A Good Sign for the Building Energy Modeling Industry

February 19, 2016

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Trimble’s recent acquisition of Sefaira and its pairing with SketchUp is a good sign for the BEM industry. Image credit: Sefaira. DOE.

Trimble’s recent acquisition of Sefaira and its pairing with SketchUp is a good sign for the BEM industry. Image credit: Sefaira. DOE.

If you are a BEM professional, know a BEM professional, or even follow one on LinkedIn or Twitter, you’ve probably heard the news. Trimble Navigation™ has acquired Sefaira™, the London/New York-based maker of early-stage energy analysis plug-ins and cloud-services, adding it to a line of design products that includes previous acquisition SketchUp™. All parties are exuding optimism, but what is most clear is that the acquisition is a good sign for the BEM industry as a whole. Why?

  • Large companies are becoming interested in BEM. To be fair, several large companies including Trane and Autodesk have been interested in BEM for a long time. However, BEM is fairly close to Autodesk’s and Trane’s core businesses of design software and HVAC equipment, respectively. Trimble’s core business is further removed—hardware and software for civil engineering, construction, and agriculture. Trimble’s decision to get into BEM indicates their belief that BEM can become a significant part of an existing multibillion-dollar business.
  • BEM startups create real value. Companies don’t buy other companies unless they feel that those companies, their products, their customer bases, and their employees have significant value and growth potential. Sefaira’s acquisition shows that companies with good ideas and good execution plans can create value quickly in a market that already includes several large players.
  • Vertical and horizontal integration is mostly a good thing for users. Open standards and interoperability are great ideals and even better buzzwords, but the best user experiences come from integrated workflows. Communication and information transfer across tools is rarely smooth as BEM practitioners know too well. With this merger, Sefaira’s SketchUp plug-in will likely improve and become more robust, making SketchUp-based energy analysis easier and more seamless. Integration with some of Trimble’s other product lines could also be coming.
  • Consolidation is a sign of industry maturation. New industries are characterized by large numbers of small players. As the field is explored and different solutions are tried, winners emerge and grow, while others adapt, team up, or disappear. The arranged marriage of Sefaira and SketchUp and the emergence of Trimble as a significant new BEM entity is a sign that the BEM industry is growing up.

Trimble’s acquisition of Sefaira is just the latest sign that BEM—and building energy-efficiency as a whole—are on the upswing. End-Use Breakdown will watch the end-products of this merger with interest while keeping its eye out for the next Sefaira and the next Trimble.