December 06, 2010
Autodesk University 2010 Report
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each AEC Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the AEC industry, AEC product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

An example of this type of product is Green Building Studio, which is only delivered as a cloud-based feature. The reason for this is that it contains terabytes of data and customers should be able to download it as they need it. AutoCAD WS is another such product. Other products that will benefit from this model are rendering and finite element analysis, as these are very complex.

For the past ten years, the only product Autodesk has delivered this way has been Buzzsaw. “Now we're offering daily access to greater functionality,” Carpenter said.

BIM and Vasari

New terminology populates the industry every year, and this year was no exception. Phil Bernstein, vice president, industry strategy and relations, AEC Solutions, introduced the idea of “building awareness.” He said that Revit has had an uneasy relationship with other design tools because they are more aware of shapes and Revit has an awareness of building information modeling.” In other words, Revit is aware that a wall is a wall, etc. and has an ability “to reason as a subfolder.”

Revit will also be able to contain conceptual energy analysis, with customers having the ability to take load level detail performance and analyze it. Autodesk has increased its own weather database to five million data points which will play a large part in its energy analysis capabilities.

A new product in Labs right now is Project Vasari, a cut down version of Revit built on Revit, that can be used for massing options at a strategic level to assess how a building might go on the site.

Prior to Vasari, massing analyses were not possible without building an entire Revit model. “We felt there was a gap in the marketplace around conceptual modeling overlaid with BIM,” said Bernstein. “Most conceptual modeling happens in Rhino and SketchUp. Google plays with it but none of these have building awareness. Vasari allows customers to strategize about building.”

Bernstein added that people don't buy copies of Revit to experiment, “it's a big emotional commitment and it's hard to make the value proposition to architects to even buy full blown Revit. We are looking to engage a generation of students with Vasari, so they can have more direct manipulation.”

There have been 80,000 downloads of Vasari so far. It is a free download with free energy analysis. Bernstein said people need lots of different ways to get to BIM, so perhaps there will be other avenues offered as well.

An area that has not really been addressed in BIM is operations & maintenance - 90% of the cost of the project occurs after the building is built. According to Bernstein, owners are starting to mandate BIM in anticipation of using it for operations and maintenance. The areas of facilities management, maintenance management, and energy performance can be addressed by BIM. Partnering with IBM Maximo, assets are linked to graphical through a product called Project Dasher that can capture complexity of the data and manage energy performance.

Building Entertainment Cities

A visit to Steelman Partners architectural firm in Las Vegas on Wednesday demonstrated a surprising versatility of product use. This company is conceptualizing and designing some of the most astonishing entertainment cities in countries all over the world. They have offices in Santa Monica, Vietnam and Macau, and will soon be opening an office in Europe. Obviously the company got their start designing millions of square feet of casino real estate in Las Vegas, but with the current slack economy in that city, they have been taking this expertise very successfully to the ends of the earth.

Steelman is predominantly an AutoCAD shop with heavy usage of 3ds Max for their Inviro Studios. Inviro has three arms: architectural visualization, IP creation and character stories, the most vital of those being architectural visualization and IP creation. They use Vray rendering engine for architectural, and mental ray for character animation and storytelling.

3D is used in every aspect of their conceptual design, schematic design and even construction documents, said Inviro president Keith Winters.

The company has a render farm run by their IT manager. They have the power of 200 computers in the render farm, which can be branched into other computers to achieve a 300-computer power. They test new software for a month or so before committing it to the workflow.

Revit to 3ds Max conversion is “not what we expected,” according to Jon Champelli, President of shop12 Lighting Design. They need to take Revit and use it as they do AutoCAD, then put it into 3ds Max. “If we could generate renderings in Revit it would be more efficient.”

Third Party Products

A merger between IMAGINiT Technologies, a division of Rand Worldwide and Avatech Solutions, sees the launch of their Scan to BIM software for the Autodesk Revit 2011 platform. Beau Turner, director, business development, said that the product is purpose built for 3D laser scanning service providers and architecture, engineering and construction firms. Their customers wanted to get the same improved workflow with 3D scanning that they could get with the AutoCAD and 3D scanning solution developed by Avatech, and Scan to BIM does just this: by allowing users to work with point clouds inside Revit.


Using Revit MEP and Scan to BIM, duct and piping can be generated from the point cloud.


The economy has played a large part in making 3D laser scanning a viable option for those customers who must renovate and reuse existing infrastructure, for which there are generally no plans or design files.

HP demonstrated in the Autodesk Best-in-Class Lounge their HP Z series workstations, as well as the new HP Designjet T2300 eMultifunction Printer (eMFP) with the HP ePrint & Share platform. Design teams can access, share and print large-format project files online and also access files on the cloud. The printer has a touch screen that allows users to make a decision whether to scan, print or copy.

Teaming up with Autodesk, HP offers the HP ePrint & Share plug-in for HP Designjet that allows users to access HP ePrint & Share right from the application and create print ready files while printing from AutoCAD or Revit.


Most of the pending Autodesk products mentioned here are on Autodesk Labs either for download or review.

Kevin Breslin, infrastructure solutions manager and Joe Hedrick, infrastructure solutions team manager for IMAGINiT, said that they have seen a resurgence of the adoption of Civil 3D in 2010 that had been suspended by the economy. Hedrick added that "we have been dragged into Civil by architects." Noteworthy is the fact that Civil 3D is built on Map 3D, and that BIM Review, developed by IMAGINiT, has been acquired by Autodesk.

Underneath it all, getting young people to embrace technology, particularly the drier topics such as utilities, is difficult without some sort of incentive, according to Geoff Zeiss, who has now moved into the AEC division from the now defunct GIS sector. The young gravitate towards graphics, animation, and forms of technology that they readily find on their phones. 3D visualization has become key to luring these potential technologists.

It is no wonder that Autodesk is using graphics as an entry point to some of the other industry sectors. Companies like Steelman Partners  start with visualization as a way to present the idea to the public, before putting their graphics inside the CAD or Revit program. Rendering coupled with the greater computing power of infinite computing will make these tasks less labor intensive, cheaper and more accessible to more people. A hurdle that really remains is, can we build software that can manifest what is envisioned in these elaborate visualizations? The taskmaster programs such as Revit are harder to access, and the new Vasari product is designed to make that transition to Revit easier, or perhaps deem it unnecessary.

The Design Computation Symposium, chaired by Dr. Robert Aish on Monday, focused on "digital craftsmanship," which Aish describes as the "logical progression from industrial craft," which derives from handcraft.  This type of technology is really about writing your own program and developing your own algorithm, to understand the intersection of material and process to "realize design intent."

You can find the full AECCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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