Kier picks Procore platform

UK main contractor Kier Construction has selected Procore as its field and quality management solution (but not – it seems – as its corporate ‘common data environment’).

According to recent articles on the CIOB-backed BIM+ website and on The Construction Index, UK contractor Kier Construction has chosen the Procore Software-as-a-Service platform as its field and quality management solution.

Louisa Finlay, director of clients & markets for Kier Construction, said:

“We have bold ambitions to revolutionise digital practices within the construction industry and our partnership with Procore is integral to supporting our aims as part of our project delivery. The platform is easy to use and provides consistency, which is vital as we deliver on our purpose and provide high-quality projects for our customers.”

According to the US-headquartered Procore, its platform’s ease of use and range of integrations, alongside its ability to consolidate point solutions and create efficiencies for everyone on a single platform, will provide Kier with greater visibility across its projects – ensuring consistency, enhancing quality and supporting sustainable working practices. “The high level of transparency Kier will gain also allows the company’s data to be redelivered as intelligent insight which can drive improvements in everything from project progress, to supply chain developments as well as safety and performance.

Procore logoBrandon Oliveri-O’Connor, VP of EMEA at Procore, said:

“Working smarter isn’t just about using technology, it’s about amplifying a company’s mission and values. It’s a privilege to partner with Kier and support their social and environmental impact goals. By connecting the field to the office and all stakeholders, Procore’s enterprise-ready solution, built by and for the construction industry, is very proud to welcome Kier into our portfolio of customers in EMEA. The company is now one of our largest customers in the region.”

The EE view

Normally, Extranet Evolution would not bother to highlight news of a customer win by an AEC technology vendor (often, major contractors will be claimed as customers by multiple competitors – project or regional adoption may reflect localised rather than corporate preferences). However, the Kier/Procore tie-up is significant for a couple of reasons.

First, Kier Construction is one of the UK’s biggest contractors. In early 2018, it was briefly ranked, by turnover, as the second biggest UK construction contractor (behind Balfour Beatty) and was a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. While Procore lists some substantial US contractors among its customers, it has – until now – struggled to make major inroads into Tier One contractors in the UK and Ireland. To be fair, the US operation had a substantial headstart: Procore began as a California-based startup in 2002, opened an Australasian office in 2017, and only established a London office to target the EMEA region in 2018. This announcement, therefore, marks a step forward for Procore in the UK main contractor market – though it may not be as significant as it initially appears.

Clearbox logo

For, second, Kier is a contractor with a long history of involvement in development of AEC technologies. Over a decade ago, its in-house department developed a BIM “common data environment” (CDE) platform later branded as BIMXtra. In 2013, the developer was spun out as a separate Hampshire, UK-based business called Clearbox, headed by former Kier director Graham Forbes, with Kier as a “supportive investor” and – in 2016 at least – mandating use of BIMXtra as its standard default tool (see December 2016 EE post: Clearbox BIMXtra starts with BIM). Update (5pm BST, 11 April 2022) – Kier signed a three-year enterprise deal to use UK-based Asite‘s CDE in August 2021. EE understands Asite is integrating Procore’s field tool into the CDE alongside several project-specific point solutions from other vendors.

Kier coming good

The change comes at the end of a testing four years for Kier. Its share price plunged following a failed rights issue in late 2018 (just months after Carillion’s catastrophic January 2018 collapse, of course), and by mid 2019 some analysts considered Kier might “go bust”. It required an extensive restructuring, debt reduction, cost-cutting and disposals programme, which included shedding 1,700 employees and selling its Bedfordshire headquarters and its housebuilding arm, to get the company edging back into profit in 2021.

Procore yet to score a profit

In the meantime, Procore has grown its EMEA presence and expanded into the Middle East and North Africa, after, in May 2021, it became a NYSE-listed company (see June 2021 EE post Reflecting on the Procore IPO). While its 2021 full year revenues of US$515 million represented 29% year-on-year growth, it has yet to declare a profit, losing US$265m in 2021. Having topped US$100/share in August 2021, its shares were trading at around US$54 on 8 April 2022, down 36% from the IPO opening level of US$84 in May 2021.

It will need many more Kier-type deals if it is to become profitable, and will need such customers to be adopting the whole Procore platform, not just elements that are complementary with other provider’s solutions.

[Disclosure: Procore is a past consultancy customer of pwcom.co.uk Ltd.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2022/04/kier-picks-procore-platform/

Raildiary – industry-oriented site reporting

Raildiary has capitalised upon its domain experience and expertise to deliver tools specific to the needs of personnel working in a highly regulated and also intensely commercial market.

Raildiary logoManchester, UK-based Raildiary is a railway industry-specific cloud-based data collection and reporting platform utilising mobile and web technologies. On-site data is captured in line with the UK’s Rail Method of Measurement and presented in reports and visualisations, enabling analysis of resource, schedule and health and safety information. Raildiary founder and CEO Will Doyle talked to Extranet Evolution about data capture and the value of information.

Documenting claims

A chartered surveyor by training, Doyle worked for Tier 1 contractors in rail construction in UK and in southeast Asia. He says “Problems were always the same: getting critical information from the worksite back to me as a quantity surveyor”. He recalls an electrification project in the north of England where the programme had overrun and costs had risen by around 50%. The contractor needed to document the issues, Doyle said:

Will Doyle (Raildiary CEO)“We spent 10-12 weeks working on a construction claim for extension of time and variations, with lots of people gathering data. We had some paper records in ring binders, but we were also finding documents in vans, and even in a rubbish skip – nobody recognised the value of this information. We were eventually able to justify the claim but it nearly crippled the business. I thought there had to be a better way. We need to avoid that end-of-project claims culture and find a more sustainable way of working.”

He quit working as a QS and, with a little funding support, started Raildiary. Together with Paul Clegg (now CTO), he developed a basic minimum viable product for the Apple iPad which helped secure some early clients, and was then able to start expanding his team. Raildiary then raised £650k in funding (from the Rail Supply Growth Fund and Angelgroups) in May 2019. Its mobile device support now includes an Android app.

