Turning Trends Into Strategy — Introducing ‘Technology Excellence in Construction’ by Placer Solutions

Nate Fuller
6 min readJul 18, 2023
The first report in the new Technology Excellence in Construction series. Source: Placer Solutions

When I first ventured into the world of construction tech, I had recently come off four years working overseas on large construction projects for Bechtel. It was 2015 and I had returned stateside only a couple years prior. At the time, there was an electricity in the air, especially pronounced in San Francisco, for newly emerging digital technologies.

The world felt so much more connected. We were just starting to transform the world and ourselves through this convergence of miniaturized processors, mobile computing, and nearly ubiquitous connectivity. Digital tools were (literally) at our fingertips and we could not wait to explore the ways that construction would take full advantage of them: IoT! Augmented reality! Robotics! Drones! Machine learning!

Unfortunately, most early technology providers didn’t really understand construction. Similarly, many construction companies didn’t understand where and how to implement these advanced technologies in the field.

While Bechtel was one of the first construction companies to build an Office of Innovation, we were on our way to figuring things out. What I learned helped propel the next phase of my work which included co-founding a construction tech startup and consulting some of the largest construction companies in North America.

Over that time, I came to recognize a handful of common challenges for industry leaders which has been translated into workshops that help various stakeholders in construction address the underlying issues of technology implementation.

Meeting the Industry’s Need for Reliable Construction Tech Insights

Over the last several years, however, something else has happened that has inspired me to embark on a new project for Placer Solutions. There’s been a noticeable interest in construction as an addressable digital market, and even more need for reliable construction tech insights.

More construction companies than ever are building internal teams to manage emerging digital trends. Since starting Placer Solutions in late 2020, we’ve measured:

  • +765 new digital transformation roles among top contractors
  • Significant increase in construction tech startup and provider activity

At present, construction professionals and technology providers entering the space are inundated with a lot of repetitive low quality content, sponsorship bias, and now AI-generated articles that fail to offer in-depth actionable insights on construction technology topics. They often lack the kind of best practices and lessons learned that practitioners need.

Nearly everything we see about construction tech is either sponsored or dressed up in a way that lacks specifics.

This bias is built into the industry’s information ecosystem, and is only made worse by a fragmented market and lack of collaboration around best practices. The need for shared learning is particularly apparent with the medium-sized building contractors and specialty contractors who are often ignored in this information ecosystem but foundational to the industry’s success.

Introducing the ‘Technology Excellence in Construction’ Series

Responding to this, a diverse range of collaborators have begun delivering high-quality, practical, and unbiased research reports that advance a mutual understanding of emerging technologies in construction.

Expertise, user interviews, and surveys inform the Technology Excellence in Construction report series. Source: Placer Solutions

These reports provide an understanding of how technology impacts the construction value chain and highlights opportunities for improvement, focusing on in-depth interviews with technology providers and actual field users. We undergird this with industry-native expertise that synthesizes findings through the lens of construction operations.

Each report within the Technology Excellence in Construction series will contain a standard outline:

  • Part 1: Introduction to Technology — Exploring the concepts of the technology, including its history and examples
  • Part 2: Value Chain Analysis — Examining the impact of the technology on the construction industry, including changes in construction work and specific examples of impacted activities
  • Part 3: Use Cases — Showcasing featured builders who are actively using the technology and how they are implementing them
  • Part 4: Technology Outlook and Opportunities —Discussing market outlook and the specific opportunities for enhancing construction processes into the future
  • Part 5: Best Practices for Adoption — Providing guidance on the effective utilization of the technology in construction, as well as strategies for overcoming barriers to adoption

We hope this rigorous methodology and straightforward format not only provides a clear and unambiguous view of the technology landscape, but also offers a distinct competitive edge to our customers.

Why Start With Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality?

There are a lot of trends to choose from and there were a couple of reasons to start with Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality.

The first is mostly pragmatic. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Erin Khan who had recently left a large general contractor to pursue her own consulting work at Erin Khan Consulting and is a member of Autodesk’s 2023 XR Advisory Board (XRAB).

I also had good connections with technology leaders like at Hensel Phelps and BNBuilders who have deep field experience with this tech and were excellent participants to feature in the report.

The last big reason is that this technology’s trajectory almost perfectly encapsulates the promise and pitfalls of emerging technology in construction.

The technology was hyped beyond belief when the first headsets went on the market in the mid-2010s. It was going to seamlessly blend the physical and digital worlds in a way that directly addressed some of the core issues around information flow on projects.

Some of the insights contained in the first research report on Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality in construction. Source: Placer Solutions

Soon enough, that suspension of disbelief hit reality: How are the headsets connected to a hardhat? Do they work in direct sunlight where a lot of construction work happens? How do we co-locate digital elements in a dynamic construction environment? Do general contractors and subcontractors have the internal processes in place to realize its full potential?

If you purchase the report (which we hope you do!) you’ll see that this is an almost perfect parable for technology in construction at large. Overhyped promises and a lack of industry coordination created a near perfect storm of disillusionment that hobbled the technology for years.

As one construction leader interviewed for the report says, “It’s been the longest onramp of any technology I’ve ever seen” while simultaneously citing its “tremendous potential”.

Squaring these two thoughts is exactly why we set out to create these research reports. We hope you not only find the takeaways actionable, but also have fun reading it.

Answer the Call to Technology Excellence with Placer Solutions

There’s been so many lessons learned on emerging digital tools over the past decade. It’s past due for a resource that comprehensively lays it out, warts and all, so that others don’t repeat the same mistakes.

This is the real value of Placer Solutions. We’re not just spouting tech jargon or rehashing generic talking points. We’re delivering nuanced, applicable insights that combine the best of technology and construction. We’re turning confusion into clarity and obstacles into opportunities.

We warmly invite you to dip your toe in the waters of this new Technology Excellence in Construction report series. To make it easy, we’re offering an attractive discount on the first report. If you use discount code BEYONDTHEHYPE-AR at checkout, you’ll receive 35% off the purchase.

We’re excited by this new direction and the tremendous potential for the construction industry. We’re here not just to inform you about the developments in construction tech, but to guide you and support you as you navigate this rapidly changing landscape.

So, why not join us on this journey? Reach out to Placer Solutions at info@placersolutions.io or stop by our website to delve deeper into what we have in store.

Nate Fuller is a passionate and accomplished construction technology leader with a diverse background in corporate innovation, construction technology, and entrepreneurship.

His proven track record defining strategy and directing change management in construction has led to successful consulting engagements with North America’s largest construction contractors.

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Nate Fuller

Founder of Placer Solutions. Previously helped create Technology & Innovation programs for Top ENR companies.