The 2008 Bentley Empowered (BE) Conference took place from May 28-30, in Baltimore, Maryland. The event drew roughly 2,000 registrants from 50 countries from many infrastructure disciplines, including roads, bridges, buildings, communications, water, architects, engineers, contractors and owner/operators. The theme of the event was "Sustaining Infrastructure," and the green theme permeated event preparations and is becoming a corporate mantra for the organization. Bentley has committed to reduce their carbon footprint by 15% before 2009. They’ve also adopted a less travel-intensive schedule for their own staff as well as offering deep online training options to reduce the travel of their users.
The 2008 Bentley Empowered (BE) Conference took place from May 28-30,
in Baltimore, Maryland. The event drew roughly 2,000 registrants from
50 countries from many infrastructure disciplines, including roads,
bridges, buildings, communications, water, architects, engineers,
contractors and owner/operators. The theme of the event was "Sustaining
Infrastructure," and the green theme permeated event preparations and
is becoming a corporate mantra for the organization. Bentley has
committed to reduce their carbon footprint by 15% before 2009. They’ve
also adopted a less travel-intensive schedule for their own staff as
well as offering deep online training options to reduce the travel of
Bentley is a privately held company, but we learned that the organization has sustained a 14% yearly return for the past 15 years and that revenue growth will exceed $450 million this year. The company’s focus on solutions is aimed to improve tools for individual tasks as well as increasing project-level productivity gains trhough greater collaboration. Bentley’s ProjectWise document management system factors heavily into the streamlined project efficiency.
The company has been active with research and development, new acquisitions and more outreach to their customers. Bentley’s Generative Components software is now shipping, offering designers community-based development tools as well as tools for computational design. Bentley recently acquired ConstructSim software, giving the company virtual plant modeling tools for the complete construction phase, a trend in software that’s likely to make it’s way into other product offerings for buildings and bridges. The event also saw the launch of a new BE Communities website that allows users to create their own profile, join communities, and connect and communicate with like-minded Bentley software users.
The event this year did away with some of the traditional training courses to focus more on a higher-level managers’s viewpoint. The new focus seemed to resonate well with attendees, as the attendee totals exceeded the total for the past five years of the event.
Buddy Cleveland, senior vice president of Bentley’s Applied Research Group released a
white paper on “Sustaining Infrastructure ” just prior to the event. The paper
explains what sustaining infrastructure means to Bentley, and it lays
out a view for infrastructure in a sustainable world. There are
details on how Bentley users are meeting sustainability challenges
today, and how they can better address the challenges in the future.
There’s also information on how Bentley’s solutions and products are
positioned to support sustainability.
timing of the paper just prior to the event was very helpful for event preparations. The document became the topic of many talks, and was referenced in the opening keynote.
I sat on the jury of the Communicating through Visualization
category of the BE Awards. It was interesting to view a
series of high-end visualizations and animations designed to market
buildings and developments mixed with other visualizations that
detailed large-scale road network or redevelopment efforts. The
large-scale visualizations were very familiar to me, but I haven’t had
much exposure to the high-end visualization tools for individual
I received a few insights from our jury moderator Joe Croser, who is
global marketing director, Platform & SELECT at Bentley. He discussed several rules that should generally be adhered to when creating a visualization.
The tools to create high-end visualizations have come a long way. In
one of the interior visualizations that we viewed, the television in
the scene showed an animated clip from a nature program that gave a
good focal point for the interior design. In another scene, we watched
the lights of the car wash over a building at night, the garage door
opened and a car drove in. These animations and clever use of textures,
reflection and shadows made me understand that the power of today’s
toolsets to communicate a strong sense of place in the design phase.
