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By automating code compliance, AI UpCodes is "the spelling of buildings"

For many architects, the most difficult part of their work begins after they finish designing a building, when the onerous process of code compliance begins. Written to ensure the safety and accessibility of buildings, the codes dictate everything from the height and depth of the stairs to the ends of the ramps, through the floor space in front of the toilet and the height of the buildings. Windows. Regulations are constantly updated, which means that even the most diligent architects team often misses violations, resulting in costly delays. Y Combinator alum UpCodes wants to help them using artificial intelligence, including natural language processing, to create what the San Francisco-based startup describes as "the spellchecker for buildings."

Called UpCodes AI, the program is a plug-in that analyzes 3D models created with BIM (Building Information Model) data and alerts architects to potential problems. It relies on the same backend as the first product from UpCodes, an application that compiles regulations into a searchable database that is constantly updated with collaboration tools. UpCodes AI, which was launched to the public last week, currently supports recent versions of Autodesk Revit and will later add ARCHICAD, Sketchup and IFC.

"It's like Grammarly for the construction industry. By highlighting real-time code errors, the software acts as a code consultant working by your side to any time, "says Scott Reynolds, co-founder and CEO of UpCodes, at TechCrunch.

Co-founders of UpCodes Garrett and Scott Reynolds and Technical Manager of UpCodes AI Mark Vulfson

UpCodes was founded in 2016 after Reynolds was so frustrated with traditional code compliance by working as an architect that he changed careers and started the startup with his brother Garrett, a former software engineer at PlanGrid, to fix the process. ]

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Building codes change so often that they are sometimes called "living documents". The database of UpCodes directly inspires settlements put online by municipalities and is updated almost in real time. This relieves a major pain point because many architects who thought they had followed the rules discovered too late that they had missed an amendment. In the worst case, the completed work must be torn up and rebuilt, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This is a common occurrence and Scott Reynolds points out the studies of McKinsey and the National Association of Home Builders that mention the complexity of code compliance as a major reason for declining productivity in the industry. Construction industry and rising house prices.

The automation of code compliance can also facilitate the expansion of architects' practices, since the regulations can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to the next. UpCodes currently covers building codes in 26 states and the District of Columbia. Although UpCodes AI is still in its infancy, Reynolds tells TechCrunch that during his private beta, he identified an average of 27 violations per project.

Nicholas LoCicero, a designer of CallisonRTKL, a reputable architectural firm for retail, was one of its private users. LoCicero told TechCrunch in an email that the company was using UpCodes AI at two retail sites that required brand updates. Accessibility, which consists in ensuring that there is no obstacle to the exit of a building, is one of the most important parts of the Code compliance, and LoCicero said that UpCodes AI was able to report gate crossing problems, tread width faster than the typical compliance process.

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The program "certainly has the potential to save us hours with intelligent evacuation and accessibility tools and components that will help us to develop projects faster during the different design phases" .

Up here, UpCodes raised $ 785,000 in funding from angel investors, as well as Y Combinator and Foundation Capital. He now has more than 100,000 active users per month and recently hired Mark Vulfson, former Senior Director of Engineering at PlanGrid, to become Technical Manager of UpCodes AI.

Although the adoption of BIM data has made planning buildings more efficient, "it's only a modest use of the full potential of BIM," Reynolds says. He notes that it is only in recent years that more than 50% of American architectural firms have started using information-rich 3D modeling rather than 2D modeling. Programs such as Revit and ARCHICAD, as well as new developments in APIs, have finally enabled automatic code compliance.

The use of artificial intelligence in architecture is still recent, but several companies, including Autodesk and CoPlannery, are already exploring how to apply intelligence technologies artificial to solve common problems of design, construction and engineering. Since AI is used in other major industries, including finance and health care, to automate compliance, it makes sense to assume that somewhere, another company might try to build a competitor for UpCodes AI.

Reynolds believes that the combined expertise of the UpCodes team and the technical team will give him an edge over his future rivals. He says his brother Garrett has broadcast MRI training analyzing large 4D data sets, while Vulfson brings "extensive experience in customer and Web-side product deployment" at startup. UpCodes also works with a New York-based building code consultant.

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"The entire industry of code compliance has been neglected by software engineers for so long that it's hard to imagine anyone else doing that. that we do, "says Reynolds.

"Building codes are a killer of creativity, and these regulations are one of the most restrictive components of design," he adds. Imagine that you restrict each brushstroke that an artist makes with ten thousand rules – that's what building codes give to an architect. That's why I left my career to do it. I want to remove this frustration and make the architecture more fun, as in school. "