Bentley highlights need to digitise construction

Another report, “Unlock the Benefits of Going Digital in Construction” from Bentley Systems, underlines the under-digitised nature of construction – a well-worn theme at industry conferences in recent years.

Consultancies such as the McKinsey Global Institute have highlighted how construction digitalisation lags other industry sectors in the US, Europe and Australasia, while, in the UK, NBS’s 2019 Technology presented a slightly unrepresentative but nonetheless worrying view of how far building design firms had advanced (see Construction Technology Report 2019: the designers’ view). NBS found design activities still involve considerable work with documents and spreadsheets; 2D design was still slightly more common than 3D work (67%), and only 45% of respondents used ‘project extranets’ or CDEs. And the May 2019 NBS National BIM Report pointed to the emergence of a ‘two speed industry’, with 22% of those yet to use BIM saying they would rather not adopt it at all.

According to a July 2019 BIMplus article by the Electrical Contractors’ Association’s Darren Smith, 69% of ECA survey respondents had never been involved in a BIM project, and 24% had used BIM on only up to a quarter of their projects. Smith said some 4% had encountered BIM on 25-49% of their projects, 2% had used BIM on between 50-74% of projects, while just 1% had used BIM on more than 75% of projects – a poor show, but worrying as electrical contractors engage with BIM far more than other sectors of construction.

Unlock the Benefits of Going Digital in Construction

The latest report to show under-digitisation of construction comes from a Bentley Systems survey of more than 720 business professionals across Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia, India, China, and South East Asia. It found that almost half of business (44.3%) had limited or no insight into company or project performance. Professionals were either not collecting data or were collecting it manually instead of digitally. Even though half understood the importance of collecting project data, they failed to make the most of it by not digitising it.

The Bentley survey identified that:

  • 22% of professionals had no capability for digital collaboration while 20% had limited capability “because project information is generally paper-based and data is siloed,”
  • Similarly, when it came to information mobility, Bentley found 16% with no capability, and 24% with “limited capabilities due to predominately paper-based workflows and inconsistent identification for digital models.”
  • For digital design and construction workflows, 18% of organisations claimed no capability, while 21% had limited capabilities as modelling mostly relied on “2D and paper-based workflows.”

Bentley Systems’ report (download here), authored by UK-based Mark Coates (who joined the company as industry director for project delivery earlier this year from Viewpoint), recommends a four-point programme to implement digital transformation within construction businesses. Summarised as the four Ps (coincidentally, Viewpoint acquired 4Projects, often abbreviated to 4Ps, in 2013), the steps are: preparation, pilot, probing (measuring and quantifying the success of going digital), and process (adapting and embedding digital ways of working as business as usual).

The costs of not digitising can be significant, Bentley says, citing research by global construction consultancy Mace. It estimates that, by 2030, the world will be spending US$5.25 trillion a year on infrastructure, but their analysis also showed around 80% of large projects experience cost or programme overruns, translating into costs of US$229 billion to the United States, INR 9.1 trillion to India, AU$59 billion to Australia, and £19 billion to the UK.

Bentley says that businesses that embrace and master the four Ps are setting themselves up to be at the forefront of construction over this century. “As an industry, it is important for us to remember that a construction project is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Project partners who are not working digitally do not have the level of productivity, communication, and assurance necessary for 21st century project delivery,” says the report.

Arguing that innovation will transform how firms work in the construction sector, the Bentley report calls for change. Coates says: “We need to challenge ourselves, our businesses and our project partners to spread the benefits of going digital and stop the deployment of 18th century … working practices on 21st century projects.”

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Procore acquires Honest Buildings

Procore acquires Honest Buildings, aiming to connect everyone in global construction platform.

Procore logoCalifornia, US-based construction management software provider Procore has announced it has entered an agreement to acquire [for an unspecified amount] New York City, US-based Honest Buildings, a provider of project management software for owners and developers. Procore says the deal will allow it to create the construction industry’s first full-stack platform to manage projects from start to finish. Together, it says the companies will use their platforms to create unified financials and cost tracking from the first dollar in from the investor or lender to its final spend at the subcontractor or material provider level.

Honest Buildings’ data-driven platform is purpose-built for owners and is used to ensure capital and construction projects are completed on time and on budget. It centralises projects portfolio-wide, moving workflows out of spreadsheets and onto its platform. Owners can also harness data to manage capital more strategically. Customers include global, national, and local owners, including Brookfield, Oxford Properties Group, and EQ Office, Blackstone’s U.S. office portfolio company.

honestbuildings.comBased in New York, NY, Honest Buildings was founded in 2012 by CEO and co-founder Riggs Kubiak. It began marketing in the UK in late 2012 and officially launched in the UK in February 2013 (read: launches UK ‘buildings network’), though later seemingly retreated back to  north America (Kubiak today talks about the platform being used in 46 states and seven Canadian provinces – reminds me of Autodesk’s January 2019 deal to acquire BuildingConnected, also almost solely used in north America). An integration between Procore and Honest Buildings was announced in November 2018.

