The Nemetschek Group shows how investing in smaller firms can make a difference and help to drive an innovative construction industry

The construction industry is one of the world’s biggest emitters of CO2. Of all materials used in construction, 10% are unnecessary or are wasted, and 30% of all construction work is spent fixing errors. Also, 90% of all large construction projects overrun in terms of time or cost. Why is that the case? One of the most important reasons is the urgent need to catch up in terms of digitalisation.

Creating an innovative construction industry

Even in the planning and construction process, efficiency and sustainability could – and must – be significantly increased through comprehensive digitalisation. Fortunately, a rethink is currently taking place among many stakeholders in the construction lifecycle – driven by an innovative, disruptive start-up industry that is providing countless creative ideas for more sustainable construction. The number of startups in the construction industry developing digital solutions to better connect machines, building materials and people is growing steadily. In addition to know-how and entrepreneurship, these young entrepreneurs bring one crucial quality to the table: the power of persuasion to inspire the rather traditional, conservative and fragmented construction industry to embrace their solutions.

For example, Madaster, based in the Netherlands and Berlin, managed in a very short time to win 33 well-known German companies as supporters for its new online materials` register. With Madaster, every registered building receives a so-called material passport, on which the amount of material, reuse potential, material value and the current residual raw material value are shown. This is a highly recent issue; for instance, the German government is planning the introduction of a digital building resource passport. This is also intended to promote a circular economy in the building sector. Madaster has its finger on the pulse here.

Another example is Sablono, a platform for construction progress control and tracking of prefabricated building components, developed by three young founders in Berlin. With the project management platform developed by Sablono, the execution of complex construction projects can be digitally documented and monitored throughout, with interfaces to leading architecture software solutions included. The Sablono software uses detailed 3D building models. The calculated sequence and schedule plans are based directly on the data from the construction and planning software. The resulting schedules are so detailed that digital control of the construction process becomes possible.

But it is not only in Berlin that innovations are driving the construction industry forward. The Nemetschek Group recently signed a contract to sponsor the TUM Venture Lab Built Environment in Munich. The new innovation centre at the Technical University of Munich deals with the latest technologies: robots that build bridges; constructions planned with artificial intelligence (AI); and smart buildings that adapt to their users through machine learning. TUM conducts interdisciplinary research in this field of the future.

“The construction industry offers a lot of untapped potential for more digitalisation and sustainability, and has an energetic start-up industry at its side,” says Tanja Kufner, head of start-ups and ventures at the Nemetschek Group.

Innovative construction start-ups

Two further examples of successful cooperation between established players in the industry and innovative construction start-ups are the investments of the Nemetschek Group in Reconstruct and Imerso.

Both are primarily concerned with quality control. Reconstruct provides software for remote quality control in the construction and real estate sector based on computer vision and artificial intelligence, making on-time and on-budget projects a reality. The multi-patented offering for automatic error detection makes the workflow between general contractors and building owners significantly more efficient. The Nemetschek Group, one of the world’s leading software vendors for the AEC/O industry, participated in Reconstruct’s Series B financing round last year.

The Norwegian start-up Imerso uses its software solutions to close the gap between Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the construction site with the help of reality capture and computer vision. Here, too, the Nemetschek Group led a financing round last year and thus supports up-and-coming, innovative construction start-ups in the industry.

Imerso enables the simple, everyday use of industrial-grade 3D scanners on the construction site. The scanners capture as-built conditions throughout the construction phase with point clouds – a collection of 3D data points that accurately digitise real physical spaces, such as a building, floor or room. Imerso’s cloud platform automatically analyses the captured 3D scan data and compares it to the BIM model. By combining artificial intelligence with advanced computer vision technology, relevant discrepancies or issues are highlighted and listed in real time so that adjustments can be made directly on site.

These examples show how innovative construction start-ups can drive the digitalisation of the industry. And there is no other way than with more digitalisation and innovative approaches. The complexity of large-scale projects is increasing rapidly. Whereas in the past it was still possible to build on greenfield sites, today new buildings often must fit into existing, already built environments. The number of people involved in the construction process is also growing. Digitalisation can take place in individual work steps or, ideally, holistically across the entire construction lifecycle – from planning through the design and construction phases to building operation.

Virtual construction before the actual build, the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a working method and artificial intelligence can both improve planning and implementation, and identify conflicts and incorrect specifications at an early stage. This is how start-ups centred around digital solutions are driving sustainability across the construction industry, helping to overcome the challenges that both the industry and society face.

 

Desiree Goldstein

Corporate Communication & CSR Nemetschek Group

mediarelations@nemetschek.com

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