Family owned and operated since its inception in 1954, Mortenson Construction has taken a values based, customer-centric approach to the services they offer as a diversified construction organization.
For Mortenson, the focus on the customer begins with a deep understanding of the strategic industries in which the company operates. In areas such as health care, higher education, science and technology, sports, and renewable energy the focus is always on understanding the business and how the building will enable their customers to operate at a higher level.
With 2,200 employees, operating in 47 states, the company's growth has been steady and conservative with a focus on hiring and retaining the best people in the business.
Mortenson approaches each new project by building a specialized, cross functional team, that brings integration to the job site. The common goal is to deliver each project as a whole team, not through siloed job functions. Encouraging collaboration and teamwork on a job not only fosters strong working partnerships between clients, contractors, and employees but has proven to reduce cost while improving quality and schedule performance. This strategy includes new approaches for planning, managing, and executing projects. Remaining flexible, and adapting to software solutions on a project by project basis helps Mortenson maintain a competitive edge.
SketchUp Pro has become a valuable tool at Mortenson, in part due to its ease of use. "The learning curve is small. Project teams pick it up quickly to provide immediate visual communication," says Ricardo Khan, Integrated Construction Manager. Recognizing the benefits of 3D early on, Mortenson began using 3D CAD solutions which required a CAD expert to create models. This solution was costly and time consuming. SketchUp drastically reduced the barriers to entry of working in 3D. The company found that employees were empowered to use the tool to generate information about a project and share it with others. The use of SketchUp to enhance communication among project teams has become a standard at Mortenson. SketchUp models are used in formal RFIs from the job site to communicate issues and discrepancies in the project details.
Models are also used to obtain approvals from review agencies and manage issues with respect to existing conditions in the urban environment. The image below is an example used to convey the complexity to the city review agencies of a proposed foundation structure as it relates to existing utility systems and the city elevated transit structure.
In both of these cases, the 3D model allow the project teams to propose a solution in 3D. "Time is often wasted interpreting questions. By using 3D models to visually represent the project, partners and clients quickly understand problems and focus on solutions. Team culture is improved while problems are solved right away."
Models are often shared among project stakeholders. Collaborating on a 3D model eliminates common questions regarding construction sequencing and constructability. This process allows sub contractors a means to effectively communicate questions from the field, while architects have the benefit of added site information to understand how their designs are being executed.
"SketchUp provided a simple interface that could accurately illustrate the detail conditions and animate the installation sequence without becoming an excessively technical model," said David Burczyk, an Integrated Construction Coordinator at Mortenson. The software allowed for fast updates to be made to the model during the design meeting to both illustrate the solutions being discussed and serve as “meeting minutes” of the discussion.
"In addition to illustrating the waterproofing details, the SketchUp model provided a simple simulation of the steps required to install the blast windows. The installation sequence was generated from the major milestones in the construction schedule. The intent of the animation was to aid the discussion and stimulate new ideas for waterproofing the windows."
Click on the image above to view Mortenson's YouTube video
The fundamental goal is to improve the project experience for everyone involved while reducing project cost. The use of SketchUp has proliferated through the company since our first use in 2005. Today, every operating group uses SketchUp in some capacity.
Khan attributes SketchUp's popularity to a relatively small learning curve that allows for immediate productivity. "Within a day my team members have been able to learn this tool and become productive. You can find other tools that are easy to model with, but SketchUp's intuitive nature, speed and accuracy makes it more useful. The bonus is that it's an enjoyable experience."
Khan was quick to point out that it's not about creating pretty pictures or cool 3D models at Mortenson. "We wouldn't be using it if we didn't see measured results showing increased efficiency and productivity." In many cases, having a virtual mock-up of a project can eliminate multiple versions of costly physical models. On one project, the use of SketchUp allowed the integrated construction team member to model 4 separate highly detailed virtual mockups in place of one physical mockup, which provided a cost aversion of $144K and a more effective means of problem solving.
Virtual Mock-up on 4 separate curtainwall conditions
Exterior Wall Virtual-Mockup
Interior Virtual Mock-up (Hospital Operating Room)
The customers ultimately decide whether Mortenson's drive towards innovation and collaboration is successful. Recent customer satisfaction surveys showed a 17% increase in satisfaction with Mortenson's performance based on the use of advanced technology to improve project outcomes. SketchUp allows Mortenson to remain software agnostic and work with the programs their clients and partners are already using and can relate to.
Derek Cunz, Director of Project Development notes, "Mortenson has been focused on advancing the art and science of construction through the use of virtual design and construction for over 10 years. SketchUp is a great tool in our arsenal to further our efforts."