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Silicon Valley’s AEC Hackathon comes to London

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London is to host an experiment in bringing together the worlds of software coding and the built environment with the first AEC Hackathon to be held outside the US.

The weekend workshop event, on 17-19 July, will see around 80 individuals from both worlds create teams to “hack” building-related problems by pooling their expertise and accessing data sets to create viable apps or software tools.

Places are still available for developers, coders, digital designers and built environment professionals with an interest in harnessing data and digital technologies. The venue is the new Urban Innovation Centre in Clerkenwell, home of Innovate UK’s Future Cities Catapult.

In the US, there have been seven events organised by AEC Hackathon and the local tech and construction communities in California’s Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York and Chicago.

The London event is AEC Hackathon’s first outside the US – although an event in Eindhoven, the Netherlands is also planned – and is a collaboration with Innovate UK’s built environment platform. 

Simon Hart, Innovate UK’s platform leader for the built environment, said that the UK, becoming known for the breadth and depth of BIM adoption, was the ideal location for the AEC Hackathon.

He told BIM+: “To bring the event to the UK is really exciting. It’s a chance for tech developers and coders from the digital world to come and find out about the opportunities in the built environment, and also great to built environment professionals to see what the tech developers have to offer. The two sectors don’t know each other very well, so let’s test the water. 

“If you’re in construction, getting access to other sectors – such as the advanced digital sector, or advanced materials – is quite hard, it’s not easy to see what’s coming over the horizon.” 

The London Hackathon has several sponsors, including Autodesk, which will set one of several “challenges” to the teams, asking them to come up with an app that uses 3D modelling and Virtual Reality. Autodesk will also be running a pre-hack tutorial event on 16 July.

RIBA Enterprises’ NBS will also challenge teams to find innovative ways to exploit information held in the BIM Toolkit, and the Future Cities Catapult will also set challenges. 

In addition, Innovate UK will allow the teams access to a valuable pool of data it collected under the Building Performance Evaluation project, which gathered data on the design, as-built and operational performance of 105 buildings. 

On the Friday evening “lightning rounds”, participants will each give a mini-pitch about their skills and background, and then have a chance to network and get to know each other. The organisers then help to group participants in teams, which must then decide which challenge to tackle.

On the Saturday morning, a range of industry speakers, including AEC Hackathon chief executive Damon Hernandez, will set the challenges in context.

Hart explained that the Hackathon teams would own the Intellectual Property to any ideas originated at the event, and the decision on whether to take them forward would lie with the teams.

However, Innovate UK would offer its ongoing support. “If there are good projects, we can help them to develop through our networks of funding, support and Catapults,” said Hart.

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To bring the event to the UK is really exciting. It’s a chance for tech developers and coders from the digital world to come and find out about the opportunities in the built environment, and also great to built environment professionals to see what the tech developers have to offer.– Simon Hart, platform leader for the built environment, Innovate UK