The incorporation of exterior views from inside in several of the
presentations was a level of detail that I haven’t seen often. Photo
matching technologies for interior and exterior views makes for an
impressive sales tool. One development was able to sell 80% of their
home inventory before the first home was completed.
|Lochner Inc. submitted work for the Fort Drum Connector and won the BE Award for Communicating through Visualization.|
Bentley will release its Athens upgrades in the fourth quarter of
this year. We received a peek at a few of the advancements,
and some demos of the possible workflows. One compelling fact about the
release is that there are more than 100 products that are being updated
simultaneously by an international development team in more than 17
countries. This release is being called the most aggressive in the
Key features of the Athens platform upgrade are:
– drawings across all products will be geospatially coordinated automatically
– visualization can seamlessly shift between 2D and 3D
– analysis will be integrated into physical models, enabling analytically guided designs
The audience was treated to a workflow scenario with plant design
and roadway design solutions that illustrated several of the above
advancements. The road design tools integrated safety standards as a
rules base, and cross section analysis of many different design
scenarios put great power into the designer’s hands. With the plant
design tools, there is new 4-D design that is integrated with
construction-specific software for workface simulation and building
Bentley’s Applied Research group showcased some really compelling
technology that harnesses the camera capability of a cell phone to
augment the traditional 2D paper plans of construction workers. The system incorporates a digital barcode on a printed page and the
user simply captures the barcode with the camera to interface with a
corresponding 3D drawing on their device.
When the camera takes an image of the barcode, the device goes back
to the server to pull up the drawing. When the drawing is on the
handheld, the user can activate a browse and pan mode that takes charge
of the camera sensor for what Bentley is calling “air mouse”
functionality. As you tilt and pan the device pointed at the paper, you
navigate in the corresponding 3D design model. You can zoom in and
reveal levels of detail that aren’t captured on the paper design, and
you can better synthesize relationships in 3D space with both the paper
drawing and the model in your hands.
The idea is truly revolutionary, and takes advantage of a tool that
construction workers already have at their disposal, their phone.
Besides the ability to augment the 2D view with the 3D view, Bentley
suggested a few interesting applications.
Rebecca Flora, executive director of the Green Building Alliance and
chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), gave a 30-minute
presentation at the BE Conference titled, Beyond Green Building: A Roadmap for Transforming Our Built Environment.
The USGBC are the founder of the LEED lifecycle assessments tools for
infrastructure, which has now spread to 69 countries. I took extensive
notes during Flora’s presentation, and present a summary here.
Flora’s rapid-fire and passionate presentation encouraged us to move
well beyond business as usual to think about the survival of our world
and society within the next generation. She was encouraged that we’re
on the verge of a green renaissance in how we behave as people and
societies. We’re increasingly looking at the things that we do to
impact our planet as an opportunity for innovation and technology. How
we value our natural world is becoming a growing driver for our
economy. Regulation and incentives will be part of the solution to
regenerate our natural world and ensure that everyone has a safe place
Flora made many references to her children and role as a mother in
her speech. She cautioned that the dramatic changes in our world will
be experienced in the short-term, with out children having to learn to
live in a very different place than our current world. She also states
that we have to take a close look at what’s causing conflict in our
world, saying that a lack of resources is the primary driver.
In her closing appeal Flora implored, “If we fail to act, what will
we tell our children? That it costs too much or that change is just too
hard? Is it okay to dump our garbage on others. We are in a closed loop
system, and our resources aren’t unlimited. We need to understand the
issues effecting our planet.”
|CH2M Hill won the award for Sustaining the Environment with their selective water withdrawal system for the Round Butte Dam that helped preserve endangered species.|
The yearly BE Awards provides a highlight for the event. The process involves project submissions from around the world that are carefully vetted and deliberated by many discipline-specific jury panels. The jurors choose the top three finalists as well as the winners, and the awards are presented in a glitzy dinner ceremony complete with MCs and a house band.
The award ceremony provides a nice focal point on the users, acknowledging their hard work and creativity, and inspiring their peers to expand the use of Bentley’s technology. The awarded projects represent a wide range of countries as well as a wide range of project scale and sophistication. The winners and finalists receive warm applause from the audience, and bask in a moment of glory that’s often the culmination of years and years of hard work.
The momentum for greener treatment of our planet through better-designed infrastructure projects was clearly visible throughout this event. From building projects, to campuses to roads and bridges, all are being designed with energy and efficiency in mind. Bentley’s toolset is maturing nicely with integrated analysis tools that produce a truly intelligent model. It’s exciting to see this vision take ground among the user base, and the projects that the tools are applied to are increasing yearly in their sophistication.