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August 02, 2010
Six Degrees of Model Detail
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on AECcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
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 AECCafe.com. 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!

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AECWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Top News of the Week, Alliances, Agreements, Acquisitions, Announcements, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News
Six Degrees of Model Detail
By Susan Smith

The AIA National Convention 2010 held in Miami this year in June highlighted how far Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) have come in the past year.

Sean Flaherty, CEO, Nemetschek North America, said their company focused on BIM workflows and promoted what they call “Open BIM,” which is BIM workflows based on open standards. Nemetschek showcased a number of different products used in conjunction with their Vectorworks on design projects.

Scia Engineer, the structural analysis package offered by sister company Nemetschek Scia, was used in a demo of an office project of an all steel multi-story building where users were interchanging the files using AIA IPD workflow between Vectorworks and Scia.

“We showed the “Level of Detail” (LOD) 200 kind of exchange for structural information and the LOD 300 and that's been building on a story that we've been pushing all year,” said Flaherty. “I think BIM tools are finally getting to the point that they're working fairly well and their interoperability is getting pretty strong. I think the burden is shifting back to the customers to actually find a way to put this into their practice.”

DC Riverside office building project featured in Nemetschek's Open BIM presentation at AIA. The project was a collaboration between Nemetschek North America (using Vectorworks Architect 2010 software), Nemetschek Scia (using Scia Engineer), and DDS-CAD (using MEP 6.5).

This has resulted in a lot of training done by Nemetschek this year and the production of many demo materials. “So we can say now you're doing more modeling, here's how you can use that information with other applications. Scia is a sister product of Vectorworks and DDS-CAD, our MEP design program, can be integrated around a Vectorworks design.”

BIM Files for Submission

Flaherty commends the AIA with doing a really good job of defining a practical structure for doing BIM and sharing BIM among the different parties.

“We've been building workflows based on their recommendations,” said Flaherty. “They're one of the only ones in the world that deals with the issue of model detail. You've seen it a lot where people say they've delivered this BIM project or this new contracting agency requires BIM files for submission, but nobody actually says what that means. So what level of detail do you actually need to put into that model? The AIA has rigorously gone through and defined five levels of model detail and in your contract you can just refer to these -- this contract requires an LOD 400 model delivery and here's what that means. That means you have to have not just the structural elements but you have to have the structural connectors, the doors specified with hardware.” This deals with the big issue with BIM -- how are you going to handle the exchange legally?

Flaherty explained that LOD 100 is really volumetric space, almost like bubble diagram level, but a bit more detailed. LOD 400 is a fully manufacturable model that you can take to full fabrication for steel and other elements. Most architectural deliveries are going to happen at 200 and 300 levels.

This level of specificity has come about because more government agencies are starting to have BIM requirements in their RFPs. “Customers are coming to us and asking what does this mean -- the contract says you have to deliver BIM?” said Flaherty. “So we call the contracting officer and get a copy of the RFP and it doesn't really tell you what they want, it just says 'file shall be delivered as BIM file.' So to me, that's people pushing technology without understanding what it is. There's not going to be any value added from that.

“I think the agencies like the GSA and their requirements are brilliant,” Flaherty pointed out, “They have the advantage of being a really large agency. They go to all the vendors and say here's what we're going to start requiring in a year, and here are the specifications in detail and here's the test to make sure you're compatible. You have a year to make it work for your customers. I think they're going to see a lot of advantage from BIM in the GSA built buildings because they're really specifying the parts of BIM that are most productive for them.”

Nemetschek's website includes a webinar on the IPD process, BIM delivery, and AIA certified CEU. In the U.S. there is a specification now that includes the technology side but also the legal framework. A big part of IPD is some contracts you can use to structure the entity, so if there's a mistake in the model, the architect doesn't take a disproportional hit from the liability.

“And that's the big missing piece,” said Flaherty. “As we go around introducing Scia to customers, the first thing everyone asks, they like the idea of shifting from the model from Vectorworks to Scia, that's what they want but they're afraid to do it.” They are of problems in case there is a mistake, and worried about who will pay for the mistake.

The AIA new contract documents now cover that.

The AIA obviously works closely with the vendors to publish their specifications. The LOD 300 should show these elements. Flaherty said they explain how to get the LOD in Vectorworks. “We're taking the IPD program and interpreting it in terms of Vectorworks workflows for the customer. Someone has t o say check this box and preferences to make sure you have all of this additional 3D detail that the model is going to require.”

In the past, customers have been daunted by huge BIM models. “In the entire building we can show full lock set hardware detail in the rendered view, but a doorknob has far more geometry than the door itself so you can make your model gigantic if you do things like that. So why turn things on you don't need?” said Flaherty. “We're interpreting the AIA standards into the Vectorworks workflow.”

