Rethinking construction contracts – blockchain, video?

Could new digital technologies such as blockchain or even video contracts take some of the administrative complexity and friction out of construction project delivery?

Construction has long been a highly contractual and often adversarial and litigious industry. Its resistance to change (along with its learned friends in the legal profession) has perpetuated the reliance upon numerous detailed agreements and related risk-management products such as insurances.

However, there has been some progress – at least in the UK (and in other markets that apply UK-type approaches). More collaborative forms of contract (PPC2000, the NEC suite, the JCT/CE Collaborative Contract) have been developed to foster more amicable working relationships. Progressive models of procurement (for example, the Cabinet Office has urged trials of two-stage open book, cost-led procurement, and integrated project insurance), gain/pain-sharing arrangements, and single project bank accounts address commonly experienced pain-points. And these may be supported by information and workflow-sharing platforms (extranets or common data environments, CDEs – contract change management was something of a battleground among the extranet vendors a decade ago) that seek to improve process visibility and transparency. More contract-focused solutions such as think project!’s CEMAR, Sypro or MPS’s CCM might also be used to manage contract changes.

The future may yet require more radical approaches to how businesses interface with each other. Currently, a myriad of one-to-one contracts create numerous interfaces, adding complexity and friction to flows of information and remuneration.

Blockchain?

Multi-party alliance-type contracts may help reduce these issues, while also fostering a more inclusive approach to delivering clients’ projects (advocating ‘integrators’ rather than ‘contractors’, the ICE-led Project 13 is a key initiative here), while emerging technologies such as blockchain are being proposed as a basis for ‘smart contracts’.

IBM Blockchain slideMuch-hyped, blockchain was elegantly de-mystified by IBM’s Tim Rook at the recent second Salesforce construction conference (24 January 2019; view Salesforce white paper here).* Rook talked about the potential to authenticate industry transactions from end to end (while admitting construction was still maybe 5-10 years from achieving any kind of token value exchange between parties to those transactions). IBM has helped launch numerous blockchain systems – all enshrining the core principles of consensus, provenance, immutability, finality and shared view. Given construction’s continuing poor levels of productivity, he suggested digital technologies such as blockchain could save time, remove cost (by reducing overheads, disputes and waste), reduce risk, and increase trust – a rare commodity in an often-adversarial industry.

Video-based contracts?

Perhaps less new technologies that we use daily might also resolve potential disputes – particularly for small-scale modernisation, refurbishment or repair works? A Finnish start-up is advocating something novel….

SessioTomas Westerholm, CEO and founder of Helsinki, Finland-based Sessio Software has developed an alternative approach to formulating and monitoring agreements to deliver construction works using video. He believes video-contracts might According to this Finnish news report, Westerholm believes video contracts can help resolve the misunderstandings and missed deadlines that are often an unavoidable part of renovation works.

Sessio video contract imageIt is a simple idea. Using the Sessio app, users record a local video or a video call where they describe the specifics of the works. The captured audio and video can then be augmented by still photographs upon which the user can draw – and the material is then quickly merged into a ‘video contract’. The process takes little time (certainly far less than drafting a traditional contract and associated schedules) and also enables parties to a contract to discuss and agree the renovation works without having to physically be where the works will take place. “And as the works progress, there are always additional details that need to be agreed on,” says Westerholm.

Usually such details are discussed verbally, since writing everything down would take too long. But things often don’t work out exactly as discussed or the works end up taking longer than expected. Westerholm believes a video contract, created with Sessio’s app, changes this as it works as a record of the agreement. Westerholm hopes that this will help bring about a transformation of behavioural patterns, as a recording will encourage renovation companies to be precise with what they promise and deliver.

Sessio is at the early stages of its journey, having a few part-time employees, and an early stage app updated in November 2019. But Westerholm – an architect by training – believes that once construction site supervisors have a chance to try the app, they will quickly see its benefits and start using it at their sites. The report highlights the immediate time and cost savings to construction businesses from eliminating the need to drive to the location to discuss the works.

“We all carry portable devices that are always connected and have highly sophisticated tech. This allows for entirely new kinds of services, and I’m sure there’s still massive untapped potential for new ideas.”

If blockchain sounds too complex and video doesn’t appeal, why not just adopt a simpler approach to contracts? For example, UK contract evangelist Sarah Fox advocates 500-word contracts to build trust and avoid disputes….

