Early Innovators, Early Matterport Adopters
After Swinerton was founded in 1888, one of the construction firm’s first projects involved using steel-reinforced concrete to build the famous Fairmount Hotel in San Francisco. The approach was considered novel at the time, and when the great earthquake and fire struck the city in 1906, the Fairmount was one of the few structures to remain standing.
Since then, the company’s emphasis on innovation has powered expansions into new markets and locations. But some things haven’t changed. Swinerton still uses leading-edge technologies to keep projects steady and secure during unprecedented events. When COVID-19 put the world into lockdown, construction remained an essential business. Swinerton had to keep projects on track with progress transparent to clients even as social distancing protocols limited physical access to sites.
Fortunately, several years before the pandemic, Swinerton started using a Matterport Pro2 camera to take digital twins that give project teams and stakeholders 3D walkthroughs of a site’s current conditions without the time and cost of travel.
“As a company, we look to utilize new technology available within the industry to work most effectively. Our adoption of Matterport is an example of that,” says Rachel Kurth, Assistant Project Manager for Special Projects at Swinerton. “Before the pandemic, Matterport was a tool we provided to our clients as a convenience, but now it’s become a necessity.”
Eliminating the Need for In-Person Meetings
As Swinerton has expanded the use of Matterport in its workflow, it has done more than respond to pandemic-related constraints, it has found better ways to work. Using the Pro2 camera, Swinerton can produce highly detailed 3D scans of a 20,000 square foot space in a few hours. The scans are sent to clients, architects, engineers, and sub-consultants who can easily move through a digital twin of the space and suggest changes in real-time. Matterport is more than a 3D site documentation resource: Swinerton can take measurements and analyze elements of scans related to specific issues and work directly with stakeholders to come up with solutions.
One Swinerton client wanted a full interior renovation of a mass timber building. The company used weekly Matterport scans to coordinate work around conduits, wiring, and ducts while preserving the aesthetics of the wood and integrity of the beams. Balancing such intricate project needs would normally require in-person meetings with client architects, an impossibility with COVID-19 restrictions. Even before the pandemic, travel to the site could slow the project by several days. When Swinerton guided the client through the updated Matterport digital twins, asking targeted questions, it resolved issues by the next day—eliminating the need for a formal meeting. This approach accelerated the project by as much as four weeks.
Pre-pandemic, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineers, architects, client representatives, and third-party inspectors put boots on the ground to walk through a project site, assessing everything from plumbing to paint. Conducting these inspections using Matterport reduces MEP and architect travel to job sites by 50 percent. Since Swinerton can give clients comprehensive Matterport 3D field reports, client representatives don’t need to visit sites at all.
“COVID-19 could have thrown a wrench into our operations, but we’ve only become more effective because of Matterport. Two-dimensional blueprints and plans don’t give a sense of how a space will come together the way Matterport digital twins do,” says David Purdy, Superintendent with Swinerton. “Our clients can experience a space without setting foot inside it. Matterport is a game-changer for our company and our industry.”
Clear Communication, Confident Clients
Clear communication is essential to completing any project, but it becomes more urgent when stakeholders can’t come together to physically review a site. Swinerton uses Matterport to keep clients updated and engaged in massive projects, such as constructing 90,000 square feet of office space for a financial industry client.
Before COVID-19, Swinerton would normally invite the Philadelphia-based team for bi-monthly walk-throughs and field reports at the Charlotte, North Carolina site. To share frequent, highly detailed updates about construction progress during the pandemic, Swinerton took daily digital twins and sent a weekly digest to the client, successfully reducing the team’s travel by 100 percent.
Matterport also allows Swinerton team members to communicate more efficiently with each other and with subcontractors. The platform integrates with Autodesk BIM 360, so users can immediately reference or flag areas of
discussion within the digital twin. Swinerton can log those issues and track them until they’re resolved.
“Everything we would ever need a conventional site visit to accomplish, such as taking measurements or making calculations, we can accomplish virtually with Matterport,” says Spencer Jarrett, Project Engineer at Swinerton. “Sharing the Matterport data with our client gave them confidence that we were on track. The ability to exchange ideas so quickly enabled us to complete this project in six months instead of a year.”
Saving Time and Cost with Spatial Data
Having a digital history of a project can help swiftly fix problems. When working on a top floor kitchen pantry for the financial industry client project, the tile contractor tiled over hub drains that the plumber would need for running pipe to the kitchen appliances. Swinerton pulled the dimensions from a previous Matterport scan to determine the exact location of that drain, sparing the time delays and added costs of manually tearing down that wall to find it.
Pinpoint accuracy also helped resolve another potentially costly issue on a project to construct an 83-unit apartment building and retail space. Swinerton had to create a post-tensioned concrete slab to support the structure, which involves tightening those cables once the slab is poured. It’s a delicate process because hitting the cables during construction could cause the whole slab to crumble.
Swinerton captured a pre-pour image of the slab with Matterport. Two days later, a sudden need to add more anchors to the slab proved the wisdom of that decision. Instead of having to X-Ray the slab, Swinerton used the Matterport 3D scan to take a quick measurement.
The transparency that Matterport provides goes beyond preventing errors, it’s also a proactive planning tool. For example, the client renovating the mass timber building asked Swinerton if it could move the light switches in several rooms before installing sheetrock. The Matterport digital twins allowed Swinerton to see if it could make the changes without cutting into walls, saving the client thousands of dollars.
Swinerton now incorporates Matterport into the punch list process for project milestones and close-outs. MEP engineers can do more extensive assessments for items like duct locations and tile placements while architects can look for aesthetic concerns, such as paint touch-ups.
“To stay competitive, we invest in new technology, but our focus on unmatched customer service continues to drive our decision making,” says Rachel Kurth. “Capturing milestone scans allows us to provide a transparent experience for our clients. This offers the feeling of being present and creates the confidence needed to see the project progress through completion.”
Swinerton is a California-based construction firm with projects throughout the U.S. and more than 4,000 employees. Founded in 1888, and still operating under its original California contractor license number 92, Swinerton maintains a reputation for superior craftsmanship and client service.
San Francisco, California
Seamlessly continue construction projects remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic
With Matterport’s accurate, high-quality 3D scans of project sites at different stages of construction, delays were avoided and travel time was cut in half
- Reduced client travel time by 100 percent
- Cut MEP and architect travel time by 50 percent
- Eliminated four weeks of potential project delays
- Saved clients thousands of dollars by preventing costly errors and re-work