Doyle said he used his experiences as a QS to specify the application’s functionality:

“Essentially, I want to capture the story of the project. I wanted a site diary which told me who arrived when, what works were planned, and what works were undertaken. Traditionally, paper duplicate pads were used for record-keeping and the overall project picture was created from 1,000s of pieces of paper. The project story might tell me exactly why additional time was needed. Typically, a job is priced on a set of assumptions, but the reality of site work may mean we need to justify new access requirements, bigger foundations, or changed work sequences.”

Making Raildiary user-friendly

Raildiary screengrabBy making the application as intuitive to use as possible, Doyle says Raildiary quickly accelerated capture of accurate information by site-based personnel. “It had to be easy to use by someone working at 4am on a cold, dark and rainy site. Record-keeping that used to take an hour using paper could now be done in less than 10 minutes. And as fewer details are missed, contractors get paid for 100% of the work”.

Full and accurate records also help contractors to understand their typical productivity for standard types of work, and to better predict risks. “They now know what projects are too risky to bid for, cost planning discussions are more data-based, and Network Rail can estimate a realistic net cost per kilometre.”

Doyle says the best use of Raildiary comes when the client and contractor both use the tool together, mentioning a project with Siemens that was working that way. “Network Rail can quickly understand the reasons for extensions of time – a late-running train that delays a track possession, for example.” Use has also extended down the supply chain, with data collated about subcontractors and contingent labour suppliers. Other UK customers include Amey and Balfour Beatty, while the product has also been deployed on projects in Spain and the Middle East.

CEMAR integration

As a commercial specialist, Doyle was familiar with the CEMAR contract change management application, and work on a project at Birmingham New Street station opened up an opportunity to integrate the two solutions. Raildiary captured changes, work progress and resource utilisation that could then be used to support Early Warning Notices and other contract-related processes. “With clear evidence, conversations quickly shift from claim validity – did it happen? – to quantifying the claim. Teams have meaningful discussions rather than disputing facts.”

Nick WoodrowWith Raildiary’s headcount into double figures, Nick Woodrow, formerly at CEMAR, was appointed Raildiary’s operations director in May 2021 (he had been part of the CEMAR management team when the Gloucestershire-based business was acquired by Germany’s thinkproject in May 2018 – post). Woodrow says Raildiary is not solely working with CEMAR, but is looking to be software-agnostic and work with other applications and platforms where vendors recognise Raildiary’s domain expertise: “There comes a point that best-in-class software is better than trying to build it in a platform. We are capturing the data in the right way for the rail function.”

Expansion plans

Raildiary is also looking to link to scheduling tools, to undertake earned value management (EVM) tasks, taking data from Primavera P6, MS Project and Asta PowerProject, while recognising that many clients still run projects using Excel. Raildiary has developed a shift planning tool that helps managers populate programmes in less than 10 minutes.

The business is also looking to expand overseas. Its European and Middle Eastern projects have been secured by existing UK customers, but the popularity of the NEC contract suite in Commonwealth countries could help Raildiary to build on CEMAR’s international expansion into those markets. Raildiary is also not just a tool for Tier One contractors, says Doyle (“We have a plan that suits SMEs”), and it can be deployed on non-rail projects. The application has been used for aviation projects, for work on a navy warship and on time-critical highway schemes (“the lane rental approach used in highways is similar to rail possessions”), where clients – as in rail – are moving away from paper and want more than record keeping.

The EE view

Raildiary has identified a niche market and sought to capitalise upon its domain experience and expertise to deliver a platform that is specific to the needs of personnel working in a highly regulated and also intensely commercial market. Competitors include the mobile-oriented eviFile (eviFile – geo-located progressive assurance – May 2018) and Helix Rail, as well as the field applications provided by several of the leading CDE vendors. As Woodrow mentioned, the latter tend to be more generic data capture tools rather than being rail or linear asset-specific, but several software vendors (eg: Autodesk, Procore) are building platforms that allow partners’ niche tools to plug into their ecosystems.

The UK rail sector has been very buoyant in recent years (major projects have included ThamesLink, CrossRail, East-West Rail and HS2), but the scale of some investments is being pared back as the UK government looks to manage its way out of post-Brexit and post-COVID squeezes. However, rail transport also offers a means to contribute to carbon reduction measures, and the various Network Rail regions are already starting to gear up for Control Period 7, the next major rail framework programmes starting in 2024. Like other ‘arms-length bodies’, they will be guided by the UK construction strategy (outlined in the Construction Playbook and Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030) which demands clients and their suppliers collaborate better, “further embed digital technologies”, and enable greater sharing of better data while “driving better, faster, greener delivery”.

Raildiary has successfully started to help rail clients and their contractors shift from an adversarial claims-based culture towards more evidence-based collaboration and negotiation approaches. I understand Doyle and his team are thinking about how Raildiary can translate these process improvements into helping rail networks (and other industry owner/operators) achieve better whole life asset management outcomes.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2022/01/raildiary-industry-oriented-site-reporting/

Planyard: Cloud-based budget management

Planyard offers one place for all project financials management, keeping everything standardised and in sync, with a real-time view of project costs. 

Estonia-based Planyard is targeting contractors with a cloud-based budget management tool for contractors. Traditionally, this was a field largely managed by locally-held Excel spreadsheets. And where companies manage multiple parallel projects, there was a risk that project managers might work in different ways in multiple spreadsheets, making it difficult to ensure a consistent commercial approach.

Planyard offers one place for all project financials management, connecting processes, keeping everything standardised and in sync, and reducing calculation errors. Users can track in real time what has been estimated, what has been ordered, and what has been invoiced. Subcontractors involved in bids and progress management can enter their own data. Managers can assess which projects were profitable and which were not, keeping on top of profitability forecasts. Project costs are visualised when they happen – not a month later.

Planyard pricing

The application is priced competitively, with small renovation projects hosted on the platform for just €20 per project per month (unlimited users, unlimited documents and storage). For medium-sized residential building, infrastructure and engineering projects where more functionality might be needed (tracking subcontracts, change orders and purchase orders, for example), it is €50/project/month. For larger projects, additional functionality is included for €200/project/month. And – as with most vendors – customers can also negotiate to use an enterprise or portfolio offering.

