Sometimes we have moments when we question our jobs. They usually involve things that feel wasteful, inefficient or plain dumb. Why can’t it be done better, faster, cheaper, easier.
After years of working around the benefits of Computational BIM with designtech and matterlab, it became pretty clear that our remit was to address those moments and build some tech to solve them. Now, we are not talking about fixing revision numbers, counting façade panels or the wide array of tasks well solved by clever little Revit plugins. We are talking about things that are so complex, that doing them manually over and over again always feels like ‘the only way’. After a year of working with ilke Homes and the constant murmur from our clients at matterlab of ‘a better way’, we decided to take on the challenge.
Let’s talk about 3 of those questioning moments from when we were still in practice….
At design companies, many of our team were doing all-nighters so they could continue to get drawings out the door; the currency of the design team. Even with a tool like Revit, it's still incredibly tedious and the closer to that deadline you get, the lower the quality of the work inevitably becomes.
‘I will one day see this automated’.
Second, spending weeks and weeks agreeing the naming structure and implementation strategy for a gigantic, overwhelming Revit library. All in aid of being able to design computationally with major efficiencies due to using consistent information in a repeatable manner. But those efficiencies were a mirage. The library never gets frozen, it never gets used in a consistent way due to constant project adjustments & client constraints, and becomes yet another thing to gather digital dust; A giant army of stone soldiers. At matterlab, we realised this was something many of us wanted to address and we had plenty of crazy ideas.
‘There has to be a way of creating design content instantly, and only when needed’.
Thirdly, at matterlab, coming out of the first lockdown, we began to see a lot of commonalities in the requests we got from new customers who had a focus on DfMA. We had clearly defined our niche, people came to us with consistent needs…. but each project tended to be a unique snowflake, not leveraging the wealth of knowledge available, nor utilising tools that the industry has already provided. We wanted to give manufacturers and fabricators the ability to use highly complex solutions in a way that felt natural, that felt at one with how they already operate.
‘One day, we will let our customers build their workflows with us’.
We found that each of the Co-Founders at matterlab had the same goals and similar experiences. After a few aborted attempts at bringing the concept together we decided to address the highly complex problems that stop the implementation of DfMA in the earlier stages of design. To allow for the application of a particular system or process, a wide array of decisions are required very early on. This tends to be extremely difficult, and full of risk. If you find you didn’t explore enough avenues, you will likely end up with a sub par outcome. If you chose the wrong system and end up locked in to it, you could end up with huge cost overruns. If you want to cover these risks yourself, you would need to create a huge amount of content and analysis, spending precious funds and project time. If we could build a way to allow for the computation of highly complex workflows but centre them on the real world requirements of the off-site supply chain, we could embed these methods into construction projects at a much early point in the process.
This was coupled with a desire to bring all our learning together and offer it in a way that heavily leveraged the innate knowledge inside our customers teams. No need to transpose every fine detail; give them the keys to the car. They are the experts, lets give them the right tool.
Which leads us to KOPE, our cloud-based systems configurator that brings manufacturing logic into construction. It leans directly on what we do best; complex problem solving, cloud infrastructure and 'design to construction' translations. It leverages our experience in construction but really provides the foundation for the towering experience of our customers and partners. With KOPE, we are building a platform that allows for the application of systems and products from the supply chain, at any stage to your design files, giving extensive clarity to decision making at earlier points when testing ideas is less costly, less damaging to the success of a project.
Because KOPE automatically creates all required outputs; from typical design drawings right through to digital files for machining and logistics, it allows you to adjust your plans to the market and suppliers without hugely time consuming production work. This is coupled with live feedback on decisions as they are being made, with in-app responsive dashboards and exported content for your design and manufacturing teams.
As the industry moves to apply a 'kit of parts' approach to enable more off-site fabrication, KOPE negates the need for large complex static libraries of content representing all variations of materials and systems. Content is made instantly to your needs and adjusted as you see fit. KOPE creates digital representations of what is actually in your building, carrying only the information you want, when you need it. A major hurdle to applying off-site processes to projects is the lack of ability to test options and see impacts on design, cost and programme. KOPE handles this by allowing you to run a suppliers system requirements against your design, showing what impacts are to be expected.
What I find personally so exciting about KOPE is that it looks back on those moments where there was a hope for a better way of doing things and steps up. Yes, we are finally automating all of those outputs, those drawings that sometimes take a lifetime to finish, those schedules that break the spirit of many designers. It takes on the challenge of making the current array of industry design tools do things they should have been doing years ago, 'I have the data right here, just give me the design content'. Plus it creates a rock solid foundation for how our partners and the industry at large do the incredibly complex things they do. Without needing to engage a consultant to create a hyper customised, unique solution for every problem.