No one likes having their time wasted. And it was precisely that issue that led Alex Siljanovski to come up with the idea of Basestone, a collaborative tablet and web-based tool that is making building sites across the capital more efficient, from a single home extension to the new Crossrail stations.
Basestone puts all the information to do with a building project in one place on a cloud-based system. It means changes can be updated via tablet while on site, and shared instantly, preventing anyone from having out-of-date drawings. Site engineers reckon it typically saves them 10 hours a month, says Siljanovski.
“It came about from a lot of frustration,” says the former engineer at a major consultancy. “I saw a lot of problems on site and in the office.” Frequently, notes scribbled during a site visit would have to be rewritten, then typed into an email to share with others.
Basestone needed a launch client to prove the concept and the HS2 team obliged. They loved it, he says, but HS2 has subsequently been put on ice. “It gave us the confidence to approach Crossrail, though,” says Siljanovski.
Fortunately, the team running Europe’s largest construction project, beneath London’s streets, are up for testing anything that can improve the delivery of Crossail, and the technology has been adopted on more than 20 per cent of its sites. As a result, several other major contractors have now started to use Basestone.
One important lesson for Siljanovski has been the split between customer and user. While the company paying for Basestone has to believe they will see savings, the users are engineers – and they won’t adopt anything unless it is quicker and easier than the system it replaces. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the user experience – they have to feel value from the system.”
Lots of building contractors and housebuilders are now signing up off the back of the Crossrail deal. Siljanovski says the system will even benefit a single house extension, saving time and preventing errors: “It’s essentially the same problem, albeit on a smaller scale.”
The business currently employs ten people, but Basestone is on track to grow by 50 per cent this year. Outside the UK it is already being used by builders and engineers around the globe, with Mexico, Australia and Switzerland the most enthusiastic adopters. Siljanovski says his mission is to deliver a five per cent saving to the construction market, a substantial figure globally.
Looking further ahead, Siljanovski even has plans to enable the software to warn users about potential problems before they occur. “At the moment, we’re a tool that is very reactive, but we’re building a lot of data, and we’re looking at machine learning. There are a lot of interesting things going on in construction right now.”