Interview with utecture’s Kyle Donovan – on “game-changing” the building experience

utecture is a cloud-based digital building platform that combines dynamic design presentation, documentation and workflow management. 

It offers builders simpler planning, faster decision-making, reduced duplication and greater accuracy and control over projects. 

For home-buyers it offers the ability to live-price and model their home virtually – a big advantage in these uncertain times. 

What can take months to explore, weigh-up and buy using more traditional methods can be done in a matter of minutes. 

Sounds too good to be true? I reached out to Kyle Donovan, director of New Zealand-based Donovan Group, to find out more.

What problem does utecture solve?

utecture creates a digital twin of a home design and vastly reduces the time and expense involved in the pre-construction phase, allowing real time changes to be made, documented and priced to a 3D virtual model of the home.

It also contributes to the delivery of better quality, more sustainable houses and buildings. By digitising the pre-construction process and equipping it with the smarts to price design changes in real time, a process that can traditionally take months can now take minutes.

What does utecture enable customers/home buyers to do that they can’t do already with various digital modelling platforms?

Other digital modelling platforms are specialist software, largely used by building professionals, that model the geometry and aesthetics of a building design.  utecure’s AI engine creates the 3D geometry by assembling all the parts and assemblies needed to build the home.  Data can be attached to every part in the geometry, including live cost files, and conventional documents can be produced, such as plans, elevations and detailed material schedules.   

The utecture tool offers visualisation and project management features but what makes it different from other modelling platforms is its ability to price the design and attribute environmental impacts in real time.

The live pricing sounds great – how robust is that figure – does it factor in unforeseen circumstances?

The price is based on the builder’s current price schedules and materials used to build the home and is an accurate reflection of all the known conventions of that builder at the time of pricing.  It eliminates human error and allows learnings to be captured making accuracy incredibly reliable and repeatable.    

What has the response been from the building industry?

The response from the building industry has been strong.  We have signed up and are currently onboarding several of the top 20 group home builders in the New Zealand market.  The software provides positive change to the builders consumer experience whilst significantly compressing the time and risk, and increasing cost accuracy and visibility.    

Do businesses need to invest in training in order to use utecture?

No. The company has purposefully made the platform very user friendly to minimise formal training. A training program is included as part of an easy three-step process to deploy the technology that also includes customisation and integration. The company also offers online customer support.  

Getting the software right – how big a battle was that?

utecture is the product of a decades-long commitment to R&D by the Donovan Group. We are continually innovating and expanding the capacity of the software.

How does utecture integrate sustainability?

utecture will be able to track embodied/upfront carbon emissions (emissions produced in the manufacture and transport of materials) and expected operational energy use whilst the home is being designed. That means that customers can see in real time the environmental impact of each extra room or wall that they are considering.  With this data updated in real time, customers and builders are better equipped to minimise the environmental footprint of a construction project designs that will perform better and reduce energy costs.

utecture partnered with the Green Building Council of Australia and three Australian universities, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland, to simulate operational energy performance and embodied carbon in the model.

Where does utecture sit in the wider Donovan Group ecosystem of building products?

Donovan Group has been solving entrenched construction challenges since the 1960s and continues to innovate and solve, using technology to make building faster, better, safer and more sustainable.  It continues to create products and services within the construction technology verticals – software platforms, building products, advanced manufacturing and system solutions.   

You target residential builders – any plans to broaden to bigger builds?

utecture is currently focused on the residential market but will consider expanding to larger buildings in the future.

Other companies – run by kiwis – like Zuru Tech are also in this space – are we seeing a fundamental change in the building market what do you see the market looking like in 20 years?

The construction industry has been slow to modernise and is among the least digitised industries in the world. The industry has struggled to innovate because the process of constructing a building is complex, involves multiple contractors and can take years to complete.  

The industry is starting to innovate and certainly within 20 years the paper based, manual processes that are still commonplace will be replaced by smart digital tools that streamline operations, cut costs, minimise errors and generally make construction sites more pleasant places to work.

In a way the pandemic may have been a good thing for a virtual pre-construction platform… what’s your experience been?

It’s exciting that a New Zealand company is essentially shaping this new category of virtual pre-construction. We have seen significant interest in the platform as conventional ways of doing business and interfacing with consumers has been so disrupted. All of our businesses, teams and consumers have had to pivot quickly to allow engagement online and provide information more quickly and efficiently than they did previously.  

What’s in the future for utecture?

We believe utecture will significantly change the way builders and their consumers design, price and visualise home designs in the cloud from anywhere in the world. Reducing risk, cost and game-changing the experience.  

We have released and signed up top 20 builders in NZ and Australia,  and will continue to rapidly grow into new global markets    

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