Framing the Future

Prescient’s integrated construction platform offers one-stop shopping, from design to manufacturing with its automated engineering, welding robots, and barcoded assembly. It’s making building more efficient, more affordable, and eco-friendly.

WORDS: BETH MOSENTHAL  IMAGES: CRYSTAL ALLEN

Prescient

If you were to visit the five-story, 73-unit B Street LoHi Building by Palisade Partners, Confluence Builders and Craine Architecture while under construction, you would have noticed that each piece of structural light- gauge steel had a QR code. If you were to pull out your smartphone and scan the QR code, you would then be directed to a 3D architectural drawing showing where that piece of structure was located in relation to every other component in the building. You would also find precise information about recycled content, dimensions, and data regarding this seemingly simple piece of steel.

In many ways, this integration of technology and building suggests that the future is here for Denver’s building industry.

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Just ask CEO and Co-Founder of Prescient, John Vanker, a former developer with 25 years of real estate experience,
an entrepreneurial spirit, and a keen understanding of the construction process. Vanker is happily embracing what he calls Prescient’s “disruptive innovations”—i.e. an approach to creating innovative technology that not only challenges how buildings are being designed and constructed, but creates a sea change in age-old practices and procedures.

Having relocated to Denver via Chicago almost 15 years
ago, Vanker and his business partner, Co-Founder, President, and COO Michael Lastowski, started the Denver-based development company 15 years ago. After developing different types of multi-unit buildings, they “saw a lot of planning modules that were similar in terms of layout and proportion from one project to the next,” said Lastowski. “With the exception of the exterior and amenity spaces, it seemed unnecessary to recreate the wheel each time, so we focused on standardization of design and engineering to make a building project more predictable.”

3D View 3

But how do you standardize a process that entails different requirements and myriad consultants with each new project? With accessible, open-platform software such as Autodesk’s Building Information Modeling (BIM) platform—Revit—Vanker and Lastowski saw an opportunity to integrate engineering and architectural design much earlier in the design process.

Fast-forward to 2012. Launching their startup with a team
 of programmers, engineers, and architects, Vanker and Lastowski were able to develop proprietary software that helps architects and engineers design a building. The software and patented framing system employ three simple, patent-pending components: light-gauge and cold-rolled steel columns, trusses, and panels, to create infinite combinations of structural assemblies. The software then feeds the specifications for each piece of steel to robots at the company’s 60,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, where the pieces are cut to length and welded together. The pieces are barcoded, shipped to the site, and assembled by Prescient-certified installers.

With this technology, a staff of 40 based in Denver and 20 based in Poland, and the ability to produce up to 4 million square feet of projects in one year, Prescient is hoping to provide an alternative to traditional wood, concrete, or steel structural systems by offering a method that is “faster, better, cheaper, and greener.”

While it’s yet to be determined whether the product is in fact cheaper than traditional wood construction, the product is undeniably efficient with regard
 to height, span, and sustainability. Prescient structural systems can be used in buildings up to 12-stories high and can span column-free up to 24 feet—hence the reason it is well suited for multi-unit buildings.

Prescient

A company that prides itself in its environmental practices, Prescient tries to source locally and uses steel with as much as 98 percent recycled content. All structural components are manufactured to a precise dimension, producing zero waste. “Currently, more than 40 percent of waste in landfills
is generated from construction waste,” said Vanker, “If we think about the future of a building with a 1-200 year lifespan, light-gauge steel that is being recycled and utilized in our current projects can be recycled again.”

So what does Prescient’s gaining popularity in the Denver building market mean for both the local and global building industry? The growth of companies such as Prescient indicates that Denver’s current reputation as a city that is operating in both digital and urban realms will only continue to open new doors for both optimization and innovation.

With 3.5 million square feet of structure in the pipeline and plans
to open three to five Prescient manufacturing facilities in the U.S.
 by 2016, it would be prudent to advise you to carry your smartphone the next time you’re on one of the many multi-unit construction sites throughout Denver’s constantly evolving landscape.