Orchestrating the future of construction 🏗️
How High Six founders are using their technical expertise to improve their industry…
We often imagine the flaws of an industry stemming from technological shortcomings; in the construction industry, the issue seems to be quite different. Mathieu, Aubin, and Max are the founders of High Six, thank you for sharing your experience with us!
For those of us who do not know the intricacies of the construction industry, could you tell us what are the biggest issues with the current system?
We see 4 main challenges for the construction industry:
Increasing productivity: to answer the housing needs of an ever-growing urban population, since 60% of people will live in urban areas by 2030.
Reducing the carbon footprint of buildings: today responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions through their construction and operation.
Shifting from traditional construction materials that are extracting limited resources towards more bio-sourced materials (e.g. only 5% of sand on Earth can be used to produce concrete).
Being compliant with new regulations - for example with new environmental regulations such as RE 2020: policies are constantly pushing towards a wider use of low carbon and low energy consumption solutions.
60% of people will live in urban areas by 2030.
It seems that most industry players are opting for timber construction as THE solution to these issues. What is your opinion on this focus?
We do love timber (wood used as a building material)!
Indeed, new timber technologies can address many of the challenges listed above:
The inherent material lightness (5 times lighter than concrete) and the ease of assembly of highly prefabricated timber building elements allow for a shorter construction time and a less disturbing intervention in a dense urban environment.
Trees suck up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and while releasing oxygen (O), sustainably stores the carbon (C) in the wood we turn into timber products then used and stored in our buildings.
Thanks to centuries of European sustainable forest management, we have always grown more trees than we have harvested. In fact, timber is the only structural material that grows at human speed (with a 60-80 years harvesting cycle).
In short, the more we use timber products today in our buildings, the more we plant trees for the next generations.
Unlike concrete and steel, wood has natural thermal inertia and capacity to regulate moisture, and presents a lower thermal conductivity. Employing timber for building superstructures and envelopes makes it easier to reach regulation requirements.
As we combine two decades of experience in the general construction and mass timber industry, we confirm a focus on timber is essential.
However, we believe that timber construction is not THE solution but only a part of it…
That still sounds like a good start! However, I am still curious, can you tell me why are we not seeing more timber buildings popping up?
In our opinion, the potential of timber construction has not yet been fully unlocked. We think that by focusing only on it, the industry cannot see the forest for the trees…
Today, the industry is working in a fragmented process that does not act as a channel for collaboration. Incentives differ between players which - unwillingly - carry their scopes of work in an isolated fashion.
This results in an information asymmetry between decision makers and technology providers that prevents effective technology integration and project delivery. There is a loss of value caused by a fragmented project organisation and the late and too short intervention of specialists.
In conclusion, even if timber construction offers clear advantages to augment productivity and decarbonise the built environment, industry players do not yet truly benefit from it, which undeniably limits its adoption.
The more we use timber products today in our buildings, the more we plant trees for the next generations.
I know the three of you come from a technical background, is that how you all became aware of the magnitude of the issue?
We have always shared the same values and a passion for construction. We built up complementary career paths to enable a successful collaboration within High Six.
Aubin has got a very versatile skill set around timber construction. From working on site with his carpenter father to studying wood sciences and technology, he has been surrounded by wood pretty much his whole life. Since his first encounter with Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in 2008, he developed a unique expertise in the mass timber building industry with experiences in design, engineering, sales and business development within pioneering and leading companies across Europe.
Max has built an expertise on modular & timber design-build using industrial delivery methods across France, the UK and Canada. His work in the modular & off-site timber industry covers multi-criteria design management, product development, supply chain integration and building envelope consulting.
Mathieu has worked 7 years in main contracting developing an in depth understanding of all construction processes from tender to handover. His skill set encompasses design, procurement, contract and site management of all construction trades with extensive knowledge in civil works, façades and MEP.
We are insiders who worked at different stages of a project construction from design, engineering, manufacturing to installation. We have faced different issues and share the same insight: the poor productivity of construction is mainly caused by organisational anomalies.
That’s an impressive team!
But then it looks like the challenge ahead is as much organisational as technical, how did you come up with a solution for that?
We are convinced that with innovation on the methodology, the potential of new off-site and timber technologies could be further unlocked.
High Six was founded in 2020 to act as the right arm of the property developer.
In collaboration with an ecosystem of design and build partners, we orchestrate projects from early specification to their realisation.
We take ownership of the technical design and bring in our expertise at the early stages when decisions are required and iteration less costly.
We also empower specialist contractors earlier than usual to benefit from their value engineering. Furthermore, we use digital tools such as collaborative platform and digital twin (BIM=Building Information Model) to streamline the full process and manage both organisational and component interfaces.
We are dedicated to the design and building of residential and office projects with a strong focus on low-carbon and off-site solutions.
We orchestrate projects from early specification to their realisation.
And what made you feel now was the right time to create High Six, rather than 5 years ago or 5 years in the future?
Now, more than ever, we must fully turn to sustainable thinking to be able to cope with urbanisation while leveraging our human and renewable resources.
As mentioned previously, government and policymakers are getting stricter on sustainability expectations and already a few city planners (Bordeaux Euratlantique, Epamarne, etc.) are imposing high environmental performance.
As a result, numerous property developers such as Icade have recently disclosed their low-carbon strategy and publicly committed to develop a share of their projects using more bio-sourced solutions such as timber.
Unfortunately, you might have understood that delivering such projects with the current organisation will end up in uncontrolled extra costs.
Having worked for pioneering renewable material suppliers, off-site specialist contractors and leading main contractors, we gather a unique skill set to perform a fresh methodology to answer these long-standing and now urgent challenges!
You are endeavouring to bring a big change to a pretty well-established industry, what has been the feedback so far?
The feedback has been exciting so far! We are getting interesting traction from both side client and partner.
In the urge of developing low-carbon projects, property developers welcome the pragmatism of our methodology to finally make their projects economically viable.
Industrial partners are interested to be involved earlier in the design process to better specify their solutions, add value to it and gain precision for their sales and operations planning.
In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to architects and city planners, if you are one of those, do not hesitate to get in touch with us!
The feedback has been exciting so far!
Before we leave each other, share your dream with us, what can we expect in the coming years if all goes according to plan?
We envision that the future of real estate is bio-sourced, industrialised and shared.
While testing our methodology on live projects, we are developing a platform approach to automate the design and build of sustainable real estate products. These products will be characterized by a low-carbon footprint, community-driven uses and high personalisation potential for the end user.
To know more about us, please check out our website!