Technology Drives a Building Revolution at Denver-based Prescient
After working together for the past 15 years developing apartment buildings in Illinois and Colorado, CEO John Vanker and COO Michael Lastowski co-founded Prescient in 2012.
The a-ha moment came in 2007, says Vanker. "We found ourselves scratching our heads. Why do approach the build the way we do? Why can't we standardize what we're doing a little more. There's a disconnect between the design engineer and the build engineer."
Most steel-framed apartments have similar designs and components, leading Vanker and Lastowski to develop a software-based design and manufacturing system that streamlines the entire process.
Architects design the building virtually in Prescient's Autodesk Revit-based system.
"This virtual building is not a reproduction," says Vanker. "It's a replica. It's an exact duplicate."
Every component has scannable stickers that highlight exactly where it goes in the structure.
"There are a couple of things that are revolutionary," Vanker explains. "The software automatically resolves the architect's design." The pre-Prescient norm, involving hand-drafted 500 pages, would take a pair of architects three months to resolve. "It takes our software three minutes," touts Vanker.
Because of the precise virtual model, little is left to chance. "We can tell you exactly what a building weighs and how many rivets are in it," he says. "We were able to reduce the number of components required to build any building."
The Prescient system is much faster and more efficient than wood framing. "We plan on a five-week schedule," says Vanker. "Right now because of the lack of skilled lumber labor, wood framing takes a lot longer."
He says the Prescient system is "Cost-competitive with wood framing" and considerably less expensive" than concrete of hot-rolled steel.
One apartment in Denver's Highland neighborhood is complete using the Prescient, and another is underway near the University of Denver. The company made a big splash launching at the American Institute of Architects conference in Denver in June.
"It was as much to showcase our technology as it was to generate leads," says Vanker. On the latter, he adds, "We have four to five million square feet we're working on design in development now. They're starting to line up."
Challenges: Matching demand and capacity. The Denver facility can handle about five million square feet of projects a year, about what is already in the Prescient pipeline.
Opportunities: National and international growth. Vanker envisions building three to five Prescient manufacturing facilities in the U.S. by 2016. Houston is next, and should come online in summer 2014.
Needs: Labor. The company is constantly hiring, says Vanker.