Divers found human waste in Tulum’s sinkholes and cave pools as a construction boom in the region destroys a natural water filtration system

Swimming in a cenote
  • Cenotes in Tulum have grown polluted due to construction spurred by an influx of visitors.
  • Construction of hotels and restaurants razes mangroves, which facilitate natural filtration.
  • Without mangroves, pollutants like sewage, chemicals, and feces end up in Tulum’s waterways.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Construction in the popular tourist destination of Tulum, Mexico, is booming to keep up with an influx of digital nomads and other visitors.

With new hotels and restaurants come a greater draw for tourists. But the construction has been spelling disaster for the environment. Cenotes, which are sinkholes or caves that have filled with water and are often used as swimming holes, have grown polluted because of such development. Of the roughly 6,000 cenotes found across the Yucatán Peninsula, roughly 80% are contaminated, according to Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

Part of the problem stems from the destruction of mangroves that takes place during much of this construction. These trees and shrubs act as a natural filtration system to keep pollutants out of the water. Without them, contaminants like sewage, chemicals, and more find their way into Tulum’s waterways.

From there, the contamination can seep into the underground water system and then into the sea. Divers have even documented contamination of the cenotes with feces. The construction also harms wildlife, such as sea turtles, by destroying their natural habitats.

Read more about how the rise in tourism is impacting destinations like Tulum in Insider’s story here.

Groundwater pollutants in the aquifers under Mexico’s Riviera Maya district include chemicals from painkillers, illicit drugs like cocaine, remnants of personal care products like deodorants and toothpaste, and chemical run-off, according to a United Nations University study.

The pollution of cenotes can also “adversely affect the nearby ecosystem, like lagoons, estuaries and coral reefs, causing a serious deterioration of this ecosystem and in public health,” according to a study published last year that examined coliform bacteria in cenotes in Cancún.

Adding to the problem is the fact that cenotes are often used as dumping grounds for waste. Roughly 25% of household wastewater on the peninsula ends up in the region’s aquifers untreated. Researchers say improvements to regional wastewater treatment and sewage management systems are necessary to help curb this practice. Addressing agricultural runoff is another important step.

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See the pitch decks that buzzy real estate and construction tech startups used to raise millions from top VCs

Cove.tool founders (from left) Sandeep Ahuja, Patrick Chopson and Daniel Chopson. They're smiling and wearing Cove.tool shirts and blazers.
Cove.tool cofounders (from left) Daniel Chopson, Sandeep Ahuja, and Patrick Chopson built a platform that drastically cuts down the amount of time it takes to analyze a building’s energy efficiency. They raised $5.7 million.

  • Proptech firms were already hot, but the pandemic lured more VCs to invest in them than ever before.
  • Real estate and construction tech tools became essential to many businesses once they went remote.
  • These pitch decks reveal how 16 different startups pitched their visions and products to investors.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The real estate and construction industries are undergoing a major tech transformation, as startups touting everything from online home-buying to interactive office management software attract millions of dollars in venture funding.

While the property technology space, known as proptech, grew in size and dollars raised year over year, it has exploded during the pandemic. Stragglers who hadn’t yet adopted digital workflows were forced to, and venture capitalists have been pouring money into the firms offering compelling new products in residential real estate, commercial real estate, construction tech, and short-term rentals and hospitality.

Insider has collected 16 pitch decks that the most successful firms have used to raise funding from VCs and private equity firms.

Check out the full collection below. And bookmark this page, because we will continue to update it with new pitch decks.

Residential real estate

Doorvest Co Founder Image
Andrew Luong (left) and Justin Kasad, who raised $2.5 million for their single-family rental startup Doorvest.

Residential real estate, more than any other segment of the market, has been on fire during the pandemic, with home prices and rents in almost every corner of the country skyrocketing. Venture investment into the tech that powers the industry – and helps take it online and streamline formerly tedious processes – has followed. Startups that help investors purchase and manage homes from afar, tools for residential brokers and leasing agents, and digital closing companies that digitize paper-heavy real estate transactions have all raised impressive sums.