Founded in Estonia, Planyard has attracted customers (see case studies) in countries including Belgium and the UK. Bristol-based Higgihaus Developments has valued Planyard’s integration with the cloud-based Xero accounting software platform. (Other integrations include with Intuit Quickbooks, and with AEC platforms Plangrid and Procore, and there are Apple iOS and Android mobile applications too.)

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/12/planyard-cloud-based-budget-management/

Reality capture, BIM and AI – Imerso, XYZ Reality and PointFuse

Nemetschek has led a financing round for Norway’s Imerso, whose platform combines reality capture, AI and BIM – areas also targeted by UK players XYZ Reality and PointFuse.

Having invested in June 2021 in Sablono (post) [Update: and in July 2021 in US-based AI developer Reconstruct*], Germany-based Nemetschek Group has led a financing round  [financial terms not published] for Imerso AS. The Norway-based deep-tech company offers a platform to automate construction quality monitoring through a combination of advanced artificial intelligence (AI), reality capture and BIM technologies.

The solution is said to enable easy, everyday use of industry grade 3D scanners on site. The scanners capture the as-built status throughout the construction phase with point clouds – a collection of 3D data points that accurately digitise real-life physical spaces, such as a building, a floor, or a room. Imerso’s cloud-based platform automatically analyses the captured 3D scan data against the plan in BIM. Combining AI and advanced computer vision, it highlights and lists in real-time any relevant work deviations or issues, so these can be resolved efficiently through re-planning or fixes on site.

imerso – “an efficient roadmap for accurate, as-built digital twins”

By connecting the BIM model directly to the as-built snapshot on site, the company says Imerso delivers an efficient roadmap for accurate, as-built digital twins – with benefits across the building life-cycle.

“Imerso is a perfect fit to our goal of helping our customers worldwide shape the world,” says Axel Kaufmann, spokesman and CFOO of Nemetschek. Tanja Kufner, head of start-ups and venture Investments at Nemetschek says: “We see great synergies, particularly with … Solibri. Both companies are on a mission to improve the quality of construction and to create better buildings. Customers can accurately monitor the project’s progress and efficiently improve the results.”

Combining the technologies of Solibri and Imerso will significant opportunities for owners, engineers, and contractors. They can monitor the progress and quality of work on site at a detailed level and produce reliable final client deliverables for the management of the facility. Frederico Valente, founder and CEO of Imerso, says:

“This is a tremendous step in our journey, as we continue scaling our solution with some of the leading players in our industry. Partnering with the Nemetschek Group is rocket fuel for us to leverage their deep roots in the construction sector and in-depth knowledge, and to accelerate the go-to-market strategy of our technology.”

Research-backed

The Norwegian start-up has been developing its solution in collaboration with leading research institutes and some of the largest industry players in the Nordics. Seven million square meters of floor have already been captured in the platform across several customer projects. Imerso is currently being used on some of the largest and most ambitious projects in Scandinavia and central Europe.

The investment in Imerso is described as a strong continuation of the Nemetschek Group strategy of supporting young companies to shape the future AEC/O market and drive innovation.

In the same space: XYZ Reality and PointFuse

Reality capture tools were strongly in evidence at the Digital Construction Week show in London in November 2021 (post). Two UK-based firms are working in the same kind of territory as Imerso, albeit offering subtly different solutions.

XYZ Reality

XYZ Reality logoIn June 2021, London-based construction augmented reality (AR) technology developer XYZ Reality announced it had raised £20m (c €23.3m or US$27.8m) in a Series A funding round (Irish Times article; see also AEC Business). The funding round was led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from existing investors Adara Ventures, Amadeus Capital Partners, Hoxton Ventures and J Coffey Construction (the company previously raised £4.9m–c. €5.7m or US$6.8m–in March 2020 – EU Startups). New investment also came from Activum SG, Optimas Capital and Tishman Speyer.

To date, the technology has been used on projects worth more than £1.5b billion to date, including data centres, pharmaceutical facilities and airports. Customers include the UK-based Mace group, where its solution is being used in construction of a hyper-scale data centre in Europe.

XYZ Reality products: Holosite and Atom

Holosite from XYZ RealityXYZ’s core product is HoloSite which enables construction professionals to view and build accurately from 3D design models. It combines a cloud platform, AR headsets and propriety software. Holosite has been described as “the world’s first engineering grade augmented reality device”. It allows construction workers to view building information models onsite to 5 millimetre accuracy – eliminating inefficiencies caused when buildings are designed in 3D and then converted into 2D drawings.

The Atom is a powerful, custom-built engineering tool combining a construction safety headset, augmented reality displays and in-built computing power.

The company was co-founded by Irish-born career construction professional David Mitchell, now CEO. He was supported by COO Umar Ahmed, a business process specialist with experience at Shell and Microsoft, and visual technology chief Murray Hendriksen.

Overcoming the BIM to 2D divide

Mitchell says conversion from BIM to 2D creates significant inefficiencies with up to 80% of construction works being ‘out-of-tolerance’. This results in 7-11% of project costs being wasted. HoloSite solves this by improving the feedback loop between site and design by 92% as construction workers are now able to make real-time informed decisions in the field.

“2D is an unnatural language for humans; we see everything in 3D, yet tradespeople are being asked to interpret 2D drawings, conceptualise the 3D asset and then build the asset on-site to within construction “tolerances”. Works are currently validated after the fact through laser scanning. 80% of the time the construction fails to meet acceptable tolerances. With HoloSite, we can prevent errors happening in the first place.”

The funding will enable the company to further improve the user experience by doubling the size of the technology team, and expand its development team across all verticals. It is also building its sales and marketing operation; Andy Hamer, once of CodeBook and Invicara, is a 2021 recruit. The company is planning to use some of its funding to develop its second generation headset. Mitchell says:

“The next phase is assisted reality, where our spatial computing technology will have the intelligence to automatically detect and report issues in the field. And ultimately, the goal is builders building from holograms.”

