Autodesk University: More software bundles, IPD

August 11, 2010

Autodesk VP Phil Bernstein, FAIA (center), KlingStubbin president and CEO Scott Simpson, FAIA (right), and Tocci Building Co. CEO John Tocci (left), demonstrate hot integrated project delivery is being used on Autodesk's Waltham, Mass., office, currently in the final states of construction.

More than 9,000 software users attended Autodesk University 2008 at the Venetian Hotel and Casino last month in Las Vegas, where more than 600 tutorial classes were offered.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass previewed a prototype algorithmic design application that is being developed by Dr. Robert Aish, formerly of Bentley Systems, where he helped develop the GenerativeComponents application.

Algorithmic design, as its name implies, involves the design of forms as driven by algorithms. It allows architects and designers to explore a larger range of options than the traditional design process. Another trend that Bass is pushing is biomimicry, where designers follow patterns of nature. Bass cited the invention of Velcro by George de Mestral, who got the idea from burrs stuck to his dog's coat on their strolls through the Swiss mountain fields.

Autodesk AEC executives Phil Bernstein, Jim Lynch, and Jay Bhatt focused on technologies related to conceptual and sustainable design, fabrication, and integrated project delivery.

For conceptual design, Autodesk is planning improved mesh modeling capabilities in AutoCAD and new conceptual modeling tools in Revit Architecture that will allow more interesting and complex forms to be designed. The firm is also developing extensions to Revit Structure that will allow structural engineers to add supports and loads and study the behavior of these conceptual forms, enabling their expertise to be applied to the design at an early stage.

A recurring theme of Autodesk's AEC presentations was the use of tools from other Autodesk divisions, such as Maya and 3ds MAX Design (from the media and entertainment division) and Inventor (from the product design division). Autodesk is considering offering different software bundles in its 2009 releases that could include various combinations of these three programs with traditional AEC applications such as Revit Architecture and AutoCAD. This may be particularly the case for 3ds MAX Design, which is used for renderings and animations by architecture firms, according to Bhatt, Autodesk's president of AEC solutions and a BD+C “40 under 40” superstar.

In sustainable design, Autodesk played up its recent acquisitions Green Building Studio (GBS) and Ecotect. Bhatt said one of the firm's upcoming initiatives is to publish a guide to sustainable design at different stages of a project. At the site selection level, for example, tools in Autodesk Civil 3D were demonstrated performing analyses of soils, water runoff, and flooding. In the building design stage, a GBS plug-in to Revit showed analyses of energy, water, and carbon emissions, allowing multiple design alternatives to be explored and compared to select the most efficient one.

Ecotect was then employed to site the model for optimal performance, notably for design openings and shading devices using analyses of solar radiation, airflow, shading, and daylighting. Tools in Revit MEP were then used for heating and cooling, load analysis, and equipment sizing and placement, based on the usage patterns set for the building model. Finally, Autodesk showed 3ds MAX Design performing accurate lighting analysis of internal spaces to fine-tune the design.

Autodesk also showcased Inventor, which is used for detailed design of specialized components such as shading devices, panels, and canopies, especially when creating a design model for fabrication. NavisWorks was also demonstrated for visualization and interference management.

Last year, Autodesk gave attendees a peek at Project Newport, an AEC visualization technology free of the complexity usually associated with rendering packages sold to media and entertainment professionals. This year, Project Newport was on display at the Autodesk Labs booth, touted as a “game engine for AEC visualization.” The demonstration showed an interface that lets you create easy cinematic sequences and interactive cityscapes by applying materials and defining start and stop positions (which function like key frames in video editing programs).

But the highlight of the AEC part of Autodesk U was the presentation of the firm's soon-to-be-completed Waltham, Mass. office building, which is seeking LEED-CS Platinum and LEED-EB Gold. Autodesk, architect KlingStubbins, and general contractor Tocci Building Company have entered into a single-purpose entity partnership for the project as an example of true integrated project delivery (IPD). Autodesk had used a similar IPD agreement with DPR Construction and HOK on its San Francisco office.

Autodesk VP Bernstein, KlingStubbins principal Scott Simpson, and Tocci president John Tocci described the shared risk and rewards of their partnership. KlingStubbins project manager Sarah Vekasy and Tocci PM Laura Handler presented a session on their work processes for the project, which is expected be completed by the end of the month.

When asked if Autodesk would promote only single-purpose entity IPD vs. IPD that does not use single-purpose contract language, Bhatt said, “I think we need to do both at this point. We're still in the early stages of adoption of integrated delivery.”

Note: Following the AU program, Autodesk announced it is releasing Autodesk Robot and Robot Professional 2009 structural analysis programs, both of which were designed to work closely with Revit Structure.

Autodesk University Product Roundup

Adapx: More functionality with Excel

Construction site technology provider Adapx announced availability of its new Capturx Forms for Excel tool. Capturx enables you to create forms in Microsoft Excel, print them on ordinary paper, and have handwritten data automatically converted back into the original Excel fields using digital pens.

Avatech: Get BIM models right

Avatech Solutions demonstrated how its BIMreview can allow CAD managers, BIM coordinators, project managers, and facilities managers to find and automatically correct inconsistencies in models. Working inside Revit, BIMreview checks model geometry, specifications, and materials to ensure that a model adheres to company standards, industry best practices, client requirements, or whatever standard you want to check. Cost: $995 per license, plus $250 a year for maintenance, including support and updates. BIMreview Plus includes a batch-processing license for $1,295.

Hewlett-Packard: 3D on the cheap

HP, Autodesk, and NVIDIA have teamed up to offer AutoCAD users the computing power they need to make the switch from 2D to 3D design. Their solution includes the powerful HP xw4600 Workstation, AutoCAD 2009, and your choice of NVIDIA Quadro FX 370, Quadro FX 570, or Quadro FX 1700. Current U.S. list price: $3,995, about the cost of a single AutoCAD license.

HP also introduced its HP Designjet 510 wide-format printer series, aimed at small AEC firms that print the equivalent of 50 D-size technical drawings a week. 510 users can print D- and A1-size line drawings, plans, schematics, and maps in as little as 55 seconds each. The roll-fed printers have four-color, high-resolution (2400 x 1200 optimized dpi) printing that delivers fine line quality and high accuracy (±0.2%). They can process complex CAD and other files with the expanded 160 MB of memory, upgradeable to 416 MB, according to HP. The Designjet 510 24-model model retails for $2,095; the 36-inch model is $3,195.

NVIDIA: Killer graphics for under $2K

NVIDIA's Quadro FX 4800 professional graphics card retails for $1,999 with added graphics memory and 30-bit color. The card is equipped with 192 CUDAT parallel-computing cores, 1.5 GB graphics memory, and a 128-bit precision graphic pipeline. It can process large textures and frames in real time while providing fill rates of 38 billion texels (texture pixels) per second and geometry performance of 300 million triangles per second, according to NVIDIA. The card's dual 10-bit display ports can deliver a color palette of more than a billion colors.


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