Honest Buildings’s over 100 team members, including additional co-founders Cody Roberts and Garrett Kubiak, will join the Procore team, expanding the company’s New York City presence.

Deal-makers’ views

Tooey Courtemanche, founder and CEO of Procore said:

Tooey Courtemanche“Procore and Honest Buildings share a vision that centers around transforming the construction industry, and we have an opportunity to realize this vision through the development of a global platform that connects everyone in construction. Honest Buildings has been solely focused on providing value to owners, and when fully integrated on the Procore platform we will create even greater value by delivering a powerful solution that provides transparency and accessibility of information to general contractors, specialty contractors, and owners on a single system of record.

“Procore became a reality many years ago from actual problems I was trying to solve as the owner on my own construction project, so it’s exciting to accelerate our focus on owners and our commitment to the industry by delivering products that help improve the lives of everyone in construction.”

Riggs Kubiak said:

“Honest Buildings has facilitated over $20 billion of projects for the world’s largest owners and fast growing companies. Joining Procore will accelerate our growth globally in building technology that empowers owners and their teams to manage projects and the capital that funds them. Our companies’ missions and cultures align so well that from our first meetings together the energy was palpable. We at Honest Buildings are excited about the speed and impact we can have on the built world by joining the Procore team.”

Customer perspectives

Honest Buildings customers and board members talked about the acquisition:

  • “Expanding the ability to gather and analyze data around the built environment is and will continue to improve project outcomes for everyone around price and project execution,” said Lisa Picard, President and CEO of EQ Office, Blackstone’s U.S. office portfolio company. “The integration of Procore and Honest Buildings’ platforms radically opens a world of value to owners and contractors that will re-shape our industries.”
  • “The integration of platforms designed for owners and contractors is a game-changer for anyone executing major development projects,” said Ric Clark, Chairman of Brookfield Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners. “Our construction and asset management teams have different needs and preferences, and the Procore and Honest Buildings combined platform will provide them best-in-class software that covers the full lifecycle of a project.”
  • “The cranes in every major city and burgeoning suburbs demonstrate the opportunity we have to transform the real estate industry, and anyone who touches construction,” says Michael Turner, President of Oxford Properties Group, a leading global real estate developer, investor and owner. “The joining of Procore and Honest Buildings creates the gold standard technology platform to manage construction projects of all sizes for owners, general contractors, and subcontractors, allowing them to collaborate and execute in ways never before possible.”


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iAuditor from SafetyCulture

Australia’s SafetyCulture is looking to follow construction vendor Aconex as another Australia tech success story.

Having written about Australian health, safety and quality solution provider Hammertech in April 2019 (see HammerTech raises Au$10m), I have been alerted to another vendor founded in Australia: SafetyCulture. Its focus is wider than construction, but it has attracted considerable investment and its iAuditor app is used across a wide range of industries.

SafetyCulture backstory

The business was established by one-time workplace accident investigator and current CEO Luke Anear in 2004 in his garage in Townsville, Queensland, and initially focused on provision of safety documents. The smartphone revolution four years later spawned the idea of digitising the documents into a mobile app, and the iAuditor safety inspection app was launched in 2012. The business was backed in a Au$6.1m (US$4.7m) Series A funding round in 2014 by Atlassian co-founder, Scott Farquhar and Blackbird Ventures, and in 2015 opened another Australian office, in Sydney, followed by US offices in San Francisco and Kansas City and a UK office in Manchester in 2016. That year also saw a Au$30m (US$23m) Series B funding round led by Index Ventures (with participation from Farquhar and Blackbird; read this Business Insider article or this TechCrunch one).

In May 2018, SafetyCulture completed a Au$60m Series C funding round (the largest raise in 2018 by an Australian company), led by New York investment firm, Tiger Global Management, with participation from Blackbird Ventures, Index Ventures, Morpheus Ventures and Scott Farquhar again. The round valued SafetyCulture, now employing 214 people, at Au$440m.

iAuditor in construction

iAuditor use cases include hospitality, manufacturing, retail, transport and logistics, and facilities management, with construction top of the list. The platform offers a library of over 13,000 safety checklists created by construction businesses. Construction case studies include the UK’s Pochin; industry customers also include AECOM, Jacobs, Redrow, Skanska, Stantec and Tarmac.

iAuditor is free for occasional use and small teams of less than five. Pricing for businesses with small teams who collaborate regularly is $19 per user, per month, billed annually ($24 if billed monthly). SafetyCulture has also developed complementary temperature and humidity sensors that integrate with iAuditor.

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Melbourne start-up Matrak attracts interest

Australian construction technology startup Matrak is attracting a lot of interest, having just raised Au$3 million in new funding.

