Archive for category Autodesk

AEC Alliances, Purchases, Cats Living With Dogs

staypuftLike a ship that has long passed ripples from Apple’s long held strategy to combine software and hardware has finally come to shore in the AEC marketplace when Autodesk recently announced a ‘collaboration’ with Leica.  This shatters their long held belief that they would “never partner with software.”  Straight up from the copy on their splash page.

“Smart integration empowers our customers to construct more efficiently and more accurately by making design and reality fit together.”

I have to say this has been a long time coming because if anything Autodesk is excellent at marketing and mostly sort of listening to their customers and marketplace something Leica is beyond woeful at.  They are a classic engineering company who makes great products and convinced of their products greatness believe it will have a market.  I wonder if they have ever in their existence put together a customer focus group.  While Autodesk continues to partner and acquire multiple companies in the 3D and Built Environment space Faro, Leica’s main competitor, acquired Kubit in March.  Trimble now owns Tekla, Sketh Up and Gehry Technolgies . 

What does the Leica / Autodesk union mean?  I would think at least when you need to export point for layout, instead of just picking a generic export you would then export to Leica’s family of products as an option.  Perhaps Cloudworx and Recap combination, as I would believe if you are firing up a Leica scanner, their would have to be some link directly to the Autodesk family.  Is this friendly oligopoly good for the industry.  Well when Windows dominated the marketplace people argues their monopoly was good as it provided a defacto standards, just like Rockefeller argued Standard Oil’s position of owning everything allowed for efficient pricing.

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Building Energy Analysis : A smorgasbord

This is the case the more I learn about it, the less I know.  As energy analysis picks up as a real tool in the trades, not just for sustainable retrofits, but to provide the data for financing as well and people working it from combing demographic information with utilities, to engineers, and beyond the amount of tools out there starts to become staggering…and I am sure I will be missing plenty.  But half of this excercise is to get input from anyone reading this to what they are using and why.  And am encouraging smack talk to why one is better than another.  What follows is a completely non-exhaustive list of stuff I’ve been running into and in no particular order. For a more exhaustive list without editorial comments the DOE (Department of Energy) maintains this List.

  • EQuest – Straight out of the DOE, and while their website looks like it was designed in 1998, the claim is “Imagine a building energy simulation tool comprehensive enough to be useful to ALL design team members, yet so intuitive ANY design team member could use it”  And I know people out there using it.
  • BEopt –  Straight out of NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) – Now this seems to have some limitations  and uses the DOE 2.2 engine, just as eQuest does however, one thing that popped out is the fact that you cannot call out different wall types or change sill heights to windows, which seems very limiting, yet, people are out there using it.
  • EnergyPlus : ”  is a whole building energy simulation program that engineers, architects, and researchers use to model energy and water use in buildings”
  • The Autodesk Family
    • Green Building Studio – This a web based service that allows for a variety of analysis including:
      • Whole Building Energy Analysis
      • Carbon Emissions : Footprint
      • Weather Analysis
      • Design Alternatives
      • Water Usage
      • Energy Star Scoring
      • GBS uses gbXML and is interoperable with Revit and….yes the DOE 2.2 Engine.
    • Ecotect : How this is different than GBS, I don’t know, but if you buy Ecotect you get GBS along with it..but both have similar claims.
    • Vasari : More energy analysis but at the design concept stage
  • Google : Sketch Up Family
    • IES Plug In – Allows you to apply materials onto a Sketch Up model for import into an IES tool
    • Energy Plus Open Studio Plug In – All the EnergyPlus option through your SketchUp model
    • GreenSpace Modeler : Allows you to apply gbmxl textures to a sketchup model for import into a gbmxl tool for analysis like Green Building Studio

An excellent resource I found through WBDG is the a summary of Energy Analysis Tools, including DOE 2.2, BLAST, EnergyPlus, and the like.  Plus there is a whole list of BLCCs (Building Lifecycle Cost) Programs.