(* Read about Salesforce’s first construction council conference here; Salesforce is a client of pwcom.co.uk Ltd.)

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/02/rethinking-construction-contracts-blockchain-video/

TenderSpace rebrands: enter Copronet

Copronet logoTenderSpace rebrands as Copronet, the latest UK attempt to build a construction industry business platform.

It’s taken a couple of years, but the Dorset, UK-based construction business platform TenderSpace has finally changed its name, rebranding as Copronet.

Soft-launched in early 2016, TenderSpace provided tools to connecting construction businesses at different stages of projects. Tools included work, team and product finders, a profile builder, a finance checker, a cost analysis tool, a quick quote tool and a project hub. Two years ago founder and CEO David Stapleton told me that, despite the name, the business was “rather more than e-tendering – it’s a name that we could perhaps improve upon in due course.” Copronet (no relation to CoProNet.Wales, the Co-production Network for Wales) was launched this week on 4 February 2019: I imagine the name was devised to suggest ‘construction professional network’).

The platform claims it will give the construction industry a new way to connect, collaborate and grow. It is aimed at everyone in construction – trades, contractors, project managers, clients, architects, specialists, building firms and enterprise-level businesses. Copronet seeks to help members build private networks through which they can identify and connect with relevant professionals from across the industry, and find work. The site lists over 150,000 projects. Its suite of built-in tools enables users to access project management, time tracking, credit rating reports, and other tools. It offers a no or low cost platform (its Pro Plan is £7/user/month) from which to do business, run projects and showcase work.

David Stapleton Stapleton said:

“A big part of this was making sure Copronet was accessible to everyone. We believe everyone should have access to the best technology without having to worry about the cost, so there will always be a free plan for Copronet. And our pricing for other plans will always be affordable.”

Copronet: the Extranet Evolution perspective

Copronet is not the first platform to attempt to build either a UK construction version of LinkedIn or a marketplace to connect different parts of project delivery chain. At the height of the dot.com boom at the turn of the century, several (ultimately shortlived) industry portals were launched (for example: AECVenture, Arrideo and Mercadium) but none gained any great traction and they soon dissolved.

TCNTen years later, I got excited about the social media boom, urging construction to get social, and March 2010 saw the launch of tCn (‘The Construction Network’).* This venture soon faltered, partially undermined by the ongoing recession in the UK industry and gradual professional adoption of mainstream social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Digital adoption and willingness to use social networks has since advanced, so Copronet may fare better (though I am uneasy about the name: a web search  shows ‘copro’ can relate to dung or faeces, as in ‘coprophagous’).

There have been more successful efforts to create AEC networks in other parts of the world. In the US, for example, BuildingConnected was founded in 2012, helps clients and general contractors to find and hire qualified contractors for their projects. Claiming to be the world’s largest and most active digital network of construction professionals (although almost exclusively US-based), the portal was acquired by Autodesk in December 2018.  Other vendors also offer bid management (e-tendering) tools, both generic and industry-specific, but it is an area that often remains somewhat parochial. Procurement regimes vary greatly internationally, and are often closely scrutinised by lawyers and national regulators, so such portals often end up being nation-specific.

(* Disclosure: I briefly provided some paid consultancy to tCn.)

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/02/tenderspace-rebrands-enter-copronet/

International BIM education

Efforts to extend use of building information modelling are in progress around the world. Vaughan Harris targets a BIM e-book at Africa, while France’s HEXABIM pushes webinars.

Various governments are endorsing the use of BIM with their respective industries then seeking to develop the necessary skills, processes, standards and technologies. January 2019 has also seen publication of the first two parts of a new international standard, ISO 19650, founded on British standard BS 1192 and publicly available specification PAS 1192-2 (see BIMplus news). This week I also got news of two efforts to expand knowledge and understanding of BIM.

BIM in South Africa

BIM It's your moveVaughan Harris of the BIM Institute in Cape Town, South Africa, has been evangelising about construction digitisation for some years, and has written a free e-book entitled “BIM: It’s Your Move!” (downloadable here).

For those on other continents who think that industry fragmentation, skills shortages, low margins, silo mentalities and under-investment in IT are peculiar to their particular markets, Harris says this is common to many African markets too. The book is a personal collection of articles, interviews and essays, with one of the most interesting summarising a survey of African construction business leaders.