Matrak logoMelbourne, Australia-based construction technology startup Matrak is attracting a lot of interest, particularly after being described (by a former Aconex chairman) as the next potential Australian contech “unicorn” following the success of Aconex (acquired by Oracle for US$1.2 billion in December 2017).  Matrak has just raised Au$3 million in new funding.

Matrak back story

Matrak is a construction workflow management application that helps suppliers and site-based installation teams track the manufacture, transport, delivery and installation of building components (read more in this SmartCompany article). It was developed by co-founders and brothers Shane and Brett Hodgkins, after Brett, a computer science graduate, worked on a window installation project for his father’s business in 2013. Paper dockets were then the only way to track what had been sent to site, so Brett developed a prototype mobile application which attracted interest from both the window manufacturer and the main contractor working on the project. Brett talked to Shane (also working in software development) about scaling the application, and the two bootstrapped Matrak for two years before officially launching the product in November 2016 and going full-time on the system.

Having secured customers in Australia and China, plus a first US customer, the company raised Au$765,000 in seed funding (well in excess of the Au$450,000 target) in August 2018, with a large investment coming from former Aconex chair Simon Yencken. By this stage, the app had tracked around Au$4 billion worth of construction materials. Less than a year later (2 July 2019 – read AFR article), Yencken has led a further funding round which has pumped Au$3m into Matrak.

Network effects

Construction Sector Deal coverYencken is apparently attracted by the same “network effects” which led to Aconex’s explosive growth: “In Matrak’s case, they win one builder and instantly the app is going to be in the hands of hundreds of suppliers.” He also welcomes the solution’s adoption by dozens of Chinese suppliers to the Australian building industry, who can take photos and scan QR codes provided by the app to verify their work. The  new investment round will help Matrak to double its current headcount of 13 this year, and to automate more of the app’s features. The solution is currently offered on both the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms.

In my view, such applications may also interest firms involved in projects deploying offsite manufacturing approaches. First mooted in December 2017, five UK government departments have adopted a presumption in favour of offsite construction, and the July 2018 Construction Sector Deal underlined the strategic importance of digital techniques and offsite manufacturing technologies.


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RIB buys CCS to build African base

RIB Software has announced the US$31.5m acquisition of a 70% shareholding in South Africa’s CCS, a cost estimation and project control software provider.

RIB software logoThe international expansion of Stuttgart, Germany-based RIB Software continues. The construction cloud technology provider has today (2 July 2019) has announced its acquisition of a 70% shareholding in South Africa’s CCS, a provider of cost estimation and project control software. The deal value is given as US$31.5m, based on an 8.5 EBIT/DA multiple.

Less than a month ago (7 June 2019), RIB invested US$42m to acquire 60% of USA-based BSD (Building Systems Design), to strengthen its estimating and product data technologies, and get a bridgehead in north America. This deal has a similar rationale on a different continent.

CCS and its products

With group headquarters in Johannesburg and Cape Town, CCS was founded in 1982 and is generating US$13.6m in annual recurring revenues (2019 revenues are forecast to be over US$18m), with an EBIT/DA margin of around 30% in a high potential and fast-growing market. Fifty per cent of the 160-strong company’s revenue comes out of the African market, and around 30% out of the Middle East. Other important markets include the UK, Portugal, India, Australia and New Zealand; in total it has around 40,000 users in 50 countries.

CCS BuildSmartCCS’s cost estimation and project control software, Candy, is Africa’s leading application of its kind. CCS’s BuildSmart is a complete construction cost management and enterprise accounting/ERP solution (similar to RIB’s iTWO 4.0 concept) for the African, Middle East and other select markets. RIB believes that the 40,000+ CCS user community can readily be converted onto the MTWO Cloud, and also plans to develop its managed service provider business in Africa. RIB has also entered into a partnership with CCS’s African parent, the EOH Group, and has an option to buy the remaining 30% stake in December 2022.

RIB Group CEO Tom Wolf says:

“The investment in CCS can be seen as one of the most important milestones in the globalization process of RIB Software SE and to defend the global market leadership for our iTWO 4.0 and MTWO platform technology. RIB’s target is to be the international market leader for BIM digital transformation in the building and infrastructure (AEC) vertical in America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia.”

CEO of CCS Andrew Scudder says:

“We are very proud to be partnering with an industry leader like RIB, which will bring a wealth of opportunity to CCS, our clients and our team. We are particularly excited by RIB’s ambitious growth strategy and leadership in building the first construction industry cloud platform, that we believe will provide significant value to our clients. The investment by RIB in CCS affirms our leading market position as a provider of cost and enterprise management solutions to the construction & engineering industry. We look forward to the exciting journey of “Running Together” with RIB, as we continue to develop and scale CCS.”


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LetsBuild BIM app targets on-site BIM adoption

The LetsBuild BIM app aims to seamlessly link on-site activities and checks to a project’s BIM model, and is focusing on ensuring easy BiM adoption by site teams.

