Connecticut Technology & Innovation

The 2018 Visionaries Forum: What This Year’s Visionaries Are Saying . . .

For nine consecutive years, The Construction Institute has presented The Visionaries Forum, a multi-speaker-based event that offers attendees a chance to learn from industry pioneers who are shaping the future of design and construction through new technology and new ideas. This year’s event is being moderated by Greg Sauter, founder of Smart City Works, and will be held at the Spotlight Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 17. HP asked each speaker to share what they will be sharing at the forum. This is what they each had to say:

Holly McNamara

Holly McNamara, Selectman / Engineer / President of Hyperloop MA

As a registered professional civil engineer that has experience with the startup and tech world, my interest was immediately piqued when Virgin Hyperloop One announced their Global Challenge. Additionally, as the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen for Somerset, Massachusetts, coupled with my background in engineering, construction, and next-generation technologies, I saw the Global Challenge as the perfect opportunity to completely transform the South Coast of Massachusetts and the commonwealth altogether.

“Be anywhere, move everything, connect everyone.” This is the vision of Virgin Hyperloop One. Hyperloop Massachusetts’ proposal was chosen as one of the 35 semifinalists of 2,600 applicants worldwide as a potential partner in bringing this “fifth mode of transportation” to life.

Hyperloop technology moves people and things at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket. It is an autonomous, on-demand, and zero-emission mode of transportation powered by a custom electric motor that accelerates and decelerates a pod through a low-pressure tube.

Hyperloop Massachusetts has the vision of establishing a proof-of-concept hyperloop network from Boston to Massachusetts’ South Coast. The vision is connecting the entire East Coast and the country.

Our team secured many endorsements including both U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, as well as congressmen, state senators, state representatives, and elected officials at the local level. Though the competition has been completed, our work now involves advocating for Hyperloop Massachusetts and for the investment and support of the hyperloop technology in an effort to establish one of the first hyperloop networks in the United States. Our presentation summarizes our vision, our proposal, and our plans for the future of innovation and transportation in the commonwealth and beyond.

Chris Mayer, Chief of Innovation Officer at Suffolk Construction

The construction process hasn’t changed much in more than a century. Uncoordinated plans and shop drawings lead to uncoordinated architects and trade partners that result in costly, time-consuming mistakes and rework in the field. Teams working in silos are focused solely on their own goals rather than the overarching goals of the project. Cost and schedule overruns and a construction experience that creates anxiety, conflict, and undelivered promises for clients can easily be avoided with more precise, holistic planning. At Suffolk, we believe there’s a better way to build, and we call it “building smart.”

What is building smart? Building smart is about our innovative “plan and control” process that encourages earlier team collaboration and the most sophisticated modeling that incorporates input from all stakeholders and historical data earlier in the process, resulting in flawless execution in the field. Building smart is about our newly launched Smart Labs that allow us to invent, test, and scale groundbreaking, innovative technologies and processes that are disrupting the construction industry and making believers out of clients nationwide. Building smart is about leveraging big data and leveraging analytics to drive business decisions, more closely manage projects, and continuously improve on our processes and procedures. Suffolk’s vision is to “transform the construction experience by building smart” and redefine what it means to be a builder. And we believe we’re onto something.


Sudhi Bangalore

Sudhi Bangalore, Vice President of Industry 4.0 at Stanley Black & Decker

The power and importance of the power of analytics, IoT, and robotics to help drive customer insight and business efficiency is well understood and leveraged. What has not received the same coverage and attention is the need to also optimize business processes, which are essentially the vehicles to deliver business value. One such technology that has rapidly evolved over the last decade is called process mining, which essentially allows for the creation of digital representations of any process and then optimize it to improve efficiency and agility.

Having worked on pioneering this concept for over two years, I have come to believe this technology works and can be potentially leveraged in the construction industry.


Marijke Smit

Marijke Smit, Principal at MKThink

How do you take a highly fragmented and cyclical industry, like design and construction, and make it learn from its own mistakes? I’m interested in this question.


There are a lot of folks who want to disrupt the industry, and understandably so; it’s in a pre-industrial revolutionary state relative to other industries. The pressures for change are bubbling up in the form of labor shortages, schedule delays, and skyrocketing labor prices.


All hope is on technology and automation to solve the problem. It’s the most commonly used tool for disruption, at least in Silicon Valley, where the lion’s share of disruption investment has been coming from lately. Technology is the language common to all the industry disrupters — certainly now that the big tech giants have themselves turned their attention to the built environment. While technology can be a great asset, it can’t be the only tool we have up our sleeves.


Prefab and industrialized construction have re-emerged as the latest trends in the crusade. Building components offsite and assembling them onsite is indeed a needed strategy, but that presupposes a built solution from the get go and ignores the other barriers to innovation that need solutions. To ignore these factors will drive prefab back into the shadows. The answer has to be more of a multidimensional approach with a new question set to solve for this market.

In order to see the inefficiencies in any industry, one must take a step back and see it with new eyes. At MKThink, we mix up people from all backgrounds — sociologists, economists, planners, architects, engineers, roboticists — each with their own perspective, to apply a deliberately naive lens and ask basic questions like “why?” to seek solutions from outside the industry to pioneer the boundaries of spatial intelligence.