April 12, 2010
A Visit to Autodesk AEC Division Headquarters
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
A Visit to Autodesk AEC Division Headquarters
By Susan Smith

Held at Autodesk's AEC Division Headquarters located on Trapelo Road in Waltham, Massachusetts, Autodesk Technology Day was an invitation-only event for media and bloggers. This was my first time visiting the building, which earned Platinum LEED-CI certification and incorporated many new trends in the building industry including integrated project delivery (IPD), sustainable design, BIM and digital design-to-fabrication.

Autodesk AEC Division Headquarters, Trapelo Road

The 61,000-square foot building has an unassuming box-like exterior which does not hint at the extent of sustainable design that characterizes the interior. Inside, there are spacious training rooms and conference rooms with 90% natural daylight, as well as a “Telepresence” room where global meetings can be held and everyone “present” can be interacted with virtually on a wall-sized screen.. Phil Bernstein, FAIA, vice president, Industry Strategy and Relations for the AEC Solutions Division, said this technology has cut down on their travel expenses as they can now hold virtual meetings. KlingStubbins was the architectural firm and Tocci Building Companies the contractor on the project.

Technology Day was intended to kick off the AEC 2011 Product Portfolio. High level executives spent the day talking about and presenting products as a workflow, which is what customers have been asking for. It is also a handy marketing spin for a company that has slimmed down its product line to focus more tightly on its core competencies in the area of AEC.

Autodesk AEC Division Headquarters, Trapelo Road

Jim Lynch, vice president of the Building Product Line Group for Autodesk's AEC Division spoke initially about buildings and BIM and the “I” in BIM - information. Information created at the design level is utilized throughout the chain and is happening across the whole product portfolio.

Senior vice president of Autodesk's AEC Solutions division, Jay Bhatt, said that feature functionality is big in this release and more focus is on driving future capabilities. Because there is not a lot of new building going on, Autodesk customers are focused on retrofit projects which require more performance analysis, deeper visualizations and collaboration, which lead to a more effective use of BIM.

“There are things we do on multi year cycles that aren't very visible year to year,” said Bhatt. Being able to share large models across workflows, the ability to do more custom work with products, and visual graphics are among those line items. BIM represents a process change.

The environment informs people's behavior, and buildings have a responsibility to sustainable design as building industry products and transportation contribute more to global warming than any other creative processes.

Jim Lynch said the company's focus on renovation and retrofit extends across the globe

In 2002 when they first bought Revit, “BIM was all about design productivity,” said Lynch. “It is now expanded to engineering and continuing to expand to building owners, fabricators, civil, operations and maintenance.” Now BIM customers follow a familiar trajectory - from wanting to know about it, to wanting to learn it, to adoption.

Cloud Computing

Autodesk promotes their Project Butterfly and Project Dragonfly, still in Autodesk Labs, and Green Building Studio (GBS) as their cloud computing offerings. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications have been around in various incarnations, but what do they offer?

Lynch said they offer customers a new way to purchase and deploy technology. Autodesk Labs, where much of this technology resides, is about anticipating customers' needs. Project Butterfly shows where Autodesk is going with cloud computing. See Project Butterfly previewed

Reality Capture

Laser scanning and photogrammetry have been around, but have been considered cost prohibitive in the architectural industry until recently. With lowering prices and the demand to retrofit and renovate buildings, AEC professionals need to capture existing conditions. The new release of AutoCAD allows users bring in cloud points directly. The future plan is to be able to capture points, bring them into Revit and do feature recognition and turn those points into objects such as walls, ductwork, etc.

Mobile computing

Although nothing is offered yet, attendees were encouraged to check Labs, as this technology is “on the way.”

Social networking

While currently it remains to be seen how valuable social networking will be in real work settings, Autodesk feels that this is what the next generation is all about. Clearly, the number of teens texting and spending hours on their Facebook accounts suggests that this is a wave of the future. Autodesk Bluestreak is the company's social networking offering and may represent new ways to collaborate with modeling.

Autocad Architecture and MEP

Senior technical marketing manager for MEP Engineering Solutions Armundo Darling, gave an energetic presentation on AutoCAD Architecture and MEP. One of the more exciting features of Architecture is the ability to show features as renovation. In the demo Darling showed how he could move a door and demolish the area where the door had been located. Constraints allow the user to rotate the entire room, geometrical constraints make all features change accordingly.

Have complete freedom to explore integrated project models for improved understanding.

MEP 2011 introduced parallel conduit routing which was in 2010 for pipes and is now offered for other conduits. It also allows selection of different routing solutions.

Annessa Piper, senior industry marketing manager, made the point that with sustainable design, customers want to implement analysis as early in the process as possible.

BIM for New Design and Construction

Philip (Chico) Membreno, technical marketing manager for Architecture and Sustainable Design and technical marketing manager Paul Walker talked about the Romulus Center, which needed to be a mixed use building. In the early massing stages, the design team did early shadow studies and animations, to get a better idea of the building in context. Membreno used Sunpath tools to manipulate sunpath on screen, whether by entering numbers or dragging the sun. Based on GIS, this tool gives range of motion across the user's sight.

All project stakeholders can view Navisworks project data in Autodesk Navisworks Freedom 2011 software.

The ability to animate solar onscreen with rich data in the models can be now communicated out to others. The user can click to apply mass floors and can add volume of air per floor, floor area, floor perimeter, and can make decisions based on real information, which will affect the glazing system used.

Although in 2010 Autodesk introduced a whole environment for massing, there were a few elements customers wanted to complete the workflow.

One such new feature is Dissolve form which will bring down the form to parametric to the bones of the form. Sketches can be edited without destroying the form, right in place. A massing model can be taken to the design development stage model in a few clicks.

One click seems to be the magic way to get things done: the building model and parametric model are dynamically linked and it takes one click to get all those walls updated to match the new design.

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