The survey found strong industry recognition of the need to improve workflow efficiency and document management, but only 55% of respondents sought information on BIM, “while 35% had never heard of it”. Harris says the African continent lags far behind the first world, robbing African asset owners of the opportunities to capitalise on digital construction opportunities, and preventing construction professionals from increasing their own profits through digitisation. Apparently, Ethiopia is the only African country adopting BIM through its government ministries.

Harris has drawn heavily upon the UK experience in raising awareness and then developing the necessary processes, structures and skills to use the supporting technologies, including common data environments (CDEs). He underlines that BIM has impacts beyond the design and construction processes, helping owners and others make better use of their built assets and associated data.

There are also pages of advice about how individuals and organisations might move forward with BIM – informed by Harris’s knowledge of African construction businesses and industry attitudes and behaviours. For example, he is critical of the role of in-house IT departments:

“In a continent of volatile internet connectivity and spotty IT literacy, IT departments regularly wield too much power over the control and management of work processes. This disproportionately affects the bigger construction companies in South Africa. It results in slow technological innovations in our local industry where processes such as BIM lag terribly.”

Harris is clearly passionate about the need for African construction to digitise, but also pragmatic about how individuals, businesses and industry organisations need to change. Particularly for those in Africa looking for localised information and advice – his Institute launched its NAVBIM platform in November 2018 (post) – this is a good read.

HEXABIM and biminar

Hexabim logoIn France, HEXABIM has been providing an online resource about BIM for some years (with content in both French and English). An independent digital platform specialising in BIM and digital transition, it claims a professional network of over 8000 members, and had some two million page views in 2018.

Biminar screencapHEXABIM’s Mohamed Khettab is now extending the offering with a new service called biminar. This has been created “to meet the growing and urgent global demand for high-quality online BIM education and knowledge-sharing.” Essentially, it offers a platform for content providers (BIM technology providers and services businesses, for example) to record webinars for online delivery.

Conventional face-to-face events can be expensive and time-consuming to attend, so webinars have emerged as a popular way for publishers and event organisers to engage with audiences, with interactive chat or Q&A tools to respond to particular information needs. The biminar service also suggests webinar content might also be converted to form an e-book or article(s) – further extending the reach of a provider’s material.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/02/international-bim-education/

GenieBelt and Aproplan merge to form LetsBuild

Consolidation in the European SaaS/mobile construction software market as complementary solutions from GenieBelt and Aproplan combine, forming LetsBuild.

LetsBuild logoBelgium-based construction software developer Aproplan and Denmark’s GenieBelt are to merge, creating a new business, LetsBuild, providing a “build phase end-to-end digital platform”.

According to the joint news release, the (no cash) merger responds “to a rising need to deliver an all-in-one solution, supporting on-site planning, progress communication, snagging, drawings and checklists.”

Both businesses were formed  to replace use of pen and paper for managing on-site construction processes. GenieBelt focused on on-site planning and progress communication giving customers a real-time schedule and progress reporting; Aproplan chose to tackle on-site follow-up communication by digitising snagging, drawings and checklists. Both companies experienced demand for functionality that the other company provided.

Thomas Goubau and Klaus NyengaardAproplan CEO Thomas Goubau (left in photo) and GenieBelt CEO Klaus Nyengaard had met regularly to discuss developments in the construction technology sector and how to increase efficiency and minimise rework, miscommunication and errors. Both were committed to ‘simple-to-use’ products, and in October 2018 concluded that the best way to realise this was to unite the companies, create a broader product and cover more needs in the market. Nyengaard said:

“Our customers tell us that switching between tools to manage processes is a pain on a busy site, and makes data collection cumbersome. Their dream is to have one simple-to-use solution where they can keep track of planning and progress, access all documents and support processes such as snagging and quality checking. That is exactly what we will provide with LetsBuild.”

Goubau, set to be CCO in LetsBuild, said:

“We could have decided to just cooperate and integrate features from each other. But since our products complement each other extremely well and our companies have shared values, we felt this was an unmissable opportunity.”

The two companies’ products are currently used on around 50,000 projects in more than 35 countries (a reduction on early GenieBelt claims). The two have offices in Copenhagen, Brussels, London, Paris and Lodz; LetsBuild will have joint head offices in Brussels and Copenhagen, and a total combined headcount of 122 people.

