Posts tagged with "Technology":

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For Suffolk Construction, new technologies must deliver value, not just change for change’s sake

In his panel presentation, “Enhanced Realities and Immersive Experiences,” at the upcoming Tech+ conference on May 22 in New York City, co-presenter Chris Mayer, chief innovation officer at Suffolk Construction, will discuss how innovative technologies like AR and VR are changing the industry. But chasing the latest “shiny, new object” isn’t what the talk—or even the Tech+ expo—is all about. “It’s not a lack of available technology solutions that could potentially be deployed,” he said. “It’s the idea about how do you focus on delivering value, not just delivering change, and how do you make sure that communication and collaboration are effective in supporting the organization?” Mayer has worked at Suffolk Construction for the past three years, applying what he learned during his 30-year tenure in print media at The Boston Globe to effectively integrate people, process, and technology. In an industry that experienced significant disruption, Mayer says the challenges and solutions employed, along with "focusing on not just bright, shiny objects and technology, but how to create value out of that and the necessary steps of engaging people in the organization, and putting processes in place, were all potentially applicable” to the construction industry where he landed.

Creating value across the board

Data drives innovation, and value creation must remain front and center of the process. Otherwise, organizations risk going out of business if they focus solely on technology for technology’s sake, he says. “Part of the way we want to make sure we’re driving that [value] consistently in the innovation that we’re supporting is, ultimately, 'the juice is worth the squeeze.' You want to find something that’s going to matter.” And what counts isn’t just making incremental improvements to specific functions within the design and construction industry, which Mayer observes is highly distributed. Rather, it’s about taking a holistic view and rethinking the entire process end-to-end, he says. “I think we are at a point in time where looking both at opportunities vertically—which is traditionally where I think people would focus on productivity gains—but also looking horizontally at the entire value chain of the construction process from the initial touch point with the owner, through the design, through the financing stages, through the planning and optimization stages, through the execution and construction control periods into the warranty and the quality control process,” he explained. “The idea about how to scale innovation is a big opportunity for us in the industry.”

The right tool for the job

To that end, Suffolk Construction has created “smart labs” internally that serve as sort of operations control towers where technologies can be invented, tested, implemented, and scaled. Utilizing a series of interconnected screens on what Suffolk calls "huddle walls," the team at Suffolk can simultaneously view project information and financial reports or engage in lean strategies and design planning throughout the lifecycle of a project. The labs also feature a virtual reality "cave" with head-mounted displays in which projects can be viewed individually or as a group. Naturally, Mayer doesn’t see immersive technology as a replacement for existing communication tools, but rather as an alternative. “When I look at virtual reality or augmented reality… I see those as additional options to add value to the conversation,” he said. “Because some information is going to be most effectively delivered in sort of static form on an iPad, but some of it is going to be much more effective if you put on a headset and engage with it.” Whatever is most effective—whether it’s a 3-D model, a 2-D model, or shop drawings—is the tool that should be used, he adds. At the end of the day, that’s what adds the most value.
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OMA wins competition to design tech-focused “Unicorn Island” in China

Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, is rapidly transitioning towards a service-based economy and has enlisted OMA’s help in growing its local tech companies. Following an international design competition sponsored by the Chengdu government, OMA and three other high-profile studios have been chosen to master plan a Unicorn Island for startups and more established tech companies alike. OMA has designed a campus that weaves over the entire island, with skyways that overlap and interconnect, which they call a weave. At the island’s core is the Living Lab, a domed complex with working labs that will be open to the public. Branching out from the Living Lab will be the weave, which will hold startups and “Gazelles” (tech companies worth $1 million or more). The weave has been envisioned as a community space, and OMA has described the area as “village-like” in its project description; this interior section will contain residential housing for employees, a mix of office typologies, and amenity spaces meant to foster mingling between different companies. Along the island’s edge will be headquarters for the "Unicorns" (technology companies worth $1 billion or more), with room for expansion as the companies in the weave increase in value and relocate outwards. From the renderings, it appears that the complex will be massive and extend all the way across Unicorn Island. Interestingly, everything except the waterfront headquarters will be elevated; roads will pass below the floating weave, with four courtyards set aside, one on each block.  OMA has also revealed some of the tower typologies that will be present in the weave, including a circulation tower, sports tower, education tower, and relaxation tower for the 16 cores. With such a tightly-condensed campus, parking had to be moved underground. From the site plans, it seems that parking will run under nearly the entire island, with the exception of the area below the Living Lab, which will become an underground plaza. The design of Unicorn Island was led by Chris van Duijn, OMA Partner and Director of OMA Asia. Mobility in Chain provided the traffic consultation and Transsolar acted as the climate engineer. No estimated completion date or project cost has been revealed at the time of writing. The other three winners of the design competition include Morphosis, Foster + Partners, and a team composed of Arata Isozaki & Associates and Jun Aoki & Associates.
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Take a sneak peek at this year’s TECH+ conference