LetsBuild logoLetsBuild, the European construction cloud technology business formed by the January 2019 merger of Belgium’s AproPlan and Denmark’s GenieBelt, is planning a BIM product launch. LetsBuild aims to seamlessly link on-site activities and checks to a project’s BIM model, and is focusing on ensuring easy adoption by site teams.

Extending BIM into construction

Many companies in the construction industry are focusing on implementing building information modelling (BIM), though adoption levels vary widely. As mentioned in a previous post, the May 2019 NBS National BIM Report pointed to the emergence of a ‘two speed industry’ in the UK, with 22% of those yet to use BIM saying they would rather not adopt it at all. And while BIM-enabled collaborative working may be increasingly the norm during planning and design stages, there is often less use of BIM by construction teams.

Plangrid website screengrabThis has led some players, notably Autodesk and Bentley Systems, to invest in technologies that extend their portfolio capabilities to support BIM onsite. Bentley took a major step forward with its June 2018 acquisition of Synchro (see also October 2019 post: Synchro buy a key step in building Bentley’s construction capabilities). Autodesk’s November 2018 US$875m acquisition of Plangrid (see also: Construction-savvy Plangrid adds to Autodesk toolset) also boosted its construction-oriented functionality, with Plangrid BIM being rolled out in April 2019 (post) and AU London talk in June 2019 of a convergence of Plangrid and BIM 360 (post).

Closing the BIM-construction gap

Based on feedback from multiple construction companies in different countries, LetsBuild says it has concluded that there is a big gap between the office-based BIM model and the construction workers that need to enrich the model with data from site. “Workers are struggling to use BIM tools in their daily activities and that causes frustration, lack of focus and even errors.”

LetsBuild says its solution will put BIM in the hands of construction workers to allow them to seamlessly provide real-time data from site without having to struggle with unfamiliar tools. The app will connect the BIM objects in the model to site activities, checks and forms to allow a transparent digital built environment. In that way, the BIM model will be enriched with field data and the underlying BIM object data will be made available to people in the field.

LetsBuild BIM

As the BIM solution will be fully integrated with LetsBuild’s Aproplan app (post), on-site quality and safety processes will be directly linked to the underlying BIM model. Based on the company’s quality protocol, set by the QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety & Environment) manager, BIM object classes can be linked to specific forms and checklists so that on-site checks are standardised across projects for the same class of objects. Linking BIM object classes to the physical construction work allows for seamless and transparent on-site workflows.

As an example, imagine that a fire-proof door needs to be installed. Using classification, the BIM object representing the door will be linked to certain forms in the Aproplan app. This ensures that the correct door is installed correctly and also documents that it has been signed off on site.  The forms triggered will depend on the type of project and object classifications, as different projects comply to different standards at different phases of the construction process.

Thomas GoubauLetsBuild aims to make BIM easy to use on site and across multiple projects while providing comprehensive data to enhance as-built documentation and learning. Thomas Goubau (right), CRO of LetsBuild, says:

“The goal of our BIM integration is to easily gather all data in one place, standardise processes at company level, and allow project teams to map BIM objects to their specific projects and streamline their work processes. This enables on-site workers and teams to focus on project execution without having to work with a complicated BIM model.”

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Designing Buildings’ BIM Wiki: industry needs a better, wider, digital knowledge base

A new BIM Wiki, launched by Designing Buildings, aims to create a comprehensive and up-to-date BIM information source, but industry needs a wider, digital knowledge base.

DesigningBuildings logoDesigning Buildings, the UK-based Wiki launched in 2012 (see my 2013 EE post DesigningBuildings: a wiki in progress) and backed by several UK industry institutions, recently (19 June 2019) announced a dedicated building information modelling, BIM Wiki, produced in collaboration with PCSG, the UK construction consultancy chaired by Mark Bew, former chair of the UK BIM Task Group.

Unfortunately, many of the current articles are out-of-date and don’t reflect new and wider digital thinking emerging from organisations including the Centre for Digital Built Britain, the UK BIM Alliance, the National Infrastructure Commission, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, the CITB, and numerous industry businesses, both established names and new digital ventures.

Designing Buildings’ BIM Wiki

BIM Wiki homeAccording to the news release, the BIM Wiki launches with more than 150 articles already written, “covering everything from employer’s information requirements to parametric modelling,” and including a detailed step-by-step guide to BIM Level 2 (Designing Buildings worked with PCSG  to launch this in May 2016 – see: BIM meets Wiki at DesigningBuildings). The BIM Wiki’s creators want industry help in developing the site into a comprehensive source of BIM best practice by contributing new articles and engaging with the existing content.

BIM Wiki has been launched in response to research published by Designing Buildings in 2017 (see: Big data exposes a widening construction knowledge gap) that showed BIM remains an isolated subject, the domain of expert practitioners and not well integrated into the rest of the industry. This was confirmed by the May 2019 NBS National BIM Report, which pointed to the emergence of a ‘two speed industry’, with 22% of those yet to use BIM saying they would rather not adopt it at all.

