How build-to-rent developers should be looking at technology in 2022: Exec Q&A
Salman Ahmad leads one of the fastest-growing construction technology startups in the residential development industry. As co-founder and CEO of Mosaic, Ahmad leads an experienced and inspired team that envisions a world where building technology solutions to support tried-and-true homebuilding methodologies will achieve construction efficiencies at scale. Our tech-enhanced approach will allow the industry to not only build at greater scale, but also build in ways that incorporate new construction practices, advanced materials, innovative housing features, and architectural designs that honor the communities where the homes are built.
Where was homebuilding software five years ago? Where is it today?
Ahmad: Initially, homebuilding software focused on optimizing accounting and sales processes, such as managing job costing for draw requests. Today, homebuilding technology has expanded to architecture and plan processes with innovations like Revit and BIM modeling. These technologies will enable the next generation of homebuilding technology innovation, which will focus on optimization and logistical control in the field and improving collaboration and workflows with the trade base.
What is the number one pain point you hear from industry veterans in Colorado?
Ahmad: The number one pain point is definitely labor, which is something all industries are experiencing. The skilled labor shortage is even more acute in the construction industry, where it can be more difficult for someone to enter the trades and envision their long-term career path. Addressing the labor issue has been a core focus point for Mosaic — we’re focused on how we can provide both industry-leading quality service for our customers and how we make our trade partners’ jobs easier. Alleviating stress and making trades’ lives easier will be incredibly important for the industry to resolve the ongoing labor shortage. Our approach has been to meet trades where they are — understand their practices and pain points, and create technological solutions that make them more money, rather than solutions that put them at an operational disadvantage.
The word “technology” scares a lot of people in the industry. Why is that? And how does your team make technology more accessible?
Ahmad: I don’t think the industry is scared of technology; I think the industry as a whole is just understandably pretty risk-averse. Residential development is high stakes and there’s a lot of potential to lose big — everything from money, to trust, to a positive reputation, to an entire livelihood, and so I understand why the industry has been averse to trying new things too quickly.
Mosaic is more than a technology platform. How does your team help residential developers scale their construction operations?
Ahmad: In a way, Mosaic operates as two companies: There’s our homebuilding technology platform and then there’s our general contracting business. We serve as the licensed GC [general contractor] of record for our customers and our in-house technology team creates the integrated platform that powers our construction team to make them more effective and efficient in the field. This current structure is intentional as it’s one that our customers are used to, which is hiring a GC to build their communities.
One of the key benefits though is we’re not your traditional GC — we’re significantly investing in R&D to optimize field operations. Our customers are the beneficiaries of this investment. At the end of the day, they want someone to manage their construction operations so that they can focus on the value-driving components of their business, such as financing, land acquisition, design, sales, marketing and the customer experience. Empowering our customers to reallocate their time and focus to those parts of their business enables them to build more projects with us as their trusted construction partner.
What’s next for Mosaic and for the industry as a whole?
We’re also incredibly optimistic about the build-to-rent asset type and how it’s an attractive solution for attainable housing for many cities like Denver where we’re seeing tremendous population and employment growth without the housing infrastructure to support that growth. Over the last couple of years, multiple companies across industries have relocated their headquarters to or expanded their operations in Denver, from Northrop Grumman to Amazon to Palantir, bringing thousands of jobs to the area.
Lastly, of the industry as a whole, we can’t overlook the existing and evolving energy code and the ongoing push for new transportation modes and electrification. These changes will have a significant impact on the types of housing that people will look for and will provide a unique opportunity for innovation in the construction space around energy performance.