Earlier this year, Diversified Communications and AEC Science & Technology, LLC (AEC-ST) announced that they have joined forces to re-launch a series of AEC high-technology shows in 2018. Since then, more info about what is now the AEC Next Technology Expo + Conference has been announced, with the educational tracks for the June 5-7 event that’s being held in Anaheim as well as industry updates on AEC Next News serving as some of the bigger developments. And there are plenty more to come.
AEC Next is set to be an all-encompassing technology event that has many sub-set components. The event targets all departments within design and construction, and that includes owner/operator/development companies. It will embrace the entire life cycle of any project, with an advisory board that will make sure the 9 tracks cover the base considerations any project must address as well as an exhibit floor that features a wide range of new tools and technologies.
To get a better sense of the past and future of the event, we connected with AEC-ST founder and Principal George Borkovich. He talked through what the transition to AEC Next will mean, why it’s not just about the technology, what differentiates the event from other conferences and plenty more.
Jeremiah Karpowicz: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did an architect by training end up creating an event management firm that specializes in meetings for design and construction professionals?
George Borkovich: Early on I was hired by Weld Coxe, who is often credited with inventing the role of management consultant to architectural and engineering firms. This was shortly after when professional ethics rules were changing to allow A/E firms to market their services. My role was to research and report why some firms were more successful and productive compiling their working drawings and specifications than others, particularly using the latest technology tools of the day. Mind you, the PC had not yet been launched. My findings were published in a monthly newsletter first called THE PAPER PLANE, but later changed to A/E SYSTEMS REPORT. As management consultants, The Coxe Group was not keen on starting an event to feature these technologies. After two years, I left the firm in order to create my first event which ran in Chicago in 1980. Expecting just a few hundred attendees, we were flooded with nearly 1000 AEC professionals and 60 product vendors. Out of the gate, we caught lightning in a bottle.
You mentioned that your AEC shows have been known as the leading educational events for advancing solutions on information technology. Does the re-launch of these high-technology events represent an evolution of that educational offering, or do you think they will go beyond what has been offered previously?
After that launch, the event grew exponentially in attendance and exhibitors. By year three we had surpassed the American Institute of Architects in event size. Shortly after that, we passed the CSI Show. Both were the big AEC events of the day until we came along. Our focus on technology and how it could be applied to improve design and construction certainly hit nerve. Typical association events have to offer business meetings and a more generalized content for their membership, whereas we could zero in year after year on the ever changing technology developments. And by not having to cater to a single AEC discipline, we could draw a larger pool of attendees, which made the commercial vendors (our exhibitors) very happy. By our seventh year, we topped 20,000 attendees.
I don’t want to dwell too much on the past, but take us back to the founding of AEC-ST in 2004. What can you tell us about the market and the technology at that time? What are some of the major things that have changed since then?
AEC-ST is the second major iteration of my original AEC SYSTEMS shows. Having sold the first company, I took 5 years off then started again. The new AEC-ST (Science & Technology) was heavily focused on designing and constructing our built world more environmentally friendly, as well as stressing project performance, safety, and security. We added a co-located event called Ecobuild and featured green building and sustainable design options. And the Internet had exploded with resources and solutions that simply weren’t available to my prior events.
The AEC events were and are designed to help firms better manage the construction process with a goal towards making every facility perform to a higher standard. To what degree is that higher standard contingent on a firm utilizing new techniques and technologies as they become available?
The breadth and scope of the AEC resources available today is mind-blowing. Combine that with the complexity of projects, more stringent codes, new materials, the diversity of firms collaborating on jobs, and the global marketplace. If you are not accessing this stuff online, there is no other way to gather it in any reasonable, efficient, and cost-effective manner.
You’ve explained why it’s not about the technology, and why the focus for professionals needs to be about how technology is applied, rather than a given piece of technology. How do you approach balancing the technical and practical elements of this issue at AEC Next?
So, AEC Next is the third iteration. Yet it and the prior versions have never been about technology for technology sake. Our audience is in the business of designing, building, owning and operating capital facilities. AEC Next will show the tools, techniques, practices, systems and services that can help that happen. As I have said before, this latest construction tech revolution is greater than anything our profession has experienced in the past. Technology is faster, it is cheaper, and it is coming at us at breakneck speed. The drivers of the latest change include cloud computing, low-cost chips and sensors, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality, drones and robotics, mobile phones, hand-held and wearable computing, IoT, and a build-up of data centers to handle the endless stream of digital information.
The announcement that SPAR 3D Expo & Conference will co-locate with AEC Science & Technology (AEC-ST) was big news, and you mentioned that SPAR 3D was an ideal partner for AEC-ST. Do you envision attendees will be able to get something out of the education at both shows?
Absolutely. The broader appeal and content offered at AEC will draw the rest of the project team that might not ordinarily attend SPAR. AEC Next will encourage entire project teams, whether in-house, or multi-officed, or multi-national to attend, not just the VDC or 3D staff.
What’s the biggest differentiator for AEC Next versus other AEC events that are out there?
No association or vendor event can leap out of their silo. And no other conference has the size, scale, diversity, and neutrality AEC Next offers. This is the big event, the most vendors, the most attendees, the most breadth of offerings for the entire project team.
If there were one thing that attendees of AEC Next in Anaheim will be able to take away from the event, what would it be?
An experience of awe and excitement that our industry is moving forward with fascinating technologies and tools to make our built world a better, safer, healthier place to live, work, and play.
To stay informed about registration details for AEC Next, click here.