A pivotal moment in our company’s growth occurred when we forged a partnership with our inaugural major business collaborator, a major player in the Japanese construction sector. In 2019, when our products were just emerging, our CEO, Marek Koźlak, undertook a journey to Japan to present his innovative ideas to a crucial figure for the ongoing development of SIMLAB company in the land of cherry blossoms.
Thanks to business connections established during his tenure in the BIM modeling field, Marek reached out to Jun Inoue, Director of Construction DX Solution Planning Department at Nohara Group. The interest in the concept of solutions based on Matterport Digital Twin technology from a well-known construction resource specialist in Japan opened doors to projects, that every entrepreneur dreams of when developing their startup.
The Origin of Japanese Construction Industry Leader
The company’s history dates back to the late 15th century when the Nohara family started operating as a wholesale dealer of cotton in Iida City, Nagano. In 1947, a turning point occurred when the 13th-generation company manager, Koichi Nohara, had to confront the consequences of a major fire that destroyed the Watahan warehouse. At the age of 62, Koichi decided to pass the reins to his nephew Tatsuya and his son Kokichi. To continue the business, they launched the sale of their brand of ice cream, “Alaska.” Within a year, they achieved success, and the profits obtained allowed them to change the scope of interest and relocate the business to the capital. In the fall of 1947, they established NOHARA CO., LTD, based in Tokyo, and ventured into the construction materials business. Today, the Nohara Group is known as a pioneer in transforming the construction industry. It consists of 16 companies covering a wide range of services, including Precut service and BIM Consulting, united by a common policy to update the construction industry in creative and intriguing ways.
Efficiently Monitoring Building Progress with STAGES
Thanks to a financial partnership with Matterport and Nohara’s support stemming from their approach to innovation, STAGES platform gained its crucial features. SIMLAB was ready for its immediate Japanese debut. The first commercial use of our product was in a large-scale hospital modernization project in Tokyo, where digital twins of each floor were captured every month. STAGES allowed the overlay of digital twins with BIM and engineering data, enabling hospital leadership to observe specific points before, during, and after the renovation without the need to visit the site. STAGES also served as a repository for replicas of asset and material information, including ducts, pipes, and electrical wires, provided by Matterport Digital Twins before finishing walls, ceilings, and floors.
“The accessibility of asset information from digital twins significantly improved hospital management,” says Jun Inoue. “When the General Tokyo Hospital management team viewed STAGES and Matterport digital twins through construction phases, they requested that we utilize the platform next year through the planned construction of six additional floors,” adds Inoue.
Thanks to this successful collaboration and the business connections of our partner, SIMLAB could take another step in expanding into the Japanese construction market. Misawa Homes, one of the country’s top homebuilding companies, used STAGES on a recent project to build model houses, reducing travel time to the sites by 50 percent.
“STAGES is a powerful tool to monitor construction progress over time,” says Stephanie Bay, BIM Construction Manager at Nohara Group. “Documentation in 3D provides important visuals from earlier construction stages, showing cables and studs, which are referenceable after applying finishes on the wall. It offers a fun user experience that satisfies our client’s needs, Misawa Home.”
Misawa Home demo house showcase in STAGES: https://bit.ly/3MBlbq7
Unified Smart Building Management with SIM-ON
After the completion of the model house construction work, our second product saw its first commercial use. Nohara Group used SIM-ON to provide MISAWA with a smart homeowner dashboard, offering 3D visualization of home information, including product catalogs, warranties, and maintenance-related information. “Homeowners receive an iPad to access the dashboard overlaid on a Matterport digital twin of the home,” says Inoue. “SIM-ON makes it easy for owners to access asset information and controls to configure IoT devices that connect sensors or appliances into one dashboard. Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world, and the integration of smart sensors and devices within the home enhances the safety environment for a super-aging population that desires independence with a high quality of life.”
“We are leveraging SIM-ON as our next-generation user interface that enables intuitive operation with a 360-degree view and is useful for maintenance management,” says Masashi Isogai, President and CEO, Misawa Homes.
