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What is AEC? at Autodesk University

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

At a press breakfast this morning at AU, Phil Bernstein, FAIA, Vice president of industry strategy and relations for AEC, talked about what AEC was now at Autodesk.

Last year, AEC was comprised of building and Civil. Now the AEC division is comprised of building, infrastructure, plant and civil, with civil expanded to include water, wastewater and utilities.

What is somewhat unclear is that in the past, water, wastewater and utilities were under the heading “infrastructure,” but it seems infrastructure has a broader meaning now in the AEC space.

Bernstein said construction is a “significant growth opportunity for us.” The main business globally for all AEC software firms is in renovation and retrofit, as no one is building anything new. Autodesk is selling a lot of Revit and Navisworks into the construction market now.

Bernstein cited MEP as a “high growth area” that has been under penetrated, “AutoCAD MEP is already big, now we have to catch up with Revit MEP.”

Paul McRoberts, VP of infrastructure, described how Map 3D and Topobase are used to aggregate and reconcile data for reporting back out. Map and Topobase are used for records management and planning for property management. Visualization will be huge in transportation, he said. LandXplorer can create visualizations of cities and roads in very little time.

Roberts talked about utilizing weather data in Green Building Studio for design purposes, looking at erratic temperatures, rainfall, floods; all those weather peculiarities that can impact design and ways to predict them.

Bernstein talked about two projects that showcase Autodesk’s use of BIM and Integrated Project Delivery technologies:

1) Recent completion of the AEC Autodesk Headquarters in Waltham, MA, which cost $12 million to set up, with extensive use of BIM, sustainable design principles and IPD. The headquarters comprises 55,000 square feet and is a LEED Platinum design, built in eight months using all Autodesk tools.

The benefit of this project to the Autodesk team was that they worked very closely with the design and construction teams. The project is being used  to teach organizational change at Harvard.

2) Research project with the National Building Museum – this museum was laser scanned inside and out, then point clouds are captured in AutoCAD, converted to surface objects and then converted over to Revit.

The federal government has allocated $30 million to document existing federal buildings. There is a large amount of Stimulus money going into renovating federal buildings, as President Obama has mandate that the U.S. become carbon neutral in the year 2010 and to achieve zero carbon by 2030.

A lot of this discussion was repeated during an AEC Keynote held just after the breakfast, with the addition of more details on case studies and the plant and process sector, which I will expand upon in more detail in future writings.

The big five design technologies

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

At this morning’s Autodesk University General Session/Welcome Address Keynote event, one of the first things I heard an attendee say: “I’m one of thousands of architects in San Francisco looking for a job.”

This was followed by Autodesk evangelist Lynn Allen announcing an Elvis clone singing an Elvis song with Autodesk-centric lyrics about a disclaimer that new products discussed are not intended as promises of products to come. No photo-taking was allowed at this event, which was rather unusual.

Then CEO Carl Bass said that he was encouraged by “signs that the economy is getting better.”

He added that in talking to customers around world they say their primary challenge is in trying to stay competitive. Because of the tough economy and more complex projects, customers need to work more efficiently.

Using a timeline, Bass showed how successful technologies move from impossible to impractical, then possible, then to expected and finally to required in a continuum. He pointed out that flying was considered impossible except by those like Leonardo Da Vinci. It’s required in today’s society. Timing of the technology is a critical factor, if it’s too early, it won’t be embraced, people aren’t ready for it; if it’s too late, it misses the boat. He gave the example of the Newton PDA which was ahead of its time, while now it’s almost required that everyone have a mobile phone with a lot of features. In this continuum there is a sweet spot.

Five design capabilities or technologies are currently moving from impractical into the sweet spot, said Bass:

Exploration, analysis, storytelling, collaboration, and access.

The technological development accelerating these technologies is cloud computing – or web based computing, which is “becoming as cheap and reliable as electricity, so we can take greater advantage of computing power,” said Bass. It is a very big platform shift, and he said a shift like this comes along every ten to 20 years – that changes the way we use computers and do design and engineering work.

NaviCAD offers update to Google 3D Warehouse App

Monday, November 30th, 2009

NaviCAD has announced that its application to enable the viewing of  the Google 3D Warehouse on the Apple iPhone has been updated. Those interested can purchase it in the Apple App Store.

Gearing up for AU

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Autodesk University traditionally falls during the week following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, as it does so this year. It also comes right after Autodesk’s third quarter fiscal financial announcement:

This year’s AU will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, a change of venue from previous years at the Venetian. Apart from the keynote presentations, Mainstage, exhibits and technical sessions, what looks interesting on the agenda:

Unconference sessions, where session content is created and driven by participants.  What is needed: a room, a projector, and a microphone, and then participants and the session leader do the rest. This year you can pre-register for unconference sessions.View all unconference sessions.

The Design Slam is back for its second year, following the format of Cut&Paste Slam of the previous years. The fast-paced format tests skill, speed, and stage presence, while the audience witnesses the professional designers and Autodesk executives at work on large-scale projected screens, creating original work in rounds of 20 minutes.

Pecha Kucha Night on Wednesday holds the expectation that participants share their ideas in a challenging format: they display 20 images, each for 20 seconds. In those six minutes and 40 seconds, presenters are expected to make a personal connection with their audience. This event has generated interesting results that have shown up in Mainstage presentations in later years.

See you there.

CAD Price Wars

Monday, November 16th, 2009

On November 4, China’s largest CAD software company ZWCAD Software Co. Ltd. announced a 50% markdown on their affiliated products to CNY 2,698. Other perks will be offered to their existing users.

Autodesk recently lowered the price of AutoCAD LT by $300, which is most likely a short term promo. Bentley continues to offer their PowerDraft, the equivalent of LT, at a competitive price in China – it reads DWG and is programmable. Another company offering low-cost CAD software is IMSI/Design’s DoubleCAD XT PRO with their limited time special offer -DoubleCAD XT PRO is now available as a bundle with Corel DESIGNER Technical Suite X4 for only US $695.

IMSI introduced this product earlier this year in the hopes that the faltering economy would be in their favor –  users who didn’t want to pay the price of the next upgrade for AutoCAD would jump ship and try DoubleCAD.

According to Bentley China, ZWCAD has a presence in China, but does  not have a strong presence in the AEC market.

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