Spacemaker shapes cities

Startup provides artificial intelligence smarts to urban planners, architects, and real estate developers

Photo: Andy Meyer
Cranes fill the skyline of Olso, one of the fastest growing cities in Northern Europe.


Rasmus Falck
Oslo

Over the next 30 years, the cities of the world will grow by more than 2 billion people. We must build higher, denser, and faster. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain a higher quality of living and build sustainable urban environments. This is a global challenge.

Norwegian startup, Spacemaker AI, founded in 2016 by Håvard Haukeland, Carl Christensen, and Anders Kvåle, had 20 employees within a year. The company uses artificial intelligence (AI) to solve urban planning problems, like how to place a building on a lot, which may not seem so interesting at first glance. But the task is deceptively complex: finding the optimal solution requires consideration of regulation plans, view, light, noise, costs, and various other factors. Some of these factors are even contradictory and difficult to resolve. Architects usually have to try out a lot of solutions.

Here is where the startup enters the picture. By using AI, they can quickly run through millions of solutions and present the most promising ones. The system works a lot faster than an architect would.

Spacemaker is the first company that has developed such a system. On Nov. 1, they were selected Startup of the Year and Best AI/Machine Learning Startup in Norway, based on a public vote. They advanced to the Nordic Startup Awards with seven other regional winners for the right to compete at the Global Startup Awards in China.

During the first year, the startup received NOK 15 million in grants from the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway, and the research organization Simula. They also received tax incentives for development and innovation (from Skattefunn). This was followed up by a group of private investors that provided NOK 22 million. Among the investors were the property owner Ivar Tollefsen and companies owned by Jonas Gustav Aspelin Ramm.

Today, they are experiencing an exceptional and overwhelming market demand for their software. According to the founders, they are approached by everything from prestigious architectural firms to leading research institutions to global construction companies to public institutions. Inquiries come from all corners of the world, including Europe, the United States, Asia, and Africa. They have been asked to support a wide array of development projects.

The company is currently present in Oslo, Boston, Barcelona, Spain, and Gothenburg, Sweden. They combine expertise from a wide range of fields including architecture, mathematics, physics, machine learning, and optimization.

Haukeland, the CEO, was educated at the School of Architecture & Design in Oslo. He has worked as architect for Urban Link Scandinavia. The CFO, Christensen, has an M.S. in Business from Stockholm University and an M.S. in Computer Science & Engineering from Royal Institute of Technology. He has worked with Bekk Consulting. Lastly, the working chair, Kvåle, earned an MBA from NHH in Bergen and Columbia Business School. He has work experience with Arkwright Consulting.

The building firm Skanska is one of Spacemaker’s clients. According to Skanska, investing in the early phase saves you time and money later in the development process. They have never been so confident that their site development concept caters to their preferences and meets technical requirements, serving as a sound basis for the subsequent project process.

Spacemaker’s founders say the construction industry is struggling to adapt. It is one of the world’s largest industries and yet one of the least digitized. Productivity has been falling for many years. Spacemaker is thus determined to play a vital role in this industry’s needed transformation. By dramatically improving decision support and collaboration in real estate development, they aim to help build sustainable and better cities to live in.

 

To learn more about Spacemaker, visit their website at www.spacemaker.ai.

This article originally appeared in the November 29, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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