Bluescope is among a consortium of investors backing CLT Toolbox, a software package that removes ‘bottlenecks’ and helps engineers design buildings using mass timber construction systems.
The Melbourne-based CLT Toolbox has developed an advanced technology solution for the construction sector for all timber products – and it is already driving adoption across the construction industry.
In March, Wood Central reported on the software launch, which “aims to eliminate embodied carbon from the construction process.”
Over the past six months, it has worked with several tier-one engineering firms in Australia and worldwide and will launch to the mass market on October 23.
It is not the first investment by Bluescope in forest products after it announced in May that it would use pulverised woody biochar to decarbonise its steelmaking production.
Founded by Adam Jones and Ringo Thomas, the seed investment now values the company at AU $8.5M, with the AU $1.5m capital raised by the venture capitalists funding its expansion into the European market.
Over the last few years, there has been a surge in interest in mass timber products, but there has been a shortage of structural engineers available to sign off on the material.
“In Australia, we have about 10,000 structural engineers and only 30 of them are timber specialists,” Mr Jones told the AFR yesterday.
With the demand for cross-laminated timber expected to triple by 2030, the potential for the software is seemingly endless.
On Tuesday, Wood Central spoke exclusively to Adam Jones, who is flying to Ethiopia to visit CLT Toolbox’s Addis Ababa office.
“Without experience, resources and education – new timber solutions are likely to be proposed,” he said.
“This software can help us rapidly reduce the time it takes to adopt reduced carbon solutions and accelerate the industry’s decarbonisation movement.”
Last month, the UN published its blueprint for a net-zero construction industry, demonstrating that replacing steel and concrete with biobased materials, including timber, will reduce emissions by 40%.
“However, more policy and financial support is needed to ensure the widespread adoption of renewable bio-based building materials,” the UN said.
The investment is backed by Bluescope’s venture capital arm, BluescopeX, Aconex co-founder Rob Phillpot’s Gravel Road, who in 2018 sold construction tech company legendarily for AU $1.6b.
It also includes Australian venture capitalist firms Flying Fox Ventures, ClimateTech-focused Ecotone Ventures and Angel Investors Jodie Imam, Adrian Hondros (former CEO of collapsed builder Porter Davis), and Peter Lam.
Before co-founding CLT Toolbox, Mr Thomas was the first employee and head of Sales for Everest Engineering, a software engineering company that former Aconex employees founded.
“There is software for steel and concrete that does structural designs, (but) for mass timber or cross-laminated timber, there’s nothing even close to as advanced as what you for the traditional materials,” Mr Thomas said.
CLT Toolbox already has a team of 10 software engineers in Indonesia and nine structural engineers in Addis Ababa.
The new backing will add another ten employees to the team, with Mr Jones revealing to Wood Central in June that the employees have an equity stake in the business.
According to Mr Jones, Ethiopia is home to the “world’s best engineers I have come across,” and plans to scale up the office to 15 members by the end of the year.
The push into Ethiopia is about providing equal opportunity.
“While Addis Ababa, Ethiopia boasts 11 prestigious technical universities, unemployment rates among graduates outside of academia remain high.”
“By establishing our presence in Ethiopia, CLT Toolbox aims to catalyse positive change.”
“We strive to make environmental contributions through making mass timber design accessible to all engineers while simultaneously creating economic opportunities within the Addis Ababa community.”
Last week, it announced that its new CLT Beam Calculator will be part of the latest software, allowing users to check CLT in-plane shear strength.