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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 »

A Case for Residential BIM

October 25th, 2017 by Susan Smith

In an interview this week with director, Cadsoft Corporation, Chantale Pitts, AECCafe Voice asked about the new Envisioneer version 13 that is focused on the residential architectural market. Envisioneer is Building Information Modeling (BIM) software for the residential and light commercial construction industry.

Framing Model

AECCafe Voice: Why would users select Envisioneer version 13 rather than something like AutoCAD Lite or a baby BIM solution offered by other design software companies?

Chantale Pitts: Focus. Envisioneer is dedicated to the residential market and whereby the BIM tools in Envisioneer are made specifically for a home builder and designer to make them more efficient and offer high end marketing materials. We aren’t drawing lines like AutoCAD Lite, but we are erecting intelligent walls that know how to place each stud, top plate, cripple and header in a wall and piece count and label them in a diagram for the builder on site. We know how many rolls of vapor barrier and even wall paper for the interior are required. We differentiate ourselves from other design software applications by the depth of the materials in both how they are reported in a material list and their photorealism in a rendering or VR environment in Envisioneer. When you have a single software solution like Envisioneer that offers the home building market so many features that make their business easier, it makes it a great choice for that market space.

AECCafe Voice: What makes Envisioneer so easy to use?

Chantale Pitts: From the inception of Envisioneer, the core vision of the product was ease of use. Making every command function in a similar way, every dialog box layout common and every function as minimal steps as possible so that when someone is first introduced to the application they can simply design and not have to worry how the different tools work. Lingo is also key, we aren’t offsetting lines to represent a wall and filleting them at corners. The “wall” tool is found under the “Building” tab. Terms that resonate with builders and designers.  A clean, simple interface also makes it less intimidating and more user friendly.

AECCafe Voice: How does Envisioneer integrate with other leading design softwares, since most projects employ teams using multiple disparate software?

Chantale Pitts: Collaboration is key, and we have worked with a great list of design software products to ensure that there is a solid bridge between Envisioneer and most applications.

  • Did you find a block on the internet in .dwg, .dxf, .3ds, .skp or IFC format? Great! Bring it in and use it in your design. We recognize their original materials and layers and retain them. Do you need to export it back out in any of those formats to share? Envisioneer can handle that too by sending back both a full 3D model or individual 2D .dwg sheets.
  • Envisioneer also can import an entire IFC project and when importing it will recognize a wall, roof, floor and ceiling surface and give it the same intelligence in Envisioneer. This is new in V13!
  • We also export an Envisioneer model to work with structural applications like MiTek Sapphire™, Weyerhaeuser Javelin™, Boise BC Framer™, Keymark GS software Suite™, Simpson Component Solutions™.
  • We also import/export between 2020 Spaces™ kitchen design software. If your business has an expert kitchen designer on staff working exclusively on kitchens and baths you can share the design back and forth between Envisioneer and 2020 Spaces to integrate the kitchen and bath with the entire house design.
  • An Envisioneer model will also export to REScheck™ for an energy audit of the building.
  • We upload all of the materials to ERP systems and Point Of Sale systems for material report integration at building supply centers.
  • An Envisioneer model can be uploaded to SketchFab™ and our own Envisioneer VR™ app so you can review the 3D model with friends and family.

Envisioneer V13 Screenshot

AECCafe Voice: What is the ROI using Envisioneer?

Chantale Pitts: Looking at national averages for a set of residential blue prints, it is around $1300/set. Envisioneer ProArchitect is $995.  So, for just the ability to be able to do plan sets, the payback is great for designers and builders that do even a couple of plan sets a year. For those who want to use the software for visual marketing materials as well, the VR ability gives the prospect an opportunity to do a virtual tour and get a true sense of what they are buying and therefore forgoing the need to build expensive model show homes anymore. That alone is a terrific savings. Envisioneer Building Essentials, that has all the capabilities of ProArchitect but adds in enhanced estimating capabilities, is $1995. When we add in the factor that as you are designing the model it is also piece counting the materials and therefore saving time from having to do a separate material take off, you can see that the software consolidates many steps of the process and the return on investment keeps getting higher and higher.

AECCafe Voice: What aspect of the product deals with estimation and how does that work?

 Chantale Pitts: Each object that you insert into the model is a capable of extracting material information. For example, when you build a wall in Envisioneer it can hold information about the materials that clad the wall, both interior and exterior, the framing components of the wall, the nails and screws required in that wall, right down to gallons of paint. We allow the user to personalize that information, so it can be their unique SKU numbers and products, which is especially helpful for building supply centers using the software to do material estimates and integrating it with their Point of Sale systems. We have many clients that use Envisioneer just to do material take offs. They import a PDF of a plan, highlight the walls and other elements they will be supplying and build the material report. Not only does it integrate with Point of Sale programs, it also integrates with popular construction management programs like Buildertrend™ used by many builders.

AECCafe Voice: Many recent BIM software updates have included a new piece for roofs or an entire roofing module. Why do you think that is?

Chantale Pitts: When we first were designing Envisioneer we studied groups of builders that had yet to adopt design software. One of the number one reasons they didn’t want to use a 3D software was it was too difficult to get the rooves right. Residential roofing has many different styles and variables that make it a challenge programmatically. So, we made that a priority. Easy one-click insertion of roof geometry, tools to allow for multiple pitch, plate height and style. The ability to break the roof down to individual surfaces for even more personalized refinement. Previously we only rafter framed the roof and now with Envisioneer V13 we include truss profiles too. We don’t do any structural analysis. There is good software out there that we link with that allows the user to get the structure analyzed for exact truss members.

AECCafe Voice: What are the VR and rendering improvements included?

Chantale Pitts: When Oculus Rift™ and HTC Vive™ shipped we were ready with an integrated VR mode right in Envisioneer. No need to export the model out to a separate viewer we handled it natively in the software. For V13 we expanded on the integration by improving the frame rates when navigating in VR for a smoother walk around experience. We also enhanced the materials in the scene giving them more natural appearances, so you can get a true sense of the textures in a room. In our Envisioneer VR™ app we added touch navigation controls, so you can easily swipe in a scene to navigate. The Envisioneer VR™ app is aimed at homeowners sharing the experience with their friends and family so we knew it had to be easy to navigate so everyone feels comfortable using it.

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Categories: 2D, 3D, AEC, AEC training, AECCafe, architecture, BIM, building information modeling, Cadsoft, Cloud, collaboration, construction, engineering, field, file sharing, IFC, infrastructure, project management, virtual reality

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