Customized Pre-Fab Maker Gets Autodesk Investment
Andrew Wheeler posted on October 17, 2017 | 2908 views

A few companies in San Francisco have noticed that innovation and productivity in the construction industry has stagnated. Whereas the manufacturing has benefitted from constant, incremental gains and the adoption of new innovative technologies, construction suffers from chronic symptoms of unproductivity like shortages of skilled labor, a lack of new workers and an aging workforce.

Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion. (Image courtesy of Project Frog.)
El Sol Academy, Santa Ana, Ca. Project Frog transformed deploying Frogs (Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth) into a sophisticated yet straightforward process—designing, delivering, and assembling Frogs for retail environments, community centers, medical office buildings, data centers and National Park visitor centers. (Image courtesy of Project Frog.)

America accounts for 15 percent of the global construction industry, which, incidentally, produces half of America’s trash.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) applications like Revit began the process of optimizing the collaborative efforts of architects and engineers, but innovative companies like Project Frog are creating new tools for parts of the AEC market that employ a more "siloed" style of collaboration.

Project Frog is now allied with engineering and design software giant Autodesk after an investment from their Forge Fund. San Francisco-based Project Frog creates software and prefabricated building platforms. After a decade of Project Frog leveraging cloud software and growing a network of distributed manufacturing networks to deliver customized building kits to customers, Autodesk took notice.

The Autodesk Forge Fund was created and designed to support projects that fit in an analogous cloud-based ecosystem called Autodesk Forge, a cloud platform of interconnected developers that allows customers to create customized and scalable applications that address architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and manufacturing challenges.

The investment from Autodesk provides Project Frog with a great deal of resources as well as a sense of validation for the years of work they put in around a relatively simple concept: to standardize and streamline data flow between architectural design, factories where prefabricated components are built and the building site itself.

The Industrialized Construction Movement

The industrialized construction movement is an approach to architectural design that incorporates industrial manufacturing techniques to create customized prefabricated components that can be transported and built on construction sites with greater efficiency using Frogs, which stands for Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth. The idea grew from a notion that architects, engineers and construction workers could build great buildings by using a standardized set of building components or a “kit of parts.”

Initially, Frogs were created by engineers, product designers and architects to create school environments in and around San Francisco, but they’ve since evolved quite a bit.

Advantages of Using Prefabricated Components on Building Projects

  1. Speed 

Project Frog has been able to cut construction schedules in half with pre-configured core and shell components and other configurable components.

  1. High degree of customizability

The components are scalable and able to match desired forms, functions and finishes.

The components are easy to build, yet are very adaptable to different demands from diverse sectors like medical buildings, educational environments and remove headaches and wasted time from construction sites. (Image courtesy of Project Frog.)

Project Frog Meets Autodesk Forge

The team at Project Frog realized that to fully realize their vision for scalable and highly customizable building systems, they would have to produce in-house software for their version of industrialized construction. This is where Autodesk Forge enters the picture.

Autodesk Forge is a group of application program interfaces (APIs) that Autodesk uses to build their own cloud-based applications. The main concept of Autodesk Forge is that by opening these APIs for use by customers and 3rd party developers in the Forge community, growth can be stimulated in industries that Autodesk has a vested interest in, such as AEC, building information modeling (BIM) and manufacturing.

By leveraging the Autodesk Forge platform, Project Frog created more efficient integrations between their in-house software web tools and Autodesk applications using cloud technologies to push tighter integration between their own internally developed web tools and mainstay Autodesk applications that are most relevant to their business—like Revit for BIM and Fusion 360 for Manufacturing.

Project Frog uses two of Autodesk Forge APIs: Data Management, which gives users a uniform way to manipulate data across projects and the ability to upload and download files like DWG, RVT and PDFs. They also use Model Derivative, which lets developers share designs in different file formats (60 are supported) and enables them to extract metadata into different object hierarchies. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
Project Frog uses two of Autodesk Forge APIs: Data Management, which gives users a uniform way to manipulate data across projects and the ability to upload and download files like DWG, RVT and PDFs. They also use Model Derivative, which lets developers share designs in different file formats (60 are supported) and enables them to extract metadata into different object hierarchies. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Project Frog’s primary goal right now is to use the Forge platform to transfer their prefabricated components and assemblies from a Revit environment to a web environment. By specifically using the Model Derivative API, they can take the component metadata from each Revit file in their library and prepare it for a web environment.

Project Frog is uniquely positioned to leverage the abilities of Autodesk Forge because they know where the inefficiencies are with respect to managing data and workflows among the manufacturers, contractors, architects and engineers. (Image courtesy of Project Frog.)
Project Frog is uniquely positioned to leverage the abilities of Autodesk Forge because they know where the inefficiencies are with respect to managing data and workflows among the manufacturers, contractors, architects and engineers. (Image courtesy of Project Frog.)

The crux of the collaboration is between Project Frog's approach to prefabrication and Autodesk Forge’s ability to integrate data flow throughout project stages and varying software workflows. There’s so much data!

From beginning design stage, the costing stage, then manufacturing and finally project delivery, Project Frog is raking in efficiency gains, reducing the amount of time certain processes from weeks to minutes.

Users can create and submit a completely unique building design with Project Frog—ten minutes later, they will receive a hyper-detailed Revit model. Another reason Project Frog can produce prefabricated highly customizable buildings at scale is with their comprehensive set of structural calculations and bill of materials (BOM) for costing.

Drew Buechley, CEO of Project Frog said, “Autodesk made an investment in Project Frog, and we are set to take BIM to the next level with a cloud-based software architecture. We’re a leader in prefabricated building systems, and throughout our history, we developed a lot of institutional knowledge. But about 18 months ago, we realized that for prefabricated building systems to work, they had to be extremely flexible. And we did not want to contribute to the wasteful practices of the traditional construction industry. Our approach has shown to decrease field waste by 30 percent.”

Bottom Line

This collaboration will create a common data environment that optimizes and underscores architectural design for manufacturing. Giving every stakeholder in a project access to the most recent data automatically eliminates the need for performing manual updates.

This streamlined ecosystem enables Project Frog to leverage the Autodesk Forge cloud platform and the engineering software giant’s building information modeling (BIM) resources.

A statement from Nicolas Mangon, Vice President, Autodesk AEC Business Strategy and Marketing sums up the theme of the collaboration quite nicely: “The building industry is beginning to look a lot more like manufacturing than traditional construction and this investment offers significant opportunity to improve productivity, resulting in decreased risk and increased profit margins for construction teams and projects.”

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