Technology and software development company Trimble Navigation, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has acquired Gehry Technologies (GT), the Los Angeles–based AEC software and design-consultancy launched in 2002 by the research and development team at Gehry Partners. The acquisition has been in discussion since the AIA National Convention in June 2013, says John Bacus, Trimble’s product management director of SketchUp.
Trimble will acquire GTeam, GT’s cloud-based project management and collaboration platform, as well as GT’s staff of approximately 100 architects, designers, and software developers that provides building modeling and project management services. Digital Project, a suite of 3D modeling, BIM, and project management tools that GT developed with French software company Dassault Systemès, was not part of Trimble’s acquisition and will remain an independent company.
Trimble president and CEO Steven Berglund says the merger has two facets. “On the software side, the idea is to make the software a key part of merging our design-build-operate platform. On the organizational side, Gehry Technologies' professional services capabilities around the world are a step-function increase in capability for Trimble.” Trimble currently offers virtual design and construction services through Vico Services.
“GTeam fills a hole that we’ve had in our software portfolio,” Bacus says. Trimble began in 1978 specializing in the field aspects of infrastructure and construction, such as land surveying, navigation, and geo-positioning hardware and software. Berglund says that Trimble has long wanted to offer products that serve the AEC continuum from “the doodle-on-the-napkin (early conceptual phase) to the operation of a completed facility.”
Two acquisitions in 2012 increased Trimble’s foothold in the architectural and engineering design workflow. The first was its acquisition of Finnish software developer Tekla Oyj, which makes Tekla BIMsight and Tekla Structures. Second was its purchase of SketchUp from Google; the news, which surprised many in the industry, also solidified Trimble’s brand recognition among architects. Meanwhile, Berglund says that Trimble’s August 2014 acquisition of Manhattan Software represents the company’s capability in facility management technologies, while longstanding joint ventures with Caterpillar and Hilti give Trimble a presence in construction and sitework.
Bacus expects that Trimble’s expanded portfolio of integrated product service offerings will effect change in the AEC industry as other product offerings have for agriculture and heavy civil construction. “We aim to bring the same kind of changes through tools such as GTeam to building construction, which is a very complex and very challenged industry,” he says. “It could use some help.”
Current users of Trimble software and GTeam will not notice any difference in the near term, Bacus says. Over time, Trimble will “add scale and capacity to the reach of the product and service offerings. … Immediately, our goal would be that everything continues to be as good as it was yesterday.”
Bacus says that Frank Gehry, FAIA, has been “very involved” in the acquisition process and “will continue to be involved in an advisory capacity and continue to operate, through Gehry Partners, as a key client for the ongoing work and output of this group. I expect the same would be true for other members of the advisory board. We’ll have more to say about this in the future.”
In Trimble’s Sept. 8 press release, Gehry said, “This merger is a dream for me,” and noted Trimble’s and GT’s “like-minded ambitions and goals to create efficiencies in the AEC industry that allow creativity … to flourish … within the realities of our economic times.”
Berglund and Bacus decline to specify any next steps or joint ventures that the allied companies will pursue. “We're just at the beginning of this thing," Bacus says. "We have a lot of ideas that I'm hoping that we will execute well and quickly, and make some real change in this industry.”