GenieBelt back story

GenieBelt logoCopenhagen-based GenieBelt was founded in 2013, promoting a simple-to-start-and-use, mobile-first philosophy as an antidote to the feature-bloat of some other (PC-oriented, pre-smartphone) systems on the market. It was also focused more on the needs of the small and medium-sized businesses (the vast majority of the construction industry in just about every country), and was priced attractively for that market, with a 2014 “free forever” offering to get users to trial the system (as a result, it attracted lots of early users, allowing it to claim its use on 8000 projects in over 100 countries two years later).

It recruited former Woobius founder Bob Leung to lead its user experience work (February 2014), and tested real-time communication approaches familiar to many users of social media applications. It raised €700k in funding in 2015, and a further €2m in September 2016. At that time Nyengaard said the European sector needed a break-through workflow management solution that had the potential to challenge the status quo, and head off competition from the likes of the USA’s Plangrid (now active in Europe, and recently acquired for US$875m by Autodesk).

Aproplan back story

Aproplan was established in Belgium in 2012 but spread its European operations into the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, marketing itself as “the construction software that lets you keep track of your progress and collaborate with your team.” In January 2017 AproPlan CEO Thomas Goubau told me about their focus on creating open and transparent communication via a simple interface. Their concentration on ‘workflow in the field’ aimed to support asset owners and managers and their professional teams engaged in repetitive data-recording tasks (“What, where and when”): snagging, health and safety, security and environmental inspections, for example. The company’s asset strategy was “Mobile and API first,” and he mentioned Geniebelt as one of a batch of complementary tools. At that time, AproPlan had 48,000 users in 3,500 different customer organisations.

Analysis

The construction mobile application market is growing and is increasingly competitive. There are numerous small players seeking to offer point solutions to resolve particular information or scheduling bottlenecks in site-based activities – often addressing particular issues or processes employed in a particular country, in a particular vertical industry sector, or a particular type of project. Such players, many of them startups, can struggle to achieve a critical mass and widespread adoption, as sales and marketing in a highly fragmented industry sector with many 1000s of potential SME subcontractor customers is challenging.

At the same time we have seen recent consolidation among some of the major international players, plus expansion into Europe by US firms. These businesses often have deeper marketing budgets, a wider product portfolio, and higher brand awareness.

Against such competition, when two businesses identify that they offer complementary solutions, and can help each other expand into their respective territories, while also pooling sales and marketing, software development and administrative overheads, the logic for a merger is clear. The combined LetsBuild offering may also tick more boxes for prospective customers wanting an expanded set of construction site-related functionalities.

The main gap in the current offering, though, is support for building information modelling-related processes. The Autodesk/Plangrid deal potentially brings BIM and construction closer together – something that Trimble/Viewpoint’s Field View was also aiming to achieve, and where Bentley Systems also has ambitions – but I suspect that the people and companies LetsBuild is targetting have yet to start their BIM journeys. While BIM remains a distant prospect and customers’ day-to-day reality is more about replacing paper-based processes, then LetsBuild will find some ready takers. Perhaps, like Plangrid, it will one day be acquired by a BIM-enabling business looking to connect to construction processes, or maybe it will become part of an ‘ecosystem’ of point solution providers from which customers can select and integrate their favoured applications.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/01/geniebelt-and-aproplan-merge-to-form-letsbuild/

Autodesk buys BuildingConnected

Autodesk’s December 2018 acquisition of the BuildingConnected bid management platform for US $275m embeds Autodesk in the US pre-construction sector.

BuildingConnected LogoOn 20 December 2018, just over a month after announcing it was acquiring US-based SaaS construction management developer Plangrid, Autodesk announced it was also acquiring another US company: BuildingConnected, for US$275m. This San Francisco-based company specialises in pre-construction processes including bid management and risk analysis, and Autodesk believes its network of over 700,000 construction professionals presents an opportunity to create a robust digital marketplace for construction goods and services.

BuildingConnect WorldFounded in 2012, BuildingConnected helps real estate owners and general contractors find and hire qualified contractors for their projects, and claims to be the largest and most active digital network of construction professionals, though the vast majority of its users are based in the United States. Customers include Turner Construction, McCarthy, Mortenson, StructureTone, Skanska, Clark Construction, Ryan Companies and AECOM.

BuildingConnected CEO and co-founder Dustin DeVan said:

“Bid management is a critical step in preconstruction, since bidding is the genesis of construction projects. Our game-changing suite of preconstruction tools are saving customers time and money. We’ve helped thousands of owners, general contractors and subcontractors streamline their businesses and communicate better. Together with Autodesk, we can expand the platform’s capabilities and scale globally.”