Economic Response

Flaherty said that the industries that are primarily government funded have weathered the economic storm much better. Nemetschek has seen a shift in their landscaping side of the business away from garden designers and garden planners to land planners because a lot of counties and municipalities are on regular ten year master planning cycles.

“By law, a state requires all its counties every ten years to update all their master plans, so that money kept coming in, so the firms on our side became more interested in GIS and maybe a little less interested in landscaping, because you can put off landscaping for a couple of years to save money,” Flaherty explained. “The same thing happened on the pure architectural design side -- schools are long term planned so if you're in an institutional market those people have done better than multifamily residential which really got devastated. I think we've seen that buying pattern change, it makes a lot of sense that we're seeing larger institutional repeat customers and the residential guys are coming back a little better over last 3-4 months.”

“We've seen about eight months steady recovery now across the board for the first time, buildings still seem relatively flat but there are more inquiries, which is making architectural base customers more optimistic.”

Top News of the Week

Autodesk, Inc., announces the availability of Project Neon, a free technology preview of a web service that delivers high quality rendering off of the desktop using the cloud.

What is Project Neon: The Autodesk Project Neon technology preview enables small and medium-sized architectural, design and manufacturing firms to create photo-realistic renderings of their projects without the need for dedicated rendering hardware. Rendering multiple files can take many days, adding time and money to projects, and with Project Neon, Autodesk enables firms to leverage the power of cloud computing to render multiple views of a project simultaneously in a fraction of the time.

A new Irish start up company, SmartBuilder Software was formed earlier this year to develop mobile software for use on construction sites both internationally and in Ireland. The company has launched an innovative new iPhone application. The new app gives the contractor the ability to record and action sub-contractors to clean up by a set date or face penalties.

Bentley Systems, Incorporated released the V8i (SELECTseries 3) version of Bentley Substation, the first intra-operable software for intelligent electrical and physical substation design. Bentley Substation empowers project teams to design substations 30 percent faster than they typically can with non-integrated applications. The software's single interface for substation design and the common intelligent information model enable users to design more precisely, generate accurate bills of material, create drawings quickly and efficiently, and rigorously enforce company standards. At the same time, Bentley Substation's integration with ProjectWise collaboration services provides superior engineering content management and team collaboration that support the entire substation design workflow.

Alliances, Agreements, Acquisitions

Autodesk, Inc. has acquired Illuminate Labs, a privately held maker of lighting technology for game development. Illuminate Labs' Beast middleware solution and Turtle plug-in for Autodesk Maya software enable faster iteration on a game's creative intent, and more realistic in-game lighting. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.


Hard hit by the recent economic downturn in recent years, A/E firms are doing what they can to get work and keep their businesses profitable, even if that means doing such as things as reducing billing rates, working without a signed contract, or not getting a retainer for a new project. According to ZweigWhite's 2010 Fee & Billing Survey , A/E firms report that on average they begin 33% of projects without a signed contract, and that they get a retainer up front for a project only seven percent of the time.

Autodesk, Inc. announced that Phil Bernstein, vice president of industry strategy and relations for Autodesk's architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) solutions division will participate in a panel discussion during today's green building conference convened by the Obama Administration. The White House will be hosting a meeting on the government's leadership in promoting sustainable buildings. The panel discussions will focus on leveraging scale and the role of government leading by example, financing sustainable building efforts, and the call for innovation in research and technology.

If we want to improve our building stock, we must learn to measure performance. But, establishing measurements to achieve high-performance buildings, not just “green” buildings, really needs to be the end goal. That is the message National Institute of Building Sciences President Henry L. Green, Hon. AIA, made during his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement.

Green addressed Chairwoman Diane E. Watson (D-Calif.), Ranking Member Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and other Subcommittee members during the July 21 hearing on “Green Building Practices in the Public Sector: Progress and Challenges to Date.” Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, under which the Subcommittee resides, also participated.


Autodesk, Inc. has announced that Tamra Muir, senior director of Distribution and Alliances, has been recognized by Everything Channel's CRN magazine as one of the top “Women of the Channel.” CRN's annual list recognizes executives across vendors' channel organizations, distributors and solution providers for their accomplishments over the past year and their positive influence on the technology industry.

New Products

Autodesk, Inc. announced its Autodesk Fluid FX App is now available on the App Store. The app brings the fun and excitement of Hollywood visual effects to the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone by letting users play with a wide variety of digital effects such as smoke, fire and image warping.

The app is based on the Academy Award-winning Autodesk Maya fluid effects technology. Users can now interact with and manipulate fire and billowing smoke clouds for their own amusement and entertainment. The new app enables users to interact in real time with up to 10 multitouch points to manipulate ultrarealistic smoke and fire or create dry ice effects that fall and flow along the ground. Tilting or changing the orientation of the device influences the imagery which behaves realistically as if affected by gravity.

