All Abuzz About Green Technology

19 Apr, 2006 By: Michael Dakan

Sustainable architecture attracting venture capital as well as a PBS television series; plus, a look at AccuRender 4.0

If you subscribe to the old adage, “follow the money,” and if you’ve been heartened by the increasing interest in energy conservation and sustainability in architectural design, you’ll be especially pleased to learn about an initiative that is getting behind the "green" idea to the tune of at least $100 million.
According to a recent Associated Press news report, John Doerr -- the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who made his name and a considerable fortune through early investments in technology companies such as and Google -- has turned his attention to green technology. Doerr says he believes green technology in the 21st century will be as big as biotechnology was in the past. Doerr’s company, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers (Menlo Park, California), has earmarked $100 million of its latest $600 million technology fund for technologies that will enable cleaner energy, transportation and the environment. This is on top of more than $50 million the firm has already invested in green technology ventures.

“This field of greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century,” Doerr said. “There’s never been a better time than now to start or accelerate a greentech venture.”
Doerr said he believes the rising cost of fuel and the growing concern over global warming are among today's most pressing global challenges. “It’s causing the nations of the world to put an even higher priority than we have on innovation,” he said.
“When John Doerr talks, people listen,” said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association. “John appears to have an innate ability to spot trends and execute a business plan to take advantage of those trends.”
Enough said. On the surface, this news might not apply directly to AEC. However, increasing interest in the critical areas of energy use and sustainability techniques will bring forth plenty of opportunities for architects, engineers and building contractors to provide the services necessary to help accomplish green objectives -- if they are prepared.

Autodesk to Sponsor PBS Series

In a related item, Autodesk has reported it will sponsor an upcoming PBS documentary series that will focus on sustainability in architecture. The six-part series, hosted by actor Brad Pitt and titled “design: e2, the economies of being environmentally conscious,” will explore the social, political, cultural, environmental and economic issues of sustainable architecture and current solutions.
The series will feature architects who are championing design in the context of the environment, and will present interviews with participants as well as cinematography of extraordinary buildings that consume less energy and tread lightly on the earth.
Watch upcoming issues of the Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter for additional coverage of this topic, including interviews with Phil Bernstein, vice-president of Autodesk’s Building Solutions Division, and Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity, one of the experts featured in the series. (Subscribe to Cadalyst Daily or view the archives.)

AccuRender 4.0 Released

Bob McNeel, of Robert McNeel & Associates, announced last week that the company is shipping v4.0 of its AccuRender photorealistic rendering program, which runs inside AutoCAD. A ray-tracing and radiosity rendering application, AccuRender is a wonderful little program for the AutoCAD user, and v4.0 contains several impressive enhancements.
Many years ago, AccuRender was the first photorealistic rendering program I used, and it is still one of my favorite applications for creating beautifully rendered images of 3D AutoCAD files. It’s relatively quick and easy to use, and the results can compare favorably with those from rendering programs costing several times as much.
AccuRender pioneered many rendering program features, such as fractal-generated vegetation and low-cost radiosity lighting. This latest version reportedly contains much new and improved functionality, such as improved support for Architectural Desktop materials, reflected environment mapping and photometric data saved to the DWG file.
McNeel recently announced that after 20 years as an AutoCAD value-added reseller, Autodesk canceled its contract. Some speculate that McNeel's Rhino solids modeler has become too competitive with other Autodesk products, especially now that Autodesk has acquired Alias. Rhino has gained a significant following as a relatively low-cost solid modeler that also compares very favorably to other programs in capabilities and features. I suspect that AccuRender also played into this unfortunate turn of events for McNeel & Associates. This is especially too bad because Bob McNeel and his staff are among the good guys in the CAD business and are worthy of encouragement and support.
AccuRender has a special 90-day introductory price of $100 off the $495 price of a new license or the $295 cost to upgrade. A free evaluation version is available for download on the AccuRender Web site.

If you’re in the market for an easy-to-use but comprehensive rendering application that works within AutoCAD -- one that has more than enough power and functionality to produce beautiful 3D renderings -- check out AccuRender 4.0.