Conceived in the hallways of SHoP Architects in 2008, and spun off as its own entity in 2015, the proptech software startup Envelope has just announced $2M in new funding. The company’s SaaS product is an interactive map that allows users to create a 3D model of a Manhattan development parcel’s largest possible building.
The software analyzes the specific zoning and other regulations that apply to each parcel in order to provide users with floor-by-floor statistics for a potential development project, including a building’s maximum square footage, height, and allowable massing.
Envelope’s software allows you to modify inputs and assemble different site configurations.
What’s particularly neat is that the product allows users to play with a site’s current parameters (like air rights, zoning restrictions, and assemblages) to see a modified rendering and building statistics (like height and floor area) change in real time as each input varies.
Currently limited to development sites in Manhattan, the company is working on expanding coverage into the rest of the five boroughs, soon. It’s marketing the software to developers, architects, and real estate brokers that want to understand the possibilities and the potential for a particular plot of land. It expects to go live with the product sometime this spring.
Envelope is powered by research that SHoP and Envelope’s founders performed themselves, as well as regulations and data from the city itself. This latest round brings Envelope’s total raise to over $4M.
“Sim City” for real estate acquisitions and due diligence.
“It’s basically Sim City for acquisitions,” CEO Cindy McLaughlin said, describing Envelope to Crain’s. “Investment sales brokers or developers want to look at 10 lots before settling on the one they want to dump their due diligence into. Envelope allows them to speculate more broadly.”
Analysis from AEC Labs
Software that can help public and private sector players make better decisions about development, construction, and associated risk could be transformative for the real estate and construction industries, which has always suffered from patchwork and archaic regulations that are wildly inconsistent down to the most esoteric of local levels.
From using Internet of Things-enabled devices to collect data on projects in the field to crowd-sourcing data about site conditions and other risks that exist in the field, better historical data about projects could help owners and stakeholders better predict – and price – construction projects, reducing schedule duration and costs.
It’s also easy to imagine that a product like Envelope could couple with an AI or deep learning tool and scale into other types of assets beyond buildings (like transportation, water, power, and other infrastructure systems) to help boost project efficiencies and reduce costs.
But there is clearly a divide between public and private sector owners when it comes to embracing tech. The industry’s inability to modernize stems from the overwhelming majority of projects that are procured by public sector agencies, who have tight budgets and limited interest in changing the way things have been done for decades.
PwC’s 2017 Engineering & Construction Trends Report notes that “[e]xecutives who have worked in the industry for a long time may be too accustomed to the old ways. They need to recognize that technology is changing the design, procurement, and construction of projects to make processes more efficient and less expensive.” Startups like Envelope and others we’ve covered here at AEC Labs over the last year will only accelerate the pressure being put on entrenched AEC industry interests to change – and soon.