This is a promotional post presented by TECH+. The landscape of the architecture, engineering, and construction industries is changing dramatically, and those at the forefront of the transformation know that technological innovation is among the driving forces behind it. That’s why for the second year, The Architect’s Newspaper presents TECH+, an annual trade conference and expo that explores innovative technologies used in design and construction, taking place May 22 on the heels of NYCxDESIGN. Located at Metropolitan West in Manhattan—the center of one of America’s fastest-growing tech markets—TECH+ will showcase the latest in smart building systems, advanced materials, and innovative products that are reshaping the built environment of today and tomorrow. From cutting-edge virtual reality–aided design tools to mobile apps, parametrics to rapid prototyping and fabrication, this inspiring and forward-thinking event will feature a lineup of visionary speakers, compelling panels, and live product demonstrations from industry-leading developers and start-ups alike. TECH+ will bring together architects, engineers, designers, builders, real estate professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, software developers, students, and makers to inspire new ideas, encourage cross-pollination, stimulate innovation, and establish vital connections. Far from a run-of-the-mill mega-conference, TECH+ consists of a highly curated group of architecture and technology leaders responsible for the strategic direction of their firms. “We are excited to bring back TECH+ to New York City for the second time,” said Diana Darling, publisher of The Architect’s Newspaper. “This year features two stages with industry leaders and innovative disrupters primed to change the way we do business.” This year’s keynote speaker is Dennis Shelden, director of Digital Building Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who led the development of architect Frank Gehry’s digital practice as director of R&D and director of computing prior to cofounding Gehry Technologies in 2002. Presented by Microsol Resources, the keynote will take place at the TechPerspectives main stage, from which four additional panels will explore topics including BIM, collaboration, sustainability, and visualization. Also, new to TECH+ is a series of Lightning Talks throughout the day from leading exhibitors and cutting-edge start-ups located on the expo floor stage. Panel discussions include Jonatan Schumacher, director of CORE studio at Thornton Tomasetti, and Jan Leenknegt, architect and BIM manager at BIG, who will examine how to connect design and data through the project life cycle; Paul Kassabian, associate principal at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, and Steve Jones, senior director at Dodge Data & Analytics, will address unifying project teams and technology; Ian Molloy, senior product manager at Autodesk, Alexandra Pollock, director of design technology at FXCollaborative, and Christopher Mackey, building scientist at Payette, will discuss designing for energy efficiency; and Iffat Mai, practice application development leader at Perkins+Will, Christopher Mayer, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Suffolk Construction, and Christopher Connock, design computation director at KieranTimberlake, will explore enhanced realities and immersive experiences. “TECH+ is a new type of conference,” said Darling. “We’re focusing on completely new ideas and techniques, and gauging where the future of the AEC will be and how we get there.” Below are some of the exhibitors who will be at this year’s TECH+ conference: Founded in New York City in 1898 as National Blueprint Inc., BluEdge has evolved into an industry leader in print and technology services for the AEC industry and beyond. BluEdge is widely recognized for its unmatched customer service, and expertise in 3-D technologies, creative graphics, managed print services, and document management solutions. Today, its service footprint extends across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Cove.tool is the first commercial software for optimizing cost and energy. The tool provides automated guidance to save up to 3 percent off the cost of construction while increasing performance of the building by up to 40 percent. The cloud-based tool helps architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners make better selections of building technologies by running thousands of parallel energy simulations. Developed by architects, building science experts, engineers, and sustainability consultants, the tool is integrated into the design process with plug-ins to Revit and Rhino for interoperability and parametric design. Adoption of cove.tool could dramatically reduce carbon emissions worldwide while helping owners reduce the cost of their buildings. FenestraPro Premium for Revit is an intuitive and easy-to-use add-in that enables architects to design energy-efficient building facades to comply with building regulations and required performance, without compromising the aesthetic of the facade. It integrates building design with performance, allows the architect to maintain control of the aesthetic of the building, and improves the design process by eliminating costly late-stage redesign fees. GRAPHISOFT® ignited the BIM revolution in 1984 with ARCHICAD®, the industry’s first BIM software for architects. GRAPHISOFT continues to lead the industry with innovative solutions such as its revolutionary BIMcloud®, the world’s first real-time BIM collaboration environment; EcoDesigner™, the world’s first fully BIM-integrated green design solution; and BIMx®, the world’s leading mobile app for BIM visualization. GRAPHISOFT is part of the Nemetschek Group. InsiteVR is a platform for AEC companies to create and manage virtual reality presentations across their offices. InsiteVR’s tools allow users to remotely control VR presentations, collect feedback from clients, and easily share to mobile headsets like the GearVR. IrisVR tackles the biggest problem in the architecture, construction, and engineering industries: What will a space actually look and feel like when it’s built? Iris created intuitive, user-friendly software that empowers virtual reality to experience depth and scale. JUJU IMSV employs the most advanced VR technology to create convincing, elegant, and easy-to-use marketing tools for off-plan sales across the globe. Our all-in-one marketing tools tell the story of the future property and not only help to efficiently raise money for the project, but also streamline the sales cycle. LERA IMMERSE is a virtual reality and augmented reality consulting service offering solutions to architects, owners, developers and construction managers. The custom-designed systems and tools enable users to navigate, interact with, and collaborate in the VR space, all while collecting valuable data that can be retrieved, analyzed, and fed back into the design process. Microsol Resources has been delivering integrated solutions to the architecture, engineering, and construction industries for over 30 years. The company is a recognized leader in BIM and CAD-based solutions, as well as an Autodesk Platinum Partner. Besides CAD & BIM software, Microsol also provides training, consulting, staffing, 3-D printing, and data management services to help customers gain a competitive advantage and improve their overall productivity. Morpholio makes apps that put designers first, fusing the fluidity and speed of hand drawing with the intelligence and precision of mobile and CAD technology. Its Trace app for architects is the unique software created to take design through every phase of the process, from concept to reality. PlanGrid is construction software made for the field that allows plans and markups to be instantaneously shared with everyone on a construction project—no matter where they are. It lets contractors, architects, and building owners collaborate from their desktop or mobile devices across all of their project plans, specs, photos, RFIs, and punch lists. Solibri is the leader in BIM quality assurance and quality control, providing out-of-the-box tools for BIM validation, compliance control, design process coordination, design review, analysis, and code checking. Solibri develops and markets quality assurance solutions that improve BIM-based design and make the entire design and construction process more productive and cost-effective.
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Uber reveals flying taxi prototype and aims for 2023 launch

