Multivista covers all the angles on construction

The Phoenix Business Journal

Multivista FS LLC has created an imaged-based construction tracking system that it believes could save millions of dollars for contractors and property owners. Several Phoenix public and private developers are taking advantage of the tracking technology, which can be accessed on the Internet. A number of federal construction jobs in other states also are using the system.

The Phoenix company uses digital photography that interfaces with construction plans and computer-aided design files to create almost real-time documentation of what has been built and when. The system still requires that a real person take the photographs, but the process for filing them in sync with construction plans is seamless through Multivista’s proprietary computer programs, company officials say.

Until now, most contractors have relied on hard copy photos stored in a box somewhere or in a computer folder to provide an often jumbled accounting of construction progress.

Phil Ellsworth, a senior project manager for Parsons Corp., an international engineering and construction management firm with Phoenix offices, is a believer.

“We brought on Multivista when a client wanted more details than that,” Ellsworth said. “This is the most unique user friendly program I’ve seen. You can see where you are at any given time from the Internet.”

Parsons is using the Multivista program at Water Ranch in the town of Cave Creek. The $20 million water treatment plant is the most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken by the town, said Utilities Manager Jessica Marlowe.

She said the cost of using Multivista, about .02 percent of the total project, is worth it to town officials.

“What convinced us was the way the system organizes the thousands of photographs that will be taken over the course of the project and how easy it is to reference them,” Marlowe said. “We have had other infrastructure improvement projects with CDs full of hundreds of pictures and it is very difficult and time consuming to go through and find any specific picture you happen to be looking for.”

Multivista Chief Operating Officer David Stadnik introduced the system in the U.S. after meeting its Vancouver, B.C., creators Luis Pascal, Wade Shaw and Graham Twigg. Pascal, an electrician, had grown frustrated trying to locate plumbing, wiring and other elements that were hidden by drywall following construction.

The trio worked to create a solution that would eliminate such guesswork. They began selling the service in Vancouver in 2003 and eventually picked up some jobs in the U.S.

Stadnick, a former Los Angeles attorney, purchased a portion of the company and opened the first U.S. office in Phoenix about three years ago.

Since then, Multivista has provided services to contractors, including The Weitz Co. during construction of The Summit at Copper Square condominium project in downtown Phoenix. The city of Glendale contracted with Multivista to document construction of a fire station. The company also completed visual documentation services at the CityNorth mixed-use project near Desert Ridge, Banner Ironwood Medical Center in Queen Creek and at 44 Monroe, a residential high-rise in downtown Phoenix.

Multivista now is working on the documentation process for the Maricopa County Downtown Court Tower, which recently commenced construction. The 16-story, 32-courtroom facility will open in late 2011 or early 2012.

Though Phoenix serves as Multivista’s U.S. headquarters, the company is expanding with locations in about 30 markets, some operating as franchises.

Stadnik said Multivista is gaining popularity with some of the nation’s largest contractors by satisfying a number of objectives: It verifies that work has been done and records the quality of the work. It simplifies the process when remodeling or expansion is necessary, and it can be valuable for establishing facts in construction litigation cases.

“Their service can be very valuable when there’s a dispute during and after construction,” said Ron Messerly, a partner with Snell & Wilmer LLP, a construction and design attorney.

A visual record can prove particularly essential in today’s market when projects are left partially completed and someone else is brought on to finish it. For as many years as he’s been a construction attorney, the proof of who built what and when often required sorting through thousands of photographs and trying to piece together a scenario.

“It could take hundreds of hours to correlate,” Messerly said.

Though Messerly knows of one or two companies in the country that have created a visual construction documentation system, he believes Multivista is the only one doing it on a large scope.

“Its greatest benefit could be with the long-term operations and maintenance of a building,” he said.