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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Top AEC Predictions for 2014 – AECCafe Voice

January 7th, 2014 by Susan Smith

Last year’s predictions for the year, Top AEC Predictions for 2013 – AECCafe Voice, were somewhat different from this year’s. Although those predictions are still useful to note this year, I am focusing on some product directions and initiatives since there is a continuing, pressing need to address critical infrastructure, fueled largely by climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and failing infrastructure and economy. Products developed and industries becoming more collaborative all shape the predictions of the year 2014.

1.     Climate Change

The climate and ensuing natural disasters propel the need for building to take into consideration how to build to last. Big data will play a major role here as early warning systems will be instituted more and more to predict natural disasters, a good example may be’s Earth Engine work.

2. The 2030 Challenge was issued by Architecture 2030 this year to address the issue that buildings are the major source of global demand for energy and materials that produce by-product greenhouse gases (GHG). Slowing the growth rate of GHG emissions and then reversing it is the key to addressing climate change and keeping global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The 2030 Challenge asks the global architecture and building community to adopt the following targets:

  • All new buildings, developments and major renovations shall be designed to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 60% below the regional (or country) average/median for that building type.
  • At a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area shall be renovated annually to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 60% of the regional (or country) average/median for that building type.
  • The fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings and major renovations shall be increased to:
    • 70% in 2015
    • 80% in 2020
    • 90% in 2025
    • Carbon-neutral in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate).

These targets may be accomplished by implementing innovative sustainable design strategies, generating on-site renewable power and/or purchasing (20% maximum) renewable energy. (from Architecture 2030 website)

Architecture 2030 has developed this free online tool – 2030 Palette found at as a powerful catalyst for driving broad implementation of the 2030 Challenge and more – ensuring that our buildings and communities consume fewer fossil fuels, complement and preserve sensitive ecosystems, access site renewable energy resources, and successfully adapt to climatic changes. 2030 Palette includes the new Sefaira technology for SketchUp. Sefaira For SketchUp is about delivering immediate real time analysis for drawing and design.

3. Sefaira is also available as Sefaira for Revit, where it is less as a design tool and more of a documentation tool, although architects are trying to use it earlier and earlier in the process. At the moment the two tools are fairly different. I include this product here because it is different than anything else that has come along to really address making analytic changes earlier in the design and documentation process. Will it revolutionize whole building analysis? That remains to be seen.

Sefaira’s web app for Revit provides performance and sustainability information in the form of integrated whole-building analysis of energy use, water use, carbon emissions, thermal comfort, and renewable energy. Its cloud-based analysis engine generates results in seconds with as few as three inputs – a massing, building location and building type – while providing the rapid feedback that architects need to drive performance-based decision-making.  Sefaira helps architects develop an intuition for building performance, allowing them to respond to performance requirements creatively.

4.  Building Information Modeling and Geospatial

Robots and drones or UAVs, technologies highly dependent on location technology, were deftly woven into the fabric of the Autodesk message as potential tools for building future infrastructure. Autodesk’s focus for all their technology areas is on infrastructure, a wide umbrella that includes buildings, roads, transportation, bridges, site planning, city design, utilities and much more. Increasingly, professionals in those areas recognize the need for geospatial information in their design and planning.

We are definitely seeing these worlds – of BIM and geospatial – come together into a cohesive picture now.

Crossrail, London’s ambitious rail project that will run 100 km through the city scheduled to open late 2018, and has an estimated budget of £14.8bn, has had an asset registry from the beginning of the project, and is now getting as-built 3D models from its contractors. This is the first time a project linking between 3D models and collaborative Building Information Modeling (BIM). Hybrid modeling, the combination of virtual and physical worlds through point clouds, using products by Bentley Descartes, is also being used by Network Rail, bringing together point clouds, 3D modeling and BIM to view a safe representation. With hybrid modeling large terabytes of data can be combined blending raster and vector, and clash detection can be done through point clouds and vector data. Optioneering was discussed as a way to generate more scenarios, with SiteOps Optimization Technology, (Bentley is an investee in SiteOps), providing a simulation environment where you can upload your site characteristics and it works out of your site. They can substantiate an average of $15,000 savings per acre.

