Sep 26 2014

COMIT combining forces with Fiatech

FiatechCOMITEarlier this year, I attended and spoke at the first European summit of Fiatech, the US-based but now increasingly international body focused on development and adoption of innovative practices and technologies to deliver business value throughout the life cycle of capital assets. The organisation is also closely aligned with the UK-based COMIT group, and next month the two will be holding a joint two-day annual conference at The Crystal, London on 30-31 October 2014.

This is a welcome expansion of what has for the past two years been one of the best – and most cost-effective – construction IT conferences I have attended (OK, disclosure: I am a member of the COMIT management team). The 2014 event will pick up the BIM, collaboration and mobile themes of previous years within an all-encompassing title: “Efficiency Through Digital Projects”, and I am told will feature presentations from Shell, Bechtel, Skanska, Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Crossrail, Morgan Sindall, Murphy, Costain, CCC, Ch2mHill, Laing O’Rourke, Mott Macdonald, HS2, Vinci and KPMG. It will also be an opportunity to learn more about the work of the joint COMIT/Fiatech Mobile IT Community of Interest group and subgroup.

Early bird booking for the conference will close shortly (attend a two day conference for just £150 plus VAT) – you can register here.


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Sep 26 2014

iSite grows revenues 33%

iSiteThe financial fortunes of the smaller players in the UK SaaS construction collaboration technology market are often a good indication of the overall health of the sector. Having seen major vendor Conject UK report 2013 turnover up 16% earlier this month, Styles & Wood’s specialist information management subsidiary iSite has also reported revenues growing.

In the first six months of 2014, according to an interim statement reported on the London Stock Exchange, it generated revenues of £0.843m, up 33% on £0.632m for the same period in 2013. Margins were slightly under pressure: iSite generated £21k in profit in the same period, as against £41k last year. The report noted that iSite’s  Building Intelligence Hub was now live for the largest banking group in South Africa.

As the business usually has a better second half, on this performance, it should finish comfortably ahead of last year’s closing revenue figure of £1.711m (profit: £279k), itself a historic high for the Nottingham-based company.

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Sep 26 2014

Aconex in November IPO?

Aconex logo 2014Industry rumours suggest Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex may be listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in November, with road shows underway this month (according to The Australian). Talk of a possible IPO first emerged in mid-July (post).

Australian publications are suggesting investment banks Macquarie and UBS will take the company to the analyst road show in late September and the management road show in mid to late October. The book build is slated for late October, but the size of the offer has yet to be disclosed.

The company apparently received favourable feedback from a non-deal road show in July, especially with Asian investors who liked the story of taking Australian expertise global. Aconex has expanded aggresively overseas, with a strong push in north America in recent years.

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Sep 11 2014

VFA enters UK SaaS asset management market

Capturing and analysing data about existing built assets is being enabled by mobile and SaaS technologies. VFA is now competing in the UK market.

While much of the UK debate about building information modelling has been about accommodating the varying needs of people involved in the design and construction phases of an asset’s lifecycle, only in the last year or so has there been deeper discussion of the owner/operator’s longer-term asset information requirements. The publication of PAS1192 Part 3 in March 2014 has helped with this (as have various conferences covering operation and maintenance needs – thinkBIM in Leeds on 9 July returned to the topic for a third time), and I think the industry is also beginning to understand that BIM can also be retrospectively applied to existing buildings and other facilities.

This is a central argument made by Kykloud‘s Ed Bartlett, among others, who argues that design geometry is just part of the information needed to run capital assets (post). Powerful Software-as-a-Service data aggregation, analysis and reporting toolsets can help owners and facility managers make informed decisions about their assets, and US-based VFA is now providing facilities assessments, using “cloud-based software with analytic tools that drive actionable capital plans” in the UK.


VFA logoChris Low (VFA UK)Over the past 15 years since it was founded in Boston, VFA has shown over 800 organisations how to ensure that their facilities optimally support their strategic business objectives, helping reduce risk, lower costs, improve service quality and customer satisfaction, and satisfy compliance requirements. Its facilities assessments are tailored to organisational needs, and can be delivered online by VFA’s or the client’s staff. VFA has now started growing a Reading-based UK business, managed by Chris Low. Formerly EMEA sales and key accounts manager at MRI Software, and with a background in property consultancy services, Chris explained to me how VFA’s suite of software tools can be used.