Uber’s flying taxi service is one step closer to getting off the ground after the ride-sharing company unveiled its latest flying car concept at their second annual Elevate conference in Los Angeles. The final design isn’t set in stone, but this new prototype is a template for the company’s five manufacturing partners to build off of. Elevate, also the name of Uber’s flying taxi business, wants to let passengers hail a flying car via app and hop from one rooftop sky port to another. Designing a quiet, electric urban helicopter is no small technical feat, and Uber’s latest proposal shows something of a cross between a jet, drone, and helicopter that’s capable of vertical takeoffs and landings (eVTOL). The shuttles will seat four, though they’ll have to be autonomously driven for Uber to make a profit; otherwise two of the seats would go towards a pilot and co-pilot. To make the trips affordable, Elevate will introduce a model similar to Uber Pool, where customers can share a ride that’s going in the same direction and split the cost. Elevate expects its flying cars to hover around 1,000 to 2,000 feet off the ground and travel at 150- to 200-miles-per-hour, and has thrown out several reference models for its aerospace partners, Karem, Embraer, Pipistrel, Aurora Flight, and Bell as platforms to build off of. The latest model, first shown yesterday, would use four sets of stacked rotors for vertical lift and a tail-mounted rotor for thrust. Karem, the latest company to join Elevate, wants to build a working prototype of its eVTOL by 2020 and put them into commercial use by 2023. It might seem ambitious, but it’s a target that Elevate’s other partners are also aiming for. The infrastructure hurdle is another significant challenge that Uber will have to overcome if it really wants to make this system a reality. Besides having to actually develop software for the autonomously flying shuttles (something Uber has struggled with on the ground), the sky ports themselves and an unmanned air traffic control system will need to be built out. Elevate will be getting a bit of a boost in that department, as the company recently teamed up with NASA and the US Army to bring its ridesharing dreams to the sky.
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Swiss researchers use robots to build complex timber structures

