Construction Tech has a vital role to play as we work towards achieving net zero carbon standards, enhancing the supply chain, delivering efficiencies during the construction process and improving safety standards on site – to name but a few and in our view this space does not receive the attention that it deserves. That is why we at PiLabs, Europe’s largest venture capital company in PropTech, believe it is ripe for both technology disruption and evolution.
With construction being at the beginning of the real estate lifecycle, the industry is well placed to be a critical player and set the bar in decarbonization efforts. As more attention is paid to the sector, we believe construction-related innovations will only be more in demand especially those linked to the supply chain and the construction process itself.
Pi Labs has been investing in PropTech since 2015. Our investment strategy is informed by our research and insights and with over 50 investments in the past six years, we’ve established ourselves as a leader in both PropTech investments as well as independent PropTech research. Within the Construction tech industry, we see trends in cost savings, error reduction, improving health and safety, better tracking and tracing of material usage, and improving the tender process.
“Our investment strategy is informed by our research and insights and with over 50 investments in the past six years, we’ve established ourselves as a leader in both PropTech investments as well as independent PropTech research.”
Specifically, within the supply chain, the validation and documentation of materials used during construction will enable a more circular economy approach to any future retrofit or refurbishment and whilst also allowing a more accurate measure of embodied carbon.
Whilst from a construction process perspective the ability to monitor in real time allows for greater accuracy and safety, reducing cost, waste, delays and errors.
Data shows that large projects across asset classes typically take 20 per cent longer to finish than scheduled and run up to 80 per cent over budget. In total, these overruns are expected to cost the global economy £1.2 trillion a year by 2030 as detailed in our ‘Future of Construction Whitepaper’. However, technology solutions could help to reduce time delays and enhance cost savings.
Having a better understanding of the materials flow during the construction process could help reduce costs and help projects run to schedule. During the tender stage, Conwize helps contractors and subcontracts estimate costs during the complex, time-consuming and error prone process. By digitizing the estimating and bidding processes, errors and critical mistakes can be avoided. Meanwhile, during the construction phase, QFlow (https://qualisflow.com/) tracks the materials flow into a construction site, matching it to the bills and purchases. This helps ensure environmental compliance and quality control of materials being used. Furthermore, Contillo (https://www.contilio.com/), in real time, uses visual monitors to create a digital twin of the construction and integrates it into the Building Information Modeling (BIM). This identifies errors in the construction processes, such as wasted materials, increasing the verification that the building was constructed to specification.
Once a building’s core and shell is finished, Propster (https://www.propster.tech/en/) helps streamline the tenant fit out. They maintain configuration options for tenants to choose from, the procurement options of the configurations, and a list of the products that arrive. This streamlines the lessee’s experience, as well as giving them an integrated site to track the environmental footprint of their purchases.
Technology can also assist greatly from a site safety perspective. For example, several of our companies are using wall climbing robots to perform tasks that would otherwise put a human into a dangerous situation.
For instance, Hausbot (https://hausbots.com/) developed a robot that can climb any vertical surface to perform many inspection and maintenance tasks on a building or a bridge. Whilst Okibo (https://okibo.com/) focused their robotic offering to support contractors with construction tasks, such as painting, plastering, sanding, and other wall finishing tasks.
Finally let’s loop back to the ESG agenda which will continue to play a significant role in the future of construction.
It is reported that embodied carbon, that which is embedded during construction - including those emissions that arise from extracting, transporting, manufacturing, and installing materials on site, as well as the operational and end-of-life emissions associated with those materials - can make up almost 75% of total lifetime carbon emissions of an asset. While the use of concrete, with approx. 19,000 tons produced every minute worldwide, is typically the biggest source of carbon emissions in most commercial construction projects. With estimates putting new construction at 2 trillion square foot globally over the next 35 years - the equivalent of an entire New York City every 35 days - this makes measuring the on-site use of building materials, especially concrete, vital to any environmental sustainability effort within the real estate industry. Our investments into some of the companies above will be vital in helping us better understand this process and where and how carbon savings can be found.
As technology continues to permeate the construction industry, businesses will see continued innovations in process management tools, data management tools, and environmental tracking tools. General technology trends, such as big data, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) will make it easier to track and trace materials, improve quality control of the end product to design specifications and give consumers visibility into their ESG footprint. As we gear up for the future, we at Pi Labs continue to believe that Construction Tech will offer many new innovations that will improve our built environment.