A concrete challenge: Tel Aviv tech startup uses sensors to ensure better building
GreenVibe says its hardware and software system can provide real-time insights about on-site construction material and offer data-driven predictions about quality and readiness
For the past three years, Israeli tech startup GreenVibe has been tackling a concrete challenge. Literally.
The Tel Aviv-based company, founded in 2019, is looking to transform the construction industry by applying smart sensors to building materials — chiefly concrete — to optimize quality and speed up the building process.
Leveraging sensors made in-house, GreenVibe gathers data about concrete composition, feeding back measurements such as temperature, strength, density and humidity during the formulation and pour processes so that on-site construction engineers and development project managers can make better-informed decisions.
The company says its hardware and software system can provide real-time data about the material on construction sites and offer data-driven predictions about quality and readiness.
Concrete is the most widely used building material in the world, and its use is expected to multiply four-fold by 2050 from the existing approximately 30 billion tons used annually. It is cheap, simple to make, and ubiquitous. It is also currently responsible for around 8% of human carbon dioxide emissions because of the ways it is manufactured and used. And cement — its main ingredient — is the most polluting part of the mix.
Yet concrete makes a unique contribution to pretty much everything that is constructed, from tall glassy skyscrapers to bridges and roads, and seems to be in no danger of being replaced. This means the global challenge is to find ways to make the product and its usage more energy efficient and long-lasting.
GreenVibe is not alone in recognizing this. But its solution is gaining ground with leading construction companies because it is simple yet effective.
Concrete is made up of multiple elements, with water, sand, and aggregates bound together with cement, mixed to different recipes for different use cases. Once poured to form part of a structure, the concrete has to be left for a period of time, and tested until it is “ready” for the next stage. Working with concrete requires deep knowledge, time, and some guesswork.
Roee Reshef, co-founder and CEO of GreenVibe, believes technology can transform how concrete is mixed, poured, and monitored.
“Working in the traditional way requires sampling, which can take days. We give our clients a simple dashboard that tells them what they need to know, and on a big project, that data can save months of time by delivering operational certainty. We take much of the guesswork out of the building process. And we reduce pollution. We estimate that we can save 15% to 20% of carbon emissions from concrete,” Reshef told The Times of Israel in an interview at the company’s low-key offices in Ramat Gan, tucked around a corner from Tel Aviv’s Savidor train station.
Working with GreenVibe’s data sensors, Reshef said, clients can save on costs and time by not overbuying materials, and becoming more precise with their process.
“They understand what they need. They can respond to the material as needed once they start to pour the mix,” he explained.
Although a small team of just 18, and with a product still in development, GreenVibe has already worked in partnership with a number of Israel’s tier-one construction companies including Tidhar, Shikun & Binui, Ashtrom Group, and Shapir Engineering.
Naor Caspi, director of innovation at Tidhar, said the company — among Israel’s largest construction firms and private real estate groups — truly believes in GreenVibe’s team and technology. Tidhar has invested an undisclosed amount in GreenVibe and has worked with its tech on six sites, with four of the projects ongoing.
“Even though the product is still in development, it is having a huge impact,” Caspi told The Times of Israel. “It goes completely against the old-school way of building — checking the concrete, sending samples off to the lab, waiting five days once the concrete has been poured before continuing with the building.”
“With GreenVibe we get the data in real-time. It’s as if we can ‘speak with the concrete’ and understand how hot, dry, wet, or strong it is. We can see it speeding up our building process, and also allowing us to sometimes use cheaper, different density concrete, and reduce the carbon footprint of our projects,” he added.
Caspi and Reshef both recognize that GreenVibe is a work in progress. There’s a four- to six-month plan to further develop the sensors to improve their understanding of the flexibility of concrete, and of the impact of humidity and other conditions. There’s also a need to get to industrial levels of production, allowing the company to work across more sites and embed more sensors.
In addition to its Israeli constriction clients, GreenVibe says it also has relationships in place with two design partners in the US, a large construction company in Japan, and one in India. Reshef says that what these companies share is a traditional way of doing construction, and a recognition that the world they are familiar with needs to change.
“The solution we offer is a ‘must have’ for them – it’s central to their business,” he said. With no major marketing effort, GreenVibe’s clients have mainly come to them by word of mouth, he added.
GreenVibe’s next steps will require capital to market their solution globally, particularly in the US where there is a major movement to renew aging infrastructure, and to deliver their solution at scale. As client numbers grow, the company will likely need to expand beyond the engineers who make up much of the staff today and add customer support and other teams. Reshef does not deny that GreenVibe is preparing for a significant funding round to fuel its expansion.
To date, the company has raised just a few million dollars as seed funding from partners such as Tidhar, Shikun & Binui, Israel Canada Investments, Elbit Systems, and NY-based firm Insight Partners.
While many technology startups feel that they need to leave Israel to grow, Reshef said, “There is constant building here in Israel and billions of dollars to be invested. It’s a market we can work and expand in. And our product is small and light. We can supply companies around the world while staying here in Israel.”
GreenVibe, said Reshef, “is determined to ensure that the reduced costs of building, and the reduced carbon footprint which our technology can deliver, bring benefits to construction here in Israel, as well as being deployed in building projects around the world.”
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