Dynamic design wises up

Latest version of AutoCAD incorporates intelligent objects and Internet tools

January 01, 2001 |

Amid the "dot-com" fever gripping the A/E/C universe, one of the industry's giants has been working at a steady pace developing its vision of the path towards automation. At a reception in New York recently, Carol Bartz, chairman and CEO of Autodesk, outlined strategies for the company's product lines.

The company's flagship product, AutoCAD, has recently gone through two major releases: 2000i and Architectural Desktop. Its third release, Architectural Desktop version 3 (ADT 3), incorporates intelligent objects. Lines, arcs and circles are replaced with building objects, such as walls, doors, windows, stairs and curtain walls. These objects have "intelligent behaviors" based on their properties and dependencies on other objects. When a door is placed in a wall, for instance, the wall is cut appropriately, and when removed, the wall is mended. Stairs are generated using proper stair-design parameters such as tread and rise values, as well as proper code restrictions.

The new release also allows for the creation of new forms, including curves and intricate railings. And, because all objects have values, useful counts and schedules can be extracted from the data set.

Intelligent and primitive objects

As in previous releases, ADT 3 is divided into function groups that mimic the design process. In conceptual design, "mass models" can be created using primitive objects. The models have built-in "smart values" that can be added or subtracted, allowing flexibility and scheme-freezing. The objects can then be viewed and rendered within the program, as well as exported directly into 3D Studio Viz, Autodesk's architectural rendering program, for a more professional presentation. All objects can be sliced to produce schematic sections and floor plans for quick massing studies. Areas and volumes can also be generated from these models.

In design development, building components can be created and manipulated using a collection of commands that generate everything from doors, column grids and stairs to bathroom layouts, furniture, fixtures and equipment in 2-D and 3-D blocks. Users can work in 2-D view while creating 3-D models, and plans, sections, elevations and 3-D views of any portion of the model can be extracted and recalled with updated information.

Project documentation

ADT 3's documentation module automates many of the mundane tasks required to document a building project thoroughly. Annotations such as sections, detail bubbles, elevation marks, revisions and titles offer a welcome break from traditional placed-block routines. Moreover, the program's tagging feature allows for visual tags as well as database tags to be designated to any objects that need to be scheduled and counted.

A display management system allows users to set rules that automatically determine what information is displayed when viewing a model in 2-D, 3-D, ceiling plan or any other configurable view.

Perhaps the program's best feature is its right-click pop-up menu. When users right-click an object, a menu displays all possible operations for that object, saving the guesswork in finding a command operation in the main menu.

Moreover, ADT 3's Web-enabled tools provide access to design-oriented content and industry standards from the Internet, including block libraries from building manufacturers and Thomas Register.

Unify the users

Despite these commendable upgrades, the numerous versions of AutoCAD products on the market present obstacles for the user base.

Although the company has created object enablers that can be downloaded from its Web site so objects from different programs can be read from others, each version is not 100-percent compatible with the others. For example, Autocad 14 cannot read Autocad 2000-based ADT 3 files, but Autocad 2000 based on ADT can read Autocad 14 files.

Deployment is also a major issue. Each time a new version is released, a new set of serial numbers and software must be installed on each computer. Extensive retraining on new versions-as well as set up in user profiles, plotting and user customization-is also required.

Although automated methods of deploying desktop software such as Symantec Ghost and Microsoft Systems Management Server exist, in future releases, I would like to see Autodesk finally freeze the file format and distribute updates via the Internet. Bentley Systems has been doing this for years through its subscription-based Server Program.

For more information on ADT 3, visit www.autodesk.com/adsk.

Tom Hernandez is associate partner and director of computer services for Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC in New York City. He welcomes comments through the Internet at thj@panix.com.

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