The Shadow Network with KP Reddy

Shadow Shorts: Gregory Sauter on Innovating Construction's Future

February 05, 2024 KP Reddy
The Shadow Network with KP Reddy
Shadow Shorts: Gregory Sauter on Innovating Construction's Future
Show Notes Transcript

Prepare to have your perspective on the architecture, engineering, construction, and real estate industries reshaped as we sit down with Greg Sautter, the innovative president of WGI. This episode isn't just a conversation; it's a movement igniting the necessity for change in an industry that's all too cozy with the way things have always been done. Greg doesn't just talk the talk; he reveals how WGI's internal innovation contest, with a majority of the winning ideas focusing on artificial intelligence, is setting the stage for a revolution in how we construct and maintain our infrastructure. The energy is palpable as we explore why a new path is not just possible but essential, and how the younger generation is spearheading this much-needed transformation.

From discussing the adoption of technology to sustainable practices, this session with Greg Sautter is a wake-up call to industry professionals and a beacon of inspiration to those ready to embrace the future. You'll hear firsthand about the challenges and triumphs of pushing against an often resistant industry. It's not about maintaining the status quo; it's about shattering it and rebuilding a new one that's efficient, innovative, and sustainable. Join Jeff Heckels and me for this pivotal discussion that promises to stoke the fire of progress and leave you eager to be part of the change.

Want more discussions like this? You can connect with KP Reddy and other innovators in the AEC and CRE Industry in the Shadow Partners Community....go to ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠bit.ly/ShadowPartnersCommunity⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ to learn more today!

Speaker 1:

You are listening to the Shadow Network with KP Ready, your gateway to innovation and architecture, engineering, construction and real estate, with a sprinkle of startups that are making a difference. In between, check us out on YouTube at Shadow Partners. Never miss a live stream fireside chat or talk that we got going on with the industry's most interesting innovators and leaders. Every single week. You can connect with KP Ready and other innovators in the AEC and CRE industry in the Shadow Partners community. Go to bitly slash Shadow Partners community to learn more. Today. All it takes is a few clicks for you to make a difference. Welcome to the future and welcome to the Shadow Network with KP Ready.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to Shadow Shorts. This is where, every weekday at New Eastern, I bring to you a thought leader, a doer in the realm of innovation for the built environment. My name is Jeff Heckels, I am a senior advisor and the head of marketing for Shadow Partners, and today I'm having a lot of fun. We just hit record. I'm already having a lot of fun because I am joined by Greg Sautter. He is the president at WGI. We've been talking before we get started. He's in West Palm Beach, florida, and I think the weather here in Indianapolis, where I am, might actually be nicer than West Palm Beach. So this is like the one day of the year that we can claim that title here in Indianapolis. Welcome, greg, I'm glad you're here.

Speaker 3:

Thanks, Jeff. A pleasure to be here. I've enjoyed the conversation already and it's funny because it sparked a soft on our conversation around water and weather.

Speaker 2:

It absolutely did. So you brought something up that I think is an important topic for us to tackle and it's real. It's real in the AEC world. This is our focus right Focus on the built environment. But there's a lot of technology out there, there's a lot of innovation going on out there, but, as you said before we went live, we're often very slow to adopt that technology. So tell me more about you know, from the point of view of the president of WGI and everything that you look at, that you're paying attention to, that you're working on. Where do you see that technology and where is it slow and what's the result of that? Why does it matter that we're slow to adopt the technology?

