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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 »

AIA 2014: The Story from the Exhibit Floor

July 10th, 2014 by Susan Smith

The Exhibit Floor tells a part of the story of any architectural conference. At the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference in Chicago two weeks ago, you walk in, and the first booths you see contain windows, doors, facades, all necessary features of a built environment. Toward the back are the software vendors, which provide the design and conceptual tools to make the building a reality.


A different feeling prevails when you encounter actual parts of buildings and then go experience conceptual design applications and hardware to support various cutting edge processes.

The technology products that are used to make the infrastructure happen to include 3D scanning, 3D printing and many other attendant products, some conveyed on mobile devices, that were not a part of architecture just a few months or years ago, either because of expense or the difficulty in making it happen.

3D Printing, 3D Scanning and Reality Capture

Many 3D printing companies were out in force. While originally targeted at hobbyists, this was MakerBot’s first architectural show. MakerBot has expanded its line of printers to include a new larger replicator 3D printer called the Replicator Z18, selling for $6,499, that can produce 3D prints up to 18 inches high. In the Form Z booth, there the Replicator desktop model for $2,900 was displayed. Form Z provides the 3D solids modeler while MakerBot makes the 3D printer. They also have the new Replicator Mini that sells for $1,375. They also make $1 million printers used for prototyping prototypes, such as the James Webb telescope, which replaces the famous Hubble telescope.

Form Z creates 3D modeling software that is used in the 3D modelers. In each of these booths, there were parts displayed that could be used in building design, and for proof-of-concept development. 123D Catch is used for scanning buildings. At their website there are free downloads of parts, and facades from old historic buildings.

Form Z8 will be released in July.

MultiTaction Display Wall

MultiTaction Display Wall

MultiTaction, from MultiTouch Ltd., is an interactive display system that is used as a digital collaboration tool for architects. Mulitple users can use the MultiTaction interactive display now that MultiTouch has partnered with Bluescape, a platform that supports an unlimited number of people and teams. They can create, interact with and share content which will in turn accelerate business projects and decision making in real-time.

Bluescape allows video hosting all over the world. Users can have up to 24 displays going on one PC, in table, landscape or portrait mode. The 2D bar code can uniquely identify objects. In addition, the product allows unlimited ability to support optical markers, and use an infrared pen simultaneously and independently. You can also stack as many displays as you want or in any configuration you want.

According to the press release, Bluescape is now supported by the MultiTaction iWall and MultiTaction Cell 55” ultra-thin bezel (UTB), which can be incorporated as seamless, tile-able interactive walls or easel installations. Users will benefit from MultiTaction’s real-time engagement and responsiveness features. The Bluescape software provides 160 acres in the cloud to pull together users’ existing business data, applications, workflows and processes into one secure and central location.


Microdesk’s CEO Mike Lacey talked about how they use reality capture instead of a laser scan, which is cheaper and faster. Microdesk sells a quadrocopter for $1,000 that can do reality capture and an as-built capture in 20 minutes at .03 accuracy as opposed to .06 for a laser scan. The cost of a laser scanner is between $30,000-$50,000.

Trimble showed two concept apps running on the latest tablet platform of Google’s Project Tango program. This program is design to give mobile devices a “human-scale understanding of space and motion.” These concept apps, demonstrated at the Google I/O Developer Conference, include SketchUp Scan and Trimble Through the Wall.

By using depth sensors on the Tango device, SketchUp Scan allows users to capture a room, entire floor or apartment in 3D and automatically create a 3D SketchUp editable model. This model can be shared by email or on a variety of social networks, including Google+, Facebook and Twitter. The model also can be uploaded from the Tango device to the 3D Warehouse, Trimble’s platform for posting and sharing 3D models.  The model can include all types of furniture and features available in the 3D Warehouse.

Trimble Through The Wall uses the tracking abilities of Tango devices to reveal what is inside walls and other structures. Using CAD or BIM software, Trimble Through The Wall can do display and overlay of pipes, electric wires, heating, ventilation and HVAC infrastructure on top of walls, at their correct locations.

Both the SketchUp Scan and Trimble Through The Wall run on the Project Tango Tablet development kits. These development kits are provided by Google only to professional developers, The final functionality of Trimble’s concept applications are still under design. Additional information is available at:  ProjectTango.

Architectural Design

In a conversation with Nemetschek Vectorworks’ CEO Sean Flaherty, we talked about “people and design across all industries.”

“We think the intersection between all designs need similar tools,” said Flaherty.

Their largest customer is Japan. Flaherty said the long-term trend toward construction will be automation, and then generative design, which Vectorworks is very interested in providing, will become more cost-effective.

The wall between design and construction needs to be pierced, said Flaherty. “Construction companies don’t trust the design model. They want to redraw it themselves. Yet design and construction are verbally taking risks together using the model.”

He also noted that architecture gets only 10% of the billing while construction gets most of the rest of it. In the U.S., Vectorworks doesn’t work in construction but they do through partners.

Urban and master planning is a growing market for Vectorworks. GIS and BIM together are also more important for the company. They are pushing to do more integration in landscaping with GIS. Many cities supply existing 3D models. “In landscaping, nobody knows BIM,” said Flaherty. “And they don’t know IFC.”