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, are giving timber construction a mechanical leg up with the introduction of prefabricated, robotically-assembled timber frame housing. Together with Erne AG Holzbau, a contracting firm that specializes in timber, researchers at the institute’s Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication have developed Spatial Timber Assemblies, a system for digitally fabricating and constructing complex forms from timber. After a model of the structure has been laid out, robotic arms mounted in the ceiling of the assembly chamber are capable of building the required parts as well as putting them together. First, one arm picks up a beam and holds it while a human trims the piece into the proper size and shape. Then, a second robot arm pre-drills the holes needed for attaching the beam to the structure; finally, both robot arms work together to precisely place the beam as a human attaches it. Thanks to algorithms developed by the researchers, the arms are able to constantly recalculate their location in space and how to move forward without bumping into each other (or humans on the job site). A major advantage of Spatial Timber Assemblies is that the structures built this way carry their load-bearing capacity structurally, and don’t require reinforcing plates or any additional steel. If the overall design changes during construction, researchers are able to calculate a new, optimized framing solution using load-distribution algorithms. The system is more than theoretical. ETH researchers are currently using it to assemble six unique modules, which will join to frame the top two floors of the experimental DFAB HOUSE in Dübendorf, a suburb of Zurich. Once installed on site, both floors will have distinct rooms across 328 square feet of floor space. The final design, which uses 487 individual beams, will be wrapped in a clear plastic facade so that the underlying timber structure can remain exposed. Advancements in robotic construction are advancing rapidly, and ETH researchers have been developing robots that weld, spray concrete, and stack bricks to create forms that would have been difficult to build previously. And if the ETH needs help decorating the interior of their research house, robots can now assemble IKEA furniture, too.
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Brooklyn’s New Lab goes big with a tech hub for urban entrepreneurs

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  Located in a former shipbuilding space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New Lab is an 84,000-square-foot collaborative tech hub dedicated to entrepreneurs working on scalable technologies and products. New Lab supports companies in nine disciplines: robotics, AI, urban tech, the built environment, energy, connected devices, additive tech, life sciences, and nanotechnology. Members benefit from access to a dizzying array of fabrication labs, including 3-D printing, woodworking, casting, CNC milling, and electronics, along with access to free software, including Autodesk and SolidWorks. But it’s also important to note that New Lab’s location in New York City is part of the draw, as the city itself is offered as an ideal laboratory to test the technologies in real-life urban conditions. The flagship tech hub opened in 2016 and was founded to provide a supportive center for those companies working at the forefront of technology and human experience and to ensure that they have a reason to stay in the city. David Belt, New Lab’s co-founder and CEO, is careful to stress that the lab is not an incubator—that is, it is not dedicated to helping companies at the beginning of their research or product-development cycles, but rather those that have concrete products and built technologies and are ready to take the next step. Through a formalized arm of the company called New Lab Ventures—a $50 million venture fund—the lab itself invests in some of its member companies and currently has investments in 14 of them; the lab also connects members to the world’s leading venture funds. And a joint program called the Urban Tech Hub, in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), allows New Lab to support companies that strive to make a more livable, resilient city through their technologies and products. Additionally, the lab has other private-public partnerships in the works and a global partner network with Barcelona, Spain, and Copenhagen, Denmark, that offers other opportunities to members. New Lab currently has 103 member companies, with 600 individuals working at the space. Competition for entry is steep—just 15 percent of applicants are accepted.

