The 2022 Construction Startup Competition winners presented their solutions at the Pitchday during Procore´s Groundbreak conference in New Orleans. Of the eight winners, Automatic Construction, Carbon Limit, Exodigo, and Soil Connect took home the gold medals in their category. I had a chance to chat with their teams after the results were announced.
The startup has devised a clever system that uses inflatable formwork to build cast-in-place concrete buildings. Automatic Construction calculates that their approach results in 30% less expensive home construction.
The startup provides a software plugin for structural designers, uses the digital model to build the formwork in a factory, and delivers it to the jobsite, where concrete is pumped into the form.
The basic idea of the product is simple, but to make it feasible, the team had to work out many details; for example,
- How to insert tensile reinforcement before and onsite
- How to build the formwork into larger structures and support or shore it while the concrete was curing
- How to get concrete with aggregate to flow in the form.
In many respects, Automatic Construction’s structures share the same characteristics as their traditionally built counterparts. There’s one difference that saves work and improves the result: the form layer is left in place, wrapping and covering the concrete in a plastic composite to provide a weather seal.
The sustainability of the solution stems from zero jobsite waste, airtight buildings, and sustainable cement.
The startup’s solution would allow free structural geometries, but they focus on buildings with traditional flat walls. They are currently building a slab-on-grade cast with their wall technique. As they create multistorey, the company anticipates beginning to build basements and deeper foundations.
Concrete production is responsible for over 80% of global CO2 emissions. The primary source of emissions is cement production. Carbon limit has developed cement technology that reduces the carbon footprint of concrete and turns it into CO2 storage.
The company’s product, CaptureCrete, is a nature-based cement replacement containing active minerals and a catalyst. It’s able to attract CO2 directly from the air actively. The concrete using it will also have self-healing properties.
From an end user’s perspective, CaptureCrete is a simple drop-in solution. Carbon Limit says that even cement additives should work similarly, but additional testing is needed.
Carbon Limit promises its solution can reduce concrete production’s carbon emissions by 75%. Third-party labs, including two experienced university labs, back up their claims. The company is also in the process of getting its carbon credits verified.
Potentially, Carbon Limit’s solution has a considerable market. They are aiming to start licensing their technology in 2023.
Exodigo is a non-intrusive underground mapping platform that uses AI technology.
The uniqueness of Exodigo’s AI-based interpretation is how it deals with the volume and complexity of the sensor data, including anomalies. An anomaly can be as simple as a buried rebar or as complex as an underground gas distribution station.
Exodigo’s technology creates 3D maps that users can import into their GIS, CAD, or BIM software. The maps contain every part of the area, not just the located objects, in the form of colored polygons. The colors represent simple action items: green for free of hazards, red for high risk, and yellow for extra inspection needed.
The maps’ accuracy requirements vary. Some prioritize depth; others scale or boundaries. Horizontal accuracy usually ranges from 6”-12″, and depth usually ranges from 0.5-1.5ft, depending on the depth of the utilities.
The startup’s current business model is to sell reliable underground risk management during the design phase of a new capital project (new construction, replacement, or maintenance). Any client building something new (e.g., a telecom burying new fiber optic lines) is a potential client. The business model is “Price of Software Interpretation” per acre.
Today, Exodigo provides a full scan service, including the operators, hardware, and interpretation software. In the future, clients can choose between a full-service or a self-service scan. For complete services, the company will train local distributors to be “Exodigo-certified scanners.”
Soil Connect’s flagship product is an online marketplace that connects those with soil and aggregates with those who need it. The CEO calls it “the dating app for dirt.” Soil Connect covers over 70 types of dirt, aggregates, and other materials.
The new marketplace enables everyone in the dirt ecosystem to communicate their needs and create close connections easily. How far you must transport the soil defines the costs and emissions associated. Timing is also essential. It’s not efficient to pile dirt up on the jobsite.
The company has created transparency in “The Dirt World” by inviting everyone and anyone who plays in the dirt on their platform. With the matching algorithms, the users can find their ‘match’ much more quickly, leading to closer connections, saving them time and money, and reducing their emissions.
The startup sees the B2B market as its most significant opportunity. Companies are moving large volumes of dirt and aggregates daily, whereas the consumer market is geared more toward retail.
Soil Connect has developed a simple-to-use e-ticketing module that supplements the marketplace. It provides a way to capture, track, and share details of hauling materials.
The challenges of resourcing and moving dirt and aggregates are universal. Soil Connect operates in the USA but has received numerous inquiries worldwide. Expansion to other markets is definitely on their roadmap, the company says.
More coming up
I’m eager to see how the gold medalists and other winners will be able to scale their businesses and what impact their innovations will have on the industry.
I’m also looking forward to this year’s competition. CEMEX Ventures and the new partners joining the CSC team in 2023 are already preparing to launch an exciting new round.
Meanwhile, check out CEMEX Ventures’ 2023 list of Top 50 construction startups.
You can watch the winners’ Pitchday presentation video at cemexventures.com.
Title image: Bret Simon, Exodigo, at the Pitchday