us to document much more of the work that we do—communications are easier to record and log. Much more data is communicated through 3D models and point clouds than paper plans. There is so much more information available and we’re just learning how to leverage all of it.
The recent renovation of Cincinnati’s Union Terminal (more widely known as DC Comics Super Friends’ “Hall of Justice”) is a great example of this explosion of data. The 500,000 square foot structure was originally built in the early 1930s using less than a couple hundred plan sheets. A multi-year, $250 million plus renovation was recently completed on the historic art-deco structure. It required thousands of plan sheets as well as massive amounts of data (both point cloud scans of the original building and fixtures as well as new designs) that were shared across long distances to reach the appropriate hard-to-find restoration experts, consultants, and even sometimes contractors, who were typically not located in Cincinnati.
Bluebeam Blog: What do you think is the biggest challenge future AEC professionals will face? For instance, will it have to do with learning new technologies, dealing with a labor shortage, etc.?
Albrecht: I don’t think our students have any difficulties with learning new technologies—they’ve grown up on it. I think the difficulty will not be in learning the mechanics of new technology, but in figuring out how best to apply and leverage new technologies to our field as they are developed. I think that the tight labor market we already experience will continue to be a concern unless and until wages rise to match demand and incentivize more young people to enter the field, or until there is a recession that reduces demand. Having seen the many talented young leaders that have come through our program, I have no doubt that the future of the AEC industry will be in good hands.
Bluebeam Blog: How do students at University of Cincinnati use Revu?
Albrecht: We work with our friendly contacts at Bluebeam to get the students access, and the students take it from there! The CM program at the University of Cincinnati is a five-year program with five semesters of mandatory co-op experiences. By the time the students are seniors in the capstone course, most of the students have used Revu, at least in some capacity, on a past co-op. During the course of their group projects in capstone, the students who are most familiar with its capabilities will end up sharing tips and tricks with those who are less familiar.
Bluebeam Blog: How has your view of technology in the AEC workplace evolved over the years?
Albrecht: I don’t really think it has changed too much. I started in the industry in the early ‘00s when 3D modeling was just being adopted but took five minutes to refresh each time you tried to rotate the model. I would say I am most blown away by the continually improving speed at which things can be done—whether that be the processing speed of the graphics on our computers, or the collaborative capabilities of enterprise software.