With 1,300 windows and 57 data points per room, the historical renovation of the Nebraska Capitol Building was daunting. So much information, all of which was important, and all of which had to be correct, without flaw.
But Lincoln, NE-based BVH Architecture was up to the task. The 50-person shop’s strong mix of professionals is the sort of place where innovation is challenged, tried, and only then possibly embraced. But the needs of the historic Capitol Project called for an out-of-the-box solution to the project: creating a tool to collect, manage and share all of this data. BVH employees knew it was time for this change.
Zach Soflin, at the time an architect with BVH Architecture (and now Chief Operating Officer at Layer), had the idea of streamlining workflows by easing communication. He offered to develop the software himself. His colleagues quickly jumped at the chance to develop their own app. From the idea, Layer was born.
Launched in April 2019 as a separate company from BVH Architecture, Layer is a workflow platform for architects, engineers, and building owners to input and organize photos, files, notes and more, with the ability to layer the content onto a BIM model.
While it was initially devised for the immediate needs of the Capitol Project, Layer’s software was sort of a happy necessity. Now, it could make more firms happier with their workflows, given its accessibility and price. The company doesn’t charge customers a large upfront fee as some software companies do.
“A lot of smaller firms cannot afford that large upfront cost,” says Jeff Eells, Director of Business Development for Layer. “This is an affordable platform that can make firms, especially smaller shops, more efficient and competitive.”
Offered at $39 per user per month, and with a growing group of adherents, Layer could be too good for some to not try. For those who love the tool, a project-level subscription for $199 per month allows an unlimited number of users.
Layer’s executives say its software provides a level of project security that could be crucial for some firms working in the highly competitive construction industry. In AEC, mistakes that are not caught can sap profits and lead to costly lawsuits between a project’s team members. And tasks improperly handled can push back project completion dates and result in penalizing late fees.
Layer aims to help project team members catch mistakes and miscommunications, early in a project.
“That’s Layer’s biggest strength… the app is one central repository where you can catch miscommunication early, eliminate mistakes and cut out the back and forth communication people don’t have time for. Things like meeting notes become much more efficient in Layer, which lets users click on their name and go right to where they are mentioned in the notes.”
Given its origins as an AEC software tool developed by and for architects, Layer is naturally a good fit for engineering firms. Companies that work in projects in health care, higher education, historical preservation and other complicated architectural niches, will find Layer helpful, Eells says.
Photo of Nebraska Capitol Building provided by Tom Kessler