Autodesk unveiled the 2011 versions of its AEC software at a media event in its suburban Boston office and gallery. Among the highlights were powerful new large team collaboration tools for the AutoCAD and Revit platforms and a greatly enhanced version of Revit MEP. Unlike previous releases, all of the products Autodesk released were focused on a 3D BIM workflow.
“Owners have started dictating use of BIM,” said Jim Lynch, VP of AEC marketing for Autodesk. “They're keying down to constructability and coordination.”
• A new sunpath tool in Revit Architecture 2011 allows you to directly see a visual representation of the sun across your site. It also allows for one-click solar animations.
• There are new massing measurements that, once set, update themselves every time you draw something new (floor area, perimeter, air volume). This allows you to make design decisions with real world information.
• Large team workflows and collaboration. To help large teams working on a BIM model, several features dealing with model view have changed. The visibility dialogue in the architecture model can turn off furniture, core and shell, and other parts of the model that some users don't need. The visibility of the data can now be managed much more easily through on/off settings. A new properties palette gives you instant properties for your view or any element selected at any time. There's no longer any need to dig through drop-down menus to get properties.
• A new form modeler makes conceptual form design easier.
• A new dissolve form option in the modeler removes the skin and brings your conceptual form down to its structural skeleton. Now you can edit sketches without destroying the form in place while sketching in 3D.
• Better Mental Ray integration. Two years ago, the Mental Ray rendering engine from 3ds Max was integrated into Revit. Now, the power of that rendering engine is being fully exploited. Mental Ray textures and the layers are now available in Revit. By hitting the “render” button, presentation-quality textures and layers are added to whatever you have drawn. Autodesk has also removed the four-core limit to take advantage of today's multicore workstation computers. You can use up to 16 cores if you have them.
The changes in Revit MEP were focused not just on making the product a viable MEP tool, but also helping customers capture a part of the existing building renovation market—300 billion sf in the U.S.:
• Copy monitor is now available in Revit MEP. You can now map architectural features directly to MEP features using copy monitor.
• The ability to model conduit and cable tray is in Revit MEP—finally! There are new conduit and cable tray families included for Autodesk subscribers with Revit MEP 2011. You can change dimensions of conduit and cable tray as installed, too.
• Panel board and panel schedule can be set with a Revit family. Branch panels, data panels, and switchboards are all available. You can edit the template for however your company's standards are set up.
• Content. Hundreds of new Autodesk-developed U.S. and metric Revit objects have been included in this release.
• Customers can now gain access to Green Building Studio with Revit MEP 2011.
• New Slate materials editor. With the old materials editor, you had to change each material on each object you created. With the node-based Slate materials editor, you can map whatever material element you want to whatever object you want through noise maps.
• FBX import to Revit. With previous versions you had to export Revit files as .dwg files to Max and lose significant parametric information. Now, you can import .fbx files directly to Revit through the Max file link manager.
• Quiksilver. Thanks to the new Quiksilver chip architecture, 3ds Max 2011 can allow today's powerful graphics cards to do the rendering that previous versions had to rely on a computer's CPU for. GPU acceleration can account for reduced rendering times of up to 60%. Follow www.BuildingTeam360.com  for more detail.—Jeff Yoders, Sr. Associate Editor