Deconstructing construction — Qflow one year in

A brief look into Qflow one year after inception. Where did we come from? What do we stand for? Where are we going?
Qflow founders

Who am I?

I am a Civil Engineer turned Entrepreneur. After spending nearly 7 years working in the industry my love-hate relationship with construction came to a head… you see, I love civil engineering; I see it as the very building blocks of our future (no pun intended). Without construction we do not have the houses we live in, the roads and rail we travel on, the utilities we rely on and the offices we work in. But building all this amazing stuff is hugely disruptive, and can be very damaging to the local and global environment. I believe that through innovation, we can not only improve performance and reduce cost, but we can also drastically improve the impact of construction, reducing it’s carbon footprint and disruption to local communities.

Jade and Brittany pitching at the Mayor of London’s Clean Tech event

What are we doing?

So after some pained discussions with my close friend and now co-founder Jade, we decided enough is enough, we need to do something about this! But where to start?

As a designer, I was often asked to predict the impact of a development, whether in relation to flood risk, water consumption or environmental damage. The tools available to us were, let’s say limited, and the data to back up are assumptions, even more so!

Jade on the other hand, was actively capturing data on the actual impact of building these projects, data I could have killed for, and data that was not being used to inform design or improve construction practices… why was this?

As we dug into the problem space we uncovered something both terrifying and exciting. Paper! Yep, you heard it, paper! In construction we still largely rely on paper, and though the digital revolution is phasing this out, many environmental and sustainability work-flows still heavily rely on this divine material. But our dependence on paper results in two major problems:

1) It is easily lost or transferred incorrectly. Too often we heard tales of missing delivery notes being discovered as a soggy wad after a spin in the washing machine; or illegible hand writing copied as a best guess. There had to be a better way!?

2) Digitising it takes time. Delving into these workflows we found it typically takes between 3 weeks to 2 months for a paper delivery note to be uploaded into some online system and shared with the relevant team. This means that not only is there a huge admin burden, manually inputting data, but there is a delay in getting vital information to the people that need it to make informed decisions.

And after all this, the information is not being fed back to design teams to inform the next build. This seemed like a great problem to solve… enter Qflow.

Qflow in action

What is Qflow?

Qflow is a cloud-based software for monitoring and forecasting environmental risk in construction. It automates the data capture and analysis for key compliance areas, eliminating the need for manual data handling, enabling teams to focus on value-add activities.

What did we think we were doing?

What we thought we were doing is digitising vital construction data in real-time and feeding it back to the decision makers, with key analytics to drive productivity and improve sustainability.

What are we actually doing?

Unpicking the complex mish-mash of work flows that exist in construction, identifying common threads, building tools to automate data capture in and around that and deploying them with friendly trial sites to test them to destruction.

What have we learned so far?

1) Construction is messier than we could ever have imagined — even with over 10 years of experience between us, every new construction site presents a slightly different challenge and an exciting new opportunity.

2) Constructions reputation for being slow and risk adverse is not unfounded, but is certainly exaggerated — the key to change is a great champion, and there is one to be found in every company, the trick is finding them.

3) Investors are still very nervous of construction tech’ (in part for the reasons above) and it is down to start-ups like ourselves to prove that the industry is ripe for disruption, and lookingto change. It’s clearly a huge market, with massive potential, so what can we do as an industry to attract more investment into the innovations we desperately need?

So what is next?

We are always scoping, building and launching new products; and as such always looking for pioneering construction sites to work with us to change the way we build our communities. If you are an investor, engineer, or curious by-stander, and this has peaked your interest in innovation in construction, then feel free to reach out to me directly to find out more.

Until next time,

Brittany

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