When Chris Kelsey was 12 years old a school chum showed him how to change the source code in his Google home page.
When he was 13 he’d begun coding websites.
By the age of 17 he’d dropped out of high school to run a company developing applications.
He recently sold the company for many millions of dollars. Then he formed a company called Cazza Construction Technologies and just a few weeks ago announced that the company would be building a skyscraper in Dubai using 3-D printing.
He’s been busy and has already accomplished a lot. And he’s still a teenager, not quite 20.
Kelsey is one of the growing population of post-millennials whose innate understanding of technology is changing the face of information technology and, by extension, will change the face of the construction industry.
He has a generational understanding of high-tech. It’s something that you and I have to learn, but something that he grew up understanding and appreciating the potential it represents.
Kelsey gave an interview a few months ago to an organization called Tech In Asia. He told his interviewer that when he was still running Appsitude, his app start-up, he’d begun to look for ways to minimize waste and the carbon footprint generated by the construction industry. So when an eager buyer for Appsitude came along, he didn’t hesitate. He and Fernando De Los Rios, who had been with him since launching Appsitude, quickly decided to form a construction technology firm and went all-in on Cazza.
Kelsey wants to automate as much of the construction process as possible. That starts with laying down foundations, then building walls. Cazza already has its own proprietary construction material: a concrete-like substance that contains up to 80 per cent recycled material.
The skyscraper will be built using crane-mounted 3-D printers to extrude this "concrete" into walls. Company engineers have developed a way to ensure that the finished product is completely smooth.
Others involved in 3-D printing, like China’s Winsun, print building elements at an off-site factory, then truck them to the building site. And a lot of trowel-work is often needed to achieve a smooth finish.
Kelsey has said that when he first thought of 3-D printing technologies, he was "mostly thinking of houses and low-rise buildings."
But developers kept asking if it would be possible to build a 3-D-printed skyscraper. After some investigation Kelsey’s answer was "yes."
Cazza has been bringing its engineers to Dubai to work on the project. Details about the height and footprint of the building have not yet been released, but should be made public within a few weeks.
Cazza and Dubai are a good fit. Dubai announced some time ago that 25 per cent of new construction must be 3-D printed by 2030. The introduction will be incremental, beginning in 2019, when buildings will need a two per cent 3-D-printed element. That will increase year by year until the 25 per cent objective is reached.
In the interim, Kelsey is helping the Dubai government formulate new laws and building codes specifically relating to 3-D printing in construction.
Kelsey made enough money from the sale of his previous company that he has not accepted any outside investment in Cazza. He’s financing everything out of his own pocket.
Kelsey is something new in the business world. He and his peers never knew a world in which app development and Internet-based businesses weren’t a reality. Growing up in a world immersed in Internet sensations and overnight success stories, Kelsey was able find inspiration from a whole cohort of peers who proved that anything was possible with a good idea and a lot of determination.
It’s daunting for old crocks like me to know that there are 19-year-olds out there who have spotted a problem, fixed it and moved on, all while I’m trying to decide what the right question is.
Korky Koroluk is an Ottawa-based freelance writer. Send comments to email@example.com.