Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

Is Google planning a BIM-busting app for construction?

Google’s apps and operating system have already “disrupted” Microsoft's business – and now it could be planning to do the same for BIM and online collaboration in the construction industry.

According to online reports, the company’s Google X development unit has been working on a project to offer the architecture and construction sector the project collaboration equivalent of Google Docs.

Originally code-named Genie, it is a cloud-based platform with online design and analytical tools that would allow designers and construction professionals to collaborate in real time.

This week, an Israeli business news site, reported that a prototype of the system is now being progressed by a spin-off company founded by Google engineers called Vannevar Technology.

Its website says the company is “reimagining building design for a more sustainable future”, but carries no other details or contact information.

The Googleplex in California where the Google X team is planning its BIM app Photograph: Robbie Shade/Flickr

Details on Genie emerged from a report submitted by the Google X team to Google founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page and the company’s management team around 2011, according to Globes-online.

The report presented Genie as a revolutionary technology for the construction of sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings, that could also deliver massive revenues to Google.

It also estimated that using Genie could help cut construction costs by 30-50%, and also shorten the time taken to design and mobilise projects by 30-60%.  

The Globes report says that the Google X team has already met leading US contractors, engineers and architects, as well as and major developers, apparently receiving “enthusiastic” responses.

Architect and BIM specialist Elrond Burrell, who works for Architype, commented on Twitter that he believed the UK government's BIM Task Group had also been given a preview of the technology last year, judging it a possible major contributor to Level 3 BIM. 

He told CM: "I remember people on the Task Force and Mark Bew referring to a Google thing that could "do" Level 3 BIM. It sounds like it gives you a situation where you have multiple people collaborating in real time, rather than exchanging static information."  

Google X is involved in the development of innovative products that are not core to the company’s business, such as driverless cars and augmented reality Google glasses.


In short - "NO".

Google "failed" with Sketch-up because they didn't understand the market. Sure, they have the funds to purchase the expertise, but did not do so.

Cloud-computing technology as a whole is indeed the disruptive technology that will fundamentally alter/improve the AECOO sector. Far too much focus has been upon the 3D visualization component of BIM. This distraction has done little but create disillusionment. Collaboration, robust life-cycle management processes and efficient construction delivery methods (IPD, JOC, PPP), and supporting technologies are the path to success.

  • 29th Oct 2013, at 01:57 PM
  • Peter Cholakis

Absolute agreement with Peters summary.
The cloud might offer useful capacity - but the actual problem is access to data when needed and in the form needed.
Since most of the cost of building ownership is after handover, it is as much a data base problem as graphics.
A database problem that delivers easy checks - and easy updates - for 50 (?) years.
Google might be very good with new ideas - but this is a problem you have to experience to understand.

  • 3rd Nov 2013, at 12:51 PM
  • Tony Johnstone

Well.... it sounds great.

It took Autodesk, what, I guess maybe $500M+ and 8-9 years to get Revit where it is now? I'm not holding my breath just yet.

  • 4th Nov 2013, at 12:54 AM
  • Zane Paxton

Google's initiative to dominate the VDC, BIM, IPD market globally lacks on one critical aspect, my expertise in the field. If I were to join this team and leverage Google's cash, brains, and creative thinking the world would witness the displacement of Autodesk, the current world leader.

  • 19th Nov 2013, at 03:03 AM
  • Greg Robinson

not in every country. adesk's aeco part is a mere few percent of the overall 2.21 billion bucks revenues, and the most part of it is autocad, not revit, when comes to bim. in many countries graphisoft's archicad is the leader.
btw, i expect more from trimble (2.0 billion revenues) with sketchup (maybe they buy archicad from nemetschek), because they have the know-how.

  • 20th Nov 2013, at 11:36 PM
  • rob gester

I think most of the comments come from people who do not deal in collaboration much... ANY software or system (cloud or not) that can collaborate information better than email is going to have a profoundly great effect of the construction industry. The inclusion of BIM would just bury everyone else out there. As for SketchUp - this is not really a construction industry tool - it is a generic modeler, much like AutoCad.

  • 27th Nov 2013, at 05:00 AM
  • Adam

what is the point of your posting?

  • 27th Nov 2013, at 01:59 PM
  • rob gester

You can't derail a concept which is at the heart of BIM. When paired with IPD, BIM serves as the nexus for true collaboration.

Google cloud based mindset presumes 100% availability at descent speed to not slow the process. This is a failed assumption.