    1. First, he said, data is collected through a cloud-based guided self-assessment solution, VFA.auditor, that creates surveys to rapidly collect facility and building condition data via an iPad or Android tablet. Users can collate wide-ranging asset information including location, structure, type, uses, conditions, requirements and associated costs, and related projects and plans.
    2. Next, that data can be imported into VFA.facility, a cloud-based configurable dashboard solution for facilities capital planning and management which helps facility managers, capital planners, financial analysts and executives visualise their data and make optimal decisions about facility spending, sustainability investments and capital planning.
    3. Real estate data from VFA.facility can also be quickly and securely shared with selected stakeholders, via a further application, VFA FacilityView.


  • Asset information can also be integrated, via AssetFusion, with information held in computerised maintenance management systems such as IBM’s Maximo.

The VFA tools thus enable users to quickly and easily search for assets meeting certain criteria, see summary statistics about a selected assets, view locations on a map, and dive into key asset details, including requirements by priority, category or system.

In the UK, Chris told me VFA is successfully winning work from large PFI stakeholders, in market sectors such as healthcare, and with major owners of distributed assets. He also highlighted that the VFA product suite wasn’t just about buildings but included a module for linear and infrastructure assets (steam, water, electrical distribution systems, sanitary and storm sewers, carparking, pedestrian paving, etc).

What-if scenario planning

screenshot1With Chris’s VFA colleague, director of product marketing David Isaacson, we also looked at how the system uses industry-standard Facility Condition Index metrics to set targets for investment programmes. VFA uses CIBSE-defined standard condition ratings, and BCIS cost data to define the lifecycle costs for each system in a building, and calculates the FCI (calculated by taking the capital needs and dividing by the replacement value of the building – see Wikipedia article); the lower the FCI value, the better the condition of the building. With this information, clients can calculate how much funding will be required to achieve a particular FCI, and scenarios can be defined that show – scientifically, transparently and defensibly – the impact of different funding levels.

Capital needs prioritisation

VFA screenshot 2VFA also helps clients decide where, when, and how much to invest by demonstrating that these investments align with the their objectives. VFA’s Capital Budgeting and Ranking Module allows clients to develop multiple strategies to assess different prioritisation approaches. These strategies can include data elements beyond condition, assessing, say, how mission-critical the asset is, what the risk and impact of failure might be, and how well the asset meets the client’s functional needs. Pair-wise analysis processes are deployed, testing the relative importance of individual items in order to achieve an overall rank ordering.

As a result, strategies can be developed to rank all capital needs with budget as an overall constraint. This helps ‘depoliticise’ prioritisation decisions, helps clients develop different strategies for different projects, different parts of the estate, and different investment objects, and allows multiple objectives to be met while making sure that the most important issues are addressed in a timely fashion.

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Sep 09 2014

GTeam added to Trimble Buildings portfolio

Trimble logoTrimble has made another significant move, acquiring (for an undisclosed amount) the software business Gehry Technologies (GT), the software and consulting services business that has been key to cost-effectively delivering US-based architect Frank Gehry’s ground-breaking designs (also, last month, Trimble announced it had acquired London-based FM software developer Manhattan Software).

In April 2012, industry watchers were surprised when Trimble added Google’s Sketchup application to its portfolio of built environment applications, which already included Tekla and the (formerly Meridian-branded) project collaboration tools, Proliance and Prolog (see post). Some six months later it added the 5D BIM solution Vico and established the Trimble Buildings design-build-operate (DBO) division to manage them all (post), and underlined its ‘Open BIM’ approach.


Gehry’s practice has deployed Dassault Systemes’ CATIA platform, but the Digital Project design authoring suite does not appear to be part of the transaction (GT’s website says “GT no longer develops Digital Project, but our colleagues over at DPI would be happy to help you“). The Los Angeles-based GT’s main product, therefore, is a web-based file management and project collaboration platform, GTeam, which is supported by a 10-office GT network offering professional services. It seems, then, that GTeam will add some more BIM-oriented capabilities to complement Trimble’s existing project and programme management offerings.

Trimble will integrate the design tools and professional services of Gehry Technologies into its own forthcoming DBO software solutions platform, according to Trimble CEO Steven W. Berglund:

“Frank [Gehry] has built what amounts to a collaboration platform which enables various project members to share the entire model. It’s a good fit for our emerging DBO platform. … Professional services is not historically a part of Trimble. But the ambition is that [Gehry Technologies] will become a platform for the wider growth of Trimble in engineering and construction realm. We would hope that these offices can become a platform for engaging the international construction industry.”

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