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost said:

autodesk logo“We are investing in digitizing and automating construction workflows. Autodesk’s goal is to connect construction processes across design, build and operations. BuildingConnected has proven to customers the tremendous value in moving from traditional rolodexes, whiteboards, emails and spreadsheets to an easy-to-use digital bidding platform. BuildingConnected, along with Autodesk BIM 360, Revit, AutoCAD, and our acquisitions of PlanGrid and Assemble Systems, gives us a comprehensive construction offering and go-to-market capabilities. We look forward to integrating our recent acquisitions and making construction Autodesk’s next billion-dollar business.”

Jim Lynch, Vice President and General Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions said:

“This acquisition provides an opportunity for Autodesk and BuildingConnected to connect every business in the construction industry, becoming the definitive source of information throughout the sector. Our tools empower all stakeholders with greater visibility and better information to make immediate decisions. We’re excited about creating a robust digital marketplace for the global construction industry, helping to boost productivity, while lowering cost and risk.”

In addition to its BC Pro bid-management platform, BuildingConnected offers TradeTapp, a subcontractor risk analysis platform, and Bid Board Pro, a platform that helps subcontractors manage bids.

The Extranet Evolution view

The deal will strengthen Autodesk’s position as a service provider in the north American contracting and subcontracting market, but – if it intends to do so – extending this capability to new markets will be challenging. Different countries have different approaches to procurement, and the process of bidding – or tendering – for contracts is generally quite complex, sometimes highly regulated, and has proved slow to change.

In the UK construction industry, for example, e-tendering has been offered by various vendors since the early 2000s. I was at SaaS collaboration vendor BIW Technologies (today part of Oracle Aconex) when it launched a tendering option, and UK rivals, including 4Projects (today part of Trimble’s Viewpoint business), Asite and now-defunct BuildOnline, were soon doing the same. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors published guidance on the area and, in 2007, jumped into the marketplace too, with RICSeTendering.com, and there were other stand-alone tendering solutions too, but use of online e-tendering tools long remained a minority pursuit – most tenders were still sent and returned by post or email.

In Australia, e-tendering was also something developed by Aconex (initially through its Bidcontender service) and by regional competitors such as EstimateOne (July 2014 post).

Bentley logo 2017And BuildingConnected is not the only player in the US market. In October 2017, Bentley Systems announced it was acquiring eBid Systems, developer of the ProcureWare solution. Bentley claimed eBid Systems provided procurement solutions to “hundreds” of organisations, collectively managing over 270,000 vendor accounts.

Scaling BuildingConnected to become a global platform for bid management will involve extensive internationalisation of the solution to suit different legal, financial and industry prequalification and procurement regimes, as well as multiple language support. So far as the core solution is concerned, this Autodesk deal looks likely only to have an impact in the US, at least in the short-to-medium term.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/01/autodesk-buys-buildingconnected/

BIMStore revamps

bimstore2019 logoUK-based BIM object library bimstore launched its new version 4.0 at an event at the Rocketspace venue in Islington, London yesterday (17 January 2019 – news release).

Originally launched in 2011 by Newcastle-based architectural practice Space Group, bimstore claims to be the UK’s largest manufacturer-specific BIM library, and sits alongside the group’s consultancy business, BIM Technologies. The platform was rebuilt in 2013 when the platform was being used by 70 manufacturers to host over 2000 objects, and had some 10,000 registered specifiers using the site (access is free to specifiers), who had completed 400,000 downloads since launch. Like other providers in the product library field, Bimstore’s business model is based on manufacturers paying an annual hosting charge; manufacturers can also commission the business to create their BIM object content.

The product library landscape

This has become a competitive marketplace with Newcastle neighbours NBS’s National BIM Library and SpecifiedBy (posts) also up against Sweden’s BIMObject, Cobuilder’s GoBIM from Norway, the US’s SmartBIM, BIM&Co from France and MagiCAD Cloud from Finland, among others, as well as manufacturers’ own object-hosting websites. In October 2017, BRE announced its DataBook project, set to launch in 2018, linking BIM objects to fixed manufacturers’ data sources.

