2 min read December 2021 — Volpatt Construction is one of Western Pennsylvania’s leading general contracting and construction management firms. In an interview with Invest:, President Raymond Volpatt discussed how Volpatt Construction is implementing an innovative technology in an industry that typically lags behind the times, the state of and outlook for construction activity in the region, and the award-winning, sustainable projects the company has successfully delivered.
What are the most significant innovations Volpatt is implementing for its projects?
At the onset of the pandemic, we had a number of projects, which gave us the opportunity to rethink how we could run our projects more efficiently and safely. As a result, I co-founded ShareInTech, a construction workforce optimization, building management, and asset supervision technology company, in an effort to redefine the use of technology in the construction industry. We are currently distributing these technologies through our partners, UrsaLeo & Connect Up Technology across several of our active job sites.
UrsaLeo is an IoT company that offers an immersive 3D platform that combines digital twin technology with real time and historical data from IoT streams, document management, maintenance, and other enterprise systems for users to monitor and manage from the cloud. The platform can be used for project collaboration and site management, but it can also become an effective tool for a building’s lifespan from initial design to end-user occupancy.
Connect Up Technologies is an enterprise software company whose connected worker solution is designed to improve workforce safety cultures and reduce operational costs. Using proprietary algorithms and patented technology, their safety wearables help to address injuries, fraud and theft in the workplace, potentially reducing operational costs and increasing efficiency.
The construction industry has one of the highest rates of injury across all verticals. Understanding that our workforce is our most valuable asset, we wanted to find a way to help reverse this trend so we started looking into technologies that would help keep our employees safe so they can be productive and return home healthy at the end of each day.
How have your safety innovations impacted your workers’ compensation insurance costs?
This industry operates on razor-thin margins, and we look for ways to save across the board. We believe that a safer and more efficient work environment will lead to better productivity while also reducing the number of injuries and claims that are made on the job. We recently came across data to support this, and we believe that this will ultimately save in insurance costs.
A great example of this was seen in July 2021 when we had our renewals for workers’ compensation insurance. When we piloted the Connect Up technology, several insurance companies wanted to visit the job site, not only to see how we run a job site but to see how the wearable technology works and improves our safety program. The innovations we’ve implemented have helped to decrease our experience modification rate. As a result, we’re paying 20% less for workers’ compensation insurance than we otherwise would.
Where does construction activity stand today?
Demand is lower overall but there are certain markets that are still very active. Healthcare, for example, is extremely active but it’s not necessarily as active as it was pre-pandemic. The two largest universities also have a lot of work in the planning stages. We’re going to see a lot in the meds and eds sector moving forward, which is a very favorable sector in the region. We’re also seeing other opportunities in religious, cultural and community construction, which is very attractive to us.
Going forward, there is going to be a great deal of infrastructure development, especially with the recent passing of the federal infrastructure bill. Certainly, there is opportunity along the new Southern Beltway extension. With that extension will come growth in the form of new hotels, retail outlets, and medical facilities. If there is infrastructure money directed toward our area, that’s where we’re going to see the greatest impact.
What is the most exciting, innovative sustainable project you’ve worked on in the region?
We built the first net-zero energy building in the Pittsburgh region, the Forest Hills Borough Building. Forest Hills combined all of its services, its library, police station, community center, and admin space and put it all into one space. The project involved the installation of a solar array system and a geothermal system, helping it become self-sufficient and very proactive to energy spikes. This gave the borough the ability to sell back excess energy to the municipality and direct those additional funds to local initiatives.
What is your outlook for construction in the Pittsburgh region?
As we come out of the pandemic, things will lean a bit on the slower side, however we anticipate things to ramp up heavily in the latter half of 2022. The problems ahead are related to labor shortages and supply chain. The supply chain issues won’t be resolved until the labor shortage is solved. Until you have adequate dock workers, factory workers and so on, the supply chain is going to be slow. I expect these problems to subside and for the coming three to five years, I believe the construction industry in Pittsburgh will be strong.
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