I guess the point is just when you think BIM is going to solve everything with a push button, no matter which ecosphere you live in, be it Autodesk, Archicad, etc. there are tool sets out there, and more importantly ‘free’ tool sets out there that get a lot of play.  What worksflows and tools are you using for building / energy analysis?

 

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Open BIM? Who really has a vested interest in the care and feeding of an open platform?

So straight out of Budapest….and Boston comes the PR Release of Open BIM.    I am for Open BIM, I love the idea of working in a platform agnostic environment and make the building all about the data not the platform, however, when Open BIM is made up of a consortium of companies that have a vested interest in the process, such as Nemetshek, Tekla and Trimble  at least the antennae are going to go up.

Open BIM Programme is a marketing campaign initiated by GRAPHISOFT®, Tekla® and other members of buildingSMART® to urge and facilitate globally coordinated promotion of the Open BIM concept throughout the AEC industry, with aligned communication and common branding available to programme participants.”  This is taken right from the buildingSMART website.    Now buidlingSMART appears to be the outgrowth of the IFC initiative which was started by Autodesk in 1994, however, Autodesk now does not appear to be a part of this?  Why not?

I think fighting against the hegemony of the Autodesk dreadnaught is okay but one has to a question an open standard in this space.  As far as I know there is no open source BIM authoring tool, which would be super cool; so then who has a vested interest in the ‘open’ standard and supporting it?  I know if I have an ancient CAD file I can still open it in AutoCAD because you have a for profit company investing in itself and it’s long tail, open standard?  Not sure if it works.  Would I be able to open a file that was saved in an IFC format twenty years from now?  I can still open a Revit file that is 7 years old.  Is this a capitalism vs. socialism equation?  I would not go that far but there is a whole lot invested in software to design/manage buildings digitally so what does Open really mean in this case besides just a ‘marketing campaign initiated from Graphisoft…”  As my dad always says, usually when you want to know the motivation for something, “follow the money.”

I’ve written about this before and I think in the ideal world the building, the BIM, is open and people just write apps for the model, as current apps put a nice wrapper around open data so can BIM apps.  Need energy analysis, buy the app, space management, buy the app but the initial creation and file formatting lies in the BIM authoring tool, Revit, Archicad, etc.  How does the centralized BIM server model work when changes are made, etc. and what file format is it kept in that will have the legacy to support it?  Perhaps after the building is designed or existing building is captured in a BIM platform it can be translated into the IFC, whathave you, open platform and then becomes the defacto standard for existing buildings (EB), but during the design process?  There are a lot of people with a vested interest to keep it in their ecosystem.  Who will invest, support and nurture an Open BIM standard and to what end?

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Global BIM in Abu Dhabi : Solving the same problems

Reading a recent article in Construction Week I found it remarkable, but perhaps not surprising that the construction industry there is using the same analogies and facing the same issues we here in the US.  Within a week Gerhard Hope of Construction Week posted two articles one titled, ‘MEP Contractors Still Wary of BIM‘ and ‘Design, Build, and Maintain‘ which promotes the use of BIM to solve construction, regulatory and maintenance issues.  The jist of the first article is that the MEP contractors were giving up on BIM because generally it’s a lot of work.  However, there were some great quotes.

It means you do all the thinking and engineering before anyone starts building the structure or installing services. It has the big advantage of being able to plan ahead, and not find a major issue on the third floor, for example, that is going to stop work for a couple of months while somebody works out what to do.

One of the things about construction is that it is really a team activity, involving thousands of people on infrastructure projects, for example. A major change that has come about is the need for all professionals to work much closer together. I think BIM is certainly one of the ways that this can happen. We embraced BIM several years ago, in fact, on the Dubai Metro project, and we carried that forward on our metro work in Makkah and Calcutta, using the same methodology.