GRAPHISOFT EcoDesigner is a revolutionary one-click energy evaluation tool. Features such as carbon foot print analysis, relevant weather data for a specific location, and energy balance simulation make EcoDesigner an essential compliment to ArchiCAD 14. The ability to perform energy analysis early in the design phase enables architects to make more informed sustainability choices. This also translates to significant cost and time savings for everyone involved.

PxCad has released PxCad ToolBox, a comprehensive library of AutoCAD tools that increase productivity and simplify the job of working with AutoCAD. PxCad ToolBox adds more than 100 commands, including wire frame modeling tools, tools for layout work, and enhancements for drawing presentation.

Each of the 100+ commands can be accessed from the PxCad ToolBox pulldown menu, or by entering a 2- or 3-letter keyboard command. Regular users of AutoCAD will appreciate the ability to enter commands more quickly, and to use so many time-saving new commands.

Oasys Ltd, the software arm of Arup, have just released new versions of its widely used concrete analysis and design software AdSec and ADC.

The new version of AdSec from Oasys has been released with a significant update for cracking calculation to EC2. AdSec is a tool widely used in the industry for analysis of reinforced concrete cross sections, allowing the engineer to quickly determine the load carrying capacity and long & short term serviceability of these sections.

Z Corporation released ZPrinter 150 (monochrome, $14,900) and ZPrinter 250 (multicolor, $24,900) that have a small physical footprint ideal for the classroom, department, or small business. Unlike low-end 3D printers, the new ZPrinter 150 and ZPrinter 250: are easy to use out of the box; build 3D models with five times the resolution; and have the industry's lowest operating cost (lowest cost per model).

In addition to being affordable to purchase and use, the new ZPrinters print five to 10 times faster than other 3D printing technologies, with the unique ability to print multiple, stacked models simultaneously. This dramatic throughput advantage enables ZPrinters to support entire classrooms or departments at their busiest times.

On Center Software announced the release of On-Screen Takeoff Version 3.8 and Quick Bid Version 4.91. Using customer feedback and user requests to further improve On Center Software's program capabilities, On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid have added enhancements to their award-winning estimating and bidding technology.

Around the Web

AECCafe Today Blog

A better blueprint, by Robert M. Cook, Mainebiz Daily

BIM Malaysia is on Board : BIM Adoption increasing, by Jim Foster, frombulator.com [Malay Mail]

Keep up with ICT developments or risk being sidelined, PWD director-general NJ Ahmad, Malay Mail, July 25th, 2010


Accela User Conference 2010
Date: August 2 - 6, 2010
Place: Hyatt Regency Orange County
11999 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, CA 92840 USA

This hands-on session will introduce students to all of the new and enhanced end user functionality in Accela Automation 7.0. The session will also cover any setup steps required to use the new features.
Date: August 3 - 5, 2010
Place: Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, DC USA

DESIGNDC '10 will mark our sixth year in providing education and networking opportunities to architects in the Washington DC-region. DesignDC will include 2-1/2 days of education and two days of exhibits for thousands of attendees.
Webinar: Rendering with RenderZone.
Date: August 4, 2010
Place: USA

Join this webinar to hear Matthew Holewinski from AutoDesSys demonstrate and explain the tools and features of RenderZone, which is a plugin for both bonzai3d and formZ. This session will be followed by a question and answer session.

Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT

2010 Executive Education Programs
Date: August 5 - 6, 2010
Place: Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Gund Hall, 48 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA USA

Transformations: Re-using, Renovating, and Expanding Existing Buildings is part of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design Executive Education program series. The two-day seminar is intended to provide a basic introduction to the broad issues associated with renovation and restoration and to furnish participants with tools and techniques suitable for both landmarks and less significant structures. Enrollment is open to all design professionals and offers 14 continuing education credits for AIA/CES, ASLA, and AICP.
Webinar: Designing a sleek aerodynamic land sailer in bonzai3d.
Date: August 12, 2010
Place: USA

You are personally invited to attend this free webinar by Matthew Holewinski, who will walk you through a design exploration of a stylish high speed land sailer.

You will experience:
Sketching – See how bonzai3d let’s you quickly layout and explore your conceptual design ideas with 2D and 3D sketching.
Sketch to Modeling – Learn how easy it is to transform your sketches into true 3D solid or surface models.

Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT

LEAF International 2010
Date: September 8 - 10, 2010
Place: London, United Kingdom

The Leading European Architects Forum, or LEAF, brings together leading international architectural practices and designers operating in Europe and beyond to share knowledge, to network and to develop new partnerships.

You can find the full AECCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, AECCafe.com Managing Editor.