XYZ Reality: the EE perspective

Bentley Synchro XR and Hololens 2The product name Holosite is immediately reminiscent of the branding of Microsoft’s Hololens, which, since its launch in 2016, has been the subject of various AEC-specific collaborations with Trimble (May 2015 post) and Bentley (November 2016 post) among others. Additional developments followed the launch of Hololens 2 (Bentley and Trimble launch new Hololens 2 products) in February 2019. While this may immediately suggest XYZ is working in the same category as Microsoft’s platform, the latter is a generic technology. XYZ’s is particularly focused on site working in the architecture, engineering and construction sector. Changing the name may also help avoid brand confusion among those with only a passing knowledge of the AR space.

Unrelated AEC products also include Holobuilder, a US/German platform utilising 360-degree photography, first covered in EE in July 2017 (Holobuilder launches 360 construction documentation solution), and recently acquired by FARO Technologies (FARO acquires Holobuilder, 7 June 2021).

XYZ’s hardhat-based technology is also similar to that developed a few years ago by Los Angeles-based Daqri (read BIM+ 2016 article). It competed with Microsoft’s Hololens, another heavily-backed startup, Magic Leap, plus Google Glass, and was extensively backed by investors. It raised $275m by 2017, but it faced some engineering and industry adoption challenges, and folded in September 2019 (read ENR‘s DAQRI is Closing Up Shop). Many would-be industry adopters baulked at paying anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 (depending on custom-built features) for each Smart Helmet unit. Its Smart Glasses, at $4995, were also not cheap enough to achieve high volume sales. Magic Leap also tumbled in investor’s affections; in 2020 backers were marking down the value of their by 93% on average (source: The Information). XYZ Reality will obviously be looking to learn from Daqri’s collapse and Magic Leap’s fall back.

PointFuse – meshing technology

Also at Digital Construction Week was Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK-based PointFuse, which offers an image-processing technology that helps users make efficient use of laser-scanned point clouds.

Laser-scans are typically captured in files that can be anything from 2GB to tens of gigabytes in size. Combining files to produce more accurate 3D imagery then multiplies the data challenge many times over. And, as the files may be in proprietary formats, special AEC software applications may be needed to process them. A high-powered computer with advanced image processing capabilities and high storage capacity may also be required.

The meshing difference

‘Meshing’ technology, such as that provided by Pointfuse, can make a huge difference. A single flat surface in a point cloud, for example, might be represented by 100s of thousands of data points. Meshing enables a much more efficient representation, capturing the surface edges while combining data points registered across its surface. A user’s view is then made up of a mesh of numerous geometric shapes that can be much more quickly assembled, viewed and explored. Such techniques can reduce files to 1/100th of their original point-cloud size – measured in MB rather than GB – and, with the mesh files being software-agnostic, can be viewed and shared via readily available applications.

For the onsite data user this means rapid access to data at acceptable levels of fidelity using applications on existing desktop and laptop machines, even via tablets or smartphone apps. Site internet connections are no longer clogged by time-consuming downloads, and there are significant savings in local file storage. This all adds up to less time spent data-wrangling on site.

And where meshes are used to check the accuracy of new structures or new installations of equipment against the original design models, these lightweight, software-agnostic meshes can be opened 70% faster in design tools. This accelerates as-built BIM checking processes. Once accuracy has been verified, the next stages of construction or installation can be expedited, potentially cutting hours, even days, from construction delivery programmes.

[Disclosure: I have provided consultancy services to  XYZ Reality and PointFuse. I have also talked about both firms in an AEC Business podcast recently recorded with my AECTech.TV co-presenter Aarni Haiskanen.]

* On 8 July 2021, Nemetschek announced its participation in the series B financing round of Reconstruct, a US-based leader in remote quality control and progress tracking software powered by computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI). Reconstruct secured a total of around $17 million to develop remote quality control for construction and real estate, accelerating Reconstruct’s product roadmap and global expansion.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/12/reality-capture-bim-and-ai-imerso-xyz-reality-and-pointfuse/

Corecon upgrades reporting functionality

Corecon’s reporting upgrade includes new data views and APIs offering access to information across its cloud-based construction estimating, project management and job cost suite.

Corecon logoCalifornia-based Corecon Technologies has announced a major upgrade to the reporting capabilities within its cloud-based construction estimating, project management and job cost software suite. Developed to capture information from all aspects of a construction project’s lifecycle, Corecon’s reporting upgrade includes new data views and APIs offering access to information across the entire system.

Additionally, new reporting and business intelligence (BI) engines provide enterprise grade reporting capabilities that are all accessible via the cloud and no additional software is required. The new BI Dashboards offer an executive overview of project financials, helping to maintain budgets and maximize the project’s profitability. Corecon Technologies president Norman Wendl says:

“Our new data views, Log Reports and BI Dashboards took 16 months to build, resulting in an economical, yet scalable enterprise-grade solution. The new reporting and BI engine will provide contractors with a competitive advantage when presenting information to internal or external team members, giving them the necessary tools to track every financial aspect of a project in real time.”

  • Corecon Detail Reports: Corecon now offers 194 different Detail Reports templates that are based on Microsoft Word templates.
  • Corecon Log Reports: Corecon’s new reporting engine enables 160 new data views for standard and custom log reports.
  • Business Intelligence (BI) Summary Dashboards – 36 new standard BI Dashboards summarize and compare transactions, giving users a distinct view of project financials and budget comparisons.

Update (12 January 2022) – Corecon also has a new integration with DocuSign eSignature for use within the Corecon software suite. The DocuSign eSignature integration can be turned on or off for estimate proposals, client contracts, changes, invoices and all procurement-related transactions. Wendl says: “this process is more secure than traditional paper and delivery methods, and all documentation is stored and retrievable within the Corecon platform.” The integration is free and available immediately for all Corecon subscribers.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/12/corecon-upgrades-reporting-functionality/

SearchLand secures seed funding

Freshly seed-funded, London-based SearchLand enables property developers, architects and investors to find potential sites.

