Recently, it seems technology startups are dominating the business sector—so it only makes sense to see them building their way into the construction industry as well. ConstrucTech, an innovation accelerator co-sponsored by UK construction company Colmore Tang and nonprofit Virgin StartUp, is a leading example of how technology can be tapped in an effort to solve some of the construction industry’s greatest challenges.
Colmore Tang and Virgin StartUp collaborated on the ConstrucTech program as way to give established startups the opportunity to advance their business and develop a product, in real time, for a potential client. Virgin StartUp, an organization run through the Virgin company, was created to help young businesses succeed and grow through funding and mentorship. In pairing access to Virgin StartUp resources with direct contact to the executives of Colmore Tang, a company of 87 people, the startups get a huge leg-up in acquiring business and can also test the application of their ideas to make construction companies work more efficiently. In speaking of the project, Colmore Tang CEO Andy Robinson is adamant in his belief how ConstrucTech will allow “the most innovative startups to build the future of construction.”
Within the application process, Colmore Tang asked the applying startups to identify how they could, with technology, improve one of the three challenges facing, not just their company, but the construction sector as a whole. In other words, as Robinson puts it, “ConstrucTech is all about innovation—how do we as a business, and an industry, begin to tackle the major challenges facing us all.” The solutions, provided by the incubator’s startups, have the possibility to set new industry practices for tackling these challenges. Furthermore, the medium on which these innovations would be built is boundless—due to the ways in which technology is relatively accessible in the modern world, these ideas could be available, and scaled, to apply to a variety of projects.
The first challenge, “The People Challenge,” asks startups to submit ideas for how to help improve the experience for the cornerstone of the industry—the construction workers themselves. For Robinson, “the construction industry is people-led and they are the key to the success of the organization … [we want] business we can invest in [who can] create a better business for us but, also, a better industry and a better place for people to work in.” Technology could be used to create safer environments for the workers themselves, as well as streamline the worker’s everyday tasks so their time is used more efficiently. These types of innovations could lead to a healthier jobsites and allow projects to be built faster and at a reduced cost.
The second challenge, “The Smart Materials Challenges,” invites startups to rethink the mediums used in building. The goal within this particular challenge is two-pronged—to find resources that are more sustainable and to make sure those resources don’t sacrifice any safety features or clog the progress of a project with higher costs or repair time.
The final challenge, “The Data Challenge,” wants startups to show how one of the most important tools of the technology industry can be applied to the construction sector. Capturing and analyzing data is essential to any modern business—within construction, this resource can foster a better exchange of information between architects, engineers and site teams. However, for data to truly be effective, it must be able to be read, sent and analyzed in real-time—the product or service that would be able to do this would be an invaluable learning tool for any company. Matthew Sylvester, an engineer for Colmore Tang, sees this ability to integrate data as a key component to the growth and learning for any construction company—in particular, the field could discover how “we can use data from the past to help us better prepare for future projects.”
Technology businesses, for the most part, have been incredibly successful in their demonstrations of efficiency and modernization—two arenas that are, no doubt, also on the forefront of those minds looking to succeed within construction. While the art and technique of creating a building has been a core industry for, one could argue, the entirety of human experience, it is essential to the continuance of the field that it does not just rest in ancient practices. Projects like ConstrucTech are so important as they allow the construction sector to approach the problems faced by every project from an unexplored angle—one which could, possibly, solve those challenges for good. As Robinson seems to state it best, “It’s only together we can build the future of the construction industry.”