David Crowder  – Atkins MEP Head of Department – Middle East and India

If you have a fast-track project with a lot of problems to fix, ultimately it all comes back to the quality of the documentation you started out with…BIM is a major advantage to the main contractor, because they are not fiddling around hacking out the structure, or changing the finishes, or lowering ceilings – all the things we know and love in the construction industry. Instead we generate all the drawings fully coordinated in the BIM environment

Steven Anderson – Atkins: Design Systems Manager – Middle East and India

Companies who are able to respond positively to these changes are the ones who are going to survive through these difficult times, as opposed to the dinosaurs, those companies which can only operate in a traditional business model. This will lead to a healthier marketplace and an industry as a whole.

Kevin Mitchell – Buro Happold : Director

And with Abu Dhabi still on the scene it was reported that Tekla ‘Shapes Abu Dhabi’s Pairs Sorbonne University‘ Also Tekla and Autodesk had announced last month a ‘collaboration to enable better BIM workflow‘  This announcement though sounds like two kids in the principals office who agree not to fight on the playground anymore.  Obviously Autodesk want people to use Revit Structure, and anecdotally I hear most people say they use Tekla when going from design to fabrication, so what that collaboration will look like is anyone’ s guess, but the market must have been calling for something but what it’s mostly calling for is integration.

People are frustrated.  Frustrated that construction seems inefficient.  With Technology that does not talk to each other.  With doing the same thing 15 times because of the myriad of design / documentation packages out there do not talk to each other.  That more problems are not figured out digitally instead of physically in the field where it costs infinitely more.  The people want to use the best tool for the job and have that data act freely and unencumbered with other tools.  However, with BIM (Building Information Models) we are a lot closer then we used to be and its a global phenomena.

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When I say BIM what do you think? The US Army Corp of Engineers thinks Revit

While I am no shill, I just pasted this straight from the wire.  Info you can use?  Maybe/Maybe not, but if your trying get on schedule with the US Government for projects, I’d say knowing Revit is better than not knowing it, and here’s another data point why.

USACE Selects Autodesk Software Solutions for Mission Critical Applications

LAS VEGAS, Nov 29, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Autodesk University:

Autodesk, Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!adsk/quotes/nls/adsk (ADSK 36.53, +1.24, +3.51%) , a world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, today announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), has signed a multi-flex, enterprise license agreement for Autodesk products and Autodesk-related services and training. The contract value of the deal is $6 million over a three year period and includes access to the following Autodesk products: the Autodesk Revit family of products; AutoCAD Civil 3D software; and Autodesk Navisworks software products, among others.

“We are extremely pleased to further strengthen our long-standing relationship with the USACE with this agreement,” said Bill Goodson, vice president, North American public sector and utility sales, at Autodesk. “Autodesk software plays a vital role in helping USACE provide quality and responsive engineering services to over 37,000 employees in 90 countries worldwide. This agreement ensures USACE will have full access to the latest innovative Building Information Modeling (BIM) software tools and professional services to support its national defense mission. The flexible and concurrent licensing Autodesk is offering the USACE will provide better asset management and version control.”

Autodesk Software Products: Mission Critical Solutions for USACE

As BIM-based designs are required by the General Services Administration (GSA), the USACE now requires a BIM-based design approach for all vertical military construction (MILCON) projects in fiscal year 2010 and beyond. With today’s announcement, the USACE will now have complete access to Autodesk’s BIM family of products, including Autodesk Revit Architecture software and Navisworks software products. By having access to the BIM products, USACE personnel — who deal with managing building construction, operations and maintenance — will have the software tools and training necessary to take better advantage of the 3D building models being delivered by design contractors.

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Reality Capture #2 on Autodesk Labs Hit List : Project Galileo to join other tools. BIM

As reported by Matt Ball, Brian Mathews, the Autodesk VP in charge of Autodesk Labs,  gave a media briefing updating ‘his Seven Technology Trends lecture with example projects.’  Reality capture or as otherwise stated, turning analog into digital, being #2 on the hit list.  So capturing the Built Environment is starting to get serious traction, and while I hesitate to use the word traction, well, that’s what its getting.

