Autodesk invited reporters to its AEC headquarters in Walthan, Mass., this week to unveil its 2012 AEC product line  and present its strategy for the next year. Construction, not designed, ruled the two-day event.
“The (general) contractor is becoming the most vocal proponent of BIM around the world,” said Jay Bhatt, senior vice president of AEC Solutions at Autodesk. “BIM has now expanded across workflow and production.”
Autodesk showed an extensive preview of the new constructability modeling tools in Revit Architecture 2012. Users can now split and manipulate objects such as wall layers and concrete pours to more accurately represent construction methods. They can also prepare shop drawings for fabrication with features that give more flexibility in documenting assemblies of model elements. Peter Campot, president and CIO of major New England healthcare contactor Suffolk Construction also gave a rousing presentation about how his firm used BIM for virtual design and construction on complex projects for clients that included MIT, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital System.
“Contractors are driving BIM use due to cost,” said Jim Lynch, vice president of Autodesk’s BIM product group. “A lot of their clients are saying if you want to come to my dance, you have to use BIM.”
There’s also a new point-cloud import tool in Revit Architecture 2012. The new Point cloud capabilities connect laser scans directly into the BIM process, helping with renovation and retrofit projects.
In MEP, the intelligence of Revit MEP 2012 is again much improved. It now shows construction documents with model views and engineers can convert space-holders into true and real ducts. A change users have long clamored for allows you to turn off other systems and view only the ones you want to look at by highlighting them with your mouse. This makes it MUCH easier to work with mechanical and plumbing piping design. You can also now turn calculations on and off when you want to iteratively model a design without getting constant space calculation.
The biggest announcement, though, was the release of Autodesk Vault Collaboration 2012 for the AEC design tools. Vault is a product that’s long been available for data management for non-AEC software, but it’s now integrated into the Autodesk’s Building Design Suite programs (the AutoCAD family, the Revit Family, 3Ds Max, Navisworks Manage, QTO and Inventor). Using Vault, you can track revisions to a shared BIM file because each save is documented with a timestamp and the collaboration tool keeps a count of the total number of revisions. Autodesk executives said it won’t replace Revit Server for big-team collaboration but that both will co-exist.
“The real-time model is Revit server,” said Rick Rundell, senior director of the AEC Group at Autodesk. “Vault is the record of a model file’s history.”
As the Autodesk products become “suitized,” many users are asking why certain products are being offered as a suite. Does an architecture firm really need the entire Revit family, for instance?
“For years we’ve heard users say ‘make these tools better for non-architects,’” Bhatt said. “And honestly we have done a (ton) of development to make them work better together. We have the resources to make help customers be more successful.”
More about the AEC presentations next week.