UK BIM Alliance product data reportIn October 2018, the UK BIM Alliance industry organisation published a State of the Nation report, A fresh way forward for product data (PDF). Written by a group chaired by Su Butcher, this highlighted issues including the lack of a commonly agreed standard for digital product data in the UK or in Europe, the need for ‘a golden thread’ to manage product data through the project lifecycle, and problems with how product data is currently hosted and managed. On this last point, it particularly noted how the different hosting companies each had slightly different ‘standards’ for object creation, which were not all aligned with each other. The report recommended that manufacturers’ product information management (PIM) databases should be linked (ie by API) to any company hosting their information, enabling manufacturers to manage one database with all other information automatically linked – ie a “single source of the truth”.

bimstore 4.0

Rob CharltonBimstore founders Rob Charlton, left, and Adam Ward presented the new version to invited guests at Rocketspace, noting the retirement of ‘Ermintrude’, the brand’s yellow cow mascot, and its replacement by a new dynamic logo (the one above is just one of over five million variants). Charlton said the new bimstore, developed over 14 months, aimed to break down silos between specifiers and manufacturers, encourage collaboration, and champion better ways of working. It also aimed to meet the recommendations of the post-Grenfell Hackitt Review for a more rigorous digital ‘golden thread of building information’.

Aspects of the new site’s operation resemble familiar social media platforms such as LinkedIn, with abilities to create personal profiles and to connect to and message individual users, and so build communities, both generic and specialist. In a live demo, Ward showed “curated collections“: bundles of content (either private or public) created within bimstore to support particular communities or specialisms – temporary works, retro furniture, etc. The platform also offered a few gimmicks to encourage communication and engagement – t-shirts, special status (“pineapple”, “veteran”) for users of the site’s discussion forum, etc.

Adam WardManufacturers can log into the platform and view real-time activity feeds and metrics (the number of times their objects have been viewed or downloaded, their top products, top search terms, etc). Ward demonstrated the bimstore Data Manager showing how easy it was to edit metadata and to create new variants of objects in the system. Importantly, the platform can be connected via an API to a manufacturer’s own website, PIM application or platform – fulfilling that UKBIMA recommendation for a ‘single source of truth’. API interfaces also enable data downloads from bimstore into a manufacturer’s CRM system – potentially, a powerful aid to product sales and marketing teams. New-look bimstore also now has ‘apps’: modular 3rd party integrations with bimstore partner solutions.

Particularly interesting from a project collaboration and whole life value perspective, Ward said bimstore’s development roadmap includes integrations with project ‘endpoints’ so that manufacturers might connect in real-time to specific instances where their products have been installed and are now operated as part of built assets.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/01/bimstore-revamps/

BIMtech provider Opentree acquired by Graitec

UK-based document and BIM process management software developer Opentree has been acquired by Graitec.

Opentree logoTeesside, UK-based Opentree, a provider of enterprise document management solutions, has been acquired – for an undisclosed amount – by France-based Graitec, an Autodesk reseller and developer of BIM, fabrication and design software (it has a UK office in Southampton). Opentree’s software portfolio includes a PAS 1192-compliant BIM workflow solution, Cabinet (May 2017 post), widely integrated with several providers of common data environments (CDEs), including Oracle Aconex, Business Collaborator, Viewpoint (October 2017 post) and Autodesk’s BIM360 Docs.

Cabinet logoCabinet supports the in-house “work-in-progress” phase of BIM authoring, prior to designs being shared with the client’s wider project team. UK BIM expert Mervyn Richards worked with the firm to ensure it supports the BS1192:2007 processes required at Level 2, with Cabinet helping compliance through automated file naming and seamless upload to the client’s CDE.

Practices and businesses with a further requirement to publish project data externally to a hosted environment are then often faced with the challenge of interfacing with  multiple CDE vendors. Opentree’s Cabinet enables firms to manage internal documentation and model information locally throughout the project lifecycle and then publish to CDEs of their – or the principal contractors’ – choice, as and when a particular project dictates. A Software-as-a-Service version of Cabinet has been in development and this will continue.

Along with engineering client businesses such as Sellafield and TSP Engineering, UK AEC customers include UK contractor NM Group, offsite construction specialist Fusion Building Systems, and the Purcell design practice.

Graitec view

In the company’s announcement, Graitec president Francis Guillemard says:

Graitec logo“this acquisition will be pivotal in helping our customers with the day to day management of their project documentation from initial conception and tender, through to project delivery.”