Commercial real estate

Nick Gayeski, cofounder and CEO of Clockwork Analytics
Nick Gayeski, cofounder and CEO of Clockwork Analytics, which raised $8 million for its platform that monitors building ventilation.

Even though COVID-19 has left many offices partially filled and retail stores vacant, startups that help companies make their spaces virus-safe – by, say, keeping track of social distancing or monitoring building ventilation – became extremely important. Firms that promised to reduce friction (and costs) in day-to-day operations by digitizing them also attracted venture investment.

Construction tech

Mosaic cofounder and CEO Salman Ahmad
Mosaic cofounder and CEO Salman Ahmad works on ways to build homes faster and cheaper. He raised $14 million last year.

The pandemic boosted traditional construction companies’ interest in the high-tech corner of the sector. Startups that make digital tools to manage worksites from afar suddenly became indispensable, while the current housing shortage brought even more attention to companies that are developing ways to build faster and more cheaply.

Short-term rentals and hospitality

Roman Pedan, Kasa Founder and CEO
Founder and CEO Roman Pedan raised $30 million for his short-term rental startup Kasa.

Early in the pandemic, hospitality businesses stalled as travel halted across the globe. Once things opened back up, short-term rental companies with rural locations or a presence in smaller cities started to see the reservations – and funding – pour in. As a vaccinated travel boom looms, the tech-enabled companies rivaling Airbnb that enable flexible tourism, digital nomadism, and remote work are poised to benefit.

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It might be the worst time to remodel your house. Experts say customers can expect months of delays.

home buying
  • Home-improvement projects are being set back by months due to shipping delays and shortages.
  • The home-buying and remodeling boom has companies struggling to keep up with demand.
  • Skyrocketing lumber prices are also making projects increasingly expensive.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The pandemic caused a surge in home-improvement projects at the worst possible time and many companies are still struggling to keep up with backlogs of projects.

Over 44% of home improvement plans in the US have been delayed due to supply shortages and skyrocketing material costs, according to data from market research firm, Cardify.ai, a company that uses transactional data to generate reports on consumer spending.

Steve Cunningham the CEO of Cunningham Contracting and the chair of the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodelers Council said his projects are being delayed by months due to the limited availability of materials, as well as laborers. Data from the NAHB Remodeling Market Index indicates that, on average, home improvement projects are facing 1-2 months of delays.

Home construction
A red-hot real estate market has kickstarted new home construction, but builders face a shortage in lumber.

“A lot of remodelers have more business in front of them than they can service,” NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz told Insider.

John Bitely, the president of Sable Homes, a home-building company based out of Rockford, Michigan, told Insider that in 30 years of business he’s never seen such demand.

“We usually build houses to sell them,” Bitely said. “We have virtually none of those available right now because all of our labor and production is fully absorbed with creating pre-sold homes. Every home we’re making is already sold because people are chomping at the bit for these new homes and we can’t build our way out of it.”

Not only are home-improvement projects lagging due to spikes in demand, new homes have also become an incredibly hot market. Last month, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported that there is a shortage of nearly 4 million homes in the US.

Government agencies are backed up

Bitely said Sable Homes faces delays from the very beginning of a project, as government agencies have been slow to give out the necessary home-building permits, adding at least two weeks to the waiting process.

He attributes the delay to the sheer amount of permits government agencies are rushing to approve as home-building demand continues to increase.

Josh Wiener, the founder of home-improvement firm Silver Lining Inc, told Insider it’s been difficult to get projects approved due to the COVID-19 regulations in New York City.

Once a project starts it can get stuck midway through

Supply shortages have been unpredictable in recent months. Cunningham told Insider he’s had projects where a kitchen remodel has been held up by the availability of the dishwasher model or refrigerator. Contractors currently expect to wait an extra 3-4 weeks for appliances to be delivered due to shipping delays and the global computer chip shortage, Cunningham said.

