Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

The big picture: Suffolk Construction's Miami Smart Lab makes projects run smoother

Large construction jobs involve dozens of design consultants and subcontractors, making progress and cost unpredictable. Incompatibility issues and design holes are often discovered during construction. “It’s painful; it’s time-consuming; it’s expensive,” says Lance Dengerud, director of Suffolk Construction’s Miami Smart Lab.

Mechanical and electrical engineers, plumbers, steel workers and architects “design in their own world, and when you bring them together, they haven’t thought about each other,” Dengerud says.

That’s precisely the reason Suffolk Construction started its smart labs

which it opened in six cities, including Miami, last year. The labs use technology to reduce unpredictability and bring together different 2-D plans into a 3-D model. “We build it with pixels first,” says Joe Fernandez, Suffolk’s Miamibased vice president of operations.

Looking at a job in 3-D can save millions of dollars and weeks of time. One of the jobs Suffolk piloted in the Miami Smart Lab was Jade Signature, a 53-story building in Sunny Isles. After bringing together the various plans for the building and creating a 3-D rendering, Suffolk discovered a cooling tower would cause it to be higher than the Federal Aviation Administration’s limit. The 3-D model helped engineers find a solution: It enabled them to see that beams in a lower floor had extra air space, and the combination of lowering the beams and changing to a lower-profile cooling tower saved the day.

Smart Lab’s Virtual Reality CAVE allows visitors to walk through several hotel rooms, changing furniture and design choices, checking out the view from different rooms and getting a feel for how a guest might move through a room.

Another important component of the Smart Lab system is software that links a variety of cost and schedule management systems with other data to track in real time. The software monitors safety, coordinates multiple companies’ work and helps Suffolk predict and better handle logistics, such as how to feed 2,000 construction workers every day. Clients can see all of the same data on their own computers, at any time.

More business news and briefs for Miami-Dade:


  • Leon Medical Centers hired Roymi V. Membiela, former University of Miami Health System associate vice president of marketing and chief patient experience officer, as its vice president and chief consumer officer.
  • Chana Budgazad Sheldon joined the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami as executive director.


Working at Miami Beach hotels during college, Juan Carlos Abello saw how time-consuming it can be to address guest requests to fix a toilet or other issues, requiring information- sharing across departments and shifts. After a stint at a tech company and earning his MBA, Abello developed software that tracks, routes requests for and reports on everything from maintenance needs and housekeeping instructions to guest requests and hotel lost and found. He launched Miamibased Nuvola in 2012, selling it doorto- door to area hotels. Today, newer versions are in use in 19 countries. A digital key allows guests to open their doors with their phones. Nuvola also offers an app for guests, branded under the hotel’s name. The company is working with more than 400 hotels worldwide.



  • A local investment group is in talks with Miami- Dade County to build a $240-million steel mill complex on 124 acres of county land; the mill, called EcoSteel, would recycle scrap steel.


  • Through new custom corporate programs, Wyncode, a coding and technology school, will train potential new employees for specific roles at companies, with training paid for by the firms.
  • MyPark, which allows users to pay to reserve parking spaces, raised $2.1 million and received patents for its technology. The company has deals with locations including Dadeland Mall, garages in South Beach, Orlando International Premium Outlets and Mall of America in Minnesota.
  • The city will allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to terminate its EB-5 regional center because it has not delivered jobs, investments or revenue since its creation in 2014.
  • Hyatt Hotels has proposed demolishing the James L. Knight Convention Center and neighboring Hyatt Regency Miami to build a three-tower hotel/residential complex with meeting space.
  • Musician Pharrell Williams and nightlife/ restaurant entrepreneur David Grutman will open a restaurant, Swan, and nightclub, Bar Bevy, this fall.
  • Jungle Island owner ESJ Capital Partners wants to build a 300-room, kid-friendly hotel at the theme park and will ask the city commission to put a referendum on the August ballot to allow the project. Jungle Island, closed for repairs since Hurricane Irma, has reopened.
  • Apollo Aviation Group, which invests in aircraft and leases them around the world, raised $950 million for a fund that will invest in the aviation industry -- its fourth so far.
  • The National Register of Historic Places added the shuttered Miami Marine Stadium to its rolls.
  • Mast Capital paid $26 million for six acres on the Miami River, where it already has approval to build a residential and retail project.


  • A New York-based company paid $30.8 million to purchase the 230-unit South Pointe Plaza Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing facility in South Beach from Miami Beach-based Crescent Heights.


  • Florida International University and non-profit think tank New America will host the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Conference and Expo for the next five years, starting this November.
  • Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp made an undisclosed equity investment in financial technology company DadeSystems, which will create an intelligent invoice-matching and payment system for the bank.
  • Lennar plans to build 85 estate homes on 33 acres in the southwest part of the county; it paid $4.5 million for the land.
  • The total number of overnight visitors to the county in 2017 was up 1% from 2016, to 15.9 million people; visitors spent a record $26 billion, up 2.1%.
  • Tampa-based ProspEquity purchased a majority stake in Tierra Nueva Fine Cocoa, a chocolate and coffee company that produces edible coffee products and a shelfstable coffee concentrate that can be used in both foods and drinks.
  • A new Bloomberg report says the richest ZIP code in the U.S. is Fisher Island, where average annual income in 2015 was $2.5 million. The island is accessible only by boat.
  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Florida Power & Light a license to build and operate two new nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point facility near Homestead; the utility hasn’t decided if it will build the reactors, which wouldn’t come online until at least 2031.


  • Chicagobased Victory Park Capital invested $45 million in United Automobile Holding, parent of United Automobile Insurance.


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