DBL Helps Launch BuiltTech Initiatives at Symposium

Dennis Shelden Symposium Introduction

By Isra Hassan | Atlanta, GA

The Georgia Institute of Technology is the innovation engine that drives Atlanta’s high tech leadership in finance, cybersecurity, and autonomous vehicles. In early October, Georgia Tech’s Digital Building Laboratory aimed to add built environment technology (BuiltTech) to the mix.

The Digital Building Lab Symposium, held at Georgia Tech’s historic Academy of Medicine, featured panels of leading innovators in the building industry as well as venture firms and entrepreneurs that targeted the BuiltTech sector. The event showcased cutting-edge research in AEC technology from across Georgia Tech as well as panel discussions with the leadership of the Atlanta and national AEC tech scene. To watch the symposium visit the DBL Facebook page.

The AEC Industry & Emerging Technologies

The $7 trillion global construction sector is one of the world’s largest industries, but it has been slow to adopt technology-based efficiencies. New computing paradigms — including ubiquitous computing, augmented reality, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) — are now providing a catalyst for change. There is currently rapidly expanding interest in the disruptive potential of digital technologies and how it will affect the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professions.

The Digital Building Lab (DBL) is already positioned as a thought leader in AEC industry applications of emerging technologies thanks to founder Chuck Eastman’s groundbreaking work in building information modeling (BIM). Current director Dennis Shelden is working to position the Lab and Atlanta as a hub for BuiltTech innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Atlanta has all the ingredients necessary to become a leading center in developing high tech applications for the built environment,” said Shelden, who is also an associate professor in the School of Architecture at the College of Design.

“The Atlanta, real estate market, is booming, and this growth is driven by the intersection of technology development and real estate investment serving high tech. Tech Square, an innovation neighborhood at the edge of the Georgia Tech campus, is home to numerous startups, entrepreneurship support programs, including the Institute’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) and VentureLab, as well dozens of corporate incubators.

DBL Developing a Regional BuiltTech Network

“Atlanta is also the economic capital of the southeast, where Fortune 500 companies, building product manufacturers, and innovative AEC software companies have set up their headquarters. By tapping into all of these resources and bringing them together, we can make BuiltTech an important part of the regional innovation economy.”

Fellow Atlanta innovator The Combine is working with the DBL to develop a regional BuiltTech network. The Combine is an incubator that helps traditional building industry companies launch startup companies. KP Reddy is a co-founder of The Combine and a founder of Shadow Ventures, a venture firm focused on seed investing in BuiltTech enterprises.

“We see the BuiltTech market as one of the emerging leaders in technology entrepreneurship,” Reddy said. “There is pent-up demand for innovation and disruption in this space and a growing startup community is pursuing new ventures to disrupt aspects of this large industry.”

Reddy leads the BuiltTech program at Supernova South — the Southeast’s largest and longest running tech conference — and is partnering with the DBL to develop BuiltTech.

“BuiltTech, like financial technology (FinTech), is a sector that perfectly illustrates an industry where Georgia leads and Georgia Tech innovates,” said Jen Bonnett, general manager of the ATDC, which is the state of Georgia’s technology incubator. “Tech Square is the heart of innovation, and we look forward to joining our partners to leverage our collective resources in support of this initiative.”

Another presentation was by DesignIntelligence, headed by Dave Gilmore, which is another local Atlanta AEC industry leadership organization collaborating series of BuiltTech. Before becoming the CEO of DesignIntelligence, Gilmore spent years in the technology worlds of Silicon Valley, Boston, and Tel Aviv, and facilitated funding for startups and established firms to help their strategic growth.

“I’m thrilled to see Georgia Tech and Atlanta taking the lead in developing the new high tech AEC economy,” Gilmore said. “The industry is ripe for the sort of disruptive technology plays we’ve seen in other markets, and it’s exciting to see the local academic, research, commercial, and government leadership coming together to tackle this opportunity.”

The DBL symposium brought a spirit of entrepreneurs and innovation and presented a different career track for Georgia Tech students to start up their businesses.