There have been times when Sable Homes has been forced to pivot from one project to another, as contractors wait on vinyl siding or plumbing pipes. Bitely said the company tries to compensate by ordering products well ahead of schedule, but they never quite know what products will be in short supply.

“The biggest problem is the shortage is random so it’s very difficult to fix or nail down,” Bitely told Insider. “Because it’s impacting nearly every facet of the supply chain, it will be difficult to make it go away.”

GettyImages 1214261483

While kitchen appliances have been heavily impacted by the global semiconductor chip shortage, other products like paint and vinyl siding are also in short supply due to the Texas freeze. Though, Dietz says the skyrocketing lumber prices are one of the biggest hurdles home-building and improvement companies are struggling to overcome.

“Lumber is a big component of any home project,” Dietz said. “It’s adding about $36,000 to new single family homes and it’s driving remodeling prices higher.”

Home-improvement projects are sure to be more expensive

It’s difficult to predict how much a project will cost.

Cunningham told Insider that his company has an escalation clause in their contract that the material costs may be subject to change. Bitely said he sees prices fluctuate every few weeks.

“As a company, there’s nothing we can do but pass those prices through to the customer,” Bitely said. “We set up the expectation early on that prices are changing and the project may be subject to delays and for the most part customers are not deterred.”

lowe's remodeling
A Lowe’s employee stocks lumber inside the home improvement store in New York.

Other companies have been forced to eat the rising material costs without an escalation clause in their contracts. Wiener said his company has been forced to pay for 100% of costs that are outside of the initial budget. He said Silver Lining has been lucky in that as a bigger firm they have been able to overcome the cost hurdles, while smaller firms might be forced out of business.

Despite delays and rising costs, demand shows no signs of dampening

“Right now, most clients are still going through with buying because they’re desperate for house. They have no other choice,” Bitely said.

Home-building and improvement delays and price spikes are not expected to abate anytime soon. On Thursday, Kyle Little, chief operating officer of Sherwood Lumber, told CNBC he expects elevated lumber prices to continue into the “foreseeable future.”

“It’s really imperative that policymakers improve these supply chains,” Dietz told Insider. “Lumber affordability is key to housing affordability.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

20 construction machines getting the job done

  • These construction machines are all working hard to get the job done.
  • From a machine that digs up tree trunks to a tunnel-washing truck that looks like a car wash on wheels, we’re highlighting 20 machines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

#1 The Ponsse Beaver is an industrial tree-harvesting machine.

It cuts the tree at the base.

Then in one motion, it removes the limbs and cuts the tree into logs.

#2 This monster machine can dig trenches in seconds.

It digs holes up to 5.5m deep and 1.5m wide.

Used on large trenching projects like water pipes, it can also be used for sewage, oil, and gas projects.

#3 The 5700-C machine continuously forms and pours concrete.

It makes curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and barrier walls.

It can even handle irrigation ditches and bridge walkways.

#4 These machines can paint road markings in seconds.

The paint is made up of thermoplastics.

It also uses reflective glass beads.

This makes the markings more visible and long-lasting.

#5 This truck could save 90% of construction time.

The arched rollers on the back function as the structural frame.

Supporting the blocks while they’re set in place.

The blocks fit together like LEGOs.

#6 The rotor stump grinder can dig up a tree trunk in seconds.

Each grinder is powered by hydraulics.

#7 The ScreedSaver BOSS 240 smoothes out concrete with rollers and blades.

It uses a boom instead of wheels that damage concrete.

A GPS ensures accuracy.

#8 The Hunklinger makes bricklaying much quicker.

It lays 1,000 bricks of any size and shape per hour.

#9 The Moty KE 3000 harvests pumpkin seeds.

It picks up the pumpkins using a spike wheel and sends them down a conveyor belt.

The pumpkin seeds are then separated, cleaned and easily transferred.

#10 The Roadrunner machine places and retrieves street cones.

The cones are loaded into the machine from the bed of the truck.

This makes placing cones safer and more efficient.