Speaker 3:

Well, well, first off, it really matters that we're slow to adopt the technology, because we can't continue on the path that we are right. Every day we're building new infrastructure. We already have a backlog of infrastructure that needs more attention and, at the rate and pace at which we're doing it and the cost for doing it right, it's not sustainable. So we have to fundamentally change the equation. You know some of the things we do here at WGI. We're a full service engineering company headquartered here in West Palm Beach Last year we worked in 42 states, but also with a, with a significant focus on innovation and technology. And, in fact, one of the things I find really interesting, we're in the fourth year of our innovation contest and in our internal innovation contest, the in out of the top 10, we just finished it a week ago, friday. The top 10 that came in, seven out of the 10, right, these are our own folks are our pitching ideas on how artificial intelligence is going to change everything we do Right. So it used to be. You know we had this talk with our team, their first time being canoe board early. You know a few of us zealots out there talking about what that future might look like. Might look like. And now our folks really, really are starting to drive the conversation that, hey, we can do this differently and that we have to do this differently, right, and especially the younger generation too, and it's no surprise, but they're saying, hey, if there's a better way, that's the way we want to go. So, but one of the things that can be extremely frustrating because we, you know, we tend to be very conservative and very parochial as an industry when we do have options for something that makes a difference and can really, you know, change the game, we tend to be slow to not very slow to adopt and one of the ones that I was talking about. You know that I mentioned earlier that I have a particular passion around. We created a venture arm within WGI to invest specifically in emerging technologies, and one of those companies is a company called Streamline Technologies, found by a guy by the name of Pete Senghoff and who's a guru in the space of stormwater management, and we've been helping them kind of take to firm to the next level. But you, know, as I said, we were joking about the rain here and it's been raining for three days straight and I think we're supposed to get another two or four inches today In Florida, which is a great example. We're blessed with all this water, right, but it's also a curse, and but we now have tools that can tell us specifically where the flooding is going to be, right. So typically when we're looking at flooding, we're looking at inundation maps. When we watch the news on a hurricane and they talk about where the flooding is going to be, they're using very, very blunt instruments, right to come up with those estimates. But we now have the capability to do real-time flood forecasting and the Streamline tool I was talking about, because of a very advanced and complex hydrologic engine and hydraulic engine that takes into consideration all of the factors, that understands where the rain is going to fall and what's going to happen to that rain and where the flooding is going to be, and very, very specific. I call it, you know, surgical understanding of flooding at the base elevation, house level, at you know the level at a hospital, a firehouse, on a road, and we can know that in advance. You know one, two, three days in advance. We know where the flooding is going to occur, which gives us the ability to be much more thoughtful about how we apply resources, how we move people out of harm's way, how we protect our assets. You know, and it's one of the things again, it's a small part of our business, but I'm so passionate about it because we have solutions now, right, to change the game, to change the equation, and it's still very hard to get folks to appreciate the impact and start adopting these technologies, right, but some of these answers are there today and you know this is just one of them, but at the rate and pace and change of technology today, more and more of these are going to be out there. And when we talk about, you know, sustainability, resilience, adaptation, it's tools like this that allow us, you know, to be more adaptable, to be more efficient and to make our infrastructure more resilient over time, and that's what it does. So, you know, again, in this world of thinking about, you know, climate change, sea level rise, the flooding issues we have, there are things that start to change the tide, if you will, pun intended, and we need to adopt this.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, you know, I think a lot of times when I'm doing the intro for this show or introducing someone at our Shatter Summit or something like that, I'll talk about innovation for the built environment. I think it's really easy to lose sight or for someone to not really grasp what exactly that means. Oh, you mean like like BIM, or you mean something, and that's not it at all right. What we're talking about is innovation in this, in this case, technology that literally shapes the way we design, we build, in the cases that you're talking about, how we, how we keep people safe, how we keep infrastructure safe or, as you said, you know, improvements or investment in, etc. It literally shapes the built environment and the future of how we live, where we live, etc. And that that's one of the things that really gets me excited about these types of conversations is what you're talking about could literally save lives. That's right, and you know different aspects of infrastructure, etc. That's important technology and it just when you brought up the fact that we're slow to adopt it and I know you're right about that it's like how, how, how. This boggles my mind right.

Speaker 3:

Yes, well, because we've been doing you know things a certain way for so long.

