Building design teams face a range of challenges during the design phase, from building higher while avoiding higher costs to reducing time to commission. If teams don’t do their due diligence, they risk omitting important mechanical equipment, such as exhaust fans and valves, from design documents, or making electrical circuits unsuitable for loads. Designing for sustainability adds even more complexity to the process, especially since it requires the integration of “green” principles and compliance with environmental laws and regulations.
Stephane Levy, a construction industry veteran, believes technology can solve many of these problems. He is the founder of BeamUP, a startup that emerges from stealth and uses data to reduce design times and manage a facility’s systems throughout their lifecycle. BeamUP announced today that it has raised $15 million in an seed funding round led by StageOne Ventures and Ibex Investments, along with participation from angels including Workday CEO Chano Fernandez.
“Construction and property management are among the last major industries to digitize. While it is widely recognized that legacy processes are unsustainable, some people in the industry fear that new methods could pose even greater risks… [There are] many regional players and a large number of stakeholders with different incentives,” Levy, a Tel Aviv University graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, told MovieUpdates via email. “Raise up [is the] first platform to use AI to perform facility design and management at scale to [meet] the unique requirements of Fortune 500 organizations.”
Applying AI to building design
Large corporations own and maintain many buildings. According to a study by the US Census Bureau, the average company with more than 10,000 employees has about 411, including data centers, corporate campuses, logistics centers and warehouses. These structures – many of which had special compliance and security needs in the beginning – are becoming more complex with the advent of building automation systems. They also become huge carbon hogs, consuming about 40% of all the energy used on the planet.
Technology could theoretically help simplify the management, design and reduction of the carbon footprint of corporate building portfolios. But the field of architecture is notoriously slow in adopting new processes. As a 2020 Wall Street Journal piece points out, computer-aided software became the norm in the 1970s and 1980s, but it wasn’t until 2002 that 3D modeling arrived with Autodesk’s purchase of Building Information Modeling supplier Revit ( BIM) software. Even then, it took nearly 20 years for BIM software, which allows architects to view cross-sections of buildings from any angle, to become the industry standard.
The slow adoption threatens to hinder the industry’s progress toward desired goals, such as improved sustainability. A recent survey by the American Institute of Architects found that only 10% to 11% of architects have adopted building performance technologies such as life cycle assessment software, plug-ins or other measurement tools. Only one in three architects believes that they are fulfilling their responsibility to design sustainably, according to the survey.
“Ninety percent of spreadsheets contain errors. And yet companies with hundreds, if not thousands, of buildings track critical information in them,” said Levy. “Seventy percent of rework during construction is due to design flaws. [and re]work is expensive and represents 7.25% and 10.89% of the total construction cost. Think of that waste of, say, a data center, where construction costs can exceed $1 billion… By the time a building is operational, 30% of the [the] design data… is lost, so documentation doesn’t match actual facility. [The] the overall life cycle of a facility is fragmented with multiple engineering firms [and] multiple single point tools targeting only one part of the lifecycle – e.g. design – with disparate file formats.”
BeamUP can uniquely meet the challenge by creating a ‘network’ of an organization’s premises, Levy says, helping an enterprise go beyond managing each of its facilities as a separate asset, while driving ‘analytical insights’ in performance and efficiency. The platform can ostensibly help answer questions like “Which building types have the most compliance issues?” and “Is my equipment higher in one region than in another?”, as well as “How do I cut my expenses by only approving devices that have a long lifespan and a low failure rate?”
“Our technology includes algorithms and deep learning models trained on a comprehensive training set of thousands of building samples to automate the design process,” Levy said. †[We use a] unique dataset of business maps to train our systems – our training images run into the high hundreds of thousands. [As] As part of our research efforts, we use… design and facility data databases to train AI models [that] predict design and compliance solutions.”
The data BeamUP works with includes facility model numbers, locations, wiring infrastructure, and various architectural elements. While the platform collects some sensitive customer data, such as email addresses and activity within the system, Levy says users can request that their data be deleted in accordance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.
Levy believes BeamUP’s data-driven approach is a big deal for enterprises, as it goes beyond rules-based design and compliance standards that can be challenging to document over time. BeamUP’s “digitally progressive” nature has also gained traction during the pandemic, he says, at a time when designers’ ability to fly around the world to inspect assets and assess regulatory compliance is limited.
†[Our] tech provides a significantly deeper understanding of design standards, best practices, compliance compliance, and visibility into facility and asset performance on a global scale,” said Levy. “The changes in office layouts and the shrinking corporate office real estate footprint [during the pandemic] they all require a redesign of building systems – for example, shrinking from three floors to one still requires a significant amount of change to be designed and managed.”
Competition in the market
The urban and design software market that BeamUP occupies was estimated to be worth $2.91 billion in 2021. Levy claims it has no direct competition outside of existing BIM software, but he acknowledges that there are several proptech and construction technology companies that are applying analytics to various areas of the industry, such as starting Swapp for construction planning automation.
Still, Levy says BeamUP has had no trouble attracting customers, with five Fortune 100 companies in pilot or under contract and more than 1,100 users on the platform. Building data centers and logistics has proven to be BeamUP’s biggest vertical to date, Levy added, perhaps because those facilities often have complex systems that must be maintained over time.
A hurdle for BeamUP – and others looking to compete with it – will likely sustain growth. According to The Wall Street Journal, BIM adoption only picked up during the recession of the late 2000s, when many laid-off and underpaid young architects used their spare time to learn the software and companies adapted to designs with fewer staff. In the absence of a comparable shock to the industry, BeamUP will have to convince companies that investing in its technology will be worth it in the long run.
Nate Meir, for example, a partner at StageOne Ventures, expressed confidence in BeamUP’s journey.
“The sheer scale and global footprint of large corporations, which account for 60% of global commercial real estate, are impacting not only their financial performance, but also the economy, from energy use, through transportation planning, employee wellbeing to jobs. . creation and much more,” he told MovieUpdates via email. “Because we want their [BeamUP’s progress]they showed impressive traction with global customers who are automating these processes to improve operations and significantly reduce costs, year after year.”
Levy says the capital will be used to scale the three-year-old, 37-person BeamUP’s marketing, sales and customer delivery teams across the US, UK and Israel (where the company is based). BeamUP expects it to grow its workforce to 85 people by the end of the year as revenue increases by as much as 800% from 2022.