Event Report: Bentley Empowered (BE) 2008 User Conference

2 Jun, 2008 By: Amy Stankiewicz

Sustainability and interoperability reign as compelling factors in achieving infrastructure return on investment at Bentley's 2008 conference.

Sustaining the world's built infrastructure requires all of the respective efforts in architecture, engineering, construction, and operations (AECO), and the financial returns on the investment that these professionals make in clean energy, self-sufficiency, and conservation are inevitable.

So said Bentley CEO Greg Bentley during his keynote presentation at this year's Bentley Empowered (BE) user conference, which took place May 28-30 in Baltimore, Maryland. With a strong focus on green building and sustainable design and construction, the conference, titled "BEst Practices for Sustaining Infrastructure," highlighted user-inspired best practices and innovative use of Bentley software to achieve new levels of sustainability and efficiency. The event drew more than 2,000 professionals to Baltimore, a record number compared with past BE events.

Greg Bentley also announced continuous revenue growth for the company at a compound annual rate of 14% over the past 15 years. Revenue growth for 2007 of nearly 16% was $450 million, he added, indicating that the company is excelling in delivering consistent value to its users, a success that translates directly into AECO professionals' ability to design and deliver sustainable and environmentally conscious infrastructure in today's demanding global environment.

"Like most of your organizations, Bentley faces the challenge to constantly improve the collaboration across our global operations while becoming more energy-efficient at the same time," Greg Bentley said. "To suggest a strategic direction that I think we share in our business, consider the implications of the creative public-private partnerships, which ... I expect to increasingly and ubiquitously materialize to fulfill the inflection in economic demand for improved infrastructure. In practically every such instance ... return-conscious investors eschew the traditional design/bid/build contracting in favor of integrated project delivery in some form."

Every participant in a distributed project team has a direct stake in the business of delivering the infrastructure asset. In other words, "Design professionals and practices have at least an economic interest in at least successful construction, if not also operations and maintenance," Bentley added.

As proof of the company's belief in the integrated delivery approach, it recently acquired Common Point, a developer of construction (ConstructSIM) and operations (OpSIM) simulation software. Integration of Common Point technology with Bentley's ProjectWise Navigator platform and portfolio of applications will enable Bentley to expand integrated project delivery for infrastructure projects by closing gaps between design, construction, and operations, Bentley executives stated. Specifically, ConstructSim is "virgin territory," said Greg Bentley. "It's hard work to get to the construction superintendent level."

Interoperability Advancements
Bentley executives also spent considerable time touting the importance of open standards and interoperability. Specifically, the company announced the release of the ISO 15926-compliant OpenPlant PDX Manager, software that reportedly makes existing plant data from other proprietary systems interoperable with Bentley applications.

With OpenPlant PDX Manager, users can connect to a live PDS (Intergraph's CAD/CAE application for plant design, construction, and operations) project and open the entire project database without affecting the underlying model. Users can access all model data and deliverables and extract them to ProjectWise. Additionally, users can save data in the ISO 15926 format, then connect to a PDS project and reuse the content in ISO 15926-compliant applications. A live link to the PDS project database enables access to the PDS data, and there is no need for extractions or conversions.

"Bentley OpenPlant PDX Manager is named for its intended capability to read-access any major plant design system data in its native format and instance it in an ISO 15926 data model, enabling it to be queried by other applications, such as Bentley's ? with no project risk, as our new software does not write to plant design databases," Greg Bentley said.

This past January, Bentley introduced OpenPlant software for the creation and management of plant infrastructure based on the ISO 15926 data model. OpenPlant PDX Manager extends that interoperability by allowing users to access data created with PDS.

Further expanding on the company's focus on interoperability, a free plug-in for Revit, which was originally introduced at this year's American Institute of Architects (AIA) Expo, was highlighted at BE. The plug-in reportedly makes intelligent Bentley files from Revit files for use in MicroStation or Bentley building information modeling (BIM) applications.

Bentley also announced enhanced support for the Green Building (gb) XML schema. With this new support, Bentley products now can create gbXML files for direct export and analysis in products such as Green Building Studio (now part of Autodesk). According to Huw Roberts, Bentley's global marketing director for building, the new gbXML support goes beyond simple file translation; it facilitates the storage of a variety of model-specific information in the file for quicker, more efficient analysis, reducing the number of steps it would normally take to prepare a file translated to the XML format for use in energy analysis.

Athens Announcements
Bentley used this year's BE to continue to spotlight its next release of MicroStation and its portfolio of vertical products. Code-named Athens, the new versions are expected to provide a more integrated and interoperable platform for Bentley users. Scheduled to start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2008, MicroStation Athens features new Dynamic View Technology (enabling the creation of a variety of sections of a model that update automatically) and a new printing system in the MicroStation print organizer.

In addition to a variety of new rendering options, geocoordination functionality, support for local design codes throughout the world, and a streamlined capability for project collaboration by vertical application, MicroStation Athens also features Bentley's Generative Components technology. Introduced as a Discovery License subscription opportunity to new users at this year's AIA Expo, Generative Components works with various BIM and CAD software to enable creative conceptual design. The technology includes an advanced parametric modeling system and complex mathematic capabilities and allows parametric relationships to scale out across an entire design.

According to Bentley press reports, Generative Components enables users to "dynamically model and manipulate geometry, apply rules and capture relationships among geometric features, and define complex forms through complex algorithms. By virtue of the technology's extension of Bentley's MicroStation environment, the resulting generative designs can flow through to detailed production and fabrication without any information loss."

More to Explore
Bentley also made a variety of announcements regarding new capabilities in its geospatial and civil products. Detailed information about Bentley's announcements related to geospatial and civil engineering technology can be found by visiting the Geospatial Solutions Web site as well as this week's GIS Tech News e-mail newsletter from Cadalyst's Andrew Roe.