As mentioned in a previous report devoted entirely to Trimble’s new concept apps for Google’s Project Tango, I did sit down with John Bacus and Paul Davis of Trimble. Bacus is a name you devoted readers of Architosh will know as the longtime product manager behind SketchUp.
I also had a private meeting with Viktor Varkonyi, CEO of Graphisoft, along with Akos Pfemeter, Director of Marketing Graphisoft. The company, fresh off its annual product updated to ArchiCAD, now at version 18, had much to celebrate this year. Along with some very high-profile wins in Japan—a country that has more architects than the United States by more than double and one of the most valuable construction industries in the world—Viktor stated that the AIA National show is increasingly important for them as a lead generator and for them to talk to their customers in the US.
Speaking of the US market, Mr. Varkonyi said that the company in the US is primary focused on the small and medium sized architectural firm and has thus far had the greatest success in those areas. This is literally the inverse relationship the company enjoys in Japan, where it is the BIM standard in many of the Japan’s largest AEC firms.
Mr. Varkonyi also noted that the company has acquired its main distributor and reseller in Mexico City. ArchiCAD has had increasing success in Central and South America but Mexico is clearly its market share leader in those regions. Mexico, as a country, also has a high per capita architects ratio, much like Japan. And some say Mexico is a rising economic superpower on the level of India and China. Thomas L. Friedman wrote of Mexico last year that Mexico today is “more like a crazy blend of the movies “No Country for Old Men” and “The Social Network.”
While much is written about Mexico in the US from the point of view of the immigrant problem north of the border, what is going missing is the story of Mexico’s rising industrial power. Mexico, notes Friedman, has signed 44 free trade agreements—more than any country in the world, including China, Brazil and India. And while much is being made of Brazil’s rising size and overall GDP rise, Mexico exports more manufactured goods than all of Latin American combined. This means more building and infrastructure, which is good for construction and good for architects in a country that values architects. I add this information because I think much is misunderstood about Mexico and it honestly shouldn’t be.
One final point about my talk with Graphisoft’s CEO is that the company, remains highly focused, on staying focused, directly on the core problems of its main customers. In other words, this isn’t a company that is likely to venture into surprising parallel pursuits.
Discussing Other Tech Companies
There were many software companies at the show but not a lot of major announcements as was mentioned. Sefaira was one of the newer companies to me that I wanted to check out first hand. The company was showcasing its building performance design tools that are aimed at giving architects early design stage data on energy performance and daylighting. Their SketchUp plugin allows architects to push and pull models and get rapid results on performance data.
Other folks focused on energy design in architecture include Bentley and IES, both at the show. IES has some interesting new technology in its IES Virtual Environment software, recently approved for commercial building compliance with the latest regulations in the state of California, Title 24.
IES VE software is the first and only commercial software approved to support compliance with California Building Regulations Title 24. In addition to its capacity to run energy analysis complying with ASHRAE 90.1 (LEED Energy), Daylighting and Solar analysis modules, it provides an alternative calc method for performance compliance with the non-residential provisions of the 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, California Title 24, part 6. Those architects in California or working in that state can see a web demo here.
Like the Sefaira booth IES’s booth appeared to get much less traction than say the booths of 3D rendering companies or CAD and BIM companies. Bear in mind that was just my view and timing is everything when I come by and talk and take pictures from the show floor. Unlucky timing is always possible.
Regardless, I feel this is a sign, sadly, of the state of mind of architects attending the show. Despite the number of sessions at AIA on sustainable design, many architects shy away from tools that deal with energy design directly.
An interesting company at AIA 2014 this year was Mind Mixer. This is technology company that exist in the age of Social. The goal of the company is to connect regular people and their good ideas to identifiable problems and utilize social as part of the communication to, in this case, design professionals like architects. They were there to talk about new ways architects can engage. The basic problem being attacked relative to the work of architecture is more stakeholder input in less time. So far the company has worked with more than 700 organizations across the US and Canada.
These types of social tech tools are going to emerge more and more, some of them putting architects possibly off balance as they figure out how to first react to the technology and its implications and then later learn and adjust to it as part of a reality that isn’t necessarily going away.
I very much liked seeing new interesting companies at AIA targeting different aspects of the design and management puzzle for architects. One such new company was SIMplexity. This company was started by an architectural grad who has correctly identified several interrelated aspects about why architects get hurt at the button line. The story acknowledges that architects, nearly 100 percent of them, don’t enter this field to make money.
Trudat! As the young ones would say.
They enter architecture because they are passionate about the field and because they are creatives. The BIMplexity folks are fighting what they call the “profit vampire.” SIMplexity is a database driven application that is designed to gather, synthesize and prioritize competing requirements for a given architectural design. As a collaboration tool, it aims to consolidate project communication, design-making and idea exchange among all stakeholders to clarify expectations. This better alignment will diminish the mistakes so common within architectural practice. SIMplexity Launch, the product’s full name, is an architectural programming platform where the design team can collaborate and use data to explore solutions at the pre-design stage.
More to come…!