Building Design

AutoCAD Giant's Green Footprint Grows Bigger

25 Jun, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Autodesk completes acquisitions of Green Building Studio and Ecotect.

In the past few years, sustainability has become the battle cry for Autodesk. At press events and user conferences, whenever company president and CEO Carl Bass takes the stage, he tirelessly advocates the need to offset the present building boom with ecoconscious building practices. (For more, read "Event Report: Autodesk University 2007, Part 1.") Now, with the acquisitions of Green Building Studio (GBS) and Ecotect completed, the company has added two formidable champions to its green crusade.

Closer Ties with Revit Anticipated
Autodesk Revit users are no stranger to GBS and Ecotect. From Revit, they can export a model in the gbXML format, then upload it to GBS through a browser and collect a report about the energy efficiency of their design. Similarly, they can use Ecotect to import Revit models into the Ecotect analysis environment to run a variety of tests and produce reports.

For clues on the future of GBS and Ecotect, we might look to Autodesk's postacquisition treatment of Carmel Software as a possible model. Carmel Software offers thermal load analysis solutions for engineers specializing in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The company also develops products for duct sizing, refrigeration, pipe sizing, estimating, and cost analysis. Though Carmel Software still exists as an entity (Autodesk acquired the company's assets, not the company itself), the company has suspended sales of its software. Meanwhile, Carmel Software's technology appears under the hood of Revit MEP (for mechanical, electrical, plumbing).

But this is just one model. After acquiring NavisWorks, Autodesk continues to keep it as a stand-alone product, Autodesk NavisWorks.

Jay Bhatt, Autodesk's senior vice-president of AEC solutions, said, "We haven't made the decision whether to keep [GBS and Ecotect] as stand-alone tools or integrate them into the existing Autodesk products."

GBS and Ecotect are also popular tools among those who use Graphisoft's ArchiCAD and Nemetschek's VectorWorks Architect, Revit's competitors in the building information modeling (BIM) market. What's Autodesk's plan for these users?

Bhatt said, "We know the building industry is a multiproduct industry. We think there's room for multiple software providers. We want people to continue to gain utility from the tools we've bought."

The Green Giant
Based in Santa Rosa, California, GBS was originally an energy consultant company known as GeoPraxis. Eventually, the company took on the name of its flagship product GBS. In 2004, GBS began offering the software as Web services, under the model sometimes referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS).

"Our expectation is that the same approach to delivering [GBS] — Web services and Web download — will continue to exist going forward," Bhatt said.

Now branded as Autodesk Green Building Studio, GBS Web services are available through Autodesk's site. Revit users, however, can directly access the GBS features through the Revit interface.

Ecotect was developed by Square One Research, based in the Isle of Man, British Isles. The company describes its software as a solution to experiment and test "environmental design principles, such as solar, thermal, shading, lighting, and airflow," early in the design phase.

Clarifying postacquisition plans for its product line, Square One stated, "Autodesk currently plans to continue support of the existing Ecotect and its related tools and is working to transition the sales process to the Autodesk e-Store. In the interim, a free trial version of the latest commercial software is available for download until August 15, 2008."

"Buildings are a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions," Bhatt said. Coming from someone who makes a living selling building software, it's a pretty gutsy acknowledgment.

With the latest acquisition of GBS and Ecotect, Bhatt can justifiably claim Autodesk has a stake in not just the building industry but also in the greenhouse gas reduction market — as sustainability has in fact evolved into a thriving market unto itself.