From The Editor: The Future Site

A 524Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

The construction industry has lagged behind in modernizing its manufacturing processes, especially when compared to other industries. There is no shortage of reasons for this preservation. The design build process has a huge number of moving parts. Implementing a revolutionary change is a major undertaking. If a few of the parts resist, the result is an even clunkier moving whole.

Construction is one of the largest, most profitable industries in the world estimated at 6+ trillion dollars, a behemoth accounting for 10% of global GDP. But with all of its economic might, the industry cannot keep up with the demands of emerging economies. Global population in urban areas is projected to double over the next four decades. This will not only strain the world's (aging) infrastructures and resources, but the cost to meet these needs exceed the ability to pay for it by 4 times.

Technology is the only way to bridge the gap. While there has been tremendous progress in civil and structural design software, data acquisition tools, 3D machine control and fleet monitoring, the lack of cohesive data flow accessible throughout the construction lifecycle remain. Houston we have a problem.

This big data challenge along with the massive business opportunity has caught the eyes of Google. Bits and pieces began appearing across the internet last October about a secretive initiative at Google X that began in January 2011, code named Genie. The new technology claims to halve constructions costs while shortening the deliverables by 30-60%. Genie is described as "a platform with online based planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process."

Genie would live upstream from Google Maps which is fast becoming an operating system in its own right. Structures could be considered as schematic maps. If sites, utilities and buildings where designed within the same ecosystem, in essence, the structures would already be accurately mapped from inception. Global access to a central database through such design tools, constantly updated by professional crowdsourcing, would not be that far off from what Google is doing with Google Maps. It is a living, breathing database. The impact on efficiency compared to today's archaic methods would shake the very foundation of the AEC IT establishment and truly be worthy of the revolution title. Could this be the secret sauce that glues all of our efforts together? Time will tell.

It's a new year. Breath in the fresh opportunities technology will afford you and your business, and remember, change will prevail.

Randy Noland, Managing Editor/Cofounder

A 524Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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