With 30 years of experience in the built sector, Gonzalo leads Cemex Ventures in the search of innovative business models for Cemex and the construction industry, helping propel innovation, sustainability, and digitization in the sector that leads to more collaboration and less fragmentation.
Prepare to embark on a riveting journey through the evolution of construction innovation!
Do you remember when the construction sector was solely comprised of heavy machinery and complex materials? It wasn’t too long ago, but now in the 21st century, there are new technologies that make building massive structures easier, faster, and more sustainable. The revolution of the construction industry has set a new standard thanks to innovation!
Innovation requires constant evolution and an openness to improve products, processes, and services. Whether it’s the incorporation of new ideas into already established systems, or completely transforming how something is done, innovation is the key to solving the challenges many companies are faced with today.
This blog presents 12 examples of disruptive technological innovations in the construction industry. Keep reading to learn more.
What is construction innovation?
To understand what we mean by construction innovation, we first need to establish context. Innovation in our industry has been lagging for many years. While other industries, such as automotive or healthcare, have been quick to adapt to the digital age, construction has kept a slower pace in the race to digitalize. That is, until now.
Why? Because innovation is expensive. It requires extensive research and can lack standardization. And in a capital inventive industry such as construction, innovation becomes slightly more challenging. Moreover, fragmentation and the extensive size of the industry have historically presented barriers to innovation and the wide-scale adoption of new technologies.
It’s safe to say that construction innovation is not as straight forward as it may seem. It requires a collaborative effort from all stakeholders across our complex value chain.
To foster innovation into the construction industry, we must:
- Promote sustainable solutions for the industry to reduce its environmental impact.
- Build the cities of the future with smarter technology, innovative construction methods and materials, new energy sources, and better asset and resource management tools.
- Optimize supply chains to make it easier for built professionals to obtain materials and services, track their fleets, and have better inventory management.
- Improve productivity, efficiency, and the quality of the construction work through a connected & monitored jobsite.
At Cemex Ventures, we identify the startups working on solving these challenges, whether they benefit our end of the value chain or others. If it benefits the industry, it’s on our radar.
How important is technology in construction?
Technology is at the forefront of innovation in the construction industry. Our emphasis is not merely on recognizing technologies, but on identifying those that effectively address the challenges.
For example, let’s consider the COVID-19 pandemic. This global crisis pushed many companies to embrace the use of new technologies in order to continue working while maintaining the utmost safety.
We saw the advent of solutions that allowed for better jobsite safety, as well as those that helped in the delivery of materials to overcome mobility restrictions. Also, the use of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) let construction professionals work remotely without having to choose between safety or the halt of their projects.
The solutions that emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic opened the door to the reception of other innovative solutions and for the greater adoption of emerging technologies.
Likewise, in the past few years, we’ve witnessed the flourishing of technologies that help reduce the environmental impact the construction industry has on the planet, like net zero CO2 concrete, and technologies that can capture carbon emissions created from industrial processes and technologies that can capture carbon emissions created from industrial processes.
12 Examples of innovation in construction that will change the world
These following startups provide new ways of building, offer solutions to optimize waste management, utilize groundbreaking materials and technologies that are conscious of our environment, promote the safety of the workforce, optimize the supply chain management of our industry, and enhance productivity in the sector. But most importantly these are 12 examples of construction innovation already revolutionizing construction.
Construction, demolition and excavation waste is the EU’s largest waste stream. Circular economy-driven initiatives, applied to better waste management, play a crucial role in enhancing waste prevention and improving both the quantity and quality of recycling in this sector.
With its technology related to waste management, WtEnergy, a clean energy startup based in Barcelona (Spain), has developed a unique clean technology with the objective of minimizing waste in landfills and the environmental footprint associated with energy consumption in the construction industry.
Leveraging its notable expertise in advanced thermochemical conversion processes, WtEnergy has devised a pioneering method that utilizes CDEW waste as an alternative energy source, addressing this significant challenge in the industry. waste for firing kilns, addressing this significant industry challenge.
Recycled aggregates in construction are materials obtained from existing crushed and processed concrete, providing an eco-friendly alternative for various applications. These aggregates are acquired through a straightforward recycling process, making them a sustainable choice that reduces waste in landfills and lessens the environmental impact of aggregate extraction.
With the aim of promoting sustainability and reducing the need for new resources, the Argentinian startup Arqlite has developed a technology to transform plastic waste into light recycled aggregates and artificial gravel that can be used in drainage systems, and precast and stone concrete with a lower carbon footprint.