Speaker 1:

That's the way, we've always done it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, and there's a real, real challenge here which I do appreciate, and that is, you know, our public leaders are in a tough role. They really are right. So you think about the folks that run town, cities, counties. It's a tough job, it's tough to do, right, they typically do have limited resources and we're, all you know, struggling for the same talent, right, and they have the same turnover issues, and you know so. So it's not an easy environment and I get that. But what we have to, I think, fundamentally change is this this understanding and appreciation that the tools are changing, in some cases changing significantly. We have to at least be open to it, right, and that's why, again, I get so passionate around these things, because when I see something happen in a city or town or a county that could have been avoided it just you know, I feel like we have a public responsibility to just stand on the rooftops a little bit and wave the flag and say, hey, you know there's a better way and there's going to be more and more of those. And part of the challenge I think, as an industry too, is, you know, we have to be, we have to get better at that communication and, I also think be a filter for some of it. Because there is so much happening now, you know we have to bring the pieces together in a way that allows it to be digestible for these, the ultimate consumers of it. Otherwise it can be a bit overwhelming.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. So you know, wgi, of course is is unique in what you do and how you do it, but you're also not unique in the fact that you're part of a larger profession and industry. And so for those leaders in other firms that are somehow similar to yours, what's the call to action here? Right, they may be developing some technology, or they may be, you know, using technology in a new way, etc. What's what's the call to action here for other other people that are in specifically your position but but also, you know, in a like, from a broader perspective, I guess a firm like WGI yeah, I think there's a few things.

Speaker 3:

I think there is an educational piece to it. You know I find myself to talking about technologies like this and others In a way. That's about you know, educating them to the power of what can be, you know, and how things really have started to change. You know we use the term smart cities has been used for for a lot of years now. We've been talking about smart cities, right, but what is interesting is the technology is actually starting to get to the point where there are elements of the city that really can be smart, act in a smart way, give us information back to make better decisions and to be much smarter smarter about how we deploy resources. You know so much of this to. Again, as I was saying before, from a sustainability perspective, I think, as an industry as well, we have a responsibility to find a way to do this more efficiently and effectively. In fact, the numbers are spelled out right. The level of advancement from an efficiency perspective and almost every other industry, as you probably know, have gotten much more efficient and effective over time, and you know the overall AEC industry has not at the same pace. I know that would surprise a lot of people, but it's a fact. So we actually have a responsibility to to be able to do more with less, because the resources aren't going to be there.

Speaker 2:

Right, right, yeah, yeah. I think that's a great call to action and for anybody that's out there listening to this or watching this, you know, whichever version, however, you're consuming this, I hope that we take that to heart, because there is there's a lot of talent out there, there are a lot of great ideas out there and and we do absolutely have the ability to shape the way that we design, that we build, we develop and you know, beyond that, the way, the way people live and survive. So, greg, this was, this was fantastic. I really appreciate you bring your passion to this one, but but also this example. You call it a small example. It's, it's, it's an example, it's one example that you're working on, but it really has the ability to have a huge impact. So, thanks, thanks so much for joining me and for telling, telling the story here.

Speaker 3:

My pleasure I'll make one more pitch to, which is, as an industry, we got to invest back in, you know, invest in technology. As an industry. We're the ones you know really the most well suited, who understand these issues, you know better than anybody else. So we're the ones who should be investing in that technology, inviting technology into the industry and really leading the way.

Speaker 2:

Yep, yeah, absolutely. I love it, and there are lots of opportunities out there, lots of different ways to plug in and and participate and pave the way. All great points. Greg, thanks so much for joining me. This has been a lot of fun. We'll have you back and we'll talk more about what absolutely?

Speaker 3:

Thank you, Jeff.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely glad you're here and, for those of you that are out there listening or watching, we appreciate you. I'll be back again tomorrow with another conversation like this. This has been Greg Satter. He's the president of WGI. He's down in West Palm Beach, florida. It doesn't look like that out the window, by the way, but he's in West Palm Beach, florida, and I'll be back with another guest tomorrow. Thanks, everybody.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for tuning in to another episode on the Shadow Network here with KP Ready as always. Remember you can connect with KP and other innovators in the AEC and CRE industry in the Shadow Partners community. Go to bitly slash Shadow Partners community to find out more today. Until next time.