New wood building concepts in minutes, rather than weeks – Interview with Kreo
Kreo builds computational modelling and generative design software solutions. In Spring 2020, they joined the Combient Foundry Venture Client Cycle in a business opportunity to co-create digital tools for wood construction with Stora Enso, a global renewable materials leader.
Kreo first caught Foundry’s attention with their clear value proposition and their team’s deep expertise in digital tools and the construction industry. From the first meeting, they also showed a real solution oriented attitude with Stora Enso.
“On the other side, we saw a team of professionals with skin in the game,” says Maksim Markevich, CTO of Kreo, describing their first meetings with the Stora Enso team. “They clearly wanted to build something great. During the Value Proposition Days, we knew that we needed to go for it.”
Kreo’s team consists of experts from many different fields. Not only do they have deep technical expertise, but some of their product team members also have a background in structural engineering.
“This means our team members understand the client’s requirements much faster, because they’ve been on that side of the table too,” Markevich explains. “Regular programmers don’t necessarily know about wooden structures to begin with.”
Markevich emphasizes that their aim is to create products with the end-user in mind, which is why the Kreo team consists of UI and UX designers too.
“We always wanted to build a product like a game, with a beautiful interface. This is not usual in the construction industry, and it’s something we wanted to change.”
The solution that the two companies set out to develop together certainly benefits from a clear visual interface. Kreo’s automatic building concept generator, Kreo Modular, works to make clients’ lives easier by answering their wood building questions.
“The main questions from clients are ‘Can my project be built in wood?’, ‘Which wood products should I use?’, and ‘How much will it cost?’,” Markevich explains. “With Stora Enso, we automated wooden building concepts to make sure they could generate BIM models and have the clients’ questions answered in five minutes, rather than five weeks.”
“Finding a combination of digital and engineering competencies as with Kreo is rare and we have been happy to discover that anything we ask for, they can provide.” Sebastian Hernandez, R&D Manager Building Concepts at Stora Enso says.
Kreo’s earlier experience is in steel and concrete structures. Working with Stora Enso, they were able to answer a lot of questions on specific building topology for generating their structural frames. Now Kreo’s platform is equipped with information about these building concepts and even their customers can benefit from Stora Enso’s know-how.
“We were instantly impressed by Kreo’s existing solution and their strong yet accommodating approach on how we could best collaborate together.” Kaarle Rasi, Digital Product Owner at Stora Enso states.
“Wooden frame generation algorithms are quite different from steel frames. This is why we didn’t adjust our steel algorithm and decided to build a new one specifically for wooden frames” Markevich says. “There are a lot of pros of using wood, for example lower energy usage and lower carbon footprint of building.”
Right now, Stora Enso and Kreo are evaluating the first iteration of their product. If all goes well, the solution will be implemented into Stora Enso’s value chain. The journey has been well structured in Markevich’s opinion, right from the beginning.
“[Coming to the Value Proposition Days], it was clear what would be happening,” he says. “Two companies, Kreo and Stora Enso, spent two days in hour-long workshops to define a clear value proposition and outline a pilot project. The instructions I received from Foundry were clear, and making the final demo video was a great addition.”
This spring, due to the enduring pandemic, the Value Proposition Days were organized entirely online. Participating startups were instructed to record a video of their final demo and send it in, because there was no opportunity to gather face-to-face.
“While producing the final demo video, we simultaneously explained well to Stora Enso what they would get whilst structuring it for ourselves,” Markevich recaps. “At first we were a little hesitant, but when we had the final cut, we found it worked for us as well. Clear points; clear plans; clear scope; clear value proposition – just perfect."