Another outstanding startup is SoilConnect, whose digital marketplace connects construction professionals who need to dispose of soil with those who need it. It’s a distance-based application that allows users to filter by location and material, reducing time on transportation and preventing materials from ending up in landfills, therefore reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact. Soil Connect also offers an e-ticketing solution, so all transactions can be easily managed through the application.
The project design phase in construction marks a strategic starting point, in which designers and architects meticulously plan crucial details such as schedules, materials, and responsibilities. This process is vital for:
- Setting objectives
- Visualizing steps
- Defining key elements like timelines and deliverables.
Aecore, formerly known as X3 Builders, offers price certainty through pre-defined design concepts, which standardizes material selection, eliminates lead time delays, and simplifies the construction phase through its software.
They offer an all-in-one approach to their clients, taking care of the design, procurement, and construction phases of their projects.
Another example of project design technology revolutionizing the construction sector is the startup Vizcab, which has developed a digital platform to measure and reduce the carbon impact of construction projects. This remarkable platform is targeted at developers, architects, engineers, and building manufacturers, providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that enable accurate measurement of carbon emissions at various phases in a building’s life cycle.
Vizcab was one the bronze medal winner of Construction Startup Competition 2023 and green construction startup in our list of the Top50 Contech Startups 2023. Recently, Cemex Ventures made a strategic investment in a French startup to promote the growth of digital solutions that enhance productivity and efficiency in the construction sector.
Last mile delivery
Last mile delivery, the final and often challenging phase of logistics, entails costly and time-consuming shipments to end customers, presenting hurdles in construction due to the demand for swift job site deliveries. Despite its importance, last mile logistics grapples with environmental, traffic, and cost issues.
GoFor is a North American leader in same day, last-mile delivery of construction materials. They provide their clients with a reliable and affordable delivery of materials, whether small or big loads, bulky items, on demand or pre-scheduled. Their platform helps craft a better customer experience, allowing users to track their orders and their costs, integrate their tools within the platform, and maintain a contactless delivery of materials to ensure safety for both ends.
This startup was founded in Canada in 2016 and is quickly expanding amongst the biggest cities in United States, now offering their services to multiple industries by supplementing their busy fleets or choosing them as an out-sourced logistics partner for deliveries.
Alternative energy sources
Innovation in the field of construction has resulted in new sources of renewable energy, such as solar or hydrogen, enabling the industry to reduce its dependency on high CO2 emitting fossil fuels.
For example, Synhelion, a startup based in Switzerland and a pioneer in the field of sustainable solar fuels, provides an energy alternative to help heavy industries, such as construction, decarbonize.
Synhelion’s groundbreaking technology harnesses concentrated solar heat, setting a new standard for process heat in various industries like fuel production and cement manufacturing. By replacing fossil fuels with carbon-neutral solar fuels, the startup plays a key role in achieving a net-zero transportation sector. These solar fuels not only contribute to closing the carbon cycle but also pave the way for a globally connected and sustainable transportation system.
Other sources of clean technology, such as hydrogen, are being harnessed by startups like HiiROC. Established in 2019, HiiROC (UK) pioneered a new process for low-cost, zero CO2 emission hydrogen through their patented Thermal Plasma Electrolysis (TPE) process. Recently, Cemex has increased its investment in this clean hydrogen startup to become a net-zero CO2 company by 2050, as outlined in its Future in Action sustainability program.
Carbon capture, utilization and storage
CCUS or Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage is an innovative set of technologies designed to reduce carbon emissions in industrial operations. It consists of indirectly or directly capturing carbon emissions and either reusing them in industrial materials or processes or storing them in large formations below the earth. This approach plays a crucial role in reducing airborne carbon, promoting sustainability, and combating climate change.
Examples of CCUS technology include Carbon Clean and Carbon Upcycling. Carbon Clean is a global leader in low-cost CO2 capture technology. The company’s patented technology substantially lowers costs and environmental impacts associated with CO2 separation compared to existing methods. Whereas Carbon Upcycling captures and transforms CO2 emissions and waste into performance-enhancing additives for the building materials industry.
3D printing (3DCP or 3DP) revolutionizes construction by employing 3D printers to automate the creation of building elements or entire structures. Unlike traditional printers which use ink, 3DCP uses traditional and novel construction materials. This groundbreaking construction method is versatile, applicable both onsite and offsite, and presents a futuristic and efficient approach to building.