SearchLand logoLondon’s Digital  Construction Week may have dominated EE‘s attention this week (post), but there are interesting moves in the property technology world that potentially have a construction impact downstream. London-based proptech startup SearchLand has secured a £200,000 seed investment. Angel investors are looking to accelerate its development of what it says is the world’s first fully automated site sourcing tool.

SearchLand opportunity spotting

SearchLand websiteFounded in 2020, SearchLand allows property developers, architects and investors to find potential sites and contact the landowner directly through the platform.

The software-as-a-service platform automates and accelerates users’ hunt for viable plots of land. It lets them search sites based on a range of data, including title boundaries and ownership, permitted development rights, price paid records, and planning application analysis. Using 100s of map layers, users can rapidly pinpoint sites that meet their specific criteria, with workflow tools allowing them to easily contact the landowners of those sites.

SearchLand’s claims experienced consistent month-on-month growth of 30% over the past 12 months. The startup’s funding will be used to hire new sales and marketing personnel, as well as building out its automation tools to further improve the platform.

Taking pain, complexity and time out of site-sourcing

The company is planning for a series A funding round in 2023. Hugh Gibbs, co-founder of SearchLand, said:

“Given the amount of information that must be located and then analysed, sourcing sites is often a huge challenge for property developers; it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. Understanding this first-hand, we created SearchLand to take pain, complexity and time out of the site-sourcing process.

“By putting data in the hands of developers and investors, we enable them to make faster, better-informed decisions. And we’re moving closer to creating the world’s first fully automated site sourcing tool. The strong growth we’ve experienced in our first year, as well as the feedback we’ve received, has underlined that our platform is hugely valuable and much needed.

“We’re delighted to have secured this seed funding. Having bootstrapped throughout the initial development and launch phases, the investment is going to bolster our efforts to grow the team, improve the product, and expand our userbase significantly. It’s an exciting time for SearchLand, and we’re heading into 2022 full of confidence that we can continue to be a disruptive force in site sourcing and property development.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/11/searchland-secures-seed-funding/

Previewing Digital Construction Week (DCW) in London

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement of London’s Digital Construction Week (DCW) show in 2020, and the event is finally set to take place this week at the ExCEL exhibition centre in east London on 24-25 November 2021.

Among the DCW 2021 exhibitors….

3DRepo

3D-Repo-Logo-Blue3DRepo have been busy lately, running their own British Information Modelling event in London earlier this month, then appearing at AEC Magazine‘s NXT BLD conference, and now at DCW. If the two previous events are any guide, expect to hear more about 3D Repo’s collaboration with Mace, Mission Room, eviFile and academic partners to create a rich visual project control room (see also: eviFile and 3DRepo combine mobile and BIM).

Earlier this year, the London-based firm showed off an infinitely scalable 3D rendering and data delivery platform that allows AEC users to share and view massive and complex 3D engineering models online. This harnesses the Unreal Engine technologies from US-based video game and software developer Epic Games. 3DRepo has also announced the latest release of the 3D Repo platform with updates including IFC4 support, import and export of data validation sets, richer BIM data, and improvements to Civil 3D and Navisworks plugins.

3D Repo has also been working with 4D (construction sequencing) consultancy, Freeform, and the Balfour Beatty Vinci JV to develop a new safety simulation toolset using live walkthroughs of site-specific 4D  visualisations based on existing BIM models. The work, which built on 3D Repo’s Safetibase technology, was funded through an innovation competition funded by High Speed Two (HS2) and managed by Innovate UK. Jozef Dobos, CEO at 3D Repo said:

“Inductions and onboarding in UK construction are usually delivered using generic PowerPoint slides, pre-recorded videos and printed questionnaires. Our new training solution will enable site personnel to quickly and easily generate engaging site-specific induction materials that are easy to comprehend and therefore reduce accidents and near-misses through better quality training.”

Autodesk Construction Cloud

Autodesk Construction CloudA year on from its last major upgrade (Autodesk Construction Cloud is reshaped, November 2020), Autodesk will be talking at DCW about bout new capabilities across its Autodesk Construction Cloud suite, announced last month. The new capabilities include:

  • A new Schedule tool in Autodesk Build – helping teams to centralise schedule management and work from the most up-to-date activities and milestones to keep their projects on track. Office and field teams can instantly share digital schedules, collaborate on updates as they happen and link documents, sheets, photos, issues, assets, RFIs and submittals to their communications for reference. Teams can also filter and search their schedules and view them in calendar or chart formats to see activity status in real time.
  • Sheet sharing across accounts – customers can now connect data across their entire project teams. Linking sheets across different accounts gives teams the ability to share the latest sheets with other external team members including owners and other contractors who need access but may not be part of the main project account.
  • Microsoft Teams in Meetings – customers can now set up Teams meetings directly in Autodesk Build, without having to switch between other applications.
  • Data extraction & analysis – support for sheets, transmittals and design review data extractions using Data Connector, plus new Power BI templates, lets teams analyse and optimize document management workflows for improved design review processes.

Autodesk has also expanded its partner ecosystem, which allows customers to streamline data across workflows. Autodesk Construction Cloud now features over 200 partners leveraging Partner Cards and APIs, including Forge APIs, to deliver integrations for customers who want to simplify data management and make more informed project decisions. Via an expanded partner ecosystem, customers can integrate data from their safety, mixed reality, analytics and reality capture solutions, for example, to Autodesk Construction Cloud and maintain a centralised view of their project information to make decisions with more context.

New integrations also include 3D Repo, Aespada, Airtable, ArcGIS GeoBIM, Arkio, BIM HoloView, DAQS, Embneusys, Geometrid, GoFormz, Google Workspace, Join, Novade (post), Oculo, OpticVyu, ProNovos, Safe Site Check In, Shepherd, SiteKick, Stevenson Systems, StructShare, Tomorrow.io, UpKeep, vGIS, viAct (post) and WakeCap.

Autodesk Tandem ScreenshotIn July 2021, Autodesk announced the commercial availability of its cloud-based digital twin platform, Autodesk Tandem (Autodesk announces Tandem digital twin platform, November 2020). According to Autodesk, the platform enables teams to harness BIM data throughout the design and construction process, then create and handover a digital twin to customers.

