August 24, 2009
Construction Strategy At Autodesk
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Construction Strategy At Autodesk

By Susan Smith

Construction strategy at Autodesk encompasses a number of products: Constructware, Quantity Take Off (QTO) and most recently, a collaboration with Vela Systems, integrating its software with Autodesk NavisWorks.

Autodesk recently announced its collaboration with Vela Systems, Inc., a provider of mobile field automation software for the AEC industry. The collaboration will integrate Vela Systems Field BIM Software Suite with Autodesk NavisWorks. According to Tim Douglas, Autodesk industry solutions manager, construction, NavisWorks is a software tool for combining project files into a single, coordinated 3D building information model. The collaboration with Vela Systems will extend the BIM process to the field, and add field data from Vela to NavisWorks 3D project models.

The Vela Systems Field BIM software suite includes bar-coding and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking technology which allows builders on-site to access a data-rich Autodesk NavisWorks project model during the construction phase. Vela has been an Autodesk partner for some time, and is now leveraging the NavisWorks API to deliver the capability of a joint solution in the marketplace. Autodesk will extend its core BIM for construction portfolio comprised of Revit , NavisWorks and Quality Take Off (QTO),

“I think Vela is one great example of the type of partner we’re looking for, their innovating, they’re thinking of new ways to leverage the rich information available that is being used recently in construction,” said Douglas, “taking that information from the headquarters out to the field and into the construction supply chain.” Autodesk has a technology relationship with Vela in that they are leveraging the NavisWorks API and they are a strategic industry partner in construction.


Another Autodesk industry partner is Sage Timberline, providing support in the area of estimating. The Autodesk QTO product was released in mid-June as part of their BIM for Construction portfolio.

“Contractors are not modeling simply because building a model is interesting, they intend to leverage that model to drive a deeper level of understanding around the things they care about most: cost schedule and coordination,” explained Douglas. “When you look at our acquisition of NavisWorks over a year ago, and the introduction of QTO, you can see our focus in extending our portfolio in ways that are purpose built for construction.” The release of QTO enables contractors to generate a much more accurate count of elements in the building areas. QTO works with both 2D and 3D data, and will be useful as the marketplace transitions from 2D-based to a model-based
approach to construction.

“2D isn’t going away any time soon. QTO can derive those quantities from both 2D and 3D data, and so with QTO you can extract those quantities in a pick and click way or in an automated way when you’re using more of a model based asset as a starting point,” Douglas pointed out. “Once you quantify the elements of a building, you can begin to apply costs and rules and connect that to your estimating solution system. We expect we’ll be looking for other partners within the estimating realm to carry that model based quantification and cost estimation – the design to cost workflow.”

Currently there is no integration component that bridges QTO and Sage Timberline.

NavisWorks can aggregate Autodesk or non-Autodesk models into a federated model where it can be integrated with Primavera scheduling, with its ability to drive 40 sequences through an integration between NavisWorks and Primavera. Autodesk can leverage integrations with other established scheduling solutions such as Microsoft Project and Primavera.

Vela’s role

“When it comes to moving information into the field, Vela is a leader in that space and it’s an opportunity for us to move information to the field,” Douglas said. “I think that’s one of the gaps that exist, providing that level of information through a NavisWorks/Vela solution that is mobile that provides a connection between the data and the state of building elements in the construction supply chain. You have the ability through NavisWorks and Vela to understand where precast panels are in the supply chain: are they still at the plant, are they in transit are they at the site? Are they installed? Have they been inspected – you can’t do that
just by tracking it in the spreadsheet, but to connect that data to objects which are easily referenced within the NavisWorks model, is helpful for guys in field.”

Douglas pointed out that the last major advancement in construction site technology was the cell phone. “I think by connecting a model based approach to construction in a very visual way helps these guys drive understanding on the job site to make better decisions more quickly, rather than relying on stacks of drawings that might not be up to date.”

Vela runs on a handheld device or a tablet PC. It tracks types of materials throughout the supply chain via RFID tag or barcode. “RFID is likely used when you’re tagging precast panels at great distances and moving them around. Barcode is used as it was on the Autodