Move over, PropTech: this is construction technology’s moment. Predicted to hit a value of £18.4trn by 2021, construction an area ripe for innovation – and at Huckletree Shoreditch, Thomas Mahon is leading the ConTech charge.
With a background in architecture, Tom saw an opportunity to use digital engineering to revolutionise the way architects, designers, engineers and manufacturers realise buildings. Enter Bimorph, the UK’s first computational BIM consultancy. New to the world of Building Information Modelling? The next step up from traditional 2D blueprints and drawings, BIM uses software to create a 3D model of a building, allowing stakeholders to collaborate and optimise designs. Essentially, Bimorph is helping some of the largest names in construction overhaul lengthy, convoluted workflows and outstrip conventional engineering practices – a real competitive advantage.
Ingrained inefficiency isn’t the only challenge Thomas and his team are tackling. With 40% international clients and 60% based in Europe/UK, there’s a very real question about the impact of Brexit on both Bimorph and a change-averse industry.
As the deadline looms, we caught up with Tom about the challenges involved in innovating an old-school sector, what Brexit means for Bimorph and the innovation he’s currently obsessed with…
ON FOUNDER TALES
What unexpected challenges did you come up against when building Bimorph?
“Convincing construction companies that their processes were inefficient and could be improved through automation. Appreciating the economics of investing in technology solutions rather than pure man-power (this applies in all aspects of construction, from building design to the construction site) is the hardest challenge to overcome. This is largely due to construction being a very slow process – building programmes usually last years – and this makes it difficult to identify where budgets are haemorrhaging as the construction process is multi-layered and not easy to quantify (how does one quantify the value of a building architect for example?).
Fortunately, the digital revolution is creating a grassroots movement in many construction companies – BIM being one of the most noteworthy – and a new ConTech market is evolving so it is getting easier to find new clients and promote the benefits applied digital technology has to the industry.”
How might Brexit benefit Bimorph and your international clients?
“Access to global talent and market competitiveness – with the weakening of the pound, there is an opportunity to provide services more competitively to the international market while capitalising on the UK’s position as a tech leader.
More should be done by the Government to mitigate the impacts Brexit will have on the economy; something similar to Startup SG (Singapore Government) is one example I’d like to see, plus any incentives which protect the start-up/business community in the UK and attract new entrepreneurship from home and abroad.”
What’s the sentiment towards Brexit in the wider construction industry?
“Largely negative; the construction sector is typically the first to be impacted by negative economic growth and the last to recover, so there is a high degree of concern that Brexit may trigger a recession and depress the sluggish recovery that the sector has made since the financial crash. Another concern are increased costs arising out of restrictions on free movement of workers and the costs associated with importing goods and services from the EU or beyond without any trade deals in place.
The construction industry is also well known to be highly risk-averse and resistant to change, and the impacts of Brexit will undoubtedly increase risk as it is going to force the industry into creating new supply chains.”
ON THE FUTURE
What’s next for Bimorph?
“Team expansion and implementation of a new growth strategy focusing on scalable software applications which connect emerging technologies that look set to transform the construction industry – we are also seeking investment for the first time to support our expansion plans for the year.”
Who would you like to learn from in the Huckletree community?
“Software engineers, software architects, computational designers and project managers are the main skills we’re looking for at the moment.
We would love to speak with Huckletree members who are currently growing their teams and can share their experiences on how they attract new talent, what initiatives they use for team-building, their approach to project management particularly in respect to agile, and their views/experiences on remote working, especially with the uncertainties created by Brexit.”
What are you fascinated by at the moment?
“Pre-fab construction systems and the integration of software engineering to facilitate its design (generative and algorithmic), evolution and practical application in-the-field.
There is a lot of buzz in construction at the moment for generative design tools which aid the early-stage planning of a building, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, prefabricated construction systems which are enabling rapid construction with high-quality controls as these systems are built in a factory before being shipped to the construction site. However, neither of these two technologies are connected, and bridging the two would be revolutionary.
Furthermore, there is also ample opportunity to integrate with the IOT and create the framework needed for ‘smart cities’ – it’s a really exciting opportunity to merge computer science, computational design, engineering and construction into an entirely new paradigm for building design all the way up to city master-planning.”
How will Brexit impact your business? Share your perspective.