Fall 2020 Virtual Owners Leadership Conference Review and A Preview of Spring 2021

Posted By: Salonika Garapaty Membership, News,

by Salonika Garapaty, Carnegie Mellon University

Day One: Fall Virtual Owners Conference Review
The Construction Owners Association of America Fall 2020 Virtual Conference was a fast-paced and engaging event, with two days of owner focused content for all the attendees. The feedback from COAA’s first ever virtual Spring Conference was instrumental in developing the structure and content of the Fall 2020 Conference.

The conference was reformatted to simulate an in-person event via the Remo platform, which provided the attendees opportunities to engage in sessions or network with fellow attendees during or in between sessions at a virtual table. Attendees explored the platform, caught up with old friends, and made some new contacts, practicing the COAA Way by utilizing technology and adapting to evolving situations.

Day One of the conference started with the time-honored Project Leadership Awards, sponsored by Autodesk. The awards acknowledge and promote leadership, professionalism, and management excellence by Owners involved in the design and construction process.

The Gold Award was designated to The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh for their Exhibit Staging Center (ESC) project.

The Silver Award was designated to Michigan State University (MSU) Minskoff Pavilion project on their success of utilizing the IPD approach to project management.

COAA also launched “The COAA Way” category award which was designated to The Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (ILSB), University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in Catonsville Maryland.

Angela Harmon, Founder and CEO of Happy Academy, delivered the conference keynote. Her presentation included a live polling session and aided in gathering input from the attendees to determine one of the seven habits that sparked the most interest amongst attendees and kicked off the Conference on an aspirational and positive note.

After the keynote, attendees were given the option, much like in an in-person conference, to attend either an extension of the keynote session or a seminar on Mass Timber Design delivered by Clemson University. This project highlighted the benefits and challenges of utilizing mass timber systems in their outdoor fitness and wellness center along with delving into university engagement, material cost analysis, thermal performance durability and sustainability.

Short breaks between sessions included networking, musical performances, and multiple rounds of virtual trivia with COAA’s Executive Director Howie Ferguson.

Subsequent sessions throughout the day included a range of engaging and relevant topics. The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s (Penn Medicine) utilizing Integrated Project Delivery to deliver 120 hospital rooms a year ahead of the planned turnover due to the demands of the pandemic.

Facebook and Avicado delved into the document turnover process they implemented for Facebook’s data centers, their lively presentation followed by an engaging question and answer round from the attendees.

Three Owner members tackled“Fewer Zeroes, More Headaches- Improving Delivery of Small/Minor Projectsin  a joint discussion addressing best practices in managing small or minor projects that are known to be even more challenging from a resources and schedule standpoint. This session featured digital live scribing, an added bonus and take-away for the attendees.

The next session, ‘Resurgent Cineribus: Ford’s Redevelopment of Michigan Central Station,’ granted the attendees a virtual tour/ walkthrough of the historic renovation and adaptive reuse plan of the train station and surrounding district in Detroit.

Day One of the conference concluded with the COAA Cares Session featuring the ACE Mentor Program. COAA Cares is an initiative that was launched post the Atlanta Fall 2019 Conference, as a way for members to engage in rewarding, fun, and well-organized opportunities to give back, via a tangible way, at COAA events. The initiative supports raising awareness of charitable organizations within the AEC industry and works on developing a legacy of meaningful interactions that inspires COAA members to cultivate long term relationships within their own community.

Day Two: Fall Virtual Owners Conference Review
Day Two of the COAA Fall 2020 Virtual Conference started with the Emerging Professional Award of Excellence and the Emerging Professional Honorable Mention Award, established to recognize and reward young professionals for their achievements in the AEC industry and their contributions to COAA.

Following the awards, Procore addressed Culture as a Business Strategy, discussing their unique Culture Academy program, and shared tips on identifying and strengthening cultural pillars which lend to periods of growth and success in the organization.

After the short break, attendees were provided an option of two sessions. The State of Georgia and DuPont Corporation presented best practices to consistently deliver projects via two case study reviews. The presenters navigated the process used to identify inefficiencies in managing the projects and discussed remedies to optimize the teams’ performance. In Session 2, George Mason University discussed how to engage and leverage opportunities beyond the core purpose or mission of an underground utility project. To promote asynchronous learning, COAA organized the next session was organized with a short pre-read on Decisions that Stick, followed by a lively presentation and facilitated live discussion on how to implement the techniques covered.

The conference re-convened after a thirty-minute break with two more session options for attendees. Killer Contract Clauses outlined methods for improving your approach to risk management, and American Airlines highlighted their use of the design assist delivery process to construct a new double wide maintenance hangar in the second busiest airport in America.

The day progressed with a session delivered by an owner, contractor, architect, and fabricator team, to address strategically implementing prefabricated construction technology in a multitude of projects ranging from laboratory spaces at higher education institutions to K-12 facilities and medical centers across the country.

The Owners Roundtable, a popular, time honored session followed the conference sessions with an unstructured, open floor discussion to promote honest feedback, peer to peer sharing of best practices, and lessons learned among owner organizations.

The conference concluded in a happy hour mixology class featuring a signature COAA cocktail, along with networking at our virtual tables. With the promise to continue to organize and deliver owner-focused, quality content, further develop the COAA network, and provide meaningful engagement to members, the COAA Fall 2020 Virtual conference came to a close with anticipation of the COAA Spring 2021 Conference on the horizon.


A Preview of Spring 2021

To be written