IN JULY OF THIS YEAR, the Nemetschek Group participated in a Series B financing round for US-based Reconstruct Inc, marking an alternative path to Group growth. “We have acquired companies outright,” says Matt Wheelis, “but we also make investments in promising companies to accelerate their growth and impact.”
Last October, Wheelis joined Nemetschek, as VP of Industry Strategy for the Build & Construct Division, under Division Chief Officer and Nemetschek Executive Board member Jon Elliott.
The Nemetschek Group of Germany appears to have a new leg for growth via strategic financial investments. “Last month, we hired Tanja Kufner, an expert in corporate venturing and deeply connected with the world of startups and venture capital. As head of Venture and Start-up, she is focusing on venture funding full-time,” says Wheelis.
The Nemetschek Group’s activity in the market has been quite intense, and Reconstruct isn’t the only funding activity for the Group. Before Reconstruct, the Group participated in a Series-A financing round for Sablono of Germany.
Wheelis says that the Group’s strategy with investment funding is tied to areas where the Group has long-term strategic interest.
AI in Construction
One particular focus already communicated by Nemetschek is the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and construction.
Reconstruct focuses on the utilization of computer vision and artificial intelligence to provide remote quality control and progress tracking in the construction industry. “Helping the industry advance AI and machine learning in the construction space will be an important factor moving forward,” says Wheelis.
Reconstruct has the technologies that “close the gap,” as he calls it, between “the plan versus the actual performance.”
“Getting closure against how you are executing against the plan has been a challenge,” he says. “You can talk about clipboards in the field or these days about an iPad, which is often just a digital clipboard. In both cases, it is still a human manually verifying progress in the field.”
Typically construction superintendents or their assistant superintendents walk the job site to verify the progress being made by all the trades on the job. It’s an activity that requires depth in construction experience to understand and relate progress against sequenced project schedules.
Helping the industry advance AI and machine learning in the construction space will be an important factor moving forward.
Reconstruct’s software systems assist these efforts by ingesting reality capture data, including off-the-shelf 360-degree photography, drone data, and point clouds captured by laser scanners, comparing it using AI to drawings and BIM models, and then making intelligent assessments of progress status. Reconstruct has multiple patents on automated detection technology—recognizing from photography the rich complexity of building components as they relate to various trades and work in the building.
The architect and owner teams are also benefitting from Reconstruct’s technology. “The architect can virtually visit the site to do their observational or inspection work,” adds Wheelis. “Or it can be the owner’s representative who visits the virtual world of the site versus the actual physical world of the site, yielding more frequent and less expensive progress reviews.”
Reconstruct has been on a fast uptake since its founding, with 300 percent growth over the past two years. The AI-based construction software is active on projects for global brands like 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, and Pfizer. The latter company has deployed Reconstruct on its production facilities worldwide.
The architect can virtually visit the site to do their observational or inspection work…
The US, Australia, Europe, and Japan are all major global markets for Reconstruct, and these markets match well with other Nemetschek AEC software brands. “The uptake in Japan has been strong,” adds Wheelis, “and some of the investors in the Series B round are from there.”
In May of 2020, Professor Georg Nemetschek, founder of the Nemetschek Group, established an Innovation Foundation in Munich, Germany. The Nemetschek Innovation Foundation is set to focus on AI as one of the pillars of the construction industry’s future. “Our founder made a significant financial contribution to the University of Munich to found the Institute of Artificial Intelligence for the Built World,” says Wheelis, “and there is a lot of synergy in that effort and our efforts behind Reconstruct.”