Automating Building Design: Our Investment in Augmenta

Eclipse

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Jun 21, 2023

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4 MIN

Summary: The Eclipse team is excited to partner with Augmenta to transform the construction industry through automated building design.


By: Ryan Gibson, Charly Mwangi, and Justin Selig

Once in a generation, a new technology emerges to augment human capabilities beyond levels previously thought possible. This technology often represents a step change in human capabilities, characterized by a shift in the fundamental tools, processes, and/or techniques used for creating physical goods with commercial value. In the 1700s, it was the printing press and the steam engine. In the 1800s, it was the application of electricity. In the 1960s, it was computer networking, which served as the genesis for the Internet. With each shift, humans forgo the previous machinery and the new technology becomes standard.  

Industrial design automation tools, invented in the 1950s, represent another step-change in the way humans create physical goods. Specifically, computer-aided design (CAD) tools have been applied across industries ranging from Electronic Design Automation (EDA), to mechanical parts design, to construction with Building Information Modeling (BIM). However, over the past half century, these tools used for creating designs have looked more or less the same, save for the size and power of the machines running them. There’s a computer interface in which a human manipulates objects by hand over the course of weeks to months to produce a part or “model” as output. Today, AI represents the most exciting technology platform of our generation. The Eclipse team believes that one of the highest-value applications of AI in physical industries will be a new generation of CAD tools. We call this “Next-Generation CAD for Hardware Design.” Next-Gen CAD tools will enable engineers to move beyond manual processes in designing components. Instead, engineers will simply define functional requirements and constraints, while the computer fills out the details.

Construction is an industry that relies on CAD tools and we believe is set for transformation by Next-Gen CAD. Construction generates $13T annually, with $1.44T in the U.S. alone. Yet, the industry is plagued by legacy tools and manual processes for designing complex building systems like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. As a result, the building design process is fragmented, labor-intensive, error-prone, and is among the primary drivers of cost and lead-time. Consequently, pressure is mounting to rethink the building design process entirely.

Francesco Iorio, CEO of Augmenta AI, was among the first to realize the promise of a new approach to CAD. He felt the pains of using legacy tools firsthand and recognized an opportunity to redefine the design process. This inspired him to start a new product division at Autodesk with the objective to change the way humans interface with CAD tools. What he called “goal-oriented design” was rebranded by Autodesk to “Generative Design” — a term now adopted widely by the mainstream. Francesco’s research led to numerous publications, patents, technology R&D activities, and strategic engagements for Autodesk. While Francesco and his team made tremendous progress in rethinking building design, he understood the opportunity was so large that it presented fertile ground for a new company to be built on the back of a dedicated toolset to help fast-track further innovation. And so, Augmenta was born.

Eclipse’s Investment in Augmenta

Today, the Eclipse team is excited to announce our partnership with the Augmenta team to help accelerate its mission to automate construction industry building design. We are pleased to lead the company’s $11.75M seed extension round in partnership with Hazelview Ventures, BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund, and Suffolk Technologies. 

Augmenta is developing Next-Gen CAD for the construction industry. The company’s flagship Augmenta Construction Platform (ACP) leverages artificial intelligence and high-performance computing techniques to generate fully constructible, code-compliant designs of the most costly systems of a building: the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural (MEP+S) systems. The design and engineering phase represents 9-14% of total construction cost. Augmenta significantly accelerates this phase, automates coordination between systems, and therefore, eliminates costly rework. 

When we first met the Augmenta team, three things were  clear to us:

The team: Of all the teams we spoke to, the Augmenta team stood out due to its leadership's incredible technical backgrounds and thought leadership in the space. 

Differentiated approach: Augmenta takes a product-based approach rather than a consultancy-based approach, which makes their product scalable. In addition, their platform integrates into existing BIM (Building Information Management) workflows, allowing frictionless adoption, which is critical to an industry where the same tools have been standard for decades.

Go-to-Market Strategy: There are various insertion points for design tools in construction — from high-level architectural design, to high-level engineering, or to detailed parts design. Of these areas, the detailed design is usually where the most friction occurs. Creating part-level, constructible details that take into account supply chain constraints is labor-intensive, requires rigorous coordination, and is error prone. Augementa’s platform addresses these issues by automatically producing constructible, code-compliant, and supply chain constrained designs.

Since its inception, Augmenta has made tremendous progress. The company was recently recognized as a Top 50 Preconstruction Future Disruptor by BuiltWorlds and has received a strong level of interest through its Augmenta Feedback Community. 

With this round of funding, Augmenta plans to double its team and continue to build on the momentum the company has achieved to date, including implementing commercial pilots with several large electrical engineering firms.

The construction industry, one of the biggest contributors to GDP, has yet to reap the productivity, scalability, and sustainability benefits of advanced technology. The Eclipse team believes that Augmenta is positioned to drastically drive down costs and improve efficiencies, not just in the design phase, but throughout the construction lifecycle in very significant ways.

Congratulations to Francesco and the entire Augmenta team!


Follow Eclipse on LinkedIn for the latest on the Industrial Evolution.

Tags

  • Ai
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Augmenta
  • Automation
  • Construction
  • Digital Transformation
  • Generative Design

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