Connecting Tradesmen, “The Last Mile” in construction innovation

The image above, taken by IvyMike, shows runners in San Diego’s Rock N’ Roll Marathon. My parents both finished all 26.2 miles in this year’s event – something that all six of us kids are equally proud and jealous of!

I had the great fortune of writing a guest post once again for construction lawyer Chris Hill’s blog, Construction Law Musings. The post is called The Last Mile in Construction Innovation.

In the tech world, there is a term used by pundits and professionals alike: The Last Mile. It refers to the final leg of connection between a service provider and customer. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecommunication companies have been challenged to bring service to every available customer. Bringing telephone and internet connection to remote areas is costly, but necessary for fostering that most important human characteristic: communication.

In construction, the laborers and tradesmen (and women) that actually construct the buildings represent that last mile. The way we design buildings, and the manner in which construction projects are managed, has seen massive innovation. But there is a gap in the flow of information. Tradesmen need instant access to the most crucial elements of how various assemblies are to actually be constructed and don’t need to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of documentation or computer files to find the answer.

I recently was reviewing testimony from a tradesmen/subcontractor involved in a complex (and contentious) construction defect matter. This very experienced concrete installer felt that unless American Concrete Institute (ACI) standards were referenced in the contract, they did not apply to his work product. Which pretty much misses the whole point of the ACI, whose mission is: “Provide knowledge and information for the best use of concrete.” In other words, these standards provide guidance for tradesmen so that they can do the best job possible. By adhering to ACI’s best practices, you know that you’re going achieve a higher degree of success.

We need to do a better job of integrating tradesmen into the innovation that is going on in our industry. We need to empower the tradesmen. What does that look like? I’m not sure, but it is something that I am going to continue thinking, writing, discussing and researching for some time.

Anyone have any ideas?