Secret Google Project Could Transform Construction Industry

  • 16 Oct 2013
  • by
  • Architecture News
’s HQ, the Googleplex, in Moutain View, California. X is a secret facility run by located about a half mile from here. Image Courtesy of ArchDaily Instagram Feed (@archdaily)

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 be 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?

Story via Globes

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Secret Google Project Could Transform Construction Industry" 16 Oct 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • geoff

    Better not involve sketchup.

  • hotcommodity

    I don’t think a software that helps build more skyscrapers faster is the solution to reducing the resources used by the construction industry. How about a software that refuses to build anything higher than 10 stories and electrocutes people who design dehumanizing, out of scale architecture that inevitably has to be built by forced labor?

    • Johan Van Tonder

      Hear Hear ! I could not say it better

    • hello?

      so why don’t we just don’t build anything at all? even building a 10 stories high building is out of scale comparing to a hut!
      lowering construction cost includes lowering energy consumption and such. The tool simply could provide more opportunities for future developments that could one day change the focus and approach of current AEC industry.

      • hotcommodity

        I think that only people can change the prevailing attitudes… not software.

    • Mike M

      There’s not a lot of forced labor going on in cities in the northeastern US, and yet there are several relatively new skyscrapers. For much of the world, the choice is between building tall buildings and vastly accelerating sprawl, subjecting everyone to more pollution, less open space, and more time in the car.

  • Durval

    Yes, really fuzzy. Is this invention somewhat related to Google’s database? Or is it simply a BIM Software, unrelated to other Google’s business?

    • connor covey

      If its BIM then Rivet has already taken that industry

  • David

    There aren’t many details on what this will be. But, it sounds an awful lot like what Architecture for Humanity has already been doing for years now. But I guess Google gets all the attention.

  • Bill

    Totally agree – It’s almost embarrassing how many ‘real’ architects default to sketchup…

  • Chris

    I don’t care what software you use so long as you don’t design shite buildings. The thing that cracks me up here is the notion that a piece of software is going to somehow going to translate into 30-50% savings in construction costs!

  • Joel Lee

    I hope you’re not confusing an architect’s natural talents and abilities with the software that he or she uses. SketchUp is just a tool, like Rhino, Maya, Revit and the others. If you’re a good designer and use the correct tool for the correct job, you’re on the right track.

    The software that you use has nothing to do with whether you’re a ‘real’ architect or not.

    • Matthias


    • hello?

      yes, I agree. Also, what is a ‘real’ architect? who defines ‘real’?

  • Keith

    Sandpits are great up to a point but, especially now the genie is out of the bag, Google would be better placed joining in the national and international efforts for linked up technology solutions to assist in all the areas mentioned – particularly since they have adopted an altruistic tone that It’d be good to see them live up to.

  • CG

    The article didn’t reveal anything more than the title did.

  • Scott

    Good luck with this concept. It is certainly not the a unique concept. Google has illusions of grandeur, that it can revolutionize an archaic industry the way it has revolutionized the search engine. Google…you are not the first…and you certainly won’t be the last.

  • Carol Hagen

    For those looking for hints as to what Genie has in store, you may want to look at the patents submitted by Eli Attia and the Google team