Boosting BuildUp’s bold ambitions

PwC helped the fledgling offsite construction manufacturer find the ideal partner to take its innovative business further faster

Finding an ideal match

Imagine if houses were constructed in the same way vehicles are today. On a production line, where they could be fully customised. Components could then be delivered to a plot to be put together onsite, with a guaranteed high level of quality, minimal waste and within a short timeframe. Sounds unrealistic, maybe, but BuildUp, formally BeSteel, has the ambition to achieve precisely that. And PwC Belgium’s been instrumental in helping it find the ideal strategic and financial partner to enable it to move forward with its plans.

Helene de troostembergh

Time for change

According to a report from McKinsey Global Institute, “The construction industry employs about seven percent of the world’s working-age population and is one of the world economy’s largest sectors, with $10 trillion spent on construction-related goods and services every year. But,” it says, “the industry has an intractable productivity problem.” And while other sectors have transformed themselves and their productivity performance, the report notes, “much of construction has evolved at a glacial pace,” and “construction is among the least digitised sectors in the world.” McKinsey estimates that lagging construction productivity costs the global economy around $1.6 trillion a year.

Man screwing in wooden planks

Making a seismic shift

While the sector may evolve slowly, the regulations (thermal, fire, acoustic, etc.) with which its products must adhere are advancing faster and becoming much stricter and more complex. “The last years have seen innovative developments in materials to help meet these challenges, but the building value chain itself has remained very much the same over the past 50 years,” explains Hélène de Troostembergh, BuildUp’s Managing Director. “She adds, “building offsite would help solve many of the challenges the construction industry faces, which are making it so unproductive.” By that she means quality, timing and budget.

Creating customised solutions on a production line

“When you build onsite, every building is a prototype and therefore subject to errors,” Hélène de Troostembergh explains. “At an offsite production facility, you can check quality throughout the process. You can reduce human error using robots, which also helps solve the issue of labour shortages. Not only is quality better controlled, but timing to manufacture the construction can be as much as halved,” she enthuses. And building offsite by no means limits architectural freedom. “Building information modelling (BIM) software allows you complete architectural freedom while assuring quality and helping to keep costs down. In this way, you can also make sure that the end result is more sustainable and ecologically sound,” she says. BuildUp is working on growing a database of an unlimited number of components to enable online configuration with complete architectural freedom for the user and it’s calling on artificial intelligence (AI) to increase the number of possibilities it can offer.

In-house quality controls

BuildUp currently has three lines of service: Structures, Totalfit and Retrofit. Structures involves the engineering and production of perfectly fitting light steel frames and load-bearing structures for any house. Totalfit, the building of houses from A to Z using hybrid offsite systems embodies the firm’s vision for the future. Retrofit’s its offering to help solve climate change issues via the renovation and refurbishment of existing houses with offsite-produced facades and roofs, completing home makeovers at an incredible speed. With a complete picture of the final result before any physical element has been even created, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the building can be calculated and consumption assessed.

BuildUps Retrofit

Supporting BuildUp’s sustainable ambitions

The European Union (EU) has set itself a target of making sure all constructions within the region are carbon neutral by 2050. With an estimation of 40% of existing buildings in Europe having no insulation - around 43 million houses -, that means about 6,000 houses a day would have to be renovated and insulated to meet the target. “Our Retrofit offering is the ideal solution for this as it enables us to make the required updates to premises very quickly with a high standard of quality,” Hélène de Troostembergh notes.

Helene de Troostembergh of Buildup talking over a desk

Leveraging the vast PwC network

Realising the need for additional investment to help it grow its business to leverage the opportunities abound, BuildUp decided it required a strategic partner to work alongside it. PwC’s promotion of our PropTech Scale programme, an initiative aimed at start-ups/scale-ups in the property sector, reached Hélène de Troostembergh who reached out to PwC to see if it could help find the partner BuildUp was looking for. “PwC worked with us to be able to introduce us to a serious business partner. It has a wealth of contacts and could identify potential funds and corporates that may match with BuildUp. It also challenged our business plan and helped us achieve the right mix of financing,” Hélène de Troostembergh recalls. Importantly, she adds, “we were able to put the strategic reflection of finding an optimal partner in professional hands which allowed us to continue to focus on the operational side of our business.” That partner is construction engineering company Vanhout that’s been part of the BESIX Group since 1986. It now has a minority share in BuildUp that, as Hélène de Troostembergh says, “gives us the flexibility of a start-up with the strength of a corporate.”

Contact us

Griet Helsen

Griet Helsen

Partner, Entrepreneurial & Private Business, Culture & Innovation, PwC Belgium, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 475 89 16 21

Dirk Verheyen

Dirk Verheyen

Partner, Corporate Finance, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 497 05 13 49

Elise Carton

Elise Carton

Senior Manager, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 488 80 94 09

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