Previously in the conversation  people would talk about all the wonderful things software can do for buildings, then you realize the majority of construction is in the built environment and it becomes, well just give me the building, or at lest the digital equivalent of the building and look at the wonderful things software can do, however, most presupposed the digital equivalent of the building.  Not anymore, more and more companies are releasing software and tools to capture the built environment, or call it reality capture if you like, but soon there are going to be a lot more tools on your shelf.

Autodesk has released, Project Photofly . and will soon release Project Galileo which according to its splash page, “is an easy-to-use planning tool for creating 3D city models from civil, geospatial and building data, and 3D models.”  Plus Autodesk has release shape extraction tools from PointClouds directly inside of AutoCAD.  Rand Technology/Avatech/Imaginit hybrid has released PointCloud manipulation tools inside of Revit and we are in the final beta of PKNail, a PPLT (Point to Point Laser Technology) system that allows a user to drive Revit commands and enter dimensional data directly from a range finder allowing a user to build a Revit model in the field.  Plus we recently saw the beautiful kinect hack allowing a user to capture and even measure 3D video.  I can’t say which technology or mixture of technologies will work best for you, but your job is going to get easier.

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Sketch Up vs Revit : Round 2 : Autodesk and Revit scores with Vasari

Is it fair to continually compare Revit and SketchUp as essentially they were doing two different things, Conceptual Modeling as compared to Building Modeling, not anymore with the release of Project Vasari, alive and available for download. It is available as a preview and free until May 15, 2011.  I will be downloading it shortly, and from the looks of it and as posted by other bloggers, like the Revit Kid and David Light here are some of the features:

  • Stripped Down Revit User Interface
  • Built in Energy Modeling
  • Produce conceptual models using both geometric and parametric modeling functionality
  • Cross Compatibility between Revit 2011 and Vasari files.

In fact, I even suggest to jump over to David’s post to get a more in depth look at Vasari and its features.  However, what has been apparent to me and others was for Autodesk to round out their line up with a conceptual modeling tool, and with something that had the ease of  SketchUp.  Why? Because I would speak to architects who had never even fired up any CAD package who said they are now using SketchUp, plus with idea of a Revit Light you can create an easy entry point for users rather than be bamboozled by full Revit UI/Ribbon/Feature smorgasbord. In addition to the easy entry point models created in Vasari can be opened in Revit 2011 and visa-versa so going from concept to modeling in Revit Architecture should be easier, conceivably, although I have not seen that work flow.

I imagine pricing, when the free release ends, has to be somewhere within the SketchPro version which is at $495.  But not sure how that would work through the VAR channel, maybe it’ll be free as an entry point or lead generation tool.  SketchUp also allows you to trace photos to try and recreate real world elements, plus validation and analysis. There’s a battle going on for building design and life cycle management;  makes you wonder what Google produces or buys next – a BIM authoring tool, or possibly model integration a’la Horizontal Glue.   The global AEC industry is $4.6 Trillion, and if you think of buildings as customers, energy customers, retail customers, services customers, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that.  Score one for Autodesk.

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Autodesk taking as builts seriously : Photo Modeling and PointClouds in next release?

With all the stuff flying out of Autodesk Labs recently one maybe blinded by the technology slant rather than the strategy.  Looking specifically at Photofly and their new PointCloud tools with shape  extraction Autodesk is putting together a strong effort in capturing the built environment within their CAD platform.  Looking at the ribbon from an AutoCAD beta you can see that Photo Modeling and PointCloud are options available directly within the menu.

You can see these option on the far right, somewhat obscured by one of my feeds.  Yes, my blog formatting skills still need fine tuning.   Last time we researched this over 80% of construction in Boston was done within existing buildings. This new technology push with our own research dove tails nicely with the sustainable retrofit anecdotes.

