February 18, 2008
Autodesk World Press Day 2008 Coverage
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Autodesk World Press Day 2008 Coverage

by Susan Smith

Everybody loves a story. That’s what Autodesk is betting on with their intent to weave products from the entertainment industry into the fabric of architectural and engineering design.

But that’s not all: Inventor, Autodesk’s 3D digital prototyping software, is already being used in some A/E processes. And to top it off, we’re hearing about adding an “emotional component” to design, making use of cinematic qualities for the creation of presentations and virtual environments.

click to enlarge [

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass
Autodesk World Press Day 2008, held at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco February 12th and 13th, drew a large crowd of press from all over the world. The press-only event is designed to give the technology press a look at some of the latest product releases and also cement in their minds the company’s direction.

CEO Carl Bass opened the General Session on Tuesday by outlining the challenges faced by designers and engineers. He said that a combination of what’s going on in the world and what’s available for meeting new challenges will shape the technology of design innovation.

The usual list of Autodesk successes followed: 9 million users of Autodesk worldwide (and Bass was quick to add these are actual registered users, who knows how many have AutoCAD and have not paid for it):

- 98% of the Fortune 500 companies use Autodesk products.

- Autodesk celebrates 25 years of financial success.

- The company’s net revenue is expected to exceed $2B this year.

- Cash and equivalents exceeds $800M

- No debt

Bass spoke of a new “convergence of technology across multiple disciplines,” which we would soon learn would mean that more architectural users might embrace Inventor solid modeling software for parametric rules based design and that Maya would move out of the somewhat exclusive realm of computer graphics and entertainment to be used in the building of infrastructure.

Some new ideas were introduced: such as the idea of a building having a story that may need to be told in an entertaining, engaging and possibly emotional way in order to appeal to a new, younger audience.

Four big macroeconomic trends are driving product development:

Digital life – Everything has gone from analog to digital: the way we communicate, and entertain, according to Bass. Bass pointed to the image of kids listening to an iPod while talking on the cell phone, and that this may be a way of creating information. On YouTube, 100 million videos are downloaded every day, and there are 65,000 new videos uploaded every day.

“The largest analog collection of data is probably in Library of Congress,” said Bass. “Google has already indexed about 1,000 terabytes of data per day - 100,000 times more than what’s in the Library of Congress.”

The method by which people obtain their information has changed, and now the way we educate children and train a workforce must keep pace with that change. Bass looks to the entertainment industry as the industry to follow in terms of providing information in fresh and interesting ways. The entertainment industry has always tracked things emotional content that generally exist at a more subliminal level in architectural, engineering, and even automotive design.

Globalization – The digital life is a large driver of the next big trend – globalization. New business models need to be explored to deal with the growing commoditization, cultural change and slackening of trade rules.

The first two trends have led to the third one:

Infrastructure Boom – There is a boom to rebuild, build and repair the world’s infrastructure. Over the next decade, China plans to build over 30 new airports. Aging infrastructure needs to be rebuilt or replaced all over the world.

Global Climate Change – The rising cost of energy coupled with the rising use of energy. There is a need to find better ways to produce energy and get smarter about consuming it. Buildings are huge consumers of electricity and natural resources, but with more effective designs we can be producing zero carbon footprint buildings (see Architecture 2030)

Bass said almost jokingly that the thing that spurs most invention is making mistakes, so it’s important to have tools to allow you make more mistakes less expensively.

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Chicago Spire
Because of the fusing of several different technologies that have remained somewhat separate and vertical, I am presenting here examples that wouldn’t ordinarily appear in an
AECWeekly article: one from building, one from entertainment, and an example of the use of entertainment techniques in a sales video for the Chicago Spire architectural design.

Customer Profiles

Liard Landis, senior engineer, virtual design and construction worldwide facilities, General Motors Corp., pointed out that GM is one of Autodesk’s largest accounts.

They have used building information modeling to build state of the art facilities. As a result of BIM, their Flint, MI facility was constructed in nine months. Landis said that there is traditionally a large amount of waste on a construction site. When you compare it to the current manufacturing process, there is far more waste in construction.

In the building of the facility at Lansing Delta Township, size: 1,574,400 sq ft, 249,653 KWh/yr was the amount of energy saved. This building avoided 118.3 tons/yr of emissions. Quantifying this amount, Landis said that “we could ride on the Queen Mary cruise ship for about 2 hours, or you could power 250 homes based on the energy saved in the building of this facility.”

The building was the first facility in the world to obtain LEED certified gold status, and it took two years to get to the point of design, review, submit and to obtain certification.

“Through having BIM, we have found our sites are quiet and organized because we know when stuff is going in and out,” said Landis. “No changes during installation improves morale. Everything is budgeted so there’s virtually no over time, a very orchestrated construction setting.”

- GM constructs buildings 25% faster

- saving with BIM 10-15% total construction cost

- safety records are setting industry records

Brady Nadell, senior engineer with Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), is an engineer for the $9B Oakland-Bay Bridge retrofit project.

The bridge, which had suffered massive destruction during the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, had to be kept open in part while the rebuilding process continued. PB needed to educate the public as to why they were doing it this way and to demonstrate to the public what the bridge would look like when completed. On Labor Day 2007, the construction crew had to close bridge for two days to replace a section of bridge the size of a football field.

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