The benefits of 3D printing in construction are striking. It accelerates project timelines, making them more cost-effective and sustainable, while enhancing safety, design flexibility, and efficiency and reducing delays.
COBOD, a global leader in 3D printing startup, recently collaborated with Cemex to introduce the first ever 3D printing solution that utilizes conventional ready-mix concrete in the building process. This innovative method not only reduces costs significantly but also expedites the construction process, marking a noteworthy advancement in the field.
The two companies have worked to convert traditional concrete used in 3D printing into a more versatile aggregate called D.fab that takes shape instantly and is compatible with COBOD’s 3D printing machinery.
Reality capture is a technology that transforms the physical world into a virtual environment using software, allowing monitoring of construction project progress and comparison of as-built and design-intent models for quality control. It facilitates rich documentation, enabling digital site revisits and data checks.
DroneDeploy, formerly known as StructionSite, is a clear example of how reality capture technology is redefining the future in the construction industry. This startup solves site documentation problems with an easy-to-use platform that lets clients seamlessly track a project’s progress. The startup incorporates the use of 360º cameras in the jobsite that provide data to its software, digitalizing and updating the worksite progress.
Their approach reduces rework, increases efficiency by eliminating unnecessary jobsite visits and walkthroughs, and reduces risk by saving all documentation that helps validate delay claims, trade damages and warranty issues.
Optimized risk management
The detection and prevention of risks in the construction sector are among the most crucial issues in this industry. Prysmex‘s solution aids in preventing accidents on construction sites.
By integrating IoT and real-time data collection, this Mexican startup allows construction companies to enhance their productivity by incorporating 3D maps of their jobsite that helps maintain control and supervision of teams in real-time, efficiently preventing accidents and mitigating risks.
Lean methodologies and BIM
BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a collaborative methodology, not just software, managing a building’s data throughout its life cycle. It efficiently integrates information from all stakeholders, enhancing the construction industry’s digital transformation and sustainability. BIM makes CAD (Computer Aided Designs) drawings dynamic, providing comprehensive insights into a building’s systems and influencing information-driven decision-making throughout its life cycle.
Outbuild, formerly known as IPSUM and then ProPlanner, is the first, fully integrated scheduling and planning software built specifically for construction. Their web-based and collaborative platform is used for building robust construction schedules and allows trade partners to create their weekly and daily activities, manage resources, and improve coordination between stakeholders throughout every stage of a construction project.
Digital construction platforms
Digital construction platforms help stakeholders optimize different stages within the construction supply chain thanks to the transition from pen-to-paper to digital.
Another notable player in this field is StructShare, a startup that aligns with digital transformation in construction. StructShare streamlines material management for specialty trade contractors and self-performing GCs, eliminating manual work, frustration, and errors. Through digitization, the entire workflow synchronizes directly into the client’s budget, providing an end-to-end purchasing solution. This digital construction platform is tailored for self-performing contractors, optimizing the entire cycle from field orders for enhanced efficiency and competitiveness.
Modular construction is a method of construction buildings off-site with the same materials and standards as traditional construction but in half the time. Assembled on-site in modules, these structures reflect sophisticated designs. The global embrace of modular construction is growing due to its numerous benefits.
In particular, UK-based startup Modulous is revolutionizing modular construction with their construction technology platform that aims to deliver high quality, sustainable and affordable homes in a fraction of the time when compared to traditional construction.
A winner of Construction Startup Competition 2020, Modulous aims to modernize the design and construction of affordable housing, making the process more efficient, scalable, and relying on a strong network of supply chain partners.
How does Cemex Ventures support innovation in construction?
At Cemex Ventures, we´ve identified that by working alongside startups, we can leverage on their fresh, groundbreaking ideas and combine them with our industry knowledge and network to enhance their reach and promote a greater adoption of their solutions.
To foster innovation in the industry through collaboration with startups, we understand that it’s not only about investing in them, but identifying their needs to see how we can help, whether it’s putting them in contact with our global network or R&D department, testing or piloting their solutions, or providing mentorship. We offer a tailor-made strategic approach to each startup we connect with.
We also work hand in hand with other companies in the industry (Ferrovial, NOVA by Saint-Gobain, VINCI Group’s Leonard, Trimble, etc.) to promote collaboration and exchange insights for the broader construction industry. Additionally, we aim to leverage this network to identify potential co-investors for fundraising and project development, with a specific focus on sustainability. We encourage startups and companies of all sizes to reach out to us so we can keep innovation in motion!
Contact us today!