Information technology seekers kicked off the World of Concrete trade show in Las Vegas Jan. 16 with quiet seminars. Speakers at the Technology for Construction event claimed incremental progress on Building Information Modeling and gave examples of automation success but said little about the dawn of a new information age. Most conversation wasn't about new technology. It was about identifying problems that existing technology might alleviate, planning integrations into corporate cultures and implementing successfully.

"By itself, technology does nothing. It's only by its use that you get benefits," observed Martin Fischer, director of the Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering at Stanford University. CIFE has been studying the use of virtual design and construction modeling to resolve conflicts before construction starts since 1988.

The sessions drew an eclectic mix of a few hundred owners, architects, engineers, contractors and academics. They ranged from the head of the General Services Administration's public buildings service, which is requiring suppliers to begin submitting proposals with rudimentary BIMs this year, to a recent college graduate stepping into a small family construction company with dreams of modernization.

Ohio State grad Chris Carney says he came to the show to study industry-specific software that might be appropriate for his family's third-generation company, Thomas P. Carney Construction Inc., Langhorne, Pa. "Software selection is very important. Once you make your decision, you're sort of married," he says.