Gavin Tonnet talks about city-changing urban renewal projects and transformational virtual pre-construction technology

todayAugust 17, 2021


Ahead of Gavin’s interview with Henry McDonald which will be broadcast on Episode 12 on 14th September, I caught up for a quick chat with Gavin Tonnet, CEO of utecture.

What city-changing urban renewal projects have you been involved in?

Involved and led over USD$20b of major renewal. Some of those that really changed and shaped city fabric and culture include:

Sydney Olympic Village (Newington) Sydney
Walsh Bay Redevelopment Sydney
Perth City Link Perth
Green Square Sydney
Jacksons Landing Sydney
Liverpool Civic Place Sydney

Are one or more of these good examples of sustainability?

Sydney Olympic Village (Newington) – the largest solar-powered suburb in the world. Each of the 2000 homes included a passive energy design. This was the first suburb wide use of dual water supply. Greywater was separated and filtered and directed to natural wetlands. Low gas paint was developed specifically for the Olympics and is now used worldwide.

Gavin Tonnet, CEO of utecture

How can virtual pre-construction help city-changing urban renewal projects such as these?

As our buildings and infrastructure have got larger and more complex, the industry has created more and more defined areas of expertise and specialisation. To meet the virtual pre-construction standard, which utecture is pioneering, four distinct pillars are required: Design and visualisation, Real-time Pricing; Engineering and Environmental Impact come together using digital technology.

Because of these four pillars, virtual pre-construction is a technology and a methodology naturally equipped to drive the efficiencies and planning necessary to support city-changing projects.

That said, utecture is currently focused on helping builders realise the value of the platform in relation to customer acquisition and delivery. What Gav realised as he made up his mind to join utecture on its mission was that utecture turns the traditional builder-buyer relationship equation on its head in a powerfully positive way.

Builders have largely missed the benefits of the consumer-centric technology revolution, but utecture allows them to quickly catch up and move into a position where they are able to meet the consumer’s demands for transparency in the pre-construction phase, whilst significantly reducing their risk and costs. Quoting that used to take weeks and at best days, now is done in real-time and consumers can quickly adapt a builder’s plans, making it their own and getting instant certainty around price and specs.

By solving for builders, virtual preconstruction can shift the standard for how we plan and build empowering individuals to rapidly see and then refine the design of their residences, helping them to make choices with greater climate and affordability impact. Integrating this approach into urban renewal projects will make for more sustainable and more liveable experiences at a precinct level.

How does utecture differ from others in the marketplace?

Primarily because few, if any, platforms are true virtual pre-construction platforms. Existing construction technology share some of utecture’s features, but are largely focussed either on technology efficiency within disciplines in the chain or information sharing. Whilst gains are possible, these have been fairly incremental and fail to address the significant pain points that have held back the construction industry from accessing artificial intelligence and technology which has to transform the experience and costs in other industries in the last decade.

utecture grab from video

These pain points are:

  • time to quote (the resources and cost to quote a building can delay a project and represent a significant portion of overall project costs;
  • consumer reluctance to commit to a build. Historically, lack of transparency and information available to the consumer has made building obscure, confusing and joyless;
  • overall management of the pre-construction phase and centralised data analytics (again this area is a highly variable cost for builders and managing it brings price certainty)
  • the capability of organising into a digital twin offering all relevant paperwork (this involves machine learning and the value of digital twinning technology)

How could utecture help to unlock dreams to repurpose a city to embrace the changes that COVID-19 has brought in terms of repurposing office space to become a living space or a hybrid of both?

Following from the answer above to the urban renewal question, utecture is a

Utecture, and Virtual Pre Construction, is unbound by geography – rather it permits rapid iteration of actual building replicas, and allows us to test and analyse our homes is a ‘virtual world’.  Here we can ‘fail fast’ and get an optimum outcome in real-time at low cost.  This is transformational in any environment, but particularly in the post-pandemic world where the world and consumers are rapidly evolving the role of the home and the workplace.    Gav feels that more than ever we need the ability to test and simulate ideas, layouts, and performance and technology is available to help the industry pull cost, risk and carbon out of the system and make the whole process more affordable and responsive

Written by: Jackie De Burca

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