The dot-com bubble popped over 20 years ago and the iPhone is already more than a decade old. So, why does the dream of digitizing the construction and real estate industry remain more than dream than reality? It’s not for lack of trying, at least not on the part of suppliers of digital solutions. If anything, the unending stream of new proptech start-ups is at the root of the problem. Who can tell which ones provide real value and which are just gimmicks?
“The problem investors and developer all face is that they are overwhelmed with information,” says Bojan Petković, director of Eastern Europe for PlanRadar. “Especially after the pandemic, you had an enormous number of point solution providers resulting in different special use cases. With so much information out there, these guys just don’t know which direction they should go.”
PlanRadar’s approach to enabling cooperation and the sharing of project information was to build a single cooperation platform for the broadest possible range of uses. Petković says their clients include developers and contractors but even suppliers, building managers and landlords. Basically, any stakeholder that needs to keep track of building data. “We’re offering a platform not a point solution,” he explains. “We offer a platform which can be easy easily integrated with all the other platforms.”
At the heart of its product is a digital ‘picture’ of the real estate that’s uploaded into the PlanRadar cloud-based application. That can come in the form of a 3D BIM model, but also a 2D blueprint, a LIDAR scan or just a photo of the space. Once that’s in the system, anyone installing, inspecting or repairing something in the building can use their smart phone to document the work — or to create a ticket.
“The system can be customized easily based on the use cases needed by each customer,” Petković explains. “If it’s a general contractor, he can use it to manage subcontractors or to coordinate site inspections and to make sure they have all the documentation on site. Facility managers use it to track the issues involved managing the property.”
He gives the case of a specific window that’s to be used in a certain room. All that has to happen is that someone (a supplier or project manager for example) has to attach its specs and serial number to the picture of it in PlanRadar’s application. After that, any sort of data can be added to it, including the vendor, warranty information or simply who installed it and when. Using their mobile phones, inspectors can tag it during a physical inspection, list any problems detected and upload a picture as evidence. Property managers will have all the necessary information immediately available if it has to be replaced. And developers or landlords can use it to complete any ESG documentation that’s needed.
Ironically, if there’s pushback from new, more transparent approaches to managing projects, it’s because construction projects are inherently risky. Small mistakes in communication can have enormous financial consequences. Any open and centralized system for logging data will make it far trickier to cover one’s tracks. But the opposite is true as well. “We’ve had many projects where the general contractor was scared, because the investor forced them to use it,” says Petković. “Ultimately, they saw that this transparency was better for them because it was safer for them. Because there was a clear track record of what they did.”
Petković says PlanRadar now has more than 400 employees based permanently in 16 countries, including most of Central Europe. This helps build confidence that local companies are using the product, and that there will be support staff capable of setting up the system and automatic reporting.
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