Notable alumni include:

CARMERA

The founders see potential for their technology to be crucial for urban developers, autonomous vehicles, public transportation, and infrastructure. It allows for real-time, constantly updated 3-D mapping of cities.

Voltaic Systems

The portable solar power company creates lightweight solar panels and solar-powered solutions for people, products, and structures alike.

StrongArm Technologies

This company develops ergonomic solutions for injury prevention and peak performance for the industrial workforce, including the construction industry.

Terreform ONE

An architecture and urban think tank that advances ecological design in derelict municipal areas. Terreform is New Lab’s only nonprofit and its only architect-centric member.

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Autodesk puts R&D first with its BUILD Space in Boston

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  Located on the first two floors of a concrete-framed former army base in South Boston, Autodesk’s BUILD Space (BUILD stands for building, innovation, learning, and design), which opened in 2016, has become one of the software company’s best tools for keeping up with architecture’s hyper-speed technology changes. The cavernous 34,000-square-foot facility, whose adaptive reuse was carried out by Boston and New York-based SGA, contains two chief components: First, it houses every piece of digital manufacturing equipment under the sun, from CNC routers and multi-axis robots to microelectronics, metal fabrication tools, and a giant crane; second, it hosts over 70 organizations and 500 people, including architecture and design firms, start-ups, and universities, who use the facilities, supported by Autodesk’s software engineers. In return, Autodesk gets to make important new contacts and learn how to position its software for the coming years. “By investigating these technologies with these teams, it gives us a view of what may be coming, and what we need to start thinking about,” said Rick Rundell, Autodesk’s senior director, who has carefully curated the community with his colleagues. “I could hire a team of 30 researchers to use this equipment,” said Rundell. “Instead, I have 500 researchers that I’ve been able to curate. They’re doing their own work, but it keeps us in touch in a way that would be much harder otherwise.” The word has gotten out, encouraging the company, with SGA, to grow the space by another floor. “We get five or six calls a week,” noted Rundell, who has hosted researchers from the Middle East, all over Europe, and the far corners of the U.S. “We only review the most promising.” To prepare the space for all this activity, SGA implemented some R&D of its own, employing carbon fiber supports to help brace the building after it made large cuts through the thick concrete floors, and using the facility’s crane to haul in extra-large items. The firm needed to install new electrical and HVAC on top of what the building already had in order to support the teams’ extraordinary infrastructure needs. Autodesk, whose Boston software team works on the building’s sixth floor (also designed by SGA), has opened a handful of similar innovation facilities, each catered to a different aspect of digital design and manufacturing. The San Francisco office, which hosts Autodesk researchers as well as independent ones, focuses on micro-factory models, the Toronto office looks at artificial intelligence and generative design, and the Birmingham, England, office centers on advanced manufacturing. “We know this is happening, but we’re seeking to learn more,” said Rundell.

Some of the residents include

Perkins+Will

The architecture firm investigated new framing systems for mass timber.

Bechtel Corporation

The engineering company explored inflatable shading devices.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT students have created self-deploying fabric canopies that can be dropped via aircraft.

Construction Robotics

This construction manufacturer is developing a system for robotically constructing masonry walls.

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Meet the Georgia Tech laboratory advancing digitally integrated design