The producers’ perspectives

PCSG chairman Mark Bew, right, said:

Mark Bew, October 2017“From our work around the globe it is clear that the UK’s progress to becoming a true digital economy for the built environment has made a fantastic start. The legacy of the 2011 Construction Strategy created a firm understanding of the scope and opportunity for change in the industry. Level 2 BIM has now been adopted around the world, and many nations are accelerating their uptake with the release of ISO 19650.

“However, there is still much to be learnt, shared, and adopted before we can truly say we are ready for the next stage of this journey. A vital part of this process is connecting the people and organisations who are embracing a digital, data-centred, collaborative approach to practical, clear, and accessible information. This is why Designing Buildings Wiki and the free resource it represents is so valuable. I believe that the BIM Wiki will, going forwards, play a hugely important role in our continued digital journey.”

A development of Designing Buildings Wiki, BIM Wiki is linked to its 8,500 articles. Integration with an established industry knowledge base will,  according to Designing Buildings, help take BIM processes beyond the realm of specialists. Director Gregor Harvie said:

“The discipline that BIM processes impose on the industry needs to become a normal part of every project, not an optional extra. Having a common understanding and a common language is crucial to achieving this. What we are launching today is just the start, we are calling on the BIM community to engage with BIM Wiki, to add to and improve it, to debunk BIM myths and create a truly-comprehensive knowledge base that is fully integrated into the wider industry.”

The Extranet Evolution view

As a long-time Wikipedia volunteer editor (disclosure: I am also a Wikimedia UK member and an accredited trainer), I have followed the Designing Buildings project with interest (and provided some consultancy support to the project in its early years) and have subjected it to occasional critical review. Let’s dissect it in detail.

From modest beginnings (and despite a design and building-oriented brand that might not attract users working in construction or FM, or professionals in civil engineering, landscape architecture, etc, ), it has continued to grow as a source of information, some of it crowd-sourced from industry. At the time of its BIM research project (2017), it was claiming 900,000 page views a month (though I suspect most page views come from outside the UK), from 3.5 million annual visitors, and 6,500 registered users. Today (2019), it is claiming 6.5 million annual visitors, a figure that reflects the strong performance of many of the site’s articles in search engine rankings. I understand it now has about 11,000 registered users – but only a tiny few are active contributors.

However, while Designing Buildings uses the same underlying MediaWiki technology as Wikipedia, its content has a different style and tone. Some articles are magazine-like, rather than authoritative and encyclopaedic, in their presentation and content; some are copied from other publications or websites (often from its backing institutions: the ICE, BRE, CIOB, BSRIA, IHBC, CIAT and ECA), or from press releases. This may help expand the reach of contributed content, but such articles will rarely, if ever, be updated, and – unless critically edited – may reflect a partial view of the subject matter rather than the impartial, neutral point of view (NPOV) required in Wikipedia. A large number of these contributions are also ‘protected’ meaning that they can never be edited (perhaps understandably, as they repeat article content published elsewhere).

Designing Buildings is also broadly UK-centric (obviously reflecting its backers and location), whereas articles in the English edition of Wikipedia will tend to provide more global coverage of their subjects. As I have noted previously, the Designing Buildings article on BIM is skewed towards UK policy and practice, while the Wikipedia article on BIM is longer and more international in its perspective, building an international consensus view of the subject from English-speaking editors across the globe. This has taken on new importance now that UK BIM practices have since evolved to form the basis of international standard BS EN ISO 19650 – the first parts of which were published in early 2019. BIM expertise is also supporting UK businesses in winning work internationally, so a more global perspective on the subject is needed.

Most contributions come from just two official editors, rather than reflecting the “wisdom of a crowd”. Designing Buildings has not achieved a critical mass of regularly active volunteer contributors.

Unlike Wikipedia, Designing Buildings does not insist upon inclusion of references from reliable sources, which reduces the value of some articles in signposting readers to useful sources of further information. And many DB articles are rarely edited or updated by a wide community of its users (100s of articles have less than three revisions). And browsing the edit history of several BIM articles, most contributions come from just two official editors: ‘Editor’ and ‘Designing Buildings’, rather than reflecting the “wisdom of a crowd”. Designing Buildings has not achieved a critical mass of regularly active volunteer contributors, so its growth and improvement has remained slow. As an example, if we regard the BIM Wiki as essentially an expansion of the May 2016 BIM guide, in three years the number of BIM articles has grown from “more than 100” to 152, some not updated in over a year.

The focus on BIM is too narrow. Today’s industry discussion is increasingly about “digital”.

