December 22, 2008
Top Ten AEC Technology Trends Review for 2008
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Top Ten AEC Technology Trends Review for 2008

By Susan Smith

As we look back on 2008, probably right now the trend that is foremost in most people’s minds is the current economic crisis. With impending bankruptcy in the automotive industry, banks not providing loans, 330,000 jobs lost just in the last quarter, and these cataclysmic events rolling like a tidal wave at other countries’ shores, it’s hard to predict what will happen next or what President-Elect Obama will be able to achieve once he attains office.

One thing is certain, the Obama team did say they would make funds available for jobs for infrastructure, but how that will play out, is very difficult to predict.

Fortunately, the AEC market has been moving steadily toward providing tools that can support the future. Armed with the knowledge that yes, indeed we do have global warming, lack of engineers, an economy crisis and must provide materials and processes for green building, integrated project delivery process, interoperability, we can rest assured there are organizations, vendors, technology and standards in place to build stronger more energy efficient infrastructure than in the past.

Over the year AECWeekly has covered the following trends and topics that we consider our top ten:

1) Building Information Modeling

Although BIM has been talked about for a number of years now, we are beginning to see actual projects benefit from the use of BIM. At Autodesk University, a number of third party partner/vendors announced or released their new BIM offerings, more than in past years, demonstrating a firm commitment to that process and a knowledge of what needed to be targeted for successful BIM implementation.

Avatech Solutions launched their BIMreview for Autodesk Revit that finds inconsistencies in a model and automates the manual process of correction for BIM. Avatech reports that the 64 bit version of Revit is used a lot now, and during the AEC keynote, 60% of attendees raised their hands when asked how many were Revit users,.

The company also offers free Revit Utilities for automation of design tools.

Autodesk signed an agreement to acquire all of the assets of BIMWorld, a privately-owned business specializing in the production and distribution of branded BIM content for building product manufacturers. Autodesk plans to combine BIMWorld with Autodesk Seek, its online source for building product design information

IES’ claim to fame is its suite of building performance analysis tools directly integrated with Revit Architecture and Revit MEP via their plug-in toolbar. Perhaps more importantly, the company’s strategy is to provide software for different levels: a free VEware for small companies doing sustainable design who aren’t going to buy Revit. If they can use free SketchUp and free VEware together they can save 5% on their designs, according to founder and CEO Dr. Don McLean, and can learn to create more sustainable designs for the built environment. The company has also recently announced Architectural Suites which are for architects only and aims to bring architects “up
a notch” regarding sustainable design.

Boulder, Colorado-based Vico Software offers a Virtual Construction Suite that offers 5D technology to improve the workflow of the design, construction, and management processes. Released in early November, the product gives contractors a 3D perspective of the model while extending a 3D BIM model to 4D for scheduling and time and 5D for costing. At AU, Vico announced its partnership with Autodesk, which allows for Vico’s 5D Virtual Construction solutions and services to be integrated with Autodesk technology.

The company also announced an export feature to field layout solutions from Trimble which will allow users to use the BIM process in the field by accessing Vico’s software with Trimble field layouts.

BIMStorm LIVE! was presented by Onuma Inc., Pasadena, Calif., at Ecobuild Fall Exhibition in Washington, D.C. BIMStorm, conceived of by Kimon Onuma, FAIA, principal and BIM evangelist and his firm, ONUMA Inc., both an architectural firm and a software company, explore open standards to facilitate building projects with their revolutionary BIMStorm approach to architecture.

Since the mid 90s, ONUMA has been involved in using BIM in an innovative way, focusing on the information in BIM, which allowed the company to collaborate with teams worldwide on projects. They employ the ONUMA Planning System or OPS, developed by ONUMA, a BIM Model Server and editor.

Using open standards, Onuma said they look beyond the envelope of the building to how it ties to the enterprise and the whole portfolio. All organizations have trouble managing existing infrastructure, and planning for the future. “How do we predict what we need when it’s a constantly moving target with the challenges we’re faced with as far as technology, budget, requirements, the world?” asks Onuma.

The Model Server uses the open standards of the web to make the entire BIM model accessible to users, without them having to download the entire BIM and then open it in client applications, an unwieldy process at best. Data such as municipal GIS and parcel data and analysis data can be also translated and imported into the Model Server to be used by BIMStorm participants.

2) Bentley/Autodesk Interoperability Agreement

Probably the most historic announcement made this year for AEC was the Bentley and Autodesk agreement to expand interoperability between their portfolios of architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) software. The agreement stated that Autodesk and Bentley will exchange software libraries, including Autodesk RealDWG, which Autodesk uses to read and write in their own products, “to improve the ability to read and write the companies' respective DWG and DGN formats in mixed environments with better accuracy.” As a result, Bentley will be able to work directly with the Autodesk code to read and write DWGs. In the other direction, Bentley has exchanged comparable DGN
libraries with Autodesk.

According to Chris Barron, vice president, Corporate Marketing, Bentley, “It’s been acknowledged that Autodesk’s handling of DGN files hasn’t been quite as smooth as our ability with DWG, so I think this will improve the fidelity of Autodesk users’ ability to access DGN files.”

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass concurred in a press conference at AU that Bentley and Autodesk share many customers in common, “they are our largest third party developer. “We’re willing to share data with any vendor in the industry regardless of size.”

The two companies will also facilitate the work process interoperability between their applications by supporting the reciprocal use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This should improve AEC workflows so that information can be reused by more stakeholders in the AEC process, and project teams will be able to access more software possibilities.

In response to this news, many users in both camps say “it’s about time.”

3) Emerging Market Standards

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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