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  Founded by Professor Chuck Eastman, a renowned trailblazer in building computer sciences and one of the creators of BIM, Georgia Institute of Technology's Digital Building Laboratory (DBL) in Atlanta quickly earned a sterling reputation after its founding in 2009. Now led by Associate Professor Dennis Shelden, an architect and digital technology expert who previously was the director of research and development and computing for Frank Gehry, the lab aims to harness its educational position as an indispensable source for knowledge capital. “We have a strong connection to the professional practice,” said Shelden. “Our ability to connect between technology and projects as an academic institution is one of our most valuable assets. We are very much focused on solving concrete problems through our research and our role as an academic and open research institution.” The DBL particularly focuses on “helping students disrupt the industry in order to collectively advance it.” This includes pushing open-source initiatives and embarking on ventures that might be too risky for a company to take on, with the awareness that free innovation now could yield big returns later. In addition to supporting Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture, the DBL creates programs around entrepreneurship along with developing new and advancing technology. “What is happening now is that reduced friction across the building industry creates new opportunities and risks,” said Shelden. “Architects have an expanded reach into other domains and can tackle environmental engineering and other tasks that used to require retaining an outside consultant. But on the other side, that means developers and contractors can do in-house architectural and consulting work. So, we see a convergence in the industry, and there are great opportunities but also a lot of new competition that didn’t exist before.” The incubator champions AECO technology-related entrepreneurship while focusing on four technical areas representing the most disruptive potential for the AECO industries: data standards and interoperability, integrated project systems, design and construction automation, and smart buildings and cities. The laboratory currently hosts several departments: the living laboratory campus, a testing ground for “digitally integrated design, construction, and operations projects;” the technology test bed, a place for testing data exchange and interoperability scenarios; and a Digital Fabrication Lab, a 13,000-square-foot space for prototyping and research; as well as research and entrepreneurship programs. Contributing members to the DBL are Autodesk, Oldcastle, and Vectorworks, and associate members include Perkins+Will, the Smithsonian Institute, Thornton Tomasetti, Skanska, and SmartBIM Technologies.

Notable alumni include:

Kereshmeh Afsari

Defended thesis in November 2016 and is now an assistant professor in the School of Construction Management Technology and the Department of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University.

Marcelo Bernal

Graduated spring 2016 and is now an assistant professor in the department of architecture, Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María.

Yongcheol Lee

Defended thesis in November 2015 and is now an assistant professor at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in the department of construction management.

Hugo Sheward

Defended thesis in fall 2015 and is now an assistant professor at the School of Architecture, University of Kansas.

Shiva Aram

Defended thesis in December 2015 and is now the strategy lead and senior product line manager at Cisco.

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For L.A.-based start-ups, a downtown tech incubator offers a boost up

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  At the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), participating members get a lot of bang for their buck. Originally started in 2011, the outfit moved in 2016 into a 60,000-square-foot complex, known as the La Kretz Innovation Campus and owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The campus is one of the inaugural public amenities of a new Cleantech Corridor planned by the City of Los Angeles for a vast area stretching from the Lincoln Heights neighborhood, in East L.A., to the Arts District, downtown. The complex is made up of an adaptively reused and seismically retrofitted historic warehouse, among other components, designed by John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects. The mix of offices, labs, and makerspaces offers LACI's portfolio of cleantech companies access to cutting-edge fabrication and prototyping tools. With six specialty labs, the LACI-managed Advanced Prototyping Center (APC), is also open to the public through memberships starting at $250, making more than $10 million in specialty equipment available to budding innovators and entrepreneurs. The innovation hub is being marketed by LACI as a one-stop shop for ambitious, tech-savvy groups and individuals looking to develop and test new industrial-scale ideas and products. The one-of-a-kind APC offers some of the most advanced, industrial-grade fabrication and research tools, as well, including professional-grade laser cutters, CNC mills, water jets, and even a full-blown biochemistry lab. The facilities allowed the designers behind Hive Lighting to model, test, and fabricate prototypes of their high-performance, energy-efficient plasma and LED lights. Kay Yang, APC director, explained, “This is where you come to get off the ground if you’re an L.A.-based start-up;” the incubator also boasts a new artist-in-residence program and a slate of professional advisers, who hold office hours, as well as mentorship for members. Yang added that, for certain participating companies, “LACI has cut 12 to 18 months off start-up times” while also allowing these groups to maintain full intellectual and copyright protections, part of LACI’s “intellectual property–neutral” setup. According to LACI’s calculations, in the past six years, the incubator has helped 72 portfolio companies raise $165 million in start-up funding, generate $220 million in revenue, and create 1,700 jobs across the region.

Current portfolio companies include:

Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing

An all-electric bus manufacturer with goals to create 100 percent zero-emission transportation.

