How this Boston company plans on changing how construction sites operate

by Justine Hofherr
October 25, 2016

If you’ve ever been to a construction site before, you probably know that there are quite a few environmental conditions that can negatively impact the building process.

Fire outbreaks, mold growth and flooding are just a handful of the destructive environmental situations that can set a building schedule back by weeks or even months. These damages cost general contractors and insurance companies serious time and money, and up until recently, there weren’t too many ways of preventing (or predicting) their occurrence.

Enter Pillar Technologies, a Somerville-based tech startup that hopes to change the future of construction site management.

Pillar uses unique sensor technology to mitigate and prevent losses on construction sites due to environmental damage. The company recently won Forbes’ Change the World Competition at the Under 30 Summit, so we caught up with one of its founders, Alex Schwarzkopf, to learn more about the tech startup and its future.

Schwarzkopf (right) explained that the company’s on-site smart sensors provide live data regarding environmental conditions such as extreme humidity, fire, water and mold.

“If a pipe bursts and no one is on the job site, our sensors can pick that up and alert the right person right away,” Schwarzkopf said.

Without having a person constantly manning a construction site, these types of real-time alerts ensure that destructive conditions can be detected and fixed immediately.

In addition to providing environmental alerts, Pillar also hopes to use its sensors’ data to forecast failure.

Using information gathered from accident-prone situations, Pillar will be able to harness predictive analytics to anticipate similar situations at construction sites.

Schwarzkopf said he hopes this type of data will ultimately change building strategy and management to be safer, more efficient and more eco-friendly in the future.

“Improving logistics will help contractors know how their equipment is affecting the environment, Schwarzkopf said. “We’ll know the effects of things like temporary heating systems and air scrubbers. Using real-time feedback from our sensor system, contractors can figure out how to better place their equipment, adapt to a changing environment and use their equipment more efficiently.”

Schwarzkopf said he and his college cohorts (all graduates of Wentworth Institute of Technology) came up with the idea after talking to a lot of people in the construction space and finding that contractors often have to make difficult decisions regarding building process with little information.

“On a construction site, you have a schedule to keep and you have to make choices to hit that deadline with or without this information,” Schwarzkopf said. “Our system provides more quality information to the contractor to make more informed decisions that are less risky.”

Though Pillar is still in the developmental stages with its technology, the company is embarking on a six-month pilot program in November with five large national contractors.

Schwarzkopf said feedback from those companies will be used to improve Pillar’s technology offering and drive value for contractors and building owners alike.

“As Americans, we spend 90 percent of our lives in buildings,” Schwarzkopf said. “We need to build better buildings. It’s important for the sustainability of humankind in general.”


Photos via social media 

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