I think it becomes more important that applications work within familiar platforms to not not only increase their adoption but also to incorporate into an existing workflow.  Asking anyone to learn a new platform is always a tougher hill to climb and most shops are standardizing their drafting/modeling on to one or two applications.

From a technology stand point, the more tools the more better because this has been a soft spot in the whole CAD/BIM world, that is I am working in an existing building, I use Revit, I used AutoCAD, okay, now where do I start.  Defining this will help everyone.

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Photofly : Real 3D from Photos : Cloud Computing Magic : #bim #cloud

While I have not taken this for a test drive yet the videos and technology behind this are impressive and could provide a very valuable tool set.  First, a word about technology.  Too many times software presupposes too much knowledge or interest on the user, that is this software can do some amazing stuff you just have to sit down with it, go through the manual, try and use it, sit in a classroom, hit the user groups, etc. to master it and make it a useful and successfully incorporate into your workflow.  If you are like me you might be open minded to that but the benefits of learning a brand new software package have to be pretty amazing to entertain that process.  Enter Photofly.  From what I have pulled up and I included two videos here you upload standard digital photographs, which could range from your iphone to your 18 Megapixel Digital SLR, and Photofly does its magic in the cloud utilizing its own servers to render a photographic 3D image, that can be scaled using a known dimension to a dimensionally correct model that can also be exported to AutoCAD as a pointcloud.  What?!$%  From my perspective this is invaluable, and brings to the forefront technology that was only available from laser scanners.  I am not saying this takes their place but any time you can put another arrow in your quiver for building surveying and documentation, the better.  And if this is as intuitive as these 2 videos make it out to be, this is a home run.

Photofly Intro Video

Wrigley Field Gets Modeled From Tourist Photos

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The Building IS the operating system : BIM – SketchUp – Revit Free?

If you free it, they will come.  Hasn’t that been proven many times over in the software world?  Not always the most viable business model, but sure to gain traction and then we can figure out the revenue streams, or the revenue streams will figure themselves out as we get volume.  If the majority of what you do on the web is surfing and e-mailing, the software you use is free.  If you are composing spreadsheets and documents using google docs and/or Open Office it is free.  It’s really the value you imbue these documents with that have value and people are starting pay for.  Your the NYTimes and your content is important to people, you sell ads.  Your facebook, well it will be ads again, or maybe facebook gets a cut from all the digital nothingness people buy in the form of cyber poker chips and farm tools from Zynga but I’m getting off point.

Think of the building, or the digital manifestation of the building as the operating system, the OS.  Now I want to run an energy analysis on the building, heating and cooling loads, solar analysis, or I want to do a cost analysis on sustainable retrofits, or even new construction.  It can all start with generic structure or masses, that is I have generic mass of blocks and objects, it’s when it has to be put into context that it needs to be defined.  From this is a wall, and this is a window, to this is a steel stud wall with 3/8″ gyp on each side, and this is a window with triple pane low-e glass, etc.  It depends on what you need it for that it needs to be defined, energy analysis you want the R values, cost analysis for construction, types, and even then you may not want to populate that whole model with those defined types because it gets huge and you might not need it.

For all the different people who interface with the building the idea of a centralized model is an awesome thing, and it has been the idea of BIM that has brought this forward.  However, think of having the BIM in the cloud, and now it becomes the OS and I want to build applications for it.  Energy Analysis, Cost Analysis, Maintenance Contracts, Build Outs, etc. etc. it opens the building to the market.  And if it can start as generic components and then people pick and choose what type of data and services they want to use to add value well it starts to sound like the iphone and the app store, or android and the app store, or facebook with Zynga, etc. that is free at first but customers willing to pay for the things that give them value.  We can all argue the benefits of why having a BIM of your building allows you to manage what may be your biggest asset more efficiently and save money, energy, etc. however, combine those things with free, well that’s where SketchUp is bringing us, the free building OS, and we’re all going to be playing in the app store.

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