Investing in Innovation
In an industry that’s historically been slow to adopt new technologies, the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) fields present incredible opportunities for tech investors and developers alike. Determined to drive innovative change from within, Thornton Tomasetti, SHoP Architects, Syska Hennessy, and STO Building Group formed AEC Angels, a venture capital fund focused specifically on assessing, testing, funding, and accelerating promising AEC technologies.
“A 2016 Harvard Business Review article ranked industries by their rate of innovation adoption, and construction was dead last,” says Tom Scarangello, executive chairman of Thornton Tomasetti. “We thought, ‘We, as an industry, really have to change this.’ We want to be a global driver of innovation.”
Scarangello began connecting with industry colleagues like STO Building Group who were having this same conversation internally to determine how to collaboratively and strategically drive investment in these technologies. Their idea developed into the AEC Angels, a seed through Series B investment platform that from the knowledge of AEC leadership to identify and support innovation. Each of the companies in AEC Angels has its own team of innovators who are continually developing and testing new technologies, adding another dimension to the platform.
The group recently announced investments in several technologies that help improve efficiency and collaboration:
Rhumbix: A cloud-based platform that automates field reporting and workflows to provide consistent real-time information into how schedule, labor, productivity, and material usage are driving project costs.
OpenSpace: This image documentation software uses artificial intelligence to create navigable 360-degree representations of construction sites. Videos or photos can be captured during a site walkthrough and uploaded to the cloud for virtual collaboration.
Falkbuilt: This interior prefab/modular company produces office and conference room walls and ceilings, bathroom modules and pods, headwalls for hospital patient rooms, and even interior feature stairs. Falkbuilt uses its own REVIT-compatible technology called ECHO, which allows architects to interact with real-time design changes in a cloud-based service.
Reconstruct: A reality capture platform that is fully integrating schedule with BIM that can ingest and align all forms of Reality Capture ranging from laser scanning to 360 video to flat files to solar powered crane cameras. The product integrates those images as part of the design, coordination and construction process through 2D or 3D overlays.
Enviro Power: Their SmartWatt Boiler cogeneration system transforms a building’s heating infrastructure into an energy platform that satisfies
heating requirements while generating on-site electricity at nearly zero cost. This energy can be used to provide a continuous backup power supply and is able to support the grid operator.
Every partner in the AEC Angel Fund is committed to mentoring and piloting the solutions we invest in, therefore each and every company we invest in is aligned with a partner to accelerate their growth. The group is also evaluating and testing several more reality capture technologies, including HoloBuilder, StructionSite, and Matterport. Each of these technologies leverages real-time data to create visualizations and imagery that support decision-making in the field.
In short, they’re working together to realize the mission they set out to accomplishing: To leverage our collective complementary k nowledge investing in best-of-class AEC sector technologies to help transform the industry while gaining access to leading industry technologies.
“Our industry is being revolutionized, from modular interior construction through lean practices supported by AI,” says Jim Donaghy, executive chairman of STO Building Group. “We expect to see accelerated digitization of the supply chain and project performance analytics in the near future. We’re excited to be part of the AEC Angels team and will continue to invest in innovation and big data initiatives to ensure we are best positioned to deliver value to our clients and partners.”
In addition to investing, STO Building Group is piloting many new construct-tech solutions to advance its own Big Data initiatives. We’ve partnered with IPSUM to understand the possibilities for analytics around Lean scheduling. IPSUM is a scheduling and planning platform using data analytics to measure against the baseline plan and report using data visualization. IPSUM connects with scheduling programs such as MS Project and Primavera and uses the Lean method of scheduling. The platform also integrates with BIM through Navis or Revit to link to the master schedule and create a 4D model. On the reporting and analytics side, IPSUM pulls in information to create metrics, KPIs and dashboards.