But perhaps most critically of all: the focus on BIM is too narrow. Today’s industry discussion is increasingly about “digital” – the UK industry’s ‘digital transformation’ involves the Centre for Digital Built Britain; people attend the Digital Construction Week show in October; the government’s July 2018 Construction Sector Deal talks about deploying digital techniques, etc, etc. A broader ‘Digital built environment’ wiki could incorporate articles about cloud computing, reality capture, mobile applications, photogrammetry, VR, AR, holography, digital twins, data analytics, open data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, wearables, robotics, blockchain and the like. And built environment organisations also need to be thinking about digitalisation: “the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities: the process of moving to a digital business” (Gartner).

wikipedia-logoAs a ‘Wikipedia purist’, I am, of course, biased, and we should acknowledge the two ventures are very different.

Wikipedia and its sister projects are non-commercial, supported by donations and huge communities of active volunteer users, while Designing Buildings has sponsors, displays advertising and works more like a web publication (is this one of the challenges: Wikipedia appeals to users’ altruistic motivations, while DB seems too commercial?). One is global and sprawling in its subject matter; the other is more country-specific and focused on a single sector. Wikipedia is widely known and understood around the world; Designing Buildings is comparatively unknown even within the UK construction sector. Wikipedia is not without its faults, but the English edition (the largest) has developed a strong community of 1000s of active volunteer editors committed to maintaining and improving the quality and currency of its information. Designing Buildings, on the other hand, appears heavily reliant upon two paid editors to create, monitor and amend articles.

So, the launch of the BIM Wiki is yet another plea for more industry support to help Designing Buildings expand and update its content (as well as the BIM Wiki, Designing Buildings also has a Conservation Wiki and a BREEAM Wiki), some of which is out-of-date and being superseded by new and wider digital developments. Through volunteer-led bodies such as the UK BIM Alliance,* UK digital activists are currently striving to maintain adoption momentum in the “two-speed industry”, but can they be motivated to contribute to a niche BIM Wiki that – for some of them – promotes the commercial interests of a rival firm? And given that the Wiki also has the logos of several prominent industry institutions* across the top of its webpage, should these member bodies – many with wider digital initiatives of their own – also be concerned about the quality, currency and breadth of the information being promoted on their behalf?

[* Disclosure: I am a UK BIM Alliance ambassador, and deputy chair of the ICE’s digital transformation community of practice, formerly the information systems panel.]

Update (10 July 2019: 11:15am) – Following publication of my blog post, I had an email exchange and then a meeting with Designing Buildings Wiki founder Gregor Harvie in London’s Building Centre last week.

The Harvie perspective

Harvie started by clarifying that Designing Buildings Wiki is to some extent a knowledge management project: “The industry is not particularly good at sharing knowledge, or even understanding what ‘knowledge’ is. Its knowledge is fragmented and siloed and much of it is behind firewalls or sign-up barriers. Our objective is to make industry knowledge fully integrated and freely available. A wiki seemed to be the most collaborative way of doing this.”

As a result, some of the knowledge on the site is sourced from existing material, but 65% is original. Experienced editor George Demetri and Harvie himself add a significant proportion of the content, but Harvie says this is partly because they add content created by other organisations who don’t have the time to do it themselves. Around a quarter of the content has been created in this way. They also spend time managing user additions to the site, editing them and combining them with existing content, and removing anything inappropriate.

Some articles are protected from user edits when they are ‘featured’ to prevent malicious vandalism, but overall he says just 6% of the site’s content is protected.

Harvie has also been looking at what information needs to be on the site. Working with the Open University he has developed artificial intelligence (AI) software that identifies commonly occurring unexplained terms, and the team then writes those explanations. This is a more “demand-led” approach than traditional publication, which tends to be supply driven.

Construction industry knowledge gapThe BIM Wiki project grew out of the 2017 research which showed BIM was out on a limb (see above). PCSG chair Mark Bew didn’t want BIM guidance just to appear on BIM-specific websites, but also wanted it made accessible on a more general industry platform. Much of the content on BIM Wiki was inherited by PCSG – previously written by users and the site editors, not newly created for BIM Wiki. Harvie said PCSG is now reviewing a lot of that material to update it as necessary.

Harvie says the continued use of the term “BIM” in the site name and text reflects the fact that this is what much of the industry calls the subject right now, as well as the high number of people searching for “BIM” on Google, even if the current/future industry picture is wider. We discussed the extent to which the site could look forwards when many industry practitioners still continue to look at older buzzwords.

Becoming more international is also something that Designing Buildings Wiki is aiming to do – Harvie said he was surprised at the amount of traffic the site achieved from the US and India, for example.

An Extranet Evolution view

It is clear that the BIM wiki is far from perfect. It requires substantial updating and expansion (if people don’t have the time or expertise to do it themselves, then perhaps they should contact Demetri or Harvie to get them to make the edits), and it will therefore take time before it more accurately reflects the current state of digital design, construction and asset operation.