Ampaire An all-electric airplane fabricator.

Avisare

A cloud-based software-procurement platform.

Connect Homes

A prefab home company based in California.

Perception Robotics

A touch-and-vision-based industrial robot manufacturer.

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Meet the incubators and accelerators fostering the next generation of architecture start-ups

Technology is developing at an exponential rate, and while architecture still moves significantly slower than the latest transistor, things are picking up. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) speaks to tech experts Craig Curtis of Katerra (Katerra’s approach could make factory construction a model for the future) to learn more about the revolutionary changes that are in the pipeline for the construction industry, and Dennis Shelden of the Digital Building Lab (Talking about our tech future with the Digital Building Lab) about how we've gotten to this point, and what's next. We also profile several incubators and accelerators behind some of the most influential design and AEC technology start-ups that promise to revolutionize the construction and architecture industries. AN profiled the following: The MINI-owned URBAN-X in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a younger incubator which leverages its assembled experts to guide startups through a semester-long program; Digital agency R/GA, long a major player in the advertising field, has carved out spaces in all of its offices for accelerator space and given startups an easy way to hit the ground running; ZeroSixty, a three-month design-and-technology-focused incubator program, was launched by Gehry Technologies to help bring disruption to the AEC industry; The one-stop shop Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, which gives its members access to makerspaces, fabrication labs, and plenty of research space across a 60,000-square-foot campus; Georgia Tech’s Digital Building Laboratory, which has already released a suite of programs that architect's (especially those who use BIM) have already come to rely on; The advanced offices of the Autodesk BUILD Space, one of the company's best tools for keeping up with the rapidly changing worlds of architecture and design; and New Lab’s 84-000-square foot flagship collaborative tech hub in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The interviews and profiles were originally printed in our April 2018 technology issue.
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Talking about our tech future with the Digital Building Lab

When examining technology transforming the AEC industry, Dennis Shelden emerges as a thought leader. He is an expert in applying digital technology to building design, construction, and operations, with experience spanning across research, technology, and development, and professional practice, including multiple architecture, building engineering and computing disciplines. He was director of R&D and led the development of Frank Gehry’s digital practice from 1997-2002, eventually co-founding Gehry Technologies. Shelden has lectured and written widely on topics concerning computational applications to architecture. He currently directs the Digital Building Laboratory (DBL) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. AN Special Projects Director Marty Wood sat down with Shelden to learn more. The Architect’s Newspaper: Can you talk about the DBL and the new directions you are pursuing given the trends in emergent technology and software tools? Dennis Shelden: The DBL has always been an academic institution oriented toward industry advancement through applications of technology. We’ve pursued that ambition through three mechanisms. First, the DBL serves to create a community among professional firms, technology companies, and academic programs across Georgia Tech. We are at our most effective when we can be a bridge among these three constituencies through “active education and research”—connecting research faculty and students to real-world projects and enlisting emerging technologies in new ways. Second, the lab has a research mission of its own. Under my predecessor Professor Chuck Eastman, the DBL has become an important source of innovation and leadership in design computing, specifically in BIM, collaborative processes, open information exchange, and interoperability. Third, we are focused on building the next generation of technical leaders in architecture and construction, through educational curricula at all levels of the architecture and building construction programs at Georgia Tech. I believe that these three functions and our historical areas of research set us up to tackle some of the emerging trends in technology for the built environment. BIM data is finally moving to the web and the cloud, which will create a host of new opportunities connecting to and making use of this data. Some of these possibilities include connections to real-time data from building systems, Internet of Things, and connected mobile and social networks. We are also seeing a convergence between building level and city level information, where you manage and interact with large-scale built environment data that scales down to the individual room, fixture, or device. How is the business of AEC technology changing, and is there a role for academia in building out these new directions? The nature of technology development is definitely changing. In the 20th century, it required very large companies with many different functions to be able to develop and sell a software product. The technology product business was completely different than professional consulting services. But today the barriers to “industrializing” technology to the point where it can be consumed by others are much lower, since there is so much infrastructure out there that can be leveraged, and the web makes marketing and distribution so much easier to scale. Professional practice is changing, too, and we’re seeing firms that are exploring new ways of capitalizing on the innovations they create. More firms are creating open source software, developing plug-ins, or creating spin-offs to either offer new specialized services or pursue product innovations. At the same time, the AEC world needs open platforms for these innovations to be built on and connect to. Some of these are offered by software companies’ plug-in and app development platforms, but the world really needs open standards and communications capabilities based on modern web paradigms that can bridge across AEC disciplines. I believe that academia and government have important roles to play in building these open industry platforms. Being connected through the cloud is one thing, but is this just about better design tools? There is a lot of emerging discussion of cyber-physical systems and the idea of the digital twin. The idea of the digital twin is essentially that BIM will become part of the post-occupancy delivered building and “run in parallel” to the building systems and experienced environment. We’ve historically focused a lot on the technologies for designing and delivering buildings, but the possibilities for these technologies to create a continuum of information is potentially a huge opportunity for the industry. We also see a lot of interest from the tech industry starting to come into the AEC industry precisely because it sees the built environment as the next platform for interaction with technology. Are these things you practice internally? University campuses are small, contained cities with all the necessary functions from design and construction to the daily delivery services under one umbrella. So if we get this right for Georgia Tech, then we have a model for delivering built environment technology innovation that we can scale to the broader industry. Again, I think the open platforms for industry innovation will be built by academia and nonprofit enterprises to start. There must be examples of industry, in terms of interoperable standards, that get shared and not privatized. Novel delivery systems can give you a competitive advantage. Think about what it took for government, academia, and industry working together to create the internet. I think that’s a model for what AEC needs to do now. The next layer of what AEC needs to make that kind of value creation a possibility for all the stakeholders still has to be built. That’s kind of the nucleus, that kind of vision of a possible industry state, that we are trying to help build out in the next phase of the DBL.
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R/GA stays ahead of the curve with its global accelerator network