Blending the history of Japanese architecture with the innovation of a Digital Twin
The renovation of Villa Wellis in Kariya, near Kobe, stands as a noteworthy project—a historic mansion constructed 130 years ago. Leveraging our cutting-edge Digital Twin solution, STAGES, Wisteria Consulting Co., LTD, an investor and client of Nohara, gained comprehensive insights into the entire building transformation process. This journey unfolded from the initial stages of pre-renovation, through the evolving interiors, culminating in a fully furnished, guest-ready property. Presently, this venerable structure is managed through SIM-ON, allowing upscale clients, who rent the house from Wisteria, to oversee IoT systems. This platform also ensures that precise, location-linked data for all equipment is readily available at their fingertips.
The historical significance of this house holds a symbolic resonance for our collaboration. Erected 130 years ago during the Meiji era, a pivotal period when Japan transitioned from a feudal society to a modern, industrialized state—a burgeoning great power influenced by Western ideals. Today, the investor authors the next chapter in this mansion’s legacy, and it is remarkable how this investment is imbued with the finest, innovative solutions of the digital age. For us, the seamless integration of both STAGES and SIM-ON, whether during renovation or daily operations, serves as an exemplar of how SIMLAB digital twin solutions cater to the complete life cycle of a building in the Japanese market. This mirrors the success seen in MISAWA model houses.
Villa Wellis showcase in SIM-ON: http://bit.ly/3xlNMb9
Partnering on Next-Generation Construction Engineering, Building Automation and Facility Management
Following the success of using STAGES & SIM-ON in MISAWA model houses, Nohara Holdings permanently introduced both tools to support their business projects. The project for the Toyo University Kawage campus is worth remembering, as it provided IoT control for lighting and air conditioning, along with the management of key assets crucial for facility safety. Tokyu Construction utilizes SIM-ON as a virtual showroom for apartments in Tower Condominium.
Following the expansion of Tokyo Metropolitan Hospital, another healthcare facility that emerged in Tokyo with the support of the STAGES platform is the Shisui Clinic. Apart from documenting work for Nohara Group clients, STAGES and SIM-ON also serve the operational needs of the company itself. This includes tasks like maintaining the Headquarter Office building in Shinjuku or documenting the construction of the Nohara Group booth during the Japan Build Expo 2022 in Tokyo.
Currently, Nohara Group is engaging in the building automation branch, becoming KNX Japan Member and entering the KNX standard global network in 2022. With Stephanie Bay’s participation in two editions of Japan Build, a leading fair for the building and housing industries, SIM-ON was presented at the KNX National Japan booth as a KNX IoTech 3rd Party API solution. An initiative from the previous year resulted in the development of a virtual booth project. This enabled a broader audience to explore the offerings of KNX Japan through our application. Nohara Group is now collaborating with several other KNX Japan Members to create a KNX showroom at the Nohara Group Headquarter in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Our application is intended to be the official interface for controlling the interactive exhibition in the showroom. The estimated completion date will be in summer 2024.
SIMLAB Proudly Goes NOHARA’s Way
As an official reseller of Matterport, and our exclusive partner in Japan, Nohara offers our solutions on their official website dedicated to Digital Twin-based construction services. We are proud that both our solutions are offered alongside BuiltApp, the native Nohara application, which supports BIM-based design, production, and construction. An essential aspect of our collaboration is the feedback received from the Japanese market. Based on the needs reported by Nohara, we continue to develop our products, introducing additional features that become a permanent part of the official toolkit of our applications. In the upcoming year of 2024, we plan to undertake joint initiatives to gather a community of AEC industry professionals interested in digital workflow optimization based on Digital Twin solutions. A series of webinars, expert advice, and pilot projects will mark the beginning of educating the Japanese construction sector about the possibilities arising from the digital transformation of construction processes.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Nohara Group for three years of fruitful collaboration, especially CEO Kosuke Nohara, who was always very supportive of SIMLAB, and Jun Inoue, now in his position as Nohara Group DX Construction Business Development Executive, who first believed in the potential of our ideas.