At knotty jobs, precise pictures worth thousands of dollars

Triangle Business Journal

RALEIGH – As construction efforts go, the $146 million Green Square project in downtown Raleigh is a complex endeavor with three owners and dozens of contractors and specialty subcontractors.

Keeping up with all of the moving parts can be a chore for any experienced project manager, but the state agency that is building Green Square has at least one ace up its sleeve: Hundreds of photographs of the construction process, from groundbreaking to completion.

Those images come courtesy of the services of Multivista SE, a Phoenix, Ariz. company that documents construction projects from start to finish by taking digital pictures, interfacing them with designs and computer simulations, and then cataloging the images on a secure Internet Web site.

“This doesn’t replace being at the site, but it’s an added set of eyes and ears,” says Bill Laxton, the retired chief deputy secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Sciences and a consultant on the project.

RECORDED FOREVER

Multivista, which has an office in Cary, is gaining popularity with some of the nation’s largest contractors and developers by satisfying a number of objectives: Multivista 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.

Previously, most contractors relied on hard copy photos stored in a box or in a computer folder with a jumbled assembly of construction progress. Multivista still requires that a real person take the photographs, but the process for filing them in sync with construction plans is seamless using its proprietary software programs.

Other local construction projects being documented using Multivista include the new patient tower at WakeMed in Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art expansion and the recently completed Wake County parking deck, among others.

Multivista’s Cary franchise owner, Michael Dorman, says his company’s services provide unbiased and detailed records of how a project is constructed.

“Multivista gives them a permanent record of what is behind every ceiling, wall and floor,” Dorman says. “Either you have the documentation or you don’t. If you have it, you can easily find the issue – (thus) saving time and money. If you don’t, it will take more time and more money to discover any problem or issue.”

Laxton says that the complexity of the Green Square project warrants such an “insurance policy” because more than half of all defects are discovered after the drywall has been installed in construction.

FIXING PROBLEMS

Construction of Green Square’s parking deck, a property under the ownership of the North Carolina Department of Administration, is under way off Jones Street between Salisbury and McDowell streets. Construction will begin soon on a five-story office building that will be the future headquarters of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and a 79,400-square-foot Nature Research Center to be built for the nearby North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. In addition, the State Employees’ Credit Union will operate a financial services center in an adjacent 60,000-square-foot structure, adding a third entity to the project.

“Down the road, we’ll have the documents of who did what and can give us assurance we wouldn’t have claims against the state of North Carolina,” Laxton says.

The added benefit, Laxton says, is that when the project is complete and they discover a leak in a bathroom, “we’ll be able to go back to the photographs and see exactly what happened with that plumbing line. It will help manage the life of the building for years to come,” he says.

Multivista’s fee for its construction site photography and documentation services range from 5 cents to 40 cents a square foot, depending on the schedule, size and complexity of the construction project. The fee is usually between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent of the overall construction budget.

The state is likely to spend about $87,000 to pay Multivista’s fees for the buildings and the parking deck, according to project manager Jill Pafford.

“A project this size, that was well worth the investment for this,” Laxton says.

Jan Buchholz of the Phoenix Business Journal contributed to this report.