Even traditional GIS positioning companies such as TopCon, are getting into the act with their most recent collaboration with Autodesk, aimed at improving the integration of BIM workflows  and field layout. This collaboration will also involve a new Autodesk BIM 360 app for iPad to make it easier to locate BIM coordinates precisely on a construction site. Designed for general contractors and MEP professionals, the app will control a robotic total station and the new LN-100 3D positioning system from Topcon. As-built data can be fed back into the design model via BIM 360 for quality assurance. Topcon was traditionally considered a geospatial company but they have extended their reach into many other industry segments now, including the area of BIM.

Another company that has been extending its reach to various industries from a geospatial base is Leica Geosystems, who announced their new BIM Field Trip solutions to help contractors extend BIM into the field and bring that information back to the office model. The new BIM Field Trip solutions take full advantage of Leica Geosystems’ established precision measurement technologies.

An even more surprising jump is to the notion of using flying machines to deliver materials and products on the jobsite. Up until now, the geospatial community has been cognizant of “Unmanned Airborne Vehicles” (UAVs) for use in military operations only. Recently both Amazon and UPS have announced that they plan to use these for delivering lightweight packages to customers in the future – meaning maybe five years out.

5. Mobile

Bentley Systems’ new mobile apps, including Field Supervisor App, Navigator App, move operations from the site trailer to the field. I-Models, Bentley’s containers for deliverables for information mobility, have been optimized for mobile devices. eB Information Manager tracks changes among information elements that are found in i-models. A new product is Construction Work Package Server (includes ConstructSim) which will help with tracking before a design is completed.

6. The Cloud and Online Computing

At Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure 2013 Conference, Bhupinder Singh, senior vice president of Bentley, said that they are connecting through Cloud Services, not “moving” to the cloud, and it’s about “faster start up, easier collaboration, more efficient execution, and best practice/knowledge management.” “What would it mean to take Cloud Services and add it to the platform?” asks Singh. “It’s a server available all the time, and it allows us to have great visibility across what we’re doing.”

Andrew Anagnost spoke on the topic “Leading the Cloud Transformation” in which he explained how the Cloud is changing everything, and mainly “we’re looking at new ways that customers can buy.” Those may include desktop rental, cloud services, and consumption. The cloud brings more flexibility and choice to customers.

Big data is changing the way people view projects. Instead of looking at sections they can now look at the whole project with the advent of the cloud. With the addition of mobile computing to the cloud, construction is able to access BIM and capture information about what is going on onsite, according to Anagnost.

Software companies are in general ahead of the curve, so they dance between the future and the existing populace and what they are capable of instituting given company budgets and understanding.

In the U.S. alone, construction has not changed much. “Over the last 80 years, the jobsite hasn’t changed dramatically,” said Amar Hanspal. “We may talk about design and engineering changing, but the world of construction has more evolution to do.”

So it’s all very well to talk about the future, but for some, the future of manufacturing your own materials onsite, online computing and the Cloud are still a very long way off.

7. The State of Interoperability

John Jacobs: CIO, JE Dunn made some telling comments about the state of interoperability. “Autodesk, Microsoft, IBM, etc. all  talk about interoperability – but they are only discussing interoperability in their own stack. They’re putting all their R&D money into adding interoperability and functionality within their stack. The business problem is cross platform integration.”

My guess is that Jacobs echoes the concerns of many in the AEC industry who would love to see cross platform integration addressed more deeply.

8. Research and Development

Ways to involve customers in R&D efforts are constantly evolving. The Bentley Innovations Portfolio is a new page where “Bentley colleague teams, including research projects, development of software prototypes to demonstrate innovative new capabilities, and specific innovations within current Bentley software products.” What you will find here is some interesting research on augmented reality, putting data in the context of the physical world, ubiquitous sensing, artificial neural networks, among other research options. Some of the projects noted on the page are Bridge Health Modeling, Damage Detection of Civil Structure Systems, High Performance Cloud Computing, and Finite Element Model Calibration. This appears similar to the Autodesk Labs offering that has been popular at Autodesk for some years, but instead Innovations demonstrates Bentley has some very specific project objectives in mind.

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Categories: AEC, architecture, AutoCAD, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, BIM, building information modeling, Cloud, construction, engineering, geospatial, infrastructure, integrated project delivery, LEED Gold, MEP, mobile

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