Earlier in 2021, Autodesk announced other Construction Cloud enhancements:

  • New workflows to help customers comply with ISO 19650
  • An option to store project data primarily in Europe
  • Availability of Autodesk Docs as a standalone subscription
  • A new quantification product, Autodesk Takeoff, joined Autodesk Build and Autodesk BIM Collaborate as part of the Autodesk Construction Cloud unified platform.

Bentley Systems

Bentley logo 2017Bentley Systems has continued its acquisitive streak. Recent purchases include:

  • Imago, a developer of cloud-based software for the capture and management of geoscientific imagery, acquired by its Seequent business unit (3 August 2021 announcement). Seequent was acquired by Bentley in March 2021 (Bentley’s billion dollar buy: geoscience tech vendor Seequent).
  • Minalytix, developer of the mining solution MX Deposit, also purchased by Seequent (14 September 2021 announcement)
  • Mark BewOXplus, a rail asset management specialist headquartered in Veghel, Netherlands, acquired by the Cohesive Companies, the wholly-owned but independently operated digital integrator business unit of Bentley Systems. The 5 October announcement coincided with the appointment of Mark Bew as CEO of The Cohesive Companies, succeeding Noah Eckhouse. Well-known in the UK as chair of the BIM Task Group until 2016, Bew, right, joined Bentley when it acquired PCSG in October 2021.
  • Power Line Systems, a leader in software for the design of overhead electric power transmission lines and their structures, for approximately $700 million (16 November 2021 announcement).

Bricsys

Bricsys logoFairly quiet since being acquired by Hexagon in October 2018 (Hexagon acquires Bricsys), Bricsys has started to market more extensively in the UK. For DCW, it is mainly focused on V22 of the BricsCAD product family – an all-in-one software platform for 2D drafting, 3D modeling, building information modeling and mechanical design.

Since 2018 (Hexagon on Bricsys 24/7: “Watch this space”), EE has been patiently waiting for news of the company’s SaaS-based collaboration environment Bricsys 24/7; apparently “24/7 is currently undergoing a number of exciting changes, and we will be hosting a summit for 24/7 in March next year.”

Causeway

Causeway logoFollowing a significant investment in the company in June 2021 (Causeway secures £120m to expand), UK-based Causeway acquired SpecifiedBy last month (Causeway acquires SpecifiedBy).

It will be at DCW having recently announced what it says is the world’s first live platform for designing site infrastructure for new housing sites. Causeway Live Design is a cloud-licenced platform that integrates all aspects of site infrastructure design, graphical ground modelling, roads and drainage design including hydraulic analysis and 2D overland flow, vehicle swept path analysis, road marking and traffic sign design. Used standalone or integrated with AutoCAD, the new platform has been tested by Brookbanks and Stirling Maynard, having been piloted by engineering consultancy Thomas Consulting on a residential development at Garstang in Lancashire, UK. According to Causeway’s Barry Blake:

“Causeway Live Design is … a game changer, helping to achieve huge productivity savings and … produce optimal value engineered designs. No more time is wasted reworking designs or double-handling data, which is where so many mistakes can be made. Onboarding and training are quick and easy, and cloud licensing makes this solution portable and flexible for our customers’ needs.”

Causeway recently appointed Richard Longdon as non-executive chairman. Longdon was chief executive and subsequently president of FTSE 250 technology business AVEVA plc for 17 years before stepping down at the end of 2017.

Ed Controls

ED controls logoA new name to Extranet Evolution, Ed Controls is a construction snagging product from Netherlands-based Dutchview IT that is said to be used daily by construction workers in the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain and India. The firm exhibited at LondonBuild last week and with a presence at DCW is clearly pushing to raise its profile in the UK.

Glider

Glider logoUK-based Glider Technology is launching its new Glider Information Value Chain at DCW. It says this is a key formula that is applied to the whole life cycle of an asset – from design through to operation – for better building performance at every stage of the project.

A familiar face has joined Glider. Stuart Bell, formerly at Business Collaborator (Bentley buys GroupBC, March 2020) and before that at Union Square (Union Square acquired by Deltek, July 2016), has joined the firm as director of sales and marketing. He tells EE:

“It’s a tremendously exciting time for the business which has secured some marquee clients and projects and grown significantly through the past 18 months (despite the lovely global pandemic challenge!) Amongst other barometers, I see the industry’s adoption and investment into a data first CDE solution as a significant step in the digital maturing from file centric working to data based information procurement.”

Unity logoUnity

Unity will be unveiling VisualLive to the European market for the first time since it acquired the business in March 2021 (Unity acquires AEC AR tech vendor VisualLive). Unity says VisualLive allows users to import models from Autodesk, and to exchange BIM data with Procore. Unity will also be showcasing Reflect Review, an immersive and interactive design review solution, and Reflect Develop, a tool that helps to build custom applications.

EE at DCW

I will be at Digital Construction Week for both days, dividing my time between platform sessions for the Government & Industry Interoperability Group (exhibiting on stand A63) and for the UK BIM Alliance (including a Thursday discussion panel with the Alliance’s Technology Group).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/11/digital-construction-week-dcw-london/

Causeway acquires SpecifiedBy

Following the UK Grenfell fire disaster, specification of construction product information and the “Golden Thread” is in the spotlight. Product data management platforms such as SpecifiedBy work in this sector.

Causeway logoUK-based construction software vendor Causeway has featured sporadically in ExtranetEvolution over the past 16 years, partly because its software portfolio has not been focused on cloud-based collaboration. During the early 2000s, it offered a SaaS construction collaboration platform powered by OpenText, but it did not gain the traction of contemporary competitors (4Projects, Asite, BIW, Business Collaborator, etc). However, away from collaboration, it has grown a presence in other software areas, and – following a £120m investment in June 2021 – gained a war-chest to make further acquisitions, potentially looking to expand its cloud platform to expand its geographical reach and/or its technological scope.

SpecifiedBy blue logoThe business has just announced its latest acquisition (terms not disclosed): SpecifiedBy, a building products information platform launched in early 2013 (SpecifiedBy planning Q1 UK launch).