Steve Houlder, Graitec COO says:

“The BIM market and the BIM for Manufacturing market is growing at a rapid rate in many countries. One of the major difficulties faced by our customers at all levels from housing development through to capital projects, is the management of data from project conception to the start of the collaboration phase, ensuring data consistency and adherence to standards being one of the most important topics. With Opentree we can address this growing issue for many of our customers, aligning Graitec and Autodesk technologies.”

 In September 2018, Graitec launched its BIMUP programme, offering customers tailored implementation and training support in deploying BIM. Opentree’s Cabinet would seem to be a strong addition to this offering.

Opentree view

Opentree MD Andrew Frank says:

Andrew Frank“By joining Opentree and Graitec, our customers will further benefit from being owned by a company with a long history in design and collaboration, who have the skills and expertise to push Opentree even further into the market of W.I.P. management, We see this a key strategy for all customers to manage this process better than they do today.”

Graitec says it will now offer data management and W.I.P. management to customers who have been trying to solve the problem. By helping them adhere to data standards, deliver consistency, conform to both BS1192 and the upcoming ISO19650 BIM standards, Graitec claims it will be at the forefront in helping customers manage their data and projects effectively enabling them to achieve  time and cost savings, as well as improving internal and external data quality processes.

[Disclosure: Opentree has been a client of pwcom.co.uk Limited since July 2017. This post is not part of its work for the company.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/01/opentree-acquired-by-graitec/

Deltek acquires Avitru

Deltek has expanded its software offering to architectural and other design firms by acquiring US-based Avitru, a deal which brings with it an ongoing commercial partnership with the US architects body, the AIA.

Deltek logoIn yet another consolidation in the architecture, engineering and construction software space, Deltek, the ever-acquisitive Virginia, US-based ERP software vendor, has bought (for an undisclosed amount) another US-based business, Avitru (formerly also known as Arcom).

The deal complements Deltek’s acquisition of UK-based practice management software specialist Union Square in July 2016, which enhanced Deltek’s reach into professional design practices and small contracting firms, particularly in the UK and Australasia – a sector also targeted by firms such as the UK’s Cubic Interactive (with its Rapport3) and CMAP, plus Australia’s Total Synergy, who launched its latest Enterprise solution at Digital Construction Week in London in October 2018 (post).

Avitru

Avitru logoAvitru, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is a developer of building specification systems, including including MasterSpec (a product of The American Institute of Architects), SpecText, SpecBuilder Cloud and e-SPECS. Deltek’s announcement says the acquisition expands its offerings for the AECO industry by bringing in more resources, capabilities and expertise. Avitru CEO Jim Contardi says:

“Avitru’s mission has been to empower architects, engineers, contractors and owners to make better, faster decisions. Now, with Deltek, the incredibly powerful combination of our solutions will give architects even more tools to design, build and operate in a better built environment. Avitru couldn’t have found a better home!”

Interestingly, Avitru has a strategic partnership with the US professional membership association, the AIA – a 93,000-strong body representing architects. The AIA created MasterSpec some 50 years ago to support the development of accurate specification documents for construction projects. Deltek will continue Avitru’s partnership with AIA.

This relationship between a professional association and a technology provider echoes that of the UK’s RIBA and Newcastle-based NBS. The latter was the trading name of RIBA Enterprises, providing specification information resources, and a range of software tools including the National BIM Library, the NBS BIM Toolkit and the NBS Online Viewer. Its latest software development was a cloud-based platform incorporating specification and BIM standards: NBS Chorus, launched in August 2018.

Two months earlier, however, the RIBA announced it was selling a £31.8 million stake in RIBA Enterprises, to LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Bank (read Architects’ Journal report). LDC and RIBA both hold significant minority stakes, with NBS’s management holding the remainder of the business’s shares.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/01/deltek-acquires-avitru/

A first look at ACCA’s usBIM CDE

usBIM is a cloud-based BIM collaboration platform or common data environment (CDE) from Italian software developer ACCA, set to be launched in 2019.

ACCA

ACCA logoBased in Italy, about 40km east of Naples, ACCA is a software developer specialising in applications for the architectural, engineering and construction industries. Founded in 1989, it has been  developing solutions for wide range of construction industry needs, and now has over 90 solutions in its portfolio. These range from architectural design, bills of quantities, structural design and analysis, maintenance plans and facility management, to health and safety, energy efficiency, scaffolding, technical systems engineering, fire prevention, renewable energy and office management. A member of BuildingSMART International, ACCA claims to have the largest number of IFC-certified BIM software solutions in the world.