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  With a cutting-edge client list that includes Nike, Google, and YouTube, digital agency R/GA is committed to staying way, way ahead of the competition. So, when it came to the rapid rise of start-ups and disruptive technologies, R/GA was quick to jump in. “We knew we would need a platform for innovation, even if we didn’t always know which forms of innovation would ultimately take off,” explained Stephen Plumlee, global chief operating officer of R/GA and founding partner of R/GA Venture Studio, a division of the company. “In order to find more and better innovations, solve problems for our clients, and offer new opportunities to our staff, we needed to get deeper into technology and start-ups.” R/GA Venture Studio partnered with the mentorship-focused start-up accelerator Techstars and launched theR/GA Venture Studio program four years ago. The accelerator offers approximately ten-week-long thematic programs with R/GA, sharing its creative capital in terms of marketing, business strategy, branding, design, and technology; partners invest in each start-up and retain approximately 4 to 8 percent of their equities. R/GA also plays matchmaker, strategically partnering clients that have particular problems with start-ups that have potential solutions. Recent programs yielded a media technology initiative with Verizon and a collaboration with the Los Angeles Dodgers; an Internet of Things and connected devices program in R/GA’s London office has proved to be immensely popular. “We are constantly experimenting with our own program and have evolved beyond the traditional accelerator format into something unique to us,” said Plumlee. One of the things that set the R/GA Venture Studio apart is the age of the start-ups accepted into the program. Rather than limit applicants to new ventures, R/GA will accept older start-ups that are more established and have completed as late as Series B funding rounds. It is also not tied to any one location—R/GA Venture Studio spaces are available in any R/GA office—allowing start-ups to continue business as usual beyond Demo Day and other important mentoring events. To avoid being boxed in and missing potential opportunities, R/GA will also accept applicants year-round for various programs—currently it has four running simultaneously. Within this ethos of avoiding constraints, the accelerator’s start-ups and programs have varied widely and have included blockchain, pet care, smart home technologies, wearable devices, and ad tech, to name a few. Notable alumni include: Keen Home A smart vent system that allows homeowners to create climate zones throughout their houses. Clarifai Clarifai is an artificial intelligence company that empowers businesses and developers to solve real-world problems using visual recognition. LISNR A software that connects devices to speakers and/or microphones by sending data over audio waves.