Founded by Darren Lester, SpecifiedBy raised further funds in early 2014 (AEC startup SpecifiedBy closes funding round) and in November 2015 (SpecifiedBy raises further funding), but it faced competition from various construction product information providers. Newcastle-based NBS’s National BIM Library and BIMstore (BIMStore revamps, January 2019) provided domestic competition, but were also up against Sweden’s BIMObject, Cobuilder’s GoBIM from Norway, the US’s SmartBIMBIM&Co from France and MagiCAD Cloud from Finland, among others, as well as manufacturers’ own object-hosting websites.

SpecifiedBy deal

With over 2,600 suppliers and 65,000 active monthly users, Causeway claims SpecifiedBy leads the UK market in digitised product information. Phil Brown, Causeway CEO, said:

Phil Brown, CEO of Causeway“Bringing SpecifiedBy into the Causeway portfolio further strengthens the workflows we are digitising between specifiers, buyers and suppliers across pre-construction intelligence, procurement, delivery and payment processes. This deal also delivers strong synergies with our earlier acquisition of Enhance, a specialist construction telemarketing company that generates qualified, actionable leads for manufacturers.

“Through all these initiatives we are linking every stage of the construction process with technology. This is a vital step towards achieving our platform vision where pre-construction and procurement phases are fully integrated, giving buyers and suppliers increased process efficiencies and data insights.”

Darren Lester, chief executive and founder of SpecifiedBy, said:

Darren Lester - SpecifiedBy

“From our very first conversation, it was clear that Causeway’s ambitions very much aligned with our own: to digitally connect the construction supply chain, and to transform the industry for the better through innovative software solutions.

“In just a few years, we’ve established SpecifiedBy as a leading product within a competitive space, through product innovation and a laser focus on the needs of our customers and users. Joining forces with Causeway’s experienced team and complimentary [sic] products will ensure we continue to build on this position, increase and expand the value we provide to both specifiers and construction product manufacturers, and in the long-term, play our part in digitally enabling the global construction industry.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/10/causeway-acquires-specifiedby/

Graphisoft expands BIMcloud with SaaS option

Alongside Archicad 25, Graphisoft has announced enhancements to its BIMx model viewing and BIMcloud design collaboration applications, though these are consciously not ‘CDE’ products. 

Graphisoft logoHungary-based BIM software giant Graphisoft, part of the Nemetschek group, has announced (7 July 2021) the release of the latest version of its BIM software, Archicad 25. It has also released significant enhancements to its BIMx model visualisation technologies and to its BIMcloud hosting and collaboration product, including an SME-oriented BIMcloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering.

BIMx

Graphisoft BIMx logoBIMx is based on technologies originally developed by Swedish developer Zermatt Virtual Reality Software, acquired by Graphisoft in 2010. The first Virtual Building Explorer, for ArchiCAD 13, was launched in late 2013 (post) and enabled users of Apple iOS devices to view and navigate around building information models. Over time the solution has been extended to include support for Android devices and web browsers, plus a desktop application. Some services were made available via free iOS or Android apps, while others required a paid-for BIMx PRO application (iOS only)

BIMx is described as bridging the gap between the design studio, the client’s office, and the construction site.  It features the BIMx ‘Hyper-model’ – a game-like navigation tool that helps anyone easily explore the building model and understand project deliverables. And it offers real-time model cut-throughs, in-context measuring, and project markups in the model.

Huw Roberts - GraphisoftAt a press conference chaired by Graphisoft CEO Huw Roberts (post), the company announced that BIMx now features a 3D engine available for Android users. With BIMx, Android users join iOS users with the capability to:

  • Get precise data from the 3D model or 2D plans with the Smart Measure function.
  • Play animated Archicad client presentations in BIMx Presenter mode.
  • Access BIMx hyper-model elements from outside of BIMx.
  • Get photo-realistic views with real-time illumination calculation.
  • Open models in no time thanks to a faster startup.

In addition, new BIMx PRO in-app subscription plans available in BIMx unlock the following features:

  • Open 3D models of any size and complexity.
  • Save favorite 2D and 3D project views for later easy access.
  • Create BIMx presentations using favorite animated sequences and still views.
  • Print hard copies of any 2D and 3D project vie

 

BIMcloud

Graphisoft BIMcloudSoon after BIMx’s introduction, Graphisoft launched its cloud computing option, BIMcloud, in Tokyo in March 2014 (news release). As a BIM collaboration platform, BIMcloud allows teams to collaborate on native BIM data in real-time regardless of location, with file element differences fast-tracked via Graphisoft’s Delta-Server technology, with secure local caches to further reduce network delays. It could be deployed on-premise as a private cloud solution or in the public cloud as a cloud service.

Since 2014, BIMcloud has been in continual development. Multi-disciplinary design capabilities enable sharing of architectural, structural and MEP elements, plus the integrated analytical model. Model Compare and Rollback help users quickly identify what has changed between models and, when necessary, to annotate and revert to previous states.

Integrated with Archicad 25, Graphisoft says BIMx and BIMcloud are now better than ever. BIMcloud has been rebooted with an expanded file capacity per instance. Users can host up to 100,000 project files in one location. And the BIMcloud desktop application incorporates the BIMx desktop viewer for 2D and 3D file viewing.

BIMcloud SaaS license transfer

Smaller practices and sole practitioners can take advantage of a new “BIMcloud SaaS license transfer” — enabling them to pool resources while delivering projects in joint ventures, without any hidden costs. With a flexible a Graphisoft ID, architects and engineers can identify themselves across the BIMcloud SaaS network, and bring their own BIMcloud license to participate in projects. Graphisoft says this will enhance designers’ competitiveness so that they can form flexible design teams and work on much larger projects together.

No Graphisoft ‘Common Data Environment’

However, these are not ‘common data environment’ (CDE) platforms. Extranet Evolution asked Roberts whether BIMcloud constituted a CDE and, as well as models, was able to share other files and workflow content. He said:

Huw Roberts“The way to think about BIMcloud is that it is a design hub. It is about connecting the design team and the design experience, whether that is issue resolution, sharing models, or integrating the work of different team members. It is about supporting that whole design team experience.

