The Digital Built Environment Institute’s annual North American conference, BILT NA, was held right here in our own backyard in July. Several of us at GLY had the opportunity to attend and we are still buzzing with residual energy! Here are our three top takeaways—and how we’re embracing the opportunities they represent.

A few of the GLY attendees at BILT NA: Design Manager Heather Skeehan, Senior Design Engineer Scott Myatich, Layout Superintendent Dan Frye, and R&D Manager Adam Cisler.

1. Meaningful Data Matters

Unless you’re still using a rotary phone, you’re not likely to dispute the exponential increase in the importance of data in our daily lives. In fact, we generate so much data every second that by 2020 the entire digital universe is expected to reach 44 zettabytes. Zettabytes—it’s a thing! In more understandable but no less mind-blowing terms, that means there will be 40 times more bytes of data than there are stars in the observable universe.

The challenge isn’t finding data—it’s understanding what we have and making sense of it. There are some exciting new tools that are making it easier to filter and work with data so that we can visualize patterns and derive meaning from it. Here at GLY, we’ve established a Data Governance Team that’s delving into what data we generate and own, how we manage it, and how we can use it to inform problem-solving and better decision-making. This team is cross-disciplinary and includes representation not just from the building disciplines but from finance, HR, marketing and IT to ensure we’re looking at the complete picture.

2. Putting Data to Work: Operations + Maintenance

At the end of construction we always hand owners an Operations + Maintenance manual. Too often this manual has been a source of false hope, disappointment and confusion. We’re now generating vast amounts of useful data throughout the design and delivery process and we’re experimenting with new tools and processes to turn it into real added value for the owners. We’re engaging our facilities managers early in the process to help us understand how the data can be used in Operations + Maintenance. Once we understand what’s useful, we’re using tools like BIM360 and PlanGrid to present the data in more useful ways that create efficiencies for the owners.

3. Silo-busting! Saving the best for last.

While no one actually said “silo-busting,” this was our biggest and most exciting takeaway. A common problem probed during many of the presentations was about how to break through the artificial and arbitrary lines that our industry has traditionally observed between disciplines. We know how to do this!

GLY has always embraced people with different perspectives, disciplines and expertise and we place a high value on working collaboratively across disciplines to solve problems and push to the next level. We’re organized to bring multidisciplinary perspectives to bear and this is the approach that underlies all our ambitions to leverage data to embrace opportunities such generative design, resilience, sustainability, efficiency and economy. One of the sessions at BILT was entitled “Avoiding a Culture of One.” We couldn’t agree more. At GLY we’re exploring how to create a “Culture of Data.”