“We’d like to have a tool to have contextual information to add to Vectorworks,” said Flaherty.
AutoDesSys demonstrated form•Z 8and 3D printing with new product lineup at form•Z 8 is a new version of the software that introduces subdivision modeling with new interactive rendering that offers real-time ambient occlusion, bump mapping, soft shadows, and multi-sampling. Design and exploration of organic forms that originate from basic shapes is another feature of this release.  Subdivision models work especially well with currently popular 3D printers and can also be converted into NURBS models to take advantage of the existing form•ZNURBS tool set. The interface has improved with grouping of materials on a modernized material palette, the ability to publish models on Sketchfab, and full 64 bit support on OS X. The fluently interactive interface and global parametrics introduced in version 7 are carried much further with version 8 to give the designer better control over the project flow and its intended goals.

I spoke with Todd Lukesh at the IES booth about the IES Virtual Environment software that was officially approved for commercial building compliance with the new California Building Regulations, Title 24. The first commercial software to be approved, the VE 2014 Feature Pack is available for the launch of the regulations on July 1st.

IES Sun Visualization Model

IES Sun Visualization Model

IES is currently the only software provider in California to combine holistic design and commercial building compliance in one software pack. Similar software packs can be made available to other states as needed.

It will provide an alternative calculation method for demonstrating performance compliance with the non-residential provisions of the 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 6, and associated administrative regulations in part 1, Chapter 10 (Standards).

Key features of the software include:

  • Model geometry can be imported from SketchUp, Revit, DXF, gbXML and IFC.
  • 3D models can be built from scratch using our model builder: ModelIT.
  • Integrated data model shares input data across all VE modules including the VE-Navigator for ASHRAE 90.1 (LEED Energy), Daylighting and Solar analysis modules.
  • Edit multiple rooms for rapid data assignment.
  • Integrated with Voluntary Rating Systems, including LEED®
  • Integrated design and analysis suite for:
    > Steady heat loss/heat gain predictions
    > Building Regulation Compliance
    > Natural ventilation design
    > Daylighting controls in thermal and compliance calculation
    > Lighting design
    > Detailed HVAC system simulation


Graphisoft’s new Archicad 18 release was demonstrated at their booth at the conference.

Archicad 18 delivers new productivity to make BIM workflow smoother, including CineRender, a new rendering engine with high-end photorealistic rendering capabilities that could previously only be found in CINEMA 4D from MAXON, one of Graphisoft’s sister companies, a professional visualization application.

The three main focus areas of Archicad 18 include:

  • Coordination
  • Documentation
  • Visualization

Designers from Gensler, BIG and Studio JDK were at the Chaos Group booth to discuss their latest projects. The Chaos Group is responsible for developing V-Ray, a staple rendering engine for architectural visualization that has its roots in the film industry. Rendering is also a vital part of the design process, so the company works with architects and visualization artists to build the exact tools they need to communicate their designs from concept to final presentation.

The products they were showing at the conference were V-Ray for 3ds Max, V-Ray for SketchUp and V-Ray for Rhino. Chaos Group technology partner and virtual reality pioneer, Nurulize, offered an exclusive preview of AtomView, which connects V-Ray rendering with the Oculus Rift. AtomView will allow designers to accurately visualize and explore their designs in a fully immersive, photorealistic environment.

Chuck Jolin, team manager, Building Solutions for IMAGINiT talked about the new updates for Scan-to-BIM, Revit Utilities and Clarity. The 2015 release of Clarity ahs seen the most change, with an automated API, according to Jolin. With the software, you can now access Revit files on structure, and remove links in the project. When exporting data you can now automate porting them to another location. You can integrate with ProjectWise. Clarity integrates with the Revit Server.

The Scan-to-BIM update features tweaks but no new features. Revit Utilities allows users to purge views out of the project.

Autodesk’s Phil Bernstein spoke about “Next Era BIM” and how technology is evolving in the building industry. In an example, he said a Chinese developer built a 30-story building in seven days. The same developer wants to build a 202-story building in a week. The delivery implications of this are quite mind-boggling.

“Design became separated from construction in the Renaissance era,” said Bernstein, with Alberti. Now digital technology has drive ideas of construction/architecture with the following concepts:

1)    It took analog and translated it to CAD.

2)    The transition from electronic drawing to digital – making files into models

3)    Context – the advent of the cloud, social networking, design and construction in a systems context.

The evolvement of this went from diagrams to prototypes to integrated simulations. Now we can build new spaces with new types of data.

“The way I see it, the computer puts architects back in the driver’s seat, because we can control all that information,” said Frank Gehry.

Anthony Houch of Autodesk introduced  Project Skyscraper, a new cloud-based collaboration software for Revit that allows architects, engineers and contractors to collaborate on the Autodesk 360 cloud platform. This allows extended teams to search, view, and provide feedback on project models on any device. The tool is in beta now with full commercial release of the software expected by the end of the year.

In addition Autodesk spotlighted Dynamo at the conference, exploring computational BIM with Dynamo and Revit, as well as generating different design options for varying elements including façade systems.

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Categories: 3D printing, AEC, AIA Convention 2014, Archicad, architecture, AutoCAD, BIM, building information modeling, Cloud, construction, data archiving, engineering, GIS, IES, infrastructure, integrated project delivery, mobile, mobile printing, point clouds, project management, reality capture, site planning, Vectorworks

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