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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 »

Autodesk’s Revit R2 and Site Designer Extension released

September 23rd, 2014 by Susan Smith

Autodesk’s Anthony Hauck, senior product line manager, joined me on a call this week to discuss the new Autodesk Revit 2015 R2 release.

The Revit R2 release is available now to Maintenance Subscription and Desktop Subscription customers only at this time.

Site Designer enables architects, designers and planners to shape the terrain for building sites and communicate design intent with civil engineers.

Site Designer enables architects, designers and planners to shape the terrain for building sites and communicate design intent with civil engineers.

This release includes over 30 user-requested features aimed at architects, engineers and MEP professionals. Coinciding with the release of R2 is the new Site Designer Extension for Revit 2015 software, derived from the acquisition of SiteWorks site planning software from Eagle Point Software Corporation. This software is available through the Autodesk Exchange store to select Subscription customers.

AECCafe Voice: What do you feel are the most important features of this new release?

All the investments we made in performance are the most important features for this Revit R2 release . The reason I cite performance as a highly valued feature is it really helps every single user on the platform. When we look at prioritizing where to invest in the software, we try to prioritize those things that will have maximum impact for most customers. There’s really nobody who is going to be hurt by a faster platform, especially in view responsiveness. Another interesting area we invested in re: performance is around the energy model. The industry standard on the representation of building geometry as opposed to the energy models variance allowed about 10% and with this release we’re down to a variance from the existing basic model geometry down to about 1.6% or so. So we have almost a 1:1 representation, about six times as good as the rest of the industry feels is acceptable, and we’re producing it now twice as fast as we did in the 2015 release. So all of these are a means to an end. What we’re trying to do is close the gap between the designers’ intent and the expression of it. The last thing we want people to feel is their tools are getting in the way of their expression.

Autodesk Searchable Panel

Autodesk Searchable Panel

We are trying to close the gap also between making a gesture and understanding what it means to analysis, in this case the energy model is what we’ve been investing in for the past few years. Our hope is this type of development in due course leads to better building outcomes. We have a conviction that the more people understand what their gestures mean and how their buildings will perform in the future, the more incentive and ease they have in just producing a better building.

AECCafe Voice: Competing CAD software companies are also concerning themselves specifically with IFC specifications in their most recent releases. Do you see this as a trend, and if so, do you have any idea what’s driving it?

There are plenty of tools from other companies that specialize in areas we don’t cover. When people assemble a portfolio of tools they would like the data to move between those tools as seamlessly as possible. IFC is not as seamlessly as possible, however it is a well understood and continually developed industry standard that has enjoyed, in certain sections of the world, mandates as a deliverable. This gets to a second driver to adoption of IFC, which is the open format and archival nature of it. Since it’s a published specification, it has the virtue especially for clients who are looking long term, of giving them the assurance that even as they want the native data for the full utility, they have archival quality format that is widely supported among multiple vendors into the future. So if had you an IFC file and the specification and every single software vendor no longer existed, one can actually reconstruct software to manifest that model again.

When you’re a government looking out a couple of centuries in terms of where you want your built environment maintained, That’s a driver in adoption of IFC. Several years ago we produced the first open sourced IFC exporter and to my knowledge I think it’s still the only one of its kind and we have started to work on a reciprocal importer in the same way. We want people to have data for whatever use they would care to. We’re working closely with the buildingSMART consortium around both the next IFC specification and making sure we are compliant with it, and where they would like to take the standard. I have always believed before I started at Autodesk that supporting open standards is critical for any company with widely adopted software.

Linked IFC models can be used as a reference for dimensions, alignment, snapping and hosting of some families in a Revit model.

Linked IFC models can be used as a reference for dimensions, alignment, snapping and hosting of some families in a Revit model.

A lot of competing vendors produce IFC. We collaborate and trade IFC files back and forth with those vendors to make sure our interoperability with Graphisoft for example, will be acceptable to our customer base. The data isn’t ours, it’s our customers, we want to make sure they can conserve and deliver it in whatever way they think is most appropriate.

AECCafe Voice: What has changed in this Revit release in your relationship to IFC? I know you have been working with these standards for years.

I think what has changed in the industry is an increasing reciprocity between the buildingSMART organization and the various vendors that produce building modeling software. I think we’ve been happy to see the consortium has gotten increased funding from various sources, including us. This has enabled them to advance the state of their art in helping vendors become compliant. There was a period when the way compliance was tested simply by opening up an IFC import or export and manually testing it out. It’s what you generally do with any kind of new standard or new piece of software. In the past few years they’ve automated this process and made it much more transparent for the software vendors, so we’ve been delighted to participate in the recertification that we’ve achieved in the past year. The IFC and buildingSMART made it so much easier and faster to do so. buildingSMART listened to vendors on what would help us. And we’ve listened to their goals for the standard and are doing our best to keep pace with them.

AECCafe Voice: You mentioned in the news story that Autodesk has received requests for site planning capabilities to be included in Revit. Have those requests increased in the past year, and why? Is it any way connected up with the increased use of Civil 3D in the past few years?

I would say requests were so high to begin with; it would be hard to find the degree to which they have increased. So I think in the early history of Revit, we were very focused on the actual building fabric and then provided a set of site tools because you have to put the building down somewhere. These site tools were somewhat limited in their scope, mostly involved in being able to model and track earth movement. We worked very closely with Eagle Point and they approached me personally to express that they were interested in building out a tool where architects could convey design intent for the site surrounding a building. Because the final design and documentation really comes to various types of civil engineers, and usually with many more robust tools like Civil 3D and InfraWorks, we see architects still need to guide the engineers on how they would like the final product to look.

Revit wasn’t accounting for a lot of aspects for site features, things like parking lots, road access, curbs etc. and there was a high demand for this fairly soon. We developed a fair amount of API hoping to get partners to take up the opportunity and we were fortunate that Eagle Point wanted to do it. At Autodesk, we seed the market with opportunity, then observe if anyone’s interests are in alignment with ours. Then we often acquire some leading technology.

That was the story around Eagle Point. It was first adopted by customers. It filled a gap for Revit, so it felt like natural acquisition for us. One of the things that’s interesting, not only do you acquire the software as it is, you also acquire the roadmap that’s in the software or embedded in the intentions of the releasing company. We’re looking forward to developing the promise of Site Designer and really building it out into a complete and well-integrated package that covers all the architects’ site needs.

AECCafe Voice: Does Site Designer embody any of Autodesk’s previous products such as AutoCAD Map 3D?

Site Designer is entirely built on the Revit API. It’s its own technology. We’re positioning this as a method for architects to express their intent for detailed collaboration by engineering consultants who are much more versed in the sophisticated tools that you need to map out site drainage and curb cuts. There are a lot of subtleties in getting a site to work. We think the more civil oriented tools will play the major role here, but capturing from Site Designer what the architect wants the product to be.

AECCafe Voice: Was the SiteWorks acquisition recent?

It was very recent. We worked at a feverish pace. A lot of things have to align to make things happen, and we wanted to give customers the functionality on subscription right away, with the plan to develop it in the future.

Eagle Point continues to support previous releases of the product known as SiteWorks. The later releases under the name of Site Designer will be released by Autodesk.

Autodesk IFC Linking

Autodesk IFC Linking

Autodesk Searchable Pan

Autodesk Searchable Pan

Autodesk Site Designer

Autodesk Site Designer

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Categories: 2D, 3D, AEC, architecture, AutoCAD, Autodesk, BIM, building information modeling, buildingSMART, Cloud, construction, engineering, IFC, infrastructure, integrated project delivery, MEP, project management, site planning, sustainable design

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