Google’s secret development department, Google X (responsible for Google’s very cool, although non-core initiatives, such as Google Glass and driverless cars) is reportedly working on a new technology that could transform the construction industry – as well as architecture itself. It goes by the name of “Genie.”
According to Globes, a report from Genie’s development team, addressed to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, describes the invention as a cloud-based collaboration platform with “planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process, especially for skyscrapers and large buildings. The platform includes planning tools of expert architects and engineers and advance analytics and simulation tools.”
The report also emphasized Genie’s potential to transform the conservative construction industry, one of the most profitable and the most wasteful, by making it more efficient and environmentally friendly at the level of design, construction, and maintenance. The report suggests the invention could save 30-50% in construction costs and 30-50% of the time spent between planning and market; moreover, it could generate $120 billion a year.
Globes reports that a successful prototype of Genie has been released and well-received by architects and industry professionals; it is now being developed not under Google X, but under a spinoff company: Vannevar Technology Inc.
With the rapid urbanization of the world meaning that the world’s housing inventory will need to double by 2050, Genie seeks to position itself as the answer – not just to meeting the ever-increasing demand for construction, but also to lessening construction’s negative impact on the earth. While the details still seem to be fuzzy (could it just a souped-up SketchUp, after all?), it’s encouraging to know that Google’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond promoting healthy building materials and into the structure of the very industry itself. The construction industry currently consumes more global resources and raw materials (50%) as well as global energy supplies (48%) than any other; it also produces 40% of the earth’s solid waste and 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Could Genie be the solution?