Construction Educator Podcast Sneak Peek: Brad Hyatt, Fresno State

Fresno State’s Brad Hyatt explains the emergence of data science and predictive analytics in construction
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Brad Hyatt cannot escape the color blue.

Growing up in Lexington, Kentucky, home to the University of Kentucky—where he would eventually go to college—Hyatt was raised as a fan of the school’s historically dominant basketball team, known among UK’s fans as “Big Blue,” an homage to the school’s powerful royal blue and white colors.

As a kid, Hyatt’s father worked for International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), a company that, in the 1980s, became known by the same moniker, “Big Blue,” since its computers were often of the color.

Then, after graduating from UK with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, Hyatt spent the next decade of his life donning perhaps the most venerated and honorable type of blue, as a Civil Engineer Corps Officer in the United States Navy.

Today, Hyatt is an associate professor and chair of the Construction Management Department at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State). And while the Bulldogs’ primary color is cardinal red, the school’s secondary color is, indeed, blue.

Finally, as if his coincidental infatuation with blue wasn’t clear enough, ask Hyatt why he chose to join the Navy. “I found out about the Construction Engineering Corps in the Navy,” Hyatt said, “and one of the things that I really got excited about was underwater construction.”

The Construction Educator Podcast

In February 2020, Bluebeam’s then Academic Program Manager Emily Heppard and Procore’s Non-Profit Manager Miles Anderson set out at the Regions 6 & 7 Associated Schools of Construction Student Competition and Construction Management Conference in Reno, Nevada, to interview prominent and influential construction-industry educators.

Over the course of three days, Heppard and Anderson completed 11 interviews, which became “The Construction Educator Podcast,” a limited series collaboration between the two construction technology companies to help spotlight the work of impactful industry educators.

In each episode, the two talk with various educators of differing disciplines about teaching methods, technology and how to cultivate new construction-industry leaders. Over the course of the next few weeks, the Bluebeam Blog will wrap up its spotlight of four interviews from the limited series, including this interview with Fresno State’s Brad Hyatt. Preview The Construction Educator Podcast, with Brad Hyatt:

Preview The Construction Educator Podcast, with Brad Hyatt:

Click here to listen to the Construction Educator podcast on Apple or Spotify.

Getting into teaching

Hyatt didn’t ultimately work in underwater construction while in the Navy, but he did take on fascinating project and facilities management jobs on bases across California, as well as a stint as a project manager at the Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“To this day, I always tell people being in the Navy was one of the best things that I ever did,” Hyatt said. “I got to do a lot of really exciting projects, got to travel the world, do all the things you hear about when you hear about the Navy.”

Well, not everything.

“The only thing that I didn’t do was serve on a ship,” Hyatt said.

After his service, during which he completed a master’s degree in construction engineering and project management from the University of Texas in Austin, Hyatt spent a little more than two and a half years as a project manager with civil engineering firm Harris & Associates, working on projects in San Diego and near Fresno in northern California.

That’s when an opportunity to teach—something Hyatt said he envisioned doing more near the end of his career—presented itself when a classmate from his time in Texas alerted him to an opening at Fresno State.

“The more I went through the interview process,” Hyatt said, “the more it seemed like it may be a good fit. It just all kind of worked, fell into place, and I’ve been here for more than 10 years now.”

Focused on data, analytics

Hyatt’s primary passion is improving the construction industry through data science, predictive analytics, lean construction, alternative project delivery methods and leadership development. He’s so fascinated with the power of data in construction that he’s currently earning a Ph.D. in business administration with a focus in data analytics.

“I’ve always been passionate about data and trying to understand what the data is saying,” Hyatt said. “If you look across businesses, most successful businesses are leveraging their data to make better decisions. And, unfortunately, the construction industry, we haven’t caught up to that.”

Here are some more highlights from Hyatt’s Construction Educator Podcast episode:

[19:56] How Hyatt sees data continuing to influence construction: What I’m interested in for the construction industry is really learning how do construction companies capture their data, take that data, utilize data science systems that are out there such that recommendations can be made and then decision-makers, or the managers, can say, ‘Okay, this is the direction we’re going to go. This is the profit margin we should have on this project.’ Or ‘Here’s the conceptual estimate and here’s the different numbers and here’s the one that makes the most sense for us.’

[27:57]: What aspect of the industry’s futuremost concerns you: I think one of the concerns that I have is probably shared by most construction businesses and that’s just the workforce, whether it’s craftspeople or their management staff. We’re still in this phase where most companies don’t have enough people to do what they do well. And you put on top that we’re going to have this continuing wave of retirements over the next several years.

And so, we’re going to lose a lot of institutional knowledge through that, but we’re also just going to lose a lot of manpower or labor through that as well. So, I think this wave is going to hit us and we’re doing awesome construction right now. Construction’s a great industry. It’s very hot, almost everywhere you go, but it’s cyclical. At some point it’s going to turn down again and what happens when it turns down right when you know this wave of retirees and then it comes back up and we just don’t have enough people to do the jobs that need to get done.

Follow the links below for more information on academic support and partnerships from Bluebeam and Procore:

Procore is a leading provider of construction management software. The company drives social impact through Procore.org, an organization within Procore that connects nonprofit builders, schools, associations, and local organizations with construction education, workforce development and training programs, and free access to the full Procore product suite in order to support building for charity and advancing the construction industry.

This is how the University of Florida’s Jim Sullivan teaches “soft skills” to future construction industry professionals.