“For the most part, things are never built the way they were designed.”
That’s what Maya Lin, one of the most innovative artists of the last century, once said. She is best known for merge the conceptual and natural worlds, highlighted by works such as the once controversial but much-visited Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Concourse Federal Group, creator of the design tool CHPS360, seeks to take the abstract and transform it into tangible structures that build as they were drawn. To find out more, Benzinga spoke with Geoffrey Perkinsthe group president. The following text has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: Want to start with an introduction?
Perkins: I am a retired Air Force officer. My last assignment was at the Pentagon, and I was the chief human resources architect – in charge of their IT systems – and that was a challenge. Fast forward to the recession of 2008, I was laid off, and based on my Air Force network, I landed a job as CIO for the Air Force Aid Society. Later, I met my partner, Tom Shea, and we started Concourse Federal Group in 2009.
What is Concourse Federal Group?
When we started Concourse Federal, we focused on government real estate, like privatized military housing. We were doing what they called Enhanced Use Leasing (EUL) and helping the Department of Veterans Affairs build homeless housing for veterans. We’ve been doing this since 2009, but it’s become a smaller niche.
In 2018 we added something called IOTA (Initial Operating Transition and Activations) and hired some of the best. Overall, we knew we wanted to do something different and shake up the industry. We saw a great opportunity to automate processes. It took a lot of pen and paper, and a bit of computerization. We saw an opportunity to build a state-of-the-art, end-to-end system for IOTA.
Can you go more in-depth on this state-of-the-art system?
We get these Revit models from the architects who designed the buildings. Usually what they do is just print out two-dimensional floor plans and show them to the client, which are hospitals in most cases. It’s doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, pharmacists – you name it – looking at these plans and trying to figure out how to lay out all the equipment. It doesn’t work very well because they’re not trained to really understand floor plans. We therefore sought to make it three-dimensional and interactive.
Is CHPS360 a tool that makes 3D models interactive?
He really did. It has been embraced by the community we work with. Now you have the ability to see exactly what the space will look like before it’s actually built. We make it interactive.
For example, through the user group meetings we host, if a doctor wants to move equipment, we do it on the fly and the changes are saved in the Revit models. So now the architect knows that’s where the bed is going to go.
What is the size of the team you built this with?
It’s a really thin team. We were in the process of starting and building a few projects, at the beginning, which allowed us to invest more money in this.
How much does something like this cost to make?
We’re probably close to seven figures in development costs. These costs you will bear no matter what. Although the initial development costs of this software are high, it will pay for itself over the next two years.
Where do the fees come from?
Most of the people we have internally working on this are salaried employees. We will pay them at all costs. It’s just a matter of what we’re going to make them focus on.
Beyond meeting potential users, can this platform be licensed or provided to customers for personal use?
Right now we’re piloting user meetings and software. Our goal is to hand it to a customer and they would be able to handle it the same way we do. We’re trying to automate the setup process – taking the architect’s Revit model and pushing it into CHPS – which takes a bit of time.
Our goal is to make it shrink-wrapped software that you can buy and use on your own.
Would it be a one-time cost to users or a recurring subscription?
We are still working on how to price it. Potentially a subscription service.
Separately, when we do much larger projects, we do more than is simply provided by CHPS. We’ll help make it easy to purchase, store and install equipment.
How do you store equipment?
We end up renting storage space closer to the project. We will rent up to one year before project completion. The equipment arrives and we have colleagues unboxing it and training end users on how to use the equipment.
What is the impact of inflation and supply choke points on your business?
Supply chain issues have been very difficult. It really affects us in terms of timing. What we need to do is make sure we understand the deadline and focus on the milestones so we don’t miss those critical dates.
How do you scale this idea?
We meet with industry clients with whom we have relationships. We show them, get feedback and make improvements.
This is the first step. The real test is whether there are great architecture and engineering firms that we can partner with or sell to. Then they would use CHPS on all their projects, going forward.
What things did you learn in the military that you still use today?
Software takes much longer to develop than you ever imagined.
Testing is essential, and you need to test end-to-end. So many times people test individual modules and they work great. But, when you put all the modules together, you have to make sure they talk to each other.
As the schedules slip, the only thing that gets cut is test time. So we said we’re going to guard against that and make sure that we test the software end-to-end and make sure it works.
I think security is also key, and we make sure, among other things, that we have multi-factor authentication.
We focus on health care and there aren’t many others doing the same.
Looking to the future, where do you want to be?
We really want to partner with many architectural firms. We believe that the earlier we get involved in the process, the more positive impact we can have on the schedule. Beyond that, we believe this same technology can be used in offices, as well as airports and transportation hubs.
What motivates you ?
Our mission is to help veterans. Most of our work is with the Department of Veterans Affairs and helping veterans get the health care they need and deserve.