AECCafe Special Report: Designing Ways by Autodesk

AECCafé Special Report
Designing Ways by Autodesk
By Susan Smith
Last year at Autodesk University users and customers glimpsed the future of design authoring products from Autodesk. This year, with the release of AutoCAD 2004, Architectural Desktop 2004 (ADT 2004) and Revit 5.1 — that future has been realized for architects.

What are the differences between all the products? How would you choose?

Architects, planners and engineers relied upon plan drawings for centuries before there was CAD. Traditionally, the focus has been on geometry, on being able to draw in 2D and most recently 3D. 2D drawing is vital to the design-build process and to other processes such as maintenance of a building far beyond the construction phase. Most of the information generated by architects about a building has been paper based. Graphics have supplied the digital information rather than intelligent information. Intelligence can be added to 2D to include not only geometry but also critical information about the building, giving customers a way to envision and interact with the whole project, from start to finish — and beyond. The "building information model" takes graphic information out of the virtual paper world and into the database world.

Autodesk has two architectural design products —Architectural Desktop and Revit--that fit the description of "building information modeler" all or in part, but aren’t completely integrated with each other. Autodesk Architectural Desktop adopted the concepts of building information modeling and applied them to AutoCAD.

"ADT 2004 is a spectacular release for architects that are already using ADT and succeeding with it," said Rick Rundell, Manager, Product Marketing, Autodesk Building Solutions Division. "Their ROI for adopting ADT 2004 is going to be very quick because they’re very familiar with that way of working and will get some real benefits from it."

Architectural Desktop came before the acquisition of Revit so of course, that product is well ensconced in the fabric of many design firms. This product allows those users who are accustomed to working with AutoCAD to get familiar with building information modeling by transitioning to it more gradually. ADT can model geometry very effectively. A multi-disciplinary firm that does building systems such as air conditioning, plumbing, etc. will benefit from using a product called Autodesk Building Systems, built on the same technology as Architectural Desktop.

The Revit building information modeler with its parametric change technology was the darling of a small startup company of the same name, before Autodesk acquired it. Since then, the product has gained considerable notice because of its revolutionary technology. Unlike ADT, Revit was envisioned as a building information modeler from its very inception, before that phrase became so popular in the AEC community.

The intelligent building model ascribes to the database concept of "single entry, multiple use," rather than "single entry, single use." This means that the data entered into the model describes in detail the building being built. It is data that can be made available to everyone interacting with that building — from the designer through to the contractor to those that manage the maintenance — throughout the building’s lifecycle. The rich history of this building gains value and can be handed on to the next owner operator who will want information about plumbing, HVAC, security, etc.

"We’re encouraging some architects who are upgrading ADT 2004 to also begin thinking of piloting some projects on Revit so they can begin to understand that product," stated Rundell. "For architects not using ADT who are interested in moving to BIM we have Revit. We’re encouraging those architects to consider a full scale implementation of Revit. We are having success with that in the market."

"Customers who are upgrading to AutoCAD 2004, who are also interested in getting into BIM are starting Revit pilots or in some cases using Revit to do certain parts of their design processes," added Rundell.

AutoCAD 2004 is a construction documentation tool and a general design 2D CAD tool. It is simultaneously released with other Autodesk products in order to maximize productivity.

Revit interfaces with AutoCAD through the DWG file exchange and Revit 5.1 supports the AutoCAD 2004 file format. Firms that are testing this out find that it’s pretty intuitive — "it’s a different way of thinking, but once you understand that you’re working on a database of the building then you come to expect the kind of coordination that it can provide. Actually sitting down and working at the machine is very much like working on a CAD system," Rundell said. "You are working with a 2D view of plans and elevations that you’re used to seeing all the time. The software is working harder than a conventional CAD program because you are capturing information that will become a part of the larger history of the building and updating it."


Hotel concept courtesy of Wimberly, Allison, Tong and Woo


New streamlined user interface for ADT


ADT 2004 schedules



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