Autodesk invests in Project Frog to bolster prefab market
- San Francisco-based Project Frog, which designs, develops and delivers software and prefabricated building platforms, has secured an investment from the Autodesk Forge Fund to create a cloud-based connected system linking architectural design to industrial fabrication, according to a press release from Project Frog.
- The partnership aims to streamline the design and engineering processes, creating an end-to-end system where each project stakeholder will be able to access the latest project data, effectively dispensing of the need to input data by hand.
- The technology behind this collaboration, particularly Project Frog's cloud technologies used in tandem with popular Autodesk applications like Revit and Fusion, will align the two companies more closely with the goal of simplifying the process from design through assembly at the jobsite.
For an industry that contributes one of the biggest pieces to U.S. economic growth, construction productivity has been notoriously stagnant — and many point to the industry's resistance to adopting new technology as one reason.
Project Frog CEO Drew Buechley attributes a jump in manufacturing's productivity largely to technology advancements in the field. Project Frog, in turn, aims to target and capitalize on that trend.
The prefabrication market likely will grow six or seven times more than the overall construction GDP, according to Nicolas Mangon, vice president of Autodesk's AEC, business strategy and marketing. Project Frog, Mangon believes, is well-positioned in the prefab market. “The industry needs to start moving into more processes like we see in manufacturing,” he said. “We need to be building a lot more prefabricated buildings to drive productivity.”
The sector, what Buechley has dubbed the “industrialized construction category,” is gaining a foothold in the market as companies eye prefab's potential benefits. Of those benefits, perhaps the most attractive is prefab's purported ability to speed up project completion. Producing components in a factory before shipping and assembling them on-site can also reduce the number of workers needed — a welcome bonus for companies grappling with the labor shortage.
Increased safety can be another added benefit. Those working inside a controlled environment, usually a factory, are less exposed to some of the associated dangers of a job site, from falls to trench collapses and other adverse conditions.
Prefabrication doesn't necessarily mean less customization, a drawback cited by some critics of the delivery method. But the ability to remain highly flexible to compete with traditional construction can be done only by having enough technology to streamline it, according to Buechley.
Although the concept may seem foreign to some, Buechley noted that popular ride-sharing companies Uber or Lyft would have seemed impossible a decade ago before smartphones and applications had saturated the marketplace. Similarly, as prefab development platforms gain traction and saturate the marketplace, more users will see prefab and modular building as a more viable option, Buechley said.
Autodesk’s investment in Project Frog ties in closely with another recent investment in ManufactOn, a technology that manages the entire supply chain. The moves represent Autodesk's push to streamline the construction industry through an end-to-end approach.
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