AEC Firms Go Outside the Box

This article was written by John Caulfield, Senior Director for Building Team, and published on March 22, 2019 by Building Design + Construction

Who’d have thought that the file cabinet would make a comeback in the digital world?

Want evidence? Just listen to how two developers describe their recently released software products:

“It’s almost like a file cabinet in the cloud,” says George Pontikes, CEO of Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, about Assemble Systems, whose platform helps users manage bids, estimate costs, and plan and run projects and BIM across a project’s network of people and work.

“It becomes a file cabinet,” says Todd Wynne, VP of Business Development and Partnerships with Bluebeam, who with his colleague Joe Williams, while both were at Rogers-O’Brien Construction, developed Atlas, a digital mapping tool that uses geo-location software to bridge the gap between 3D models and 2D drawings.

Aside from their functionality, what distinguishes these tools is that both were incubated by AEC firms with an eye toward commercialization.

While it’s common for firms to develop tools for internal use, the leap to marketing new products to the industry at large is still the exception. Thornton Tomasetti’s CORE studio is one of the more robust examples of an AEC firm that has set up an entity specifically to nurture ideas and evaluate their marketability.

Other firms also want their creations to make a bigger splash. “Kieran Timberlake does only 10 to 15 projects a year, so internal use wouldn’t have the same impact of expanding a product as marketing it to the industry,” says Roderick Bates, LEED AP, Principal and Researcher, Environmental Management and Commercialization with Kieran Timberlake. The ideas that its KT Innovations incubation group has helped shepherd include Tally, a lifecycle analysis app.

When Beck Group set up Beck Technology 23 years ago, its goal was to find ways for contractors and their clients to make decisions and outcomes more predictable. What emerged was Beck’s still-popular Destini suite of products that includes Profiler and Estimator.

Here’s a roundup of six AEC firms who have incubated startups and spinoff companies aimed at commercializing tech tools for the industry. READ MORE