“I think the common data environment – a buzzterm in the industry (if you ask ten people in the industry you’ll get 20 answers what that means) – is fundamentally about being able to store information somewhere. Sure BIMcloud can do that: you can put all your information in there and get to it. BIMcloud has workflows and added benefits that are specifically designed to design teams.”

Graphisoft's Ákos PfemeterÁkos Pfemeter, VP for Technology Partnerships, expanded on Roberts’s response:

“A number of years ago, we learnt from one of our UK customers (CDE is a UK invention) that they actually run six CDEs because they work on six different projects with six different clients, and the CDE is decided by the client in most cases – or the contractor. It is not like there is one CDE for one customer… . BIMcloud is more geared to collaboration and active work on the BIM data as opposed to the core functionality of CDEs … documenting, archiving.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/07/graphisoft-expands-bimcloud-saas-option/

Building Safety Bill opens opportunities for Operance

UK software vendor Operance has been involved in the development of practical solutions to deliver ‘the Golden Thread’ as part of the UK Government’s Building Safety Bill.

Much of the attention on this week’s (5 July 2021) publication of the UK Government’s Building Safety Bill has understandably focused on the ongoing repercussions of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire disaster and the highlighted need to replace aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. However, in the four years since the disaster, significant changes including digitisation of aspects of UK building safety have also been set in motion.

Hackitt recommendation 8.1‘The Golden Thread’

Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety, Building a Safer Future, was published in May 2018. She recommended a digital by default “golden thread” approach to the management of building information.

This recommendation was a timely encouragement to the UK construction industry to maintain, even hasten, its digital transformation. With respect to building information modelling (BIM), the 2016 ‘BIM mandate’ had passed two years earlier. But there have been signs that the pace of BIM adoption has slowed, despite the continuing development of international standards such as ISO 19650 (eventually launched in January 2019), the publication of the UK BIM Framework (launched in October 2019), the pan-sector National Data Strategy (September 2020 post), and the exhortations contained in the Construction Playbook. (Published in December 2020; this initiative and related themes were explored at the April 2021 NBS Construction Leaders’ Summit; read NBS Summit: accelerating digital transformation.)

Product data

In parallel, other bodies have been hard at work. For example, the Construction Products Association has been developing proposals to help suppliers and manufacturers digitise product information to comply with new regulatory requirements for the construction products market (see also the CPA’s proposed Code for Construction Product Information, CCPI). Alongside, in a project led by Su Butcher, the IET has also been developing a ‘plain language guide to product data’ (see IET blog). And – addressing Hackitt’s call for data to be “appropriately open and non-proprietary” – the Construction Innovation Hub-backed BIM Interoperability Expert Group (BIEG) explored interoperability issues, producing an Information interoperability: business benefits case tool in February 2021.

These and related developments are, of course, being closely monitored by software vendors, including through the Technology Group of the UK BIM Alliance,* keen to ensure that such initiatives are compatible with their products and services. In the past, considerable investments were made by many manufacturers in creating BIM objects with firms such as BIMStore (post), NBS’s National BIM Library, SpecifiedBy (posts), BIMObject and Cobuilder, among others. Meeting Golden Thread requirements is another major industry challenge.

Operance and the Golden Thread Initiative

Operance logoOne project involving construction software vendors has been the Golden Thread Initiative (GTI). Hull, UK-based Operance (March 2020: Operance releases smart building manual) has been providing technical and consultancy support to a team sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). The group has been testing methods of producing a standardised digital Golden Thread for building safety information that will satisfy the requirements of the Building Safety Bill.

The eight-month initiative, led by housing association L&Q on behalf of the MHCLG, was launched in November 2020. Working groups with industry experts from particular specialisms have been exploring different standards and ways of creating a working prototype of the Golden Thread. Operance was represented across several of the groups, focusing on information management technology, project management, information and process mapping and asset information collation.

Software development

The company is also developing its own software to define, coordinate and audit building operations and maintenance (O&M) information. Chief product officer (and a member of GTI’s Information Management Platform working group), Scott Pilgrim says:

Scott Pilgrim - Operance“It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise with the GTI to help transform the construction industry, making buildings safer and protecting lives. Our vision to create a digital Golden Thread is completely aligned to that of the GTI. … As well as being able to provide our own insights, … Operance’s participation in the project means we can listen and learn from all of those involved to understand fully what the industry needs. This will be a huge benefit to the development of our platform….”

Johnny Furlong, BIM strategy lead for L&Q, said:

“L&Q is leading the GTI initiative with the MHCLG to pilot ways that organisations can produce a standardised digital Golden Thread of building safety information for their HRRBs {high-rise residential buildings}. The development of a digital Golden Thread has the potential to revolutionise the built environment. We invited experts to join the GTI because it is crucial we have the best available expertise available to us. Operance have had a valuable part to play, bringing their expertise to several of the GTI working groups. We are looking forward to reporting back to the Government.”

Blockchain-powered: Operance O&M

Operance FMReleased in Summer 2021, Operance O&M is a purpose-built desktop application to define, curate, audit and maintain information about a building from design to occupation. The solution provides an immutable ‘quantum ledger’, built on blockchain technology, to produce a secure lifecycle record of high-quality building safety and asset information.

Accurate and easy to understand building and asset information will be shared with owners, operators and occupiers via the companion mobile app, Operance FM, providing users with crucial detail in real-time via smart building and home user guides. With this building information at their fingertips, users can easily search, share, update and utilise their data to operate and maintain their facilities, whilst managing risks and continuously developing the Golden Thread.

Operance has also offered social housing associations and other organisations the opportunity to test the software and help shape features to suit their needs. The business is also offering help with strategic digital transformation and BIM consultancy services to enable organisations define and articulate their digital estate ambitions.

[* Disclosure: I have been chair of the Technology Group of the UK BIM Alliance since summer 2019, and was also involved in the work of BIM Interoperability Expert Group.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2021/07/building-safety-bill-opens-opportunities-operance/

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