Harvie is aware that the Designing Buildings branding doesn’t reflect the site’s remit (it’s not just about design and not just about buildings) and that few users engage with the site as editors. There have been suggestions that members of the UK BIM Alliance pile in and make changes to the BIM Wiki, but some are understandably reluctant to contribute to something that promotes a rival commercial business (PCSG). This seems to expand Harvie’s point that “the industry is not particularly good at sharing knowledge” – its knowledge is not just fragmented, siloed and held behind firewalls, it is also, in this case, being used to promote a private business. Perhaps reactions might have been different if a BIM – or ‘Digital wiki’ – was backed by a not-for-profit body such as the Alliance or the Centre for Digital Built Britain, for example.

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GoReport annual revenues top £1m

Having recently secured £0.5m in VC funding, Belfast-based mobile surveying application developer GoReport says annualised revenue has topped £1m, and its looking to expand in 2019.

GoReport logo 2018Belfast, Northern Ireland-based mobile surveying application developer GoReport says annualised revenue has topped £1m. Turnover grew 60% in the year to 31 March 2019, and are up 128% since 2017.

Led by CEO Anthony Walker, a RICS PropTech leader who joined the firm in November 2018 (post), GoReport has grown to 22 staff and is aiming for 100% growth in revenues in 2019 as traction in the growing market accelerates. Currently recruiting, the firm aims to add more staff in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. To fund its expansion, the company secured a £500,000 investment from Belfast-based venture capital fund manager Crescent Capital earlier this month (June 2019), with Crescent investment director Bob McGowan-Smyth joining the GoReport board as a non-executive director.

The firm’s software is used by building surveyors and engineers, project managers, fire safety consultants, insurance loss adjusters and many other professions who have a need to capture data easily, flexibly and generate consistent outputs quickly. Walker, right, says: “We’re enjoying a combination of growing market awareness, an increasing adoption of technology across the property sector, interest from related sectors and industries, and a drive by clients to capture more data to inform their business operations.”

GoReport digitises data capture and reporting processes to help property professionals reduce the time taken to generate survey outputs. The resulting uplift in customer experience has helped the firm increase their customer base by 100% from the previous 12-month period.

GoReport digitising survey data capture

Founded by Conor Moran, the business launched its iPad-based application in November 2012 (post). Its software was originally developed to help commercial and residential property surveyors and other professionals capture building surveying and project management data rapidly and more easily than the traditional method of manual note taking, dictation and photography. Walker continues:

“As a profession, surveyors’ day-to-day work for clients involves a significant amount of report writing which, done in the traditional way, can take up an inordinate amount of valuable time. With productivity proving a persistent issue, technology and how data is captured has an even greater part to play.”

Users of the software include all types of specialist surveyors ranging in scale from national property consultancies with multiple offices to independent surveyors. Recent interest in the platform from the social housing, insurance loss adjusting and fire safety sectors has broadened the firm’s potential market opportunities, with specific solutions tailored to a growing range of sectors that have field engineers and operatives recording data on-site.

GoReport chairman David Bell says:

“We’re aiming to positively disrupt the sector with tools that bring the profession in line with other data-enabled business functions, as well as delivering efficiencies to property consultancies, and the growth in new users this year demonstrates the growing demand. The recent move into supporting related property management and facilities sectors, including fire prevention, social housing and insurance, is also exciting and I look forward to the next level on our growth journey.”

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Xinaps presents Verifi3D at AU London

Dutch company Xinaps demonstrated its new Software-as-a-Service BIM data validation product, Verifi3D, for the first time at Autodesk University London.

Dutch company Xinaps presented its new Software-as-a-Service BIM data validation product, Verifi3D, at the Autodesk University event in London (18-19 June 2019). While Verifi3D is set to be officially launched at Autodesk University in Las Vegas in November 2019, founder and CEO Frank Schuyer has been warming up the market for several months.* As well as Verifi3D, Delft-based Xinaps, founded in 2015, also develops building product configurators.

Verifi3D’s rule editor allows design checks to be defined and customized by the user to align the model with local regulations and client requirements. Schuyer’s initial focus was on showing if, and how, buildings met regulatory and project-specific requirements regarding accessibility and life safety compliance. The latter is particularly topical in the UK following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, the ensuing Hackitt report, and ongoing discussions about mandating the “golden thread of information” into future building regulations.

Verifi3D logoThe latest development for Verifi3D allows users to upload Autodesk Revit and IFC (industry foundation class) files directly into Xinaps’ cloud environment. Users can then classify their building model data, visualise it in 3D and 2D and validate it using data and geometric checks. As such, it offers a SaaS alternative to other model-checking solutions such as Solibri (acquired by Nemetschek in 2015), and competes with Invicara’s BIM Assure (2016 post, 2018 interview with founder Anand Mecheri), albeit being more focused on fire safety and accessibility.

