LeChase Construction was originally established as a family business in 1944 to fill the demand for construction work in Rochester, N.Y. during World War II. Today, the firm is operated as a partnership, with annual revenues approaching $1 billion and 11 regional offices across the east coast.
LeChase takes great pride in its reputation for safety, quality, and integrity, as well as its commitment to building partnerships. As a result, more than 85% of LeChase clients are repeat customers.
In terms of workload, the firm does a mix of construction management, design-build, general construction, and program management. The company does a substantial amount of commercial, multi-unit housing, life sciences, technology, and industrial projects, although its top market sectors are education and health care. Since 2010, LeChase has completed more than 550 higher ed and K-12 projects, valued at over $5 billion, on more than 140 educational campuses. Over that same period, it delivered over 300 projects at more than 80 health care institutions.
LeChase has hundreds of active projects underway at any given time. Our portfolio of projects range from small renovations to new construction valued at more than $250 million. Some notable projects, shown in Figure 1, are described below.
LeChase’s experience using AEC technology dates back to the early 2000’s. In the construction industry, technology is the glue that holds the office and field together. A well-planned project saves time and money, promotes safety, and creates a strong relationship between the project team and the owner.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) lets us plan projects with improved safety, detailing, coordination and collaboration, saving both time and money. The use of BIM allows our team to provide various services depending on the project’s needs. The convergence of AEC software applications like Revit, Navisworks, AutoCAD, and SketchUp, with construction management platforms like ProCore and BIM360 creates efficient and time-saving models for each project.
Before construction, we use BIM to build the building virtually (Figure 2). Doing this allows our team to eliminate constructability conflicts before the tradesman steps on site. The virtual model saves time, delays, and stress on an already challenging labor market. When BIM implementation began in construction projects, MEP-focused projects were modeled with high levels of detail. However, today, the use of BIM is more important than ever. It eliminates potential rework, and it allows the trades to utilize their time progressing the project forward.
With a focus on growing construction fabrication, having fabrication-ready models available allows our specialty contractors to import the model into their manufacturing equipment to produce better yields from the stock materials. For example, we often model above-ceiling multi-trade MEP rack assemblies in the medical and pharma field (Figure 3). Doing this allows for the coordination of utilities, and for the facilities team to be able to get to the critical valve during a shutdown. The offsite fabrication expedites the infield installation and provides valuable workspace onsite for trades.
In the construction industry, drones are used for a variety of applications. LeChase has several drones available with an assortment of cameras and scanners to meet a range of needs for each project. As an example, many projects require progress photos. We can take high-resolution photos weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly or capture as-needed photos before, during, and after construction to easily convey the progress made over time (Figure 4). These photos can be from predetermined waypoints, a full top-down scan of the site, or other locations by request. By setting up waypoints, we can take the same photos each visit or even a video along the same path, and at the end of the project, combine them all into a time-lapse video showing the entire construction process. Our clients take great pride in their projects. They appreciate the progression of their project from conception to reality. Our project team takes the progression photos and uploads them to the management platform; this provides the out-of-town board members, designers, and consultants the ability to view up-to-date progress photos.
Making sure our teams get home safely is our number one goal, and the use of a drone makes it much safer to find and fix any potential safety issues on large expansive sites. Recently, we were able to catch a potential issue with an employee who was not tied-off on a roof of a project that comprised of several different elevations. Reviewing the images with the superintendent, they were able to educate the employee about safety practices and create a safer work environment.
Thermal scanning of building envelopes is our firm’s latest endeavor utilizing the drone fleet. Drone-mounted systems are much safer and more cost effective than manlifts roaming the site. Scanning of the building prior to final façade/roof installation allows the project teams to catch any potentially poor-performing vertical or horizontal enclosures. In the past, the amount of time and manpower to produce a complete building scan made this effort often out of reach, but today’s technologies allow the construction team to pinpoint and remedy identified areas.
Modelogix & Microsoft Power BI
This software is used for data mining and cost modeling. In today's climate, the need to quickly and accurately make high-level budget recommendations is more important than ever. Utilizing in-place project data allows clients to get a feel of the project's financial direction and benefits design teams, so they do not have to create designs that may not meet the budget. This process is collaborative, with the entire team involved, and helps to drive target value design.
Several factors including market sector, regional variances in design firms, subcontractors, and the client, can challenge the implementation of AEC technology into a construction project. These are challenges because some clients or subcontractors are technologically advanced and prefer using software to streamline their processes. At the same time, others do not want to invest time or money into it. Also, some projects dictate the specific program/software that we need to use. This results in a challenge because the team working on the project may not be familiar with the program/software that is required. Getting some clients/owners to invest in technology when there isn’t always an immediate payoff has been difficult; however, once we have used some AEC technology on a project, the team is generally eager to use it again because they see the benefit in the outcome and are more receptive to learning about the other advantages the technology can offer.
As mentioned before, safety is our number one priority. We are committed to maintaining the safest job site for our employees, subcontractors, customers, and the community. We see the use of AEC technology evolving by using business intelligence to do predictive analytics about safety measures on project sites (Figure 5). This would help streamline and possibly prevent a potential safety issue from happening.
Our wish list is for AEC technology to communicate between all platforms. This will streamline processes and result in less room for error. Currently, the programs do not always link. It takes time to input information from one program to another. That also allows for a greater chance of an error. Another item for our wish list is for a consensus on which products and services are most beneficial for the project, giving us the best value in serving our clients.
The use of labor market tie-ins, which relies on advances in technology, has allowed contractors and designers to work in a labor-short market more effectively. In some platforms, labor is reduced by 15-20%.
Overall, it’s an exciting time to be involved with technology in the AEC industry. I’m proud to work at a forward-thinking company like LeChase, which recognizes the value of technology and is willing to invest in it to provide a better result for our customers.
Acknowledgements: This profile was facilitated by J.P. McGuirk of Focus Media.
Chris Preston is the BIM manager for LeChase. He is responsible for the standards and processes across the company. He runs BIM coordination, provides BIM user training and support, creates 3D walkthroughs for client presentations, and supports estimating with data extracted from BIM models. Preston has 20 years of experience in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, has worked with BIM software tools for the past eight years, and is a licensed drone pilot. He has a Computing Graphics degree from Alfred State College (Alfred, N.Y.).
Have comments or feedback on this article? Visit its AECbytes blog posting to share them with other readers or see what others have to say.
AECbytes content should not be reproduced on any other website, blog, print publication, or newsletter without permission.
Plaza Construction, one of the foremost construction management and general contracting firms in the US, shares its perspective on AEC technology in this Firm Profile.
KAI Design & Build, a design & build firm performing architecture, engineering, and program management/construction management services nationwide in the US, shares its perspective on AEC technology in this Firm Profile.
This review explores VisiLean, a cloud-based construction planning and scheduling application incorporating lean principles that can be used for high-level planning as well as individual construction tasks in the field.
In this Viewpoint article, Erik Pijnenburg, CEO of KUBUS BV, discusses the importance of integrated and centralized BIM issue management, not only to improve the quality of BIM data, but also of the design process in AEC.