For more than 23 years, Bentley Systems has had one mission: to help the users of our software create and improve the world’s infrastructure.
CEO, Bentley Systems Inc.
As a developer of software for infrastructure, how does Bentley approach the issue of sustainability?
For more than 23 years, Bentley Systems has had one mission: to help the users of our software create and improve the world’s infrastructure. Given the vital importance of the services that infrastructure provides to society, this mission is a worthy and significant endeavor, to which we remain committed. We think of infrastructure as (to borrow a software term) the user interface between our society and the planet. Most of our daily interaction with the environment is mediated by services provided by infrastructure. This infrastructure includes systems that bring us potable water; schools that educate our children; roadways that help transport people, food, and goods; power plants and networks that generate and distribute electricity; factories that provide manufactured products; and so on.
Meeting the basic needs of current and future generations inevitably implies infrastructure development. Yet all too often, the twin objectives of being good stewards of the planet and developing essential infrastructure are seen as being at odds with one another.
To the contrary, when it comes to sustaining our growing society, the world’s infrastructure plays a vital role. Infrastructure can, in fact, help us face issues such as CO2 emissions, climate change, the availability of clean water and sanitation, unsafe bridges, earthquakes, severe weather, coastal flooding, hazardous waste, and depletion of nonrenewable resources. It is clear to us that infrastructure – as well as the professionals around the world who design, build, and operate it – will play a fundamental role in successfully addressing these issues.
Therefore, by highlighting our recognition of these urgent issues, we have broadened the terms of our mission to “sustaining infrastructure,” although this is just making explicit what we’ve been doing for years.
Can you explain what you mean by “sustaining infrastructure?”
Bentley takes the view that creating a sustainable world through infrastructure requires addressing three interrelated and complex issues: sustaining society, sustaining the environment, and sustaining infrastructure professions.
We use the phrase “sustaining infrastructure” as an organizing concept for these activities. We intentionally chose a phrase that can be read in a number of ways in terms of our global sustainability objectives, which include creating infrastructure that sustains human society (the quality and quantity of life); creating infrastructure that sustains the global environment; and sustaining the infrastructure professions to provide the brainpower to design, build, and operate infrastructure.
Is there a shortage of human resources in infrastructure professions?
Yes. Our pool of infrastructure professionals is increasingly inadequate. Our users continue to report that finding technically proficient engineers is a challenge as fewer students enter the field. Obviously, engineering preparedness starts early in the educational system with a concentration in the math, sciences, and engineering disciplines. It’s a challenge to not only interest students in these courses but maintain that interest. Engineering disciplines are hard, the courses required to complete a degree are challenging, and degrees require a heavier course load.
In response to this shortage, one key Bentley initiative is our BE (Bentley Empowered) Careers program. The mission of the BE Careers Network is to help students graduate with market-ready technology skills. It provides programs for students, teachers, and schools, including free and discounted software licenses, training, curriculum counseling, and scholarships. In addition, BE Careers Network sponsors and supports programs that encourage students to choose the courses that can lead to careers as infrastructure professionals. Among them are Future Cities India 2020 and the National Engineers Week Future City Competition in the United States.
What is Bentley’s position on the issue of climate change?
Although society relies on its regularity and stability, the climate has never been static. Some believe that well-developed ancient civilizations perished when weather patterns shifted and denied them rain essential for agriculture.
Today, with so much of the world’s population living in coastal areas, the effects of climate change can have a significant impact. We all rely on infrastructure professionals to protect us from such changes, as well as to mitigate the damage caused by more transient and dramatic forces of nature, such as flooding and violent storms. And to the extent the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere is disrupting weather patterns, we rely to a great degree on infrastructure to minimize the emissions of “greenhouse gas.”
Has Bentley, as a company, addressed its carbon footprint?
At the corporate level, we recognize our responsibility to use resources intelligently. With the help of consultants, we calculated our own carbon footprint and have established a corporate goal of reducing our 2007 footprint by 15 percent by the end of 2009.
When we calculated our total energy consumption, we were surprised to find that the energy consumed in business travel was tantamount to all of our energy consumption at our facilities. To reduce the travel component of our carbon footprint, we are now minimizing our colleagues’ travel by holding “virtual” meetings with Internet technology.
Concern with the impact of travel has also affected our approach to our annual user conference, the BE Conference, in several ways. This year, BE Conference is designed for senior practitioners and decision makers, with a focus on implementing best practices for sustaining infrastructure. Users whose priority is hands-on training will not need to attend the conference for this sake. Rather, we are leveraging our colleagues in regional offices to conduct training events closer to home. And we are providing ever more online training – available at our users’ desks – which requires no travel whatsoever.
Has Bentley added new products to its software portfolio specifically designed to promote sustainability?
Yes Our acquisition of Hevacomp, Ltd., which we announced in January of this year, is an excellent example. Hevacomp is a Sheffield, England-based provider of building services design software dedicated to improving the energy performance of buildings. Included in its portfolio is software for energy analysis, heating and cooling load calculartions, pipe and duct sizing, and electrical system design and product catalogs. Hevacomp is at the forefront of simulation for building energy analyses, incorporating in its offerings software certified to perform CO2 emission calculations required under Part L of the U.K. building regulations.
Market demand for these energy analysis products is growing rapidly in the U.K. due to the country’s firm commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. The U.K. government is making rigorous policy-level decisions, which include the implementation of aggressive regulations, to reduce the country’s carbon consumption. For example, to build or substantially renovate a facility, Part L compliance in the U.K. requires the submission of a model that shows the energy consumption of the proposed design across a seasonal scenario, and an additional model for the same facility that shows energy consumption using prescribed “norms” of materials and techniques. The proposed design is approved only if the models show it to be at least 30 percent more energy-efficient than the “normal” case.
By adding applications to Bentley’s comprehensive portfolio that will help architects, engineers, and low-carbon consultants design buildings that consume less energy, reduce their CO2 emissions, and cost less to operate, this acquisition extends the company’s commitment to sustaining infrastructure and the environment globally.
How does Bentley see India as a market?
India has a booming economy that requires much more infrastructure investment to sustain. Therefore, it is a great market for Bentley, and we now have more than 225 Indian colleagues working out of offices in Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune. The economic return on investment in our solutions is quite attractive to users here, including public-private partnerships. There is no need for India to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, as there are many best practices for sustaining infrastructure already in use by infrastructure professionals worldwide. These best practices have led to optimization of the entire infrastructure development process and to customization for many specific applications.
Tell us about Bentley’s generative design software.
You are referring to GenerativeComponents, which we released as a commercial product last year. This unique generative design software enables architects and engineers to use computational methods to pursue designs and achieve results that were virtually unthinkable before.
The designers can direct their creativity to deliver inspired sustainable buildings that are freer in form and use innovative materials and assemblies. It facilitates this by allowing the quick exploration of a broad range of “what-if” alternatives for even the most complex buildings.
The software captures and exploits the critical relationships between design intent and geometry. Designs can be refined by either dynamically modeling or directly manipulating geometry, by applying rules and capturing relationships among building elements, or by defining complex building forms and systems through concisely expressed algorithms.
To inform decisions, GenerativeComponents is integrated with building information modeling, analysis, and simulation software, providing feedback on building materials, assemblies, systems performance, and environmental conditions to make informed decisions. This integration also ensures that intent becomes reality by enabling designs to accurately and efficiently flow through to detailed production and fabrication.