AI helps ease the administration burden for architects

AutoPlan’s time- and money-saving platform streamlines the planning permission process

Tedious administrative tasks are the bane of many people's working lives and it seems architects are not immune, especially when it comes to preparing planning permissions. "There are dozens of disparate, difficult to access pieces of data required to complete an application, and dealing with them takes the architect right out of their creative workflow," says Greg Jackson founder of AI company AutoPlan which has just launched a platform that streamlines the planning permission process for architects, saving them time and money.

Jackson got the idea for his business from his architect father. “He was really frustrated with the amount of administrative hassle that comes with the job and asked me if I could automate a really simple but time-consuming task he had – finding out if there had been previous planning applications on the sites he was working on,” Jackson says.

 Tricky problem

“It turned out to be both an industry-wide issue and a tricky problem to solve as anything involving data is usually more complex than it first appears. But we introduced machine learning into the process, really got inside architects’ heads to understand how they think in this area and our first product, which allows them to quickly and easily find a site and its history, is now up and running, having been successfully trialled with 30 practices.”

Ballina-born Jackson studied mechatronic engineering at DCU and also has a PhD in smart cities technologies from Imperial College London. He has worked with Boston Scientific as a process engineer and spent time as a technical lead with Intel. He is also no stranger to the start-up world having previously been involved with Solar Print and


Jackson set up AutoPlan in March this year and the company now employs three people. This is set to rise to 10 by the middle of next year. The company’s aim is to turn AutoPlan into a one-stop shop for all statutory and data requirements for the architectural process and the company will make its money by offering its solutions on a SaaS basis. There is a free element to the subscription and a tiered pricing structure for additional features such as report bundles.

“Digital transformation has changed the way architects design but the administrative process is still very analogue and that’s what our platform will change while also allowing architects to deliver more successful planning applications, faster,” Jackson says.

“On the face of it, architects have an amazing job as they design our cities, homes, and workplaces. The day-to-day process of architecture, however, is very different. It is filled with manual administrative and bureaucratic tasks and unfortunately for the architect, the success of a project is as dependent on this bureaucracy as it is on their design ability. Architects want to design not get bogged down in administration.”

Frontline customers 

The company's frontline customers will be architects, but the platform will also be of interest to planning consultants, property developers, engineering consultancies and banks and insurance firms looking to de-risk projects. "We will start with architects because they are like the gatekeepers of the planning process and we want to build their trust in us to begin with," Jackson says. "Our first markets will be the UK and Ireland but this is very much a global problem and we intend to be the go-to people who will solve it internationally."

Investment in the business to date is about €125,000 with support coming from the NDRC, New Frontiers at TU Dublin and Entrepreneur’s First in London which is Europe’s version of the high-powered Y Combinator accelerator in the US. The company is now in the process of preparing a seed round of €700,000 to build out the team and the platform.