Tim Tiensvold is taking a visitor on a tour of the Creighton University College of Dentistry - another big MCL project under construction - when he suddenly drops into the basement beneath a dental chair to show off the plumbing.
"Here," he points, "is the filter system that separates your saliva from the hard particles dentists suction out of your mouth."
A few seconds later, after this less-than-savory stop, Tiensvold is back on the main floor.
Tiensvold is not a magician, although he wields a powerful computer mouse. Tiensvold is a construction geek - a living, keyboard-tapping symbol of MCL's commitment to embracing cutting-edge technology. The "tour" that he is giving is being conducted on a computer screen with realistic 3D imagery that makes you feel as if you're walking the halls of the college.
By integrating software with forklifts, MCL Construction has found a way to save their clients time and money and to ensure a safer and cleaner work environment for both their workers and their trade partners' workers, said Tony Fucinaro, Senior Vice President with the Omaha construction firm.
"It's had a significant impact on the time we spend on a project," said Fucinaro. "On a job like the dental college, we can save up to six or eight months."
The use of 3D computer models is just one example - albeit an important one - of all the changes and challenges MCL Construction has undergone and embraced since it began 30 years ago. The company, which has become one of the area's largest and most recognizable construction firms, is honoring its past and its future this year with a series of anniversary articles.
It's not an exaggeration to say computers have revolutionized the hard-hat world from start to finish.
Years ago, architects and others would develop individual drafting plans for everything from the electrical work to the plumbing. These designs would then have to be manually integrated on a lighting table, through the eyes and the minds of the contractors and subcontractors.
"We used to sit around and people used to print out 2D AutoCAD drawings. We didn't have them all integrated into one drawing. We would have to try, in our minds, to look at them as if they were 3D, to see how they would all fit," said Fucinaro.
"It took a lot of work and time to get these different pieces to fit together," Fucinaro added.
The technology saves time and resources in a multitude of ways. For example, problems can be solved on a computer rather than on the job site, where a design problem could bring work to a halt for hours or days.
In fact, a big part of Tiensvold's job is looking for problems before they become an issue. He does this through a process he calls "clash analysis," in which he combines the engineering design, the electrical design, and every other design to show where parts and systems collide.
"In the past, they put the ductwork drawing over the pipeline drawing over the mechanical drawing on a light table to look for clashes," Tiensvold said. "Today, we do all this before anything arises in the field."
Using his mouse, Tiensvold shows where he recently found a piece of water pipe hitting the ductwork in the 200,000 square foot dental college.
He says he has found about 3,000 design clashes on each of the dental college's floors in the confines of his office.
The time and money this saves is immense, starting with labor costs.
"I basically get to solve problems every day at work," said Tiensvold. "I'm constantly trying to figure out how (various) designs come together."
Tiensvold isn't the only MCL worker who is hooked to a computer screen. MCL employs the use of a "Data Vault" on their large-scale construction sites. It's basically a wooden box on wheels that houses a flat-screen TV. It allows the men and women with the hard hats to quickly access the blueprints if they have any questions during the construction process.
Iron workers and electricians no longer have to run back and forth between the job site and the construction trailer to pour over blueprints. "They spend more time out in the field working than running around," said Tiensvold.
Fucinaro added, "It's hard to put a value on the cost savings, because we've eliminated a lot of the rework through these tech platforms."
The computer process also saves on inventory costs, starting with the trade partners.
Because of the precision of the system, subcontractors can pre-assemble the needed parts in their own shops. Wood and iron beams can be cut to fit before they ever hit the job site - a safer process than doing it out in the field. "They can build a pipe system on a table rather than reproduce it 12 to 80 feet off the ground," said Tiensvold.
And, the days of pipes and duct work stacking up on a job site are gone. Each of the trade partners and their workers can keep abreast of the project's timetable, ordering and bringing the needed material only when they are needed and will be used.
"I don't have to have a stack of ductwork sitting out on the site, collecting dirt for two or three months," said Tiensvold. "The stuff we want shows up when we want it."
In the end, the 3D modeling is one reason MCL Construction can hand over the keys to a large-scale project like the dental college in about two years.
It's also another example of MCL building for the future.
MCL Construction uses many voices from within and outside the company to give informed advice, opinions, and techniques about construction methods, innovation, and technology.