For this Q&A we talked with Eric Shen, a licensed architect and a LEED AP (Accredited Professional, U.S. Green Building Council) with over 15 years’ experience delivering high-end health care and commercial facilities. Eric specializes in analytical operational modeling and optimization methods that help clients maximize their facility’s performance, the patient experience and operational requirements while reducing risks and lowering capital costs.
Let's get to know Eric:
Tell us about your background and your new role at Jacobs.
Before joining Jacobs, I had two major career segments that were borne out of my educational background in architecture and construction and engineering management. The first was as an owner-developer-architect-builder of high-end commercial medical office buildings in Los Angeles, California, and the other focusing on automated hospital design and modular construction as part of a tech start-up. Throughout these two experiences I became very involved in data-driven design, which I’ve been working on and promoting since 2015. I believe the data-driven method is addressing a hidden pain point of complex project delivery. In my role at Jacobs I’ll assist our teams and client projects to use data-driven methodology to improve project planning and long-term performance results.
I’m fortunate to have lived in many places and travelled widely in my life. I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, and went to high school in Canada when I was 15, so given my bilingual skill, I’ve also been traveling to China for projects since 2014. In fact, I was living in Shanghai from 2018 and when the pandemic peaked in early 2020, I was on the second-to-last flight out of Shanghai. It was a unique experience living abroad in a country where I know the language but with business etiquettes and practices that were unfamiliar to me. I spent considerable time traveling and presenting the data-driven design concept to China’s healthcare operators as China’s building its next-generation hospitals.
What excites you the most about your role?
What excites me the most is that I’m working with a team of forward-thinking professionals who are going beyond traditional methods by focusing on ensuring long-term operational excellence for the next generation in healthcare facilities. I’m equally excited that the clients we have are also top tier operators who understand these hidden pain points and looking for innovative means to improve.
What’s been your most interesting or memorable career moment?
Helping clients accomplish their goals over and beyond their expectations using their own datasets and requirements. As an architect, I see the traditional mindset is “Are we building the building, right?” But with the help of data-driven analytical modeling, we now can ask a more important question: “Are we building the right building?”
“In our society today, health or healthcare projects are by far the most expensive building types and the most expensive operations. Using data, data-driven models and simulations can give us a holistic view of the project. Plus, the value for our clients is that analytical models give them an opportunity to test their future operations before implementation, ensuring they deliver the intended performance result.”
What do analytics or data-driven design have to do with Health projects?
By testing different operating scenarios, stakeholders can ask many "what if" type of questions, run the simulations, see the forecast results, understand their best options moving forward, then make the most appropriate decisions and maximize their long-term goals – achieving all these with a virtual model, with minimal costs and risks.
In our society today, health or healthcare projects are by far the most expensive building types and the most expensive operations. It’s in a health operator's best interest to improve the operations, align functional spaces with the operations and ensure long-term operational efficiency and results. By operational efficiency, we’re not talking about heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) or energy consumptions; we’re talking about spaces, staffing, resources, physical operations or even the treatment flows. Using data, data-driven models and simulations can give us a holistic view of the project. Plus, the value for our clients is that analytical models give them an opportunity to test their future operations before implementation, ensuring they deliver the intended performance result.
The concept of data-driven design sounds very promising. How can we do this together?
I’m working to educate our employees about the concept so they can really embrace the impact and value it can bring to our clients, and help us spread the word.
There are many methods that can be used for analytics and modeling, and we shouldn’t think “health analytics” or “data-driven design” means only one thing or just one method for every problem. In fact, it can be many things in different phases of a project lifecycle – the possibility for different methodologies and applications is endless I would encourage our colleagues to communicate with us early in the project so we can help our clients be on the right path and bring more impact and value to their mission and goals.
If you aren’t working, what would we most likely find you doing?
At home, you will find me cycling, practicing jazz guitar or enjoying a good movie. But if you caught me traveling, I would likely be walking all over the city and taking street photographs of people in their environment, going to museums, and looking for jazz venues and fine food.
What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?
The number of talented people within the company. Not only does Jacobs employ so many different individuals with expertise ranging from ocean to outer space (literally), but it’s also a company focusing on bringing innovations for a better world and environment. I very much enjoy the fact that I can work and learn from all sorts of talents and experts representing the best in their professional realm.
About the interviewee
Eric Shen brings more than 15 years of experience delivering high-end healthcare and commercial projects with technology-enabled solutions to optimize operational and business performance to his new role as Jacobs Director of Health Analytics. Eric specializes in data-driven operational modeling – helping project stakeholders to foresee operational outcomes, reduce risks and capital costs, maximize ROI and enable better decisions.
He's helped deliver significant improvements and dozens of scenario-based solutions by combining operational requirements and the owner’s business goals. And, he maximizes project success by extracting significant profits by optimizing programming with operations.
Additionally, Eric has extensive experience in turnkey delivery of high-end healthcare facilities and commercial projects, providing insights to key requirements on what enables a building project to succeed. He's knowledgeable with pre-design pro-forma analysis, strategic planning, core-and-shell design and build-out, tenant improvements and construction management.
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