Workshare provider Satellier and its 40-year-old CEO Michael Jansen are working to take building information modeling out of the confines of the workstation. "We are experts at sharing work remotely," says Jansen, who has built a thriving outsourcing practice in India that extends the resources of high-profile design firms around the globe.
Satellier is implementing a new system that combines telepresencing using iRooms (a kind of video conferencing on steroids), "smart" boards that allow users to share desktops and customized work-flow software that tracks and optimizes processes. "It lets us work on design development and BIM analytics" in a way that was impossible in a traditional FTP-site-driven environment, Jansen says.
The firm built a private network, based on technology from the film industry, that will allow data to move back and forth at high speed. "The illusion of real time is critical to the success of this whole thing," says Jansen. The new technologies allow the firm to move into higher value-added tasks.
Satellier has "a concurrent collaborative process going on," says John Kunz, executive director of the Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering at Stanford University, who introduced Jansen to the iRoom concept. "It’s a grand experiment," says Kunz. He says other firms use iRooms but have not applied them to the workshare business.
Jansen went to India as a Fulbright scholar to study Indian architecture. In 1996 he opened an architectural office for John Portman in Delhi. In 1999, he began working for a large hotel interiors firm that was interested in outsourcing. He founded Satellier in 2004, which grew from 35 to 450 employees in four years.
After the 2008 financial collapse, "we’ve downsized," Jansen says. "But we remain busy because we smooth out the ebbs and tides of other people’s practices." He reduced staff by 100 and scrapped the idea of building an iRoom in a New York City office. He plans to build future iRooms in clients’ offices instead.
A year ago, Satellier bought Screampoint, a company that digitizes cities, and relocated it to Shanghai because that business is booming in China. It is creating a digital model of Wuhan, among other projects, says Paul Doherty, Screampoint’s director of digital buildings.