Let’s face it: in the current climate emergency scenario, isolated and fragmented efforts to minimize industry-scale emissions will unlikely have the necessary impact to achieve the Paris Agreement climate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Global and collaborative efforts are necessary, and so the team at Volumes has decided to contribute by fast tracking the transition of technology-driven applications through a spin-off startup studio for the AEC sector (Architecture, Engineering and Construction).

Poking the beast: lessons learned and new strategies

As an action-research driven laboratory, Volumes recently closed a 3 years research project, REFLOW, focusing on developing material re-use solutions for temporary construction. As part of the Paris pilot and through our early-stage incubation program called Driven, we accompanied young entrepreneurs from our ecosystem in deploying technology-based applications aiming at optimizing the (re)employment of building components.

Both tools - Mattersite: an AI and computer vision based solution for optimizing deconstruction processes and Elements Reuse: an RFID solution for real-time tracking of construction materials and components - encourage the adoption of circular principles in the built environment.

When faced with the necessity to test these tools directly on the market, the willingness of adoption by industry stakeholders was somewhat skeptical, and the response slow. This shed a light on the importance of the readiness of emerging technologies to be put on the market. But most importantly, on the industry’s slow and shy adoption of advanced research and development carried out by various institutions worldwide, despite the recent awareness on the construction sector being one of the largest consumers of resources and raw materials on the planet.

Let’s use numbers for scale: in 2020, the building and construction sector accounted for 36% of global energy demand and 37% of energy-related CO2 emissions. 10% of those emissions went into the manufacturing of building materials such as glass, cement and steel(1).  This means that in order to be on track for the net-zero emissions, we need to halt or reduce to a minimum the current way we build, if unchanged. The only time this happened recently was during the pandemic. Imagine 10 more years of lockdowns? me neither…

In other words, the climate clock is ticking; of course, building less and avoiding overdesign can be a complementary path we are exploring at Volumes, but in parallel the construction sector needs impactful disruptions and cross-disciplinary systemic transformations.

Our answer: Driven Studio, the first startup studio for the AEC sector.

Driving technology forward: Driven Studio

First things first: what is a startup studio?

A startup studio is a factory that builds startups - Driven thrives to be a positive-impact one.

An interdisciplinary team of entrepreneurs and experts in the fields of research, innovation, finance, and marketing hires talents based on their skills and commitment to the challenges of the sector and builds companies together on co-founder basis, distributing risks and costs.

By keeping a share of the spin-off companies, the studio insures a revenue stream to keep the innovation loop active in responding to the urgent challenges the construction sector faces.

Why Driven Studio?

In order to reconcile the high potential and rapid developments in the field of technology with their adoption in the AEC sector, there is an urgency to address the needs of key stakeholders unto scalable market-ready proposals. For this purpose, we believe efforts need to be focused on early stage ideation phases of startups. This means working with researchers and entrepreneurs before the startup idea exists, not after (like most incubators and accelerators)

Once you got your idea, it is too late, Francesco Cingolani
Our mission: maximize technology transfer on the market by offering a bridge between laboratory-led research and key stakeholders.

Ideas are generated by responding to pre-defined areas of opportunities (computer vision and  detection, new materials for construction, design for disassembly, data and blockchain).

The studio will rely on the explorative character and exponential growth in the fields of advanced technology such as automation, large-scale 3d printing, computation, biomaterials, spatial analytics and blockchain that offer new, massive, unexplored playgrounds in which radical applications can be ideated.

By applying the startup studio model with a team working transversally on these different fields of technological innovation, and in close contact with the industry’s key stakeholders, the startup studio model insures shorter feedback loops, faster and more agile trial-error processes, all while optimizing shared human resources.

We need tools for search and exploration, rather than simply control and execution, Michael Hansmeyer.

All hands on deck: a more collaborative approach for the built environment

By acting as a bridge between academia, research labs, entrepreneurs, businesses and investors in the AEC sector, Driven Studio aims to contribute to a more distributed approach in the sector to accelerate the transition to a less fragmented, more sustainable and circular construction industry.

We bet on this approach to allow for an efficient, distributed workflow in the value chain. By establishing a new synergic way to making impactful business in construction, our chances are higher at reducing both direct and indirect emissions from the sector.

As Volumes grows its cross-sector global innovation support towards positive-impact initiatives, Driven Studio takes on the mission of bringing the urgent need of disruption to the construction sector, while benefiting from its partner’s knowledge, best practices and collaboration.


We are looking to collaborate with major stakeholders in the AEC sector from R&D labs of architectural firms to construction companies by accompanying them in their response to lowering the construction sector’s emissions through setting up new innovative processes in their practice.

If you would like to take part of our challenge, if you are reading this and are interested in joining forces, or you are simply curious about the process,

Sources

  1. 2021 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT FOR BUILDINGS AND CONSTRUCTION - UN Environment Program - “Towards a zero-emissions, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector
  2. CIRCULARITY IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN EUROPE - Metabolic, 2022.
  3. The Origin and Evolution of the Startup Studio- Jules Ehrhardt, 2016.

Credits, additional resources and thanks

This article was written by Yara Tayoun (CEO and co-founder of Driven Studio), who is pushing the project from Volumes together with Francesco Cingolani and in collaboration with Aldo Sollazzo (both acting as co-founders).

Driven Studio is also highly inspired by actions and commitments taken by the young climate startup studio Marble, that we look at with humility and great respect.


Francesco Cingolani has recently stepped back from his position as director of Design by Data, an Executive Master in Computational Design and Digital Construction he founded at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, to fully focus on the implementation of Driven Studio- for more details, check the story on why he is doing this on linkedin.