ACCA’s main architectural design authoring tool is a BIM application called Edificius. Unlike some well-known industry solutions, this is available on a convenient Pay-As-You-Go monthly plan for €59pcm, or on an annual license subscription plan for €599/year. There are also variants of Edificius for landscape and MEP design use. Like its fellow European design authoring software vendor and BuildingSMART member, Bricsys (posts), ACCA has also been developing a cloud-based collaboration solution.

usBIM

usBIM environmentComplementing Edificius and other locally installed products will be usBIM, a cloud-based BIM management platform. Currently undergoing final auditing and testing ahead of a 2019 launch, usBIM will provide a CDE (Common Data Environment) and enable direct online interaction with model-related objects, data and documents.

In keeping with ACCA’s open standards/BuildingSMART ethos, usBIM allows users to build and manage entire models using open formats (IFC, PDF, XML, etc) rather than proprietary ones. usBIM users can interact with the platform anywhere, anytime and from any device without having to use any proprietary software.

usBIM screenshotThe core platform functionality is supported by a browser tool (usBIM.browser) and by a project management application called PriMus (through which users can can “share and exchange documents in open formats such as XML, PDF, JPG, etc. and able to guarantee full authenticity, security and source of the data…”). The core cloud solution stack comprises:

  • usBIM.viewer+ – a plug-in that simplifies communication between the different collaborators on the platform, enabling them to view IFC files of 3D virtual models from BIM software such as Edificius®, Revit®, ArchiCAD®, Allplan®, Tekla®, VectorWorks® and others … without the need for the native BIM software. Multiple IFC files can be combined in a single view, to simultaneously view all the design aspects in an integrated way.
  • usBIM.gantt – a plug-in for project management, scheduling and 4D time simulation of the whole construction process. Project managers can assign a time-line related property to each component of the BIM model in IFC format to see the entire construction process.
  • usBIM.clash – a BIM clash detection plug-in that can be integrated with the usBIM.platform and with other ACCA software BIM authoring software and tools, and which allows users to check and manage conflicts between federated IFC BIM models.
  • usBIM.code – a BIM code checking plug-in that allows control and validation of the IFC model with regard to standards and procedures outlining the scope of the project requirements.

ACCA’s Tony de Palma says usBIM is hosted in Europe: “The service is hosted using two servers in the EU territory, with data storage and processing all undertaken exclusively within EU territories. The service infrastructure follows the CISPE (Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe) code of conduct, and incorporates data protection systems in line with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”

The usBIM.Platform CDE has been tested by various Italian local authorities including the Provveditorato ai Lavori Pubblici di Lombardia & Emilia Romagna. De Palma says subscription fees for the service have yet to be finalised but are, at least initially, likely to be based upon a single administration fee, with no limit on number of users or number of projects.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/12/a-first-look-at-accas-usbim-cde/

Procore closes US$75m funding round

Procore logoCarpinteria, California-based SaaS construction technology provider Procore has announced that it has closed a $75 million funding round led by Tiger Global Management (in October 2018, Tiger Global raised $3.75bn for its latest VC tech investment fund, surpassing its initial target of $3bn – FT).

This round, which values the company at $3 billion (up from $1bn in 2016 when it  could initially claim “Unicorn” status) will be leveraged to support product development, partner platform expansion, and continued investment in hiring and developing top talent. Tooey Courtemanche, Procore founder and CEO said:

Tooey Courtemanche“At Procore we’re committed to delivering products and solutions that improve the lives of everyone in the construction industry, so we will continue to invest in the core areas of our business that have direct positive impact for our users. We believe business drives culture, and culture drives business. This investment round will allow us to advance product innovation, expand on the largest partner and developer ecosystem in construction technology, and continue to hire and develop the best talent to support our mission and vision.”

The company says it currently has over 1,300 full-time employees working across 12 offices around the globe, and will exit the year with more than 5,000 customers on projects in over 100 countries.

This latest funding adds to a series of successful rounds totalling around US$180m (including four rounds in 2015 and 2016), that has enabled Procore to expand internationally, including into Australasia and more recently into the UK, and to fund acquisitions – in September 2018, Procore acquired another California-based firm BIMAnywhere, a visual BIM collaboration platform for construction and facilities management (news release).

[Disclosure: I have written occasional freelance pieces for Procore’s Jobsite.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/12/procore-closes-us75m-funding-round/

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