Autodesk University 2007 Report

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Autodesk University 2007 Report

For the AEC industry, a lot of buzz centered around building information modeling and its role in sustainable design at AU 2007. The event drew a crowd of around 10,000 at the Venetian in Las Vegas, November 26-30.

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Last year Autodesk announced its partnership with USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), which involved work on education, consulting, and joint technology initiatives. This year, both at AU and at GreenBuild 2007, Autodesk demonstrated some progress made as a result of that partnership.

Phil Bernstein, vice president Industry Strategy and Relations, for AEC Solutions, reviewed the GreenBuild presentation. Earlier this year, to an audience of approximately 9,000, GreenBuild 2007 (sponsored by USGBC) plenary sessions addressed what the future of green building was going to look like. George David, CEO of United Technologies (UT), stated that things made by UT contribute 2% of world’s carbon problem. Bill Clinton talked about the Clinton Climate Initiative and the greening of America’s schools.

Autodesk’s contribution was a long term vision of what sustainable design might look like in the future, entitled Project Chicago. They showed a movie of a conceptual integrated view of a design project where the design team could simultaneously see BIM and an assertion of how buildings are built using a building information model working, measure the performance of the model, and take a validation step where they could publish it out to USGBC. This movie was built using Perceptive Pixel, a large scale high resolution multi touch display 4’ tall by 8’ long.

The movie demonstrates the use of comparative energy analysis used to achieve LEED goals for daylighting, energy efficiency, building materials and water use efficiency. Autodesk is of the view that model based design is the central concept that will unlock a lot of sustainable opportunities about the building.

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Bernstein said that currently there is no way to quantify how many customers are using BIM to understand sustainability characteristics in buildings. However, he said that the people using Revit are more likely to use some kind of sustainable analysis. With USGBC, Autodesk is moving towards going mainstream with sustainable design.

Sustainable design is extending across corporate divisions, according to Bernstein. “There are sustainable design issues in all divisions – manufacturing, AEC, everywhere. Architects are much more involved in sustainable design and more advanced in their thinking. But at GreenBuild, we saw that a lot of MEP (Mechanical, Engineering, Plumbing) engineers are doing the heavy lifting today.”

Bernstein cites a renaissance - a lot of European engineering firms are considered to be first rate designers just like architects. “I think it will cause change in the patriarchy of AEC.” Autodesk has hired a corporate director of sustainability to address the new paradigm.

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In Europe, particularly, the methodologies, supply chain and expertise is higher and expectations are higher. “There is heightened appreciation that environment has to be sustainable,” said Bernstein. “Look at basic building planning. In Europe, you’re not allowed to have a workstation more than 10 meters - 32 feet away from a window in Europe, there are no commercial spaces that way here. There is a different consciousness about how things work.”

According to the USGBC Green Building Rating system, “within each of the six LEED credit categories, projects must satisfy particular prerequisites and earn points. The six categories include Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation in Design (projects can earn ID points for green building innovations). The number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED Certification the project receives. LEED certification is available in four progressive levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.”

Autodesk has put every project that has applied for LEED certification into a MapGuide database.


Over the past nine months, Autodesk has been reorganizing to address the broader architectural, engineering and construction industry to focus on the whole “continuum of AEC.” Model-based platforms are at the center of this push, with Autodesk working to establish workflow-based initiatives in each of those disciplines. There are now over 225,000 Revit users, a big jump from the 190,000 users counted in February of 2007.

Customers are now building a lot more models, and analysis is becoming a very important component, which generates more buzz. The purchase of Robobat speaks to this trend, and you’ll hear more discussion of Inventor, Autodesk’s 3D mechanical modeling software, being pushed as an important tool for engineers and contractors. In fact, at the MainStage presentation, Revit and Inventor were demoed along side each other.

Bernstein attests to the fact that contractors are using Revit more. “If they don’t get it from designers, they model it themselves or outsource,” Bernstein explained. “We bought NavisWorks and the most enthusiastic endorsers are contractors. They are looking at fundamental problems. They want to conceptualize in 3D so they can see what 2D drawings mean, making stuff not bump into other things and qualify. Contractors are driving model based processes. They won’t do projects unless they model them first. Counting things and measuring things is a key business problem for people who construct buildings.”

Avatech Solutions

This view is corroborated by Beau Turner, solutions consulting manager of Building Solutions for Avatech Solutions, an Autodesk reseller and solutions provider that has experienced firsthand the tremendous growth of Revit over the past year.

Avatech’s services side of the business represents 75% of their business. The Revit platform with the MEP tool on top of it, has brought this about, according to Turner. Multidisciplinary firms want to bring in different parties including contractors, and there are a large number of contractors who want to start working with this type of technology. Even after a project has started, contractors want to implement BIM. “We are also seeing more firms who have tried (Revit) in the past, but the process has improved and now they are trying it again.”

Turner also noted that “the complete solution isn’t just the one product right now.” Many third party products such as Green Building Studio allow them to take intelligent building models and get downside returns, to see how well a building will perform. They are also seeing this on the GIS side. In other countries, automated code checking, brought about by third parties, is required, and now in the U.S. GSA projects are requiring it.

On the topic of sustainable design, Turner said the combination of technology to analyze ahead of time, third party tools, and public awareness, create a “perfect storm” to create the green building movement.

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