“Data is the most valuable and under-utilized asset to construction,” says Micah Vainikka, preconstruction manager at Knutson Construction in Minneapolis. In this age of big data, even construction—long lagging behind in technology adoption—is coming along. But for data to be useful, it has to be part of an ecosystem that tells a story, and not siloed somewhere, accessible or understandable to a select few. That need for connectivity and integration is one reason Vainikka uses Bluebeam Revu for quantity takeoffs, and why he pressures his team members use it too.
“Typically, on my projects, if someone does takeoffs for me I have them do it in Bluebeam [Revu] just so that I can use the information later on, for everything I need it for,” Vainikka says. Knutson, a medium-sized GC with over a hundred years of service, didn’t always use Revu for takeoffs and estimation. But when Vainikka came on to the company about six years ago, he brought Revu with him and interest quickly spread among his coworkers. Now the whole company uses the software.
Vainikka appreciates the ease of Revu: a PDF is easy to handle, share and mark up. Doing quantity takeoffs in Revu means building a data-rich file, which can then be handed off all the way downstream. The data can be added to, analyzed, scrutinized and integrated at all stages of the build.
Knutson has even used Revu to help quickly pursue projects: the company was invited to place a bid for a $75 million job, and they only had two weeks to put it together. “I put all the drawings in a Bluebeam Studio session,” says Vainikka. That allowed him to share the documents with other estimators and project managers for real-time collaboration. He added the estimating tool set he’d created for his group, then gave a one-hour training session. After that, they were off to the races: they were all able to do takeoffs using the same file in real time, eliminating so much of the back-and-forth that usually comes with sharing files. “It was just kind of magic,” he says, with about six estimators in total dividing the labor: one person handled glazing and drywall, somebody else handled waterproofing and siding, and so on. “We had many estimators getting all the markups done really fast,” Vainikka adds.
Now Vainikka is working on instituting standards. Revu is a great container for a whole lot of useful data, but to get the most out of all the information they’re collecting, there needs to be a set of standards: “good, organized markups” is what Vainikka calls it, so if you’ve got 5,000 takeoffs on a project, you can easily find what you’re looking for because of naming conventions, color coding and other metadata.
Standards also help bolster trust, and provide reassurance that the work has been done, and done right. One example is setting your scale on every page so that people can be sure of what they’re looking at. “They need to trust that data. For me, if other estimators are doing takeoffs , I need to be able to trust it. When you have standards, you can tell if something’s the way it needs to be.”
Knutson builds a lot of hospitals and health care facilities, university projects and industrial projects. They expect a lot from their software: they need to be agile and they don’t want to be burdened by a tech stack that siloes data: estimation in one software, takeoffs in another, let alone plan review and other workflows. Revu lets them create and access the data they need, when they need it. This demanding attitude is what has kept Knutson a leader in their field for over a hundred years. Micah Vainikka doesn’t want to see that change anytime soon.