Five Themes from BuiltWorlds’ Archives That Offers Clues About the Industry Five Years From Now.

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” – Bill Gates

In order to be prepared for the change ahead and not be washed away by it, someone or some people in every organization need to be thinking past the next quarter and the next year to what the industry will be like five and ten years forward. BuiltWorlds was founded to be a true resource to help those people make the right decisions and investments now to capitalize effectively on the industry’s changes in the years to come. We have built a library of nearly 5,000 pieces of original content at BuiltWorlds over the past six years, and examining them helps provide some insights, not only about how our world is changing, but also the pace of that change. So, with that, here are five items from the BuiltWorlds Archives about what we were looking at roughly five years ago and what they might tell us about the likely shape of our world in 2025.

Google X Takes Aim At Planning in the Built World with $29 million for flux

Heads turned when Google’s group that focuses on moonshots like driverless cars, flying vehicles, and space communications took aim at the built industries. Backed by a tech titan and $29 million in funding from venture heavyweights, flux initially focused on an ability to pull and integrate data from many sources to make the process of planning projects faster, smarter, and easier. Although the effort took some twists and turns, flux was later reborn as Helix and joins a wave of apps and other solutions designed to capture much of the promise of flux’s early investigations. Everything from easier and more extensive mapping of projects to BIM to tools to use parametric design for better planning iterations to integration of more and better data from a variety of sources to inform better planning systems are among the solutions being proliferated today that were part of the Google x-backed exploration of five years ago.


Modular Brooklyn High Rise Re-Ignites the Industry’s Focus on Off-Site

In late 2014, construction restarted on Forest City Modular’s B2BKLYN, a 32-story, modular high rise designed by SHoP Architects and ARUP with construction management by Skanska and Turner. Despite the project’s well-publicized challenges, the completed project captured the attention of the industry and set off a wave of renewed interest in the potential of modular construction to transform the way the industry builds. 2015 was the year high flying modular company Katerra was founded, but according to a recent adoption survey conducted by BuiltWorlds, more than 70% of the engineering and construction companies were using some form of off-site construction in their projects by 2020.


Interest in “net zero energy” grows, as the first wave of net zero energy buildings open

In 2013, Walgreens opened its first Net Zero Energy building, along with numerous others, and the industry began to take stock of the feasibility of these designs as well as the tradeoffs in “first costs” against operations savings. At the time, we reported fewer than 400 buildings having achieved net zero. However, a March 2015 White House directive to the U.S. General Services Administration requiring “energy net zero by fiscal 2030 in all new construction of federal buildings greater than 5,000 gross sq ft that enter the planning process in fiscal 2020 or later” became just one of many mandates by governments around the world promoting energy efficiency and carbon reduction initiatives and setting off the development of a wave of applications and products to help the industry meet those goals. We have cataloged dozens of these solutions through our Building Tech 50 list, Buildings Conference, and analyst reports and briefs, since.


As Robots like SAM100 Debut, Tech Leaders Proclaim New Era Dawning

Construction Robotics debuted SAM100, the robotic bricklayer at World of Concrete in 2015, and the industry looked on with interest as though wondering if this were sheer novelty. We hosted Construction Robotics founder, Scott Peters at our Summit in 2016, and there was the sense the semi-automated mason was purely a concept. Flash forward five years, and we cover more than three dozen companies bringing advanced machinery and robotics solutions to the Industry (BuiltWorlds Directory). It Is likely that we will see offering from another dozen or more over just the next year.

With early adoption still in the 30% range, robots still have a ways to go to reach maturity. However, this figure was probably single digits five years ago, and the rate of development suggests that five years from now will see majority adoption.


Procore Procures Bundle Rides Venture Investment Tsunami

2015 was a breakout year for venture investment in the Built World. The $29 million investment in flux was just one such investment. As drones captured the industry’s fascination, early players like Skycatch raised millions, but the biggest bets went toward cloud and mobile-oriented project management workflow companies like PlanGrid and Procore, bagging $40 million and $50 million, respectively. Just a few years later, Autodesk would announce an $875 million acquisition of PlanGrid, while PROCORE would be rumored to be valued at $5 billion.

Based on our 2019 Construction Technology Research Report, adoption of project management systems is already nearly universal among the BuiltWorlds E&C members surveyed. This part of the technology ecosystem saw the most investment in 2014-2016, and it has proven to be the most mature segment we follow at this point. Project management systems, as one industry leader recently observed, are now table stakes.


Despite the varying time frames on industry adoption that we can see as we look back on the past five years, it is interesting to see that virtually all of the topics we were studying  in 2015 are still very much a part of our landscape today. We have, instead, added to the topics, developed more robust solutions, and proliferated a broader array of solutions targeted for different end markets, pain points in the process, and stakeholders in the industry – all of which virtually guarantees even more focus on emerging technology in the years to come.

Note: For those interested in more perspectives on how the different types of solutions are finding adoption within the industry over time, we have recently re-published more than a hundred older archives from our vault. You can also find our history of coverage in our company directory, and members can access the entire library.