The construction industry accounts for 10% of global GDP. It is the largest consumer of global resources and raw materials – 50% – and global energy supplies – 48%. It also creates the largest amount of global solid waste – 40% – and is responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the world’s most wasteful industry and the main contributor to the deterioration of the global environment.
The global construction market is estimated at $5 trillion a year, including $1 trillion in the US, and it is growing rapidly. The world’s urban population now tops 3.5 billion, a third of whom live in city slums.
With the rapid growth in global urbanization, the world’s urban population is projected to double over the next 40 years. Under conditions of business as usual, traditional methods of construction, two-thirds of the world’s urban population will live in slums from Rio de Janeiro, through Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Mumbai, to Beijing. It will therefore be necessary to double the world’s housing inventory by 2050.
In contrast to the growth in productivity and production capacity in every other industry, the construction industry is not keeping pace, and its output is actually falling, reflected in the widening gap between supply and demand.
Google X, Google’s secret development unit, is developing a new construction technology. A report by Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page to the company’s management states that this method, once it is completed and implemented by the global real estate market, could potentially generate $120 billion a year for the company.
Google X is in charge of secret innovative projects that are not core to the company’s business, such as the driverless car and augmented reality glasses. Google X is the company’s main initiative to diversify its sources of income.
Genie (named after the genie in Aladdin in “1001 Nights”), is a platform with online-based planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process, especially for skyscrapers and large buildings. The platform includes advanced analytics and simulation tools. Genie standardizes and automates the design and construction processes with unlimited design options, enabling an architect to preserve the building’s uniqueness in the urban environment.
Google X describes Genie as a revolutionary technology for the construction of sustainable and environmentally-friendly buildings of a quality never before known. The technology was presented as something that will change the conservative global construction industry through a fundamental and revolutionary change in how buildings are designed, built, and maintained, saving trillions of dollars.
Photography is by Itay Sikolski.