Unlearning by doing

The Construction industry (or more generically speaking AEC, Architecture Engineering and Construction) is notoriously known as inefficient. So much so that McKinsey places it as the worst in class in Gross Value added per hours worked: while agriculture moved from 200 in the 60s to 1,600 today, Construction moved from 200 in the 60s  to less than 100 today. Also in terms of Digitization rate, Construction falls at the tail end, together with Agriculture and Hunting (!)

The irony is that the world will be in desperate need of a way more efficient (and sustainable) construction industry if we need to house almost 10B people by 2050 on this planet.

This is the intriguing preface to my conversation with Amy Marks, the new evangelist and Head of IC (Industrialized Construction) strategy at Autodesk.

Here are a few highlights from our chat:

  • there is still confusion in the loose use of terms in the industry (even more evident comparing US & EU). From IC to Design for Manufacturing
  • Katerra ($4.1B raised with Vision Fund and others) is very visible (sells large building components offsite) but should not be singled out as the make-or-brake it for the market
  • There are multiple fab-shops that are building incredible components that are almost invisible to the general public. Prefab is not only volumetric modules but plenty of such components
  • Intelligent materials are available today and easily trackable, allowing a more sustainable future (and unlocking a more Circular Economy)
  • Policy-Makers will be key (post COVID crisis) to create the proper incentives for better sustainability of industry (recycling)
  • The Carlo Ratti/MIT Hospital Shipping Containers built as open source project a few weeks ago, is a great example of collaboration and how to unlock engenuity from necessity. However, it’s key to look for the right solution for the right problem (A.K.A. all prefab is not created equal)

Lastly: while the market can definitely profit from “shiney” innovations stemming from 3D printing of entire structures (ie famous 3D Bridge printed in Amsterdam) or  AR/VR for maintenance and remote assistance,  end-to-end Automation and Robotics, Amy is pretty adamant about what should come first:  the changes in behavior in thought-process has to be the #1 goal to achieve digitization.

#1 goal to achieve digitization? To change the behavior in thought-process


1:06 From an entrepreneurial background to Autodesk (during lockdown!)
2:43 Refreshing to see how Autodesk is approaching the COVID crisis
5:56 Industrialized Construction
7:10 Construction least efficiency industry. Why?
15:07 Design for Manufacturing
19:45 Prefab in not only volumetric modules but plenty of components
22:40 Intelligent materials & circular economy
27:35 RFID to track material
29:05 Roles of policy makers to incentivize better construction processes
33:01 Time to create incentives now to become a more sustainable industry
36:10 Katerra and the amount of capital now poured into AEC
40:35 The fascination of building blocks and shipping containers
45:21 3D printing buildings, Robotics-automation, AR/VR
47:51 Changes in behavior in thought-process s #1 goal to digitization