#11 The BMM300 truck rolls out 300 bricks a minute.

Raw clay is loaded into the back.

Where it’s compressed into molds.

The brick is pushed out once the mold is facing the ground.

Leaving a clean trail of perfect bricks.

#12 SAM is a bricklaying machine.

It picks up bricks, adds mortar, and places them in order.

#13 This machine replaces railway ties, also known as sleepers.

It does it without removing any of the railway track.

The machine is fitted with a tie changer.

Which grabs the railway ties and replaces with a new one.

#14 This Splitmaster machine splits logs with a hydraulic press. The machine picks up heavy logs.

The press then feeds the log into a splitting knife.

And voila! Smaller pieces.

#15 These scraping machines remove floor coverings. It can handle ceramics, linoleum, vinyl, carpet, and even glue.

#16 The Spartan Leaf Pro Plus sucks up thousands of leaves per minute.

It works on wet or snowy leaves. It’s controlled by a remote.

#17 This road-building machine rolls out bricks like a carpet. As the RPS6 RoadPrinter rolls backward, gravity brings the bricks flat to rest on the ground. This creates a perfect brick road.

#18 The Golden Series Six Shooter machine is used to remove manhole frames. It’s braced to the center of the manhole. It then cuts a perfect circle around the hole.

#19 This machine cleans tunnels. It uses the same rollers as a car wash. It can easily adapt to different tunnels.

#20 The LSM 740 machine can mow around signposts. It uses two mower disks that automatically turn the mower when near a post. Avoiding any damage to the mower.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.

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Miami’s Mayor will tour Elon Musk’s Las Vegas tunnels as the two discuss plans for a Florida project

Boring company los angeles
Boring tunnel Los Angeles

  • The mayor of Miami plans to visit The Boring Company’s tunnels in Las Vegas.
  • In February, Elon Musk told the mayor he could build a tunnel in Miami for $30 million.
  • The city has been looking into constructing a tunnel, but estimated a $900 million cost.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez will visit the Boring Company’s newly constructed tunnels in Las Vegas on March 18 to investigate plans for a tunnel under his own city.

Suarez told the Miami Herald on Monday he plans to visit the tunnels built by Elon Musk’s startup to investigate whether it would be feasible to build a tunnel under the Brickell Avenue bridge in Miami.

“I’ve been in constant communication with Steve Davis, the CEO of The Boring Company, with the hope and expectation we can go up there and see if there’s a solution for our community,” Suarez told the paper.

The mayor will be accompanied by several other city officials.  The group will be continuing an effort that Miami has pursued for many years. In 2018, Miami-Dade County transit officials said the two-mile tunnel under the Miami River would cost nearly $1 billion and take about four years to construct.

In February, Suarez told the Miami Herald Musk had offered to construct the tunnel for around $30 million in about six months. Musk’s company has long been focused on streamlining the tunnel digging process. In July, Boring Company announced plans to host a competition to see who could dig the fastest tunnel. The winners will be announced this summer.

The previous month Musk tweeted about the project. “Cars & trucks stuck in traffic generate megatons of toxic gases &  particulate, but @boringcompany road tunnels under Miami would solve traffic & be an example to the world,” Musk said.

The Boring Company has active construction projects and planned future projects across the country, including in Los Angeles and the Baltimore-Washington areas, though none are as close to completion as those in Las Vegas. In other places, like Chicago, his venture has beenmet with a more skeptical eye

The startup just recently celebrated the completion of its first full project at the Las Vegas site after several months of delays in the construction for the 0.8 mile tunnel. In January, Musk posted a picture of himself with three of his children at the tunnels.

Construction on the Las Vegas loop began in 2019, but the site has been closed since the pandemic started. In December, the Las Vegas City Council granted Musk’s company a special permit to extend the Vegas Loop tunnel into a 4.6 mile circuit.

The Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis visited The Boring Company’s tunnel projects in Las Vegas and Los Angeles in February. The city is investigating the possibility of constructing a tunnel for trains under the New River.


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