A Passion for Technology: Mortenson’s Ricardo Khan and His Push for Innovation


In November of last year, BuiltWorlds released its Top 50 Technology Adoption Leaders list, a curated insight into built industry professionals who weren’t just spearheading innovation in their field, but rather, had to have an entirely new role created for them to do so. One such leader, Ricardo Khan of Mortenson, sat down with BuiltWorlds to discuss his journey to becoming the company’s Senior Director of Innovation, a role in which he leads and facilitates team member ideas from concept through implementation to drive new ways of creating customer value.

“My niche became the ‘technology guy,’ you know, the animator, the renderer,” Khan says of his early years in New York City working for various architectural firms. “After a few years of that, I realized that I was much more interested in the computer world.” After a tenure at a CGI and rich media development company, Viewpoint, Khan found what he described as his dream job: using his background in architecture and technology to foster innovation with Mortenson.

“It was really exciting,” Khan fondly recalls of his arrival at Mortenson. “It was finding new ways to deliver value to our customers by using our own projects as the testing grounds for innovation. At the time, it was 2005 and Mortenson was really diving into their BIM and VDC program and I was one of the early hires of that program.

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of finding new opportunities to create value, investigating new technologies, implementing them on jobs, spending time with academic research and vendor industry research, and creating what we call today the Mortenson Innovator’s Program.”

Whenever Khan speaks of new technology Mortenson implements, he slips into an innocent aura of excitement. Despite standing tall as an industry veteran and thought leader, it’s abundantly clear that Khan is still excitable when it comes to new, thrilling technology, and he’s always on the hunt to satiate his desire to push the envelope. A quality manager in Minneapolis, he explains, once bought a development kit for the Oculus Rift VR headset, which then evolved into Mortenson adopting VR services across the whole company.

“Virtual reality started, literally, as a science experiment on a project… Fast forward a couple of years later and we have a full service offering.”

Being able to adopt new technology as it comes along requires a finger on the pulse of what’s up and coming, something Khan is keen on maintaining. The AEC industry, he believes, will next be shaped by artificial intelligence solutions. “This is something we’re learning from our design partners. The large companies out there, the design and engineering firms, are already using generative and parametric design to help design their amazing facilities that we’re building.”

Thus, Khan keeps a close eye on how those companies design the buildings Mortenson is building, that way his company can apply the same technology to their construction processes. In doing so, Mortenson can “plan better, solve challenges even earlier, and actually predict potential outcomes based on a series of events.” If technology like this sounds like science fiction, though, that’s exactly why Khan and his team have set their gaze on it. With their track record, it may soon be a reality.

BuiltWorlds partnered with Mortenson to bring you this article.