Image Courtesy Gehry Technologies
Gehry Technologies' GTeam platform allows for online collaboration on BIM design documents.
Image Courtesy Gehry Technologies
Gehry Technologies' Digital Project is a BIM design and management suite.

In the latest of a string of high-profile acquisitions, Trimble, Sunnyvale, Calif., announced Sept. 8 it has acquired Los Angeles-based Gehry Technologies, the design software and consulting firm founded by architect Frank Gehry. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed. Trimble also says it is forming an ongoing strategic alliance with Frank Gehry to develop technology for design and construction professionals.

"The reason I went with Trimble," Gehry told ENR, "is that their culture seems very complementary to ours. They are very hands on, with their work with farmers, with earthmoving. Their people are in the trenches…it resonates with me a lot."

Gehry Technologies makes  the building information modeling (BIM), 2D and 3D design suite Digital Project, as well as the web-based collaboration platform GTeam.

Trimble will integrate the design tools and professional services of Gehry Technologies into its own forthcoming design-build-operate (DBO) software solutions platform, according to CEO Steven W. Berglund. "Frank [Gehry] has built what amounts to a collaboration platform which enables various project members to share the entire model. It's a good fit for our emerging DBO platform."

"[Trimble] has a lot of tools that we feel and they feel are going to give us a chance to achieve some of the goals we set out to do about 30 years ago," says Gehry, citing his own ongoing advocacy for more intelligent use of technology in the architectural profession. "My [work with Trimble] is not just about evangelizing. We're going to work together on projects of mine, with clients of mine. My space is going to be an incubator; we're going to develop a model that works."

Trimble's background is primarily in positioning and mapping technology, but starting with the 2012 acquisition of 5D BIM software maker VICO Software and through its recent acquisitions of facilities-management software maker Manhattan Software and crane-sensor manufacturer Load Systems International, the addition of Gehry Technologies reveals a broader strategy. "We occupy a unique position within the industry," says Berglund. "In the last four to five years, we have become more competent in the software side. We have always had our smart instrumentation element. But the reality now is we are pursuing the holistic whole of the construction process. It is both hardware and software."

According to Berglund, elements of Gehry Technologies' design an consulting business will serve as the first phase of a more comprehensive Trimble DBO solution. "Gehry Technologies ties into the front-end: the architecture through construction phase. Manhattan anchors the other end of the continuum: the operator end. Even LSI's sensors and wireless tracking are not just for keeping cranes from running into each other: they allow us to track the crane and use it as an integrated part of the supply chain on the construction site. It's all holistically on the same information ecosystem. That's the DBO platform."

With Gehry Technologies, Trimble acquires not only software suites and a dedicated user base, but also the company's 10 offices around the world. "Professional services is not historically a part of Trimble," says Berglund. "But the ambition is that [Gehry Technologies] will become a platform for the wider growth of Trimble in engineering and construction realm. We would hope that these offices can become a platform for engaging the international construction industry."

Gehry Technologies will become a part of Trimble's engineering and construction segment, and will continue to operate as an autonomous unit for now, says Berglund.

For Gehry, the chance to further develop technology for architects is the main driving factor. "I think the architect has been marginalized in the construction industry, " he says. "They're secondary and not primary, and it's ironic, because it's the architect, who when they're really clicking, brings value. Architects need tools that give them comfort and guarantees, the insurance and the bureaucracy that allows them to be creative."

"Right now we're a little noise in the wind, but with Trimble we hope to move the needle," says Gehry.