  • 27th Nov 2013, at 02:13 PM
  • Carlos Santiago

The point Carlos ?

That the real value is data - not pretty pictures.

Get the data flowing correctly and Google will have solved the BIM problem in spades - but correctly means making it easy for Facilities Managers to operate their building for 50 years - the design/construction phase is brief, simple - and less costly all round.

Pretty 3D models are great - if they act as Graphical User Interface's did for Microsoft. Otherwise they are just a sales device.

  • 5th Dec 2013, at 10:02 AM
  • Tony Johnstone

Honestly I'd just like to see Autodesk release the glue app for Android. But if Google comes up with a way for me to utilize my Navisworks models on an Android tablet I'd be happy with that.

  • 14th Dec 2013, at 01:40 AM
  • Steve

We drive perfectly BIMprojects with google solution and BIM communications, drive, site,hangout,G+...
All resourses are powered in google chrome and webgl.
Keep up the good work using open source,

  • 10th Feb 2014, at 11:39 PM
  • Tom Holbein

NO - Google did not fail with Sketchup as the first comment suggests.
Sketchup was aimed at the masses at no or low cost entry, a statement of future intent. Easy to use and it delivered the user presentation (up to incredibly high standards (user dependent)).
No way would Google have positioned itself as a rival to the established CADs, they did not need to at the time. So why did Google sell off Sketchup to Trimble. 1. Because starting with a GUI application is not the way to start developing a cloud based, object data driven application (type in the data and let the tool draw the picture as opposed to draw the picture then hand craft the design spec). 2. Selling Sketchup got rid of this loss leader and provided the company with huge development capital to face the AEC requirement. 3) 5 years ago BIM ifc was a figment of many people's imagination including, I suspect, Google. I know for a fact that many AEC controlling organisation did not even know of its future impact and some Universities were banned from teaching its principles and methods!! How stupid was that!!.
Google will massively disrupt the CAD cosy clubs and the architectural worlds of privilege and intellectual property rights. Object shareware is already about plug and play objects a supplier driven by-product of product development and marketing. So buildings will become like cars - an assembly of parts with a choice of facades..
The sooner that architects and designs adopt SCIENCE and drop ART the better..... because performance science is business not an intellectual achievement for which awards are too often wrongly given.
High priced buildings designs are already unsustainable. Children will be able to design complex designs because rules based objects provide the technical robustness that humans designers and planners lack, so look out architects around the world, your socks are about to be rocked off.
Finally about CADs
It is highly unlikely that any of the established CAD solution providers are going to start again - like Google is - by transforming their applications architecture to be data driven rather than being facade driven. So I suspect we shall see bolt on systems architectures from these solution providers, similar to those that have plagued other commercial industries for decades. This means for CADS inter-operability will remain a figment of imagination for most architectural practices. (try integrating 4 computer applications seamlessly let alone 40 then wonder why design clashes, project overruns costs and deadlines spiral out of control... maybe they already are...all predictable).
Again good for Google if they do it right. We could end up (will end up) with one single AEC cloud based, object library asset application available at low cost to ALL.
For more about what we do visit (and yes I object design and build truly passive buildings with BIM common sense and ifc object definition compliance).

  • 10th Nov 2014, at 09:46 AM
  • Mike Olive

Leave a comment


29 March 2017 CM round table asks: Whatever happened to the BIM bang?

29 March 2017 Home buyers get access to Building Control reports

28 March 2017 App allows asbestos to be managed digitally

28 March 2017 FP McCann records profit rise of 55% in 2016

28 March 2017 Bouygues will not deliver Battersea phase 3

28 March 2017 'Smart' gloves warn workers of vibration danger

27 March 2017 O'Rourke fined £800k after Heathrow fatality

27 March 2017 Inquiry after NDA terminates nuclear contract

27 March 2017 Brighton's 'thinnest tower' closes again

27 March 2017 Estates to benefit from £32m announced

27 March 2017 Skanska begins £1m 'big data' project

27 March 2017 Project manager guilty over 2012 window death

23 March 2017 Grand Designs style prefab house launched

23 March 2017 Clients still not buying into BIM, reveals CM survey

23 March 2017 Kier chairman steps down as profits rise

23 March 2017 Plans for four new prisons announced

23 March 2017 Lab to measure fear caused by buildings

23 March 2017 Appliance firm fined £700,000 after fatal fall

21 March 2017 Largest crane in London ready to go to work

21 March 2017 RSHP unveils plans for Hammersmith development