Companies Respond to Green Building Demand

10 Dec, 2008 By: Heather Livingston

Autodesk makes a splash and Bentley tests the water at Greenbuild Conference.

Again, this year, Autodesk loudly proclaimed its presence at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Boston, November 19-21. Although the company's offerings were less splashy than last year's sustainability dashboard concept, they still managed to pack in a lot of bang for the three-day buck. Though the dashboard has not made it into production (and likely won't as introduced, according to Jay Bhatt, senior vice-president, AEC Solutions), elements of it have been integrated into the Revit package and continue to inform Autodesk's design strategies. Here, I'll update you on their doings, and on Bentley's first appearance at Greenbuild and what they have planned for early 2009.

During the week of Greenbuild, Autodesk was busily posting press releases on its sustainability initiatives, including the 2008 Green Index, a new Harris Interactive poll of Americans' awareness of the impact of buildings on CO2 emissions; a new partnership with The Biomimicry Institute; and an update on its Waltham, Massachusetts, headquarters, the first IPD project in New England and the second for the company.

The Polls
The two polls released during Greenbuild offer both good and bad news regarding the building profession. First, the good news: The Autodesk/American Institute of Architects 2008 Green Index survey, a polling of AIA members that measures how architects are implementing sustainable design, revealed that 42% of architects report clients asking for green building elements on a majority of their projects, with 47% of clients actually implementing green building elements on their projects. That's an increase of 15% from 2007.

Client demand remains the leading driver for green building, with 66% of surveyed architects citing it as the primary influence on their practice of green building. Architects believe the primary reasons their clients are asking for green buildings are reduced operating costs (60%), marketing (52%), and market demand (21%, up from 10% in the 2007 survey).

The 2008 index found that 89% of architects believe sustainable design should be practiced whenever possible, an increase of three percentage points from 2007. More than seven in 10 architects (compared with 67% last year) agree that the profession is headed in the right direction concerning architecture and the environment. Fifty-seven percent of respondents indicated that their organization is starting to implement standard operating procedures to inform clients about green building, up from 49% in 2007.

"We are encouraged to see the continued rise in demand for green buildings, and that architects are responding to this demand by increasing their practice of sustainable design," Bhatt said. The full Autodesk/AIA Green Index report is available at

Now, the bad news: a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Autodesk indicates that only 4% of adults in the United States are aware of the fact that buildings are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The Green Building Awareness survey was conducted online within the United States between September 30 and October 6, 2008, among 2,682 adults ages 18 and older.

"The results of the survey reveal an urgent need to raise awareness with the American public about the role of buildings in climate change," Bhatt believes. "This is especially important given that half the buildings in which Americans will live, play, and work by 2030 have yet to be built. We believe that the building industry has a responsibility to do all we can to promote the creation of, and generate increased demand for, much more cost-effective and energy-efficient buildings."

"Most people don't realize that our homes, schools, and offices are sources of tremendous opportunities to save energy, save money, create jobs, and ultimately help preserve our climate," added Michelle Moore, senior vice-president, policy and public affairs, for the U.S. Green Building Council. "This new survey underscores how much good work can be done to raise awareness and create the kind of change we need to improve our economy and protect our quality of life on Earth."

Sponsoring Biomimicry in Design, the world's first biomimicry database featuring biology-inspired design strategies, was announced at the conference by Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Guild and Biomimicry Institute. The Biomimicry Institute defines biomimicry as a science that studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems.

Sponsored by Autodesk, the web site was created as a resource for architects, designers, and engineers to access and harness information concerning billions of years of species adaptation. The site is filled with examples of nature's best design strategies and is organized by function and explained with illustrations. For instance, a designer trying to solve the challenge of how to glue surfaces in moist environments would find information about barnacles, geckos, and other organisms that have solved this problem in the ecosystem in which they live. The Web 2.0 site, said Benyus, is part manifesto, part search engine, and part social network, in sum, a place where innovators and biologists can meet, exchange information, and design together.

According to Bhatt, Autodesk product teams are investigating where their software can support biomimicry. One example is the Autodesk Seek web service. Launched in May 2008, Seek is an online source for product information that enables architects, designers, and engineers to search for products based on specific performance criteria. The refined search capability uses attributes to describe what the user is searching for, such as biomimetic products.

Supporting Sustainability and IPD Finally, Autodesk announced it will be opening a 65,000-square-foot office building in Waltham to serve as the new headquarters for its AEC division. The project was designed entirely with Autodesk's suite of applications and is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification for Core & Shell and Platinum for Commercial Interior programs.

"We ran out of space in our current facility and it perfectly coincided with the desire to put some of the technologies that we're producing for sustainability as connected to BIM out in front [and] really utilize them on a real world project," Bhatt explained. "It also perfectly coincided with this really strong movement going on that we're in some ways helping to move forward, which is integrated project delivery. ... We found this building and it was skinned but not built out, so we said 'Let's make it a Platinum building. Let's do an IPD project on it. And let's use all our products on it: not just Revit, not just Ecotect, not just Max for visualization, but let's use Inventor and do some fabrication around the building.' So we did all of that and we were really pleased. That project is on time. It's on track.

"We set out to have a great facility that employees would be proud of," he continued. "We set out to have a sustainable facility that walked the walk. We wanted our products to work fluidly together without any patching or code writing to make them work well together. We wanted to do it out of the box ... and the last thing is we really wanted to demonstrate IPD and how it could be a success."

Bentley's Presence
Huw Roberts, Global Marketing Director with Bentley, said the company decided to attend the 2008 Greenbuild Conference (after spending 18 months on a waiting list for booth space) because 1) they define their overall mission as "sustaining infrastructure", and 2) there is a fascinating convergence in the building industry of BIM and modeling technologies, sustainability, and changes in the building delivery process.

"This show is clearly focused on the green building design side [and] also collecting an audience that's paying attention to those issues, so [Bentley came] here to find out what the interest is, what the tone of the market is, and to explore this market for a new product we're going to be bringing out in the U.S."

That new product is Bentley Hevacomp Mechanical Designer. Purchased by Bentley in January 2008, Hevacomp is widely used in the United Kingdom as a building services design software program for improving the performance of buildings. Included in its portfolio is software for energy analysis, heating and cooling load calculations, pipe and duct sizing, and electrical system design and product catalogs. Roberts said Hevacomp is at the forefront of simulation for building energy analyses, incorporating in its offerings the EnergyPlus engine, developed by the Department of Energy, and software certified to perform CO2 emissions calculations required under Part L of the U.K. building regulations. By bringing this application to the U.S. market, the company hopes to help architects, engineers, and low-carbon consultants design buildings that consume less energy, have reduced CO2 emissions, and cost less to operate.

A second tool Bentley plans to release in the United States next year is Bentley Tas, a building modeling and simulation tool capable of performing dynamic thermal simulation for the world's largest and most complex buildings. Tas helps designers predict energy consumption, CO2 emissions, operating costs, and occupant comfort. The application offers tools for building and plant simulation, especially for LEED and UK Part L, ANZ Section J compliant buildings. Tas gives building professionals three tools in one package: a design tool, compliance tool, and FM tool, as well as the ability to import gbXML from Bentley Architecture, Bentley Building Mechanical Systems, and Bentley speedikon Architectural. Direct data exchange between Hevacomp and Tas is possible and the company reports that it has a robust and comprehensive passive design capability.

"There's no question [that] in our experience BIM and building simulation and analysis of a variety of types in all disciplines is becoming more and more the norm and in demand from owners through designers and contractors, and we're excited about that," Roberts concluded.

Related content: AEC, BIM (Building Information Modeling), Civil Engineering, Sustainable Design

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