- Boston-based investment firm Building Ventures recently announced it raised $53 million in an inaugural funding round, exceeding its target. The firm, which branched off of Borealis Ventures, formally launched in September to focus on early-stage companies that will drive innovation and sustainability in the built world.
- The firm received backing from general contractors DPR Construction, Gilbane Building Co., Mortenson Co. and Obayashi Corp. Engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti and design firm Perkins+Will, among other AEC giants, also are included in the roster of investors. These companies, according to the press release, will help Building Ventures identify startups with the potential to advance the industry.
- Building Ventures’ fund aims to address “a critical need to rethink how we design, build, operate and experience the built world,” said Jesse Devitte, co-founder and general partner. Software programs that he has backed in the past along with co-founder Travis Connors include 3D modeling tool SketchUp, 5D BIM drafting tool Vico Software, document management software Newforma and more.
The construction industry has seen a flood of investment from venture capitalist firms this year. In the first six months of 2018 alone, according to a Jones Lang LaSalle report, funding of construction technology firms hit $1 billion, a figure that exceeded 2017's total amount fo 30%. With leading contractors DPR, Gilbane, Mortenson and Obayashi backing Building Ventures’ first funding round, it seems the construction industry is starting to reciprocate this support.
Construction projects are becoming more complex and expensive, yet companies are expected to deliver these on tough budgets and timelines and with limited access to skilled labor. Even with tighter profit margins than other industries, a growing number of contractors are expanding their research and development programs and exploring solutions that will allow them to do more with less.
Mortenson, for example, has expanded its Virtual Design and Construction and Lean Innovation programs in recent years to empower employees to come up with new and more efficient ways of working. The Mortenson Innovators Program is one outlet for staff to present their ideas and occasionally receive company backing. Last year, according to Senior Director of Innovation Ricardo Khan, five of the ten proposals received R&D funding, including new concrete installation methods for sloped foundations and reinvented foundation systems.
DPR Construction has piloted and implemented a number of emerging technologies on its projects, including BIM, laser scanning, 4D sequencing and more. On a hospital expansion project in progress in Leesburg, Virginia, the project team embedded sensors into its concrete pours to gauge strength and moisture content, eliminating the need to send off concrete cylinder samples. The contractor said this fall that it plans to pilot the devices on a Sacramento jobsite to establish the effectiveness of the tool in a different climate.