People Profile: Larry Rocha AECbytes Profile (October 1, 2015)

Larry Rocha, Principal and Senior Vice President, Mosaic Modular and LMR Consulting, shares his perspective on AEC technology in this Profile.
"Personally, I think that pre-fabrication, digital fabrication and construction robotics will be the most progressive technologies for AEC over the next 5-10 years. As we clear the BIM curve and the industry comes to terms with digital design and data sharing, these technologies seem a natural next step."
What is your educational and professional background?

I attended Riverside City College in Riverside, California, Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, and University of California at Irvine Extension.

In the late seventies/early eighties, I worked in construction in California.  Then I moved to Texas and worked for a structural engineering firm as a draftsman.  I also worked at a commercial development firm as a draftsman/designer.  In 1985, I read about an Architectural/engineering firm in Austin that had purchased a DEC based CAD installation (2 stations and a plotter) for $250k. I called them, applied for a job, and was hired as a CAD draftsman. 

I returned to California in 1987, where I worked for an architectural firm as a CAD Manager.  In 1988, I started my career with WATG where I began as a CAD Manager on a Sigma system and help transition the firm to AutoCAD.  I eventually became responsible for networking and IS/IT as the CIO.  As technology became a strategic element of the business, I participated in firm management and sat on the Board of Directors.

What is your current role? What are the main projects you are involved with?

Currently I operate two companies, Mosaic Modular, LLC and LMR Consulting, LLC.  Mosaic Modular is a “new age” modular building company with a focus on digital fabrication and developing and licensing intellectual property.

Interior views of some digitally prefabricated Mosaic Modular conceptual structures.

When and how did you get interested in AEC technology?

It had to be when I was working as a draftsperson for a structural engineering firm in Texas.  I was responsible for implementing a new technology called pin-bar register drafting (high tech) when someone brought me a Computer Graphics World magazine and said: “Look, we can draw with computers”.  For me, CAD, BIM, Digital Fabrication, etc. flashed before my eyes.  It was at that point that I saw the opportunity to be part of an industry transition that has been 30+ years in the making.  I thought it would happen much faster.  I honestly didn’t think that it would take a career.

How much of what you do today is related to AEC technology in some form?

I’m still fascinated about the possibilities. It is the focus at Mosaic Modular. We’re hoping that Mosaic Modular is 100% digital—from design to manufacturing to operations.

From your vantage point, what do you see as some of the main technological challenges facing the AEC industry today?

I think that it’s the same as it’s always been: industry fragmentation.  There are so many stakeholders in a typical construction project that it makes it difficult to coordinate significant change.  While I wouldn’t necessarily call the industry risk-adverse, mitigation of risk is a big part of the project plan.

How do you see AEC technology evolving in the future?

Personally, I think that pre-fabrication, digital fabrication and construction robotics will be the most progressive technologies for AEC over the next 5-10 years.  As we clear the BIM curve and the industry comes to terms with digital design and data sharing, these technologies seem a natural next step.

If you had a wish list for AEC technology, what would it be?

I guess it would be that clients, designers and contractors see the financial benefits of investments in innovation and change.  The promises of waste reduction, energy efficiency and urban renewal seem obvious on paper, but who really benefits?  Smart clients that see and take advantage of the opportunities and then pass them through the supply chain are at the top of my wish list.  I think that Stephen Hagan in his tenure at the GSA and the AIA TAP group, through the Integrated Project Delivery program, have done a lot to move the industry forward in this regard.

Any additional information/observations/insights on AEC technology that you would like to share?

We need to focus on what’s important to the organization’s strategy.  With so many technological possibilities out there (they’re growing everyday) combined with the fact that everyone in the working world is using technology (with very high expectations), maintaining focus (and systems) is really difficult.  Getting the organization to do a reality check on what’s important to them in terms of the strategic value of technology, committing the entire organization to implementing (and maintaining) it, and not being distracted by the whirlwind of possibilities is paramount.  Otherwise, we’re constantly chasing our tails.  

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