Verify3D integration

Verifi3D is now also seamlessly integrated with Autodesk BIM 360 construction management platform and the optimised digital workflow was demonstrated by Xinaps for the first time at AU London. According to the Xinaps team:

“The collaboration with Autodesk will allow us to create a comprehensive experience for our users and to further facilitate the digitalization of the AEC industry. Our mission is to automate, simplify and optimize the design and build process through the power of technology. Verifi3D will allow VDC professionals to enhance their workflow and to automate many of the pre-construction stage
processes. Autodesk is one of the biggest innovators in the industry and collaborating with them was a logical next step in accomplishing our goal.”

Ilai Rotbaein, senior director of Autodesk’s BIM 360 product team said:

“Construction is a high risk, low margin industry in which things can go wrong at any time. Xinaps Verifi3D helps design and construction teams reduce costly errors and delays during preconstruction and throughout the project by offering a real-time, cloud-based solution for teams to review models, check for clashes, and ensure building rules and regulations are addressed in the model. We are pleased to have Xinaps as an integration partner and we believe this will be a welcome solution for our shared customers.”

[* Disclosure: Ltd provided consultancy services to Xinaps in late 2018.]

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Autodesk announces Plangrid upgrades

During this week’s Autodesk University in London (see also previous post), Autodesk announced additions to the Plangrid platform: ‘PlanGrid Advanced RFIs‘ and ‘Project Hub‘. These are said to give construction teams greater visibility regarding a project’s progress and unforeseen challenges. Advanced RFIs automates and so accelerates request for information workflows while Project Hub provides an actionable picture of key project activity in one central location within PlanGrid’s software. Together, they help construction teams to identify and resolve issues faster and keep projects on track.

Head of products, site construction, Autodesk Construction Solutions, Sameer Merchant says:

“Construction is a massive logistical challenge involving hundreds of people, and the flow of information on a jobsite can sometimes be like a game of telephone. Crucial data can get lost as it travels, whether it’s between the field and the office or between team members, and decisions then get bottlenecked. [These] innovations …, Advanced RFIs and Project Hub, provide greater visibility across a project, boost collaboration and help teams move forward faster. By automating and streamlining the flow of data, Autodesk Construction Solutions is empowering the construction industry to make decisions more effectively and keep projects on track.”

One of Plangrid’s US clients, Rob Winklepleck, general manager of West Brothers Construction says:

“On a typical project, we’re managing vast quantities of information, and we need a way to make this information manageable and easily accessible. If my team doesn’t have the insights we need, work stalls out and it can cause a domino effect on interrelated resources across the project. The new features in PlanGrid not only help speed up the building process but also show me exactly what needs to happen to move the project forward. My team is able to get a quick response to pressing issues, and I spend less time calling or walking back and forth from the trailer to the field to verify work.”

Advanced RFIs

Advanced RFIsRFI processes resolve questions arising from drawings, specifications, contracts and other construction documents that aren’t fully coordinated. According to Plangrid, ideally, an RFI moves from one person to the next: from the field to the office and then on to a design team reviewer, who provides insight and sends it back. While the flow of information should be straightforward, when the RFI process is not streamlined, it often involves multiple conversations and can take several weeks to get resolved. Information also can get lost along the way and schedules may be delayed.

PlanGrid’s Advanced RFIs automate the process and gives construction teams a visual and structured workflow to manage and distribute questions and answers efficiently and intuitively. Project members can quickly draft a question from a log or sheet and attach photos, and then track RFI progress – all within PlanGrid. Reviewers are notified and can respond by email, and answers are immediately distributed to all critical team members. Responses are also automatically added to the RFI history within PlanGrid’s platform to decrease miscommunication.

PlanGrid will continue making the flow of data on a construction project seamless. Future features will allow change orders to be efficiently managed from start to finish.

Project Hub

With 1000s of documents to track and large teams to coordinate, project managers and engineers can struggle to have a clear understanding of what is happening across a project.

Project Hub is a centralised place within PlanGrid’s platform where project engineers and managers can get a pulse of their project in real-time and take action on the most critical field operations. Via an uncluttered interface that is easy-to-use and simple to navigate, Project Hub delivers a holistic picture of all project activity, providing instant answers to questions such as: ‘What has changed on the project? Does everyone have the most up-to-date information? What tasks need to be assigned or are still incomplete?’ Features include:

  • Team update status: displays what percentage of the team is working from the latest plans and documents, to ensure all team members are on the most current set by tracking status in real time
  • Recent activity: shows a steady feed of major activities happening on the project
  • Project work: a list of tasks that helps guide users towards work that needs attention on the project

With Project Hub, managers can immediately understand risk factors in the field, such as what is at risk of complications or of not being built correctly, and act quickly to address the highest priorities.

Plangrid webinars are planned to update users about the updates (to register, visit here):

  • North America: 2 July 2019, at 11:00am PDT/ 2:00 pm EDT
  • EMEA: 9 July 2019, at 12:00 pm BST / 1pm CEST / 3:00pm GST

[Apologies to readers affected by a site accessibility issue since Tuesday 18 June – a file got corrupted and I was only able to resolve this with my hosting provider today.]

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