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AEC Hackathon 1.0: An Industry’s Rite of Passage

The AEC Hackathon, which took place Nov. 8-10 at the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif.,  was part educational workshop, part networking and part competition.

The spirit of the event was to disrupt, innovate and break traditional processes of the AEC industry in a safe zone; one that protects the individual while celebrating the result. The hybrid hackathon hit on all cylinders with the right people at the right place and at the right time.

Planning

With the recent entry into the AEC industry of technology giants like Oracle (Primavera) and Google (Vannevar), Facebook seemed an unlikely choice to host a potentially important AEC event. Behind the scenes, members of the hackathon’s organizing committee were working on a sustainable home for a Facebook employee who loved the idea of bringing the lessons he had learned and exposing it to a bigger community; thus, Facebook became the host.

During three months of planning, the organizers benchmarked the event against other successful hackathons, but continuously looked at the opportunity to bring together the elite technology developers of Silicon Valley and match them up with the best minds of the AEC industry. The result? More than 100 registered AEC Hackathon “Pirates” with more than 50 “observers” who witnessed a rite of passage and intervention for the old, stodgy AEC industry. Like someone blowing dust off an antique, the minute people walked into the hack room, they knew this was a different event — one the AEC industry should have experienced before now.

Day 1

The tone was set on the Friday night kickoff when the organizers etablished the areas on which the hackathon focused:

  • design;
  • construction;
  • big data;
  • smart buildings/smart cities; and
  • GIS/3-D.

During a lightning round of introductions, participants had 15 seconds to say what they needed with technology, what they had with technology and what process they wanted to “hack” over the weekend. Next, people roamed through the hack room to form teams. What was supposed to be a 20-minute exercise to wrap up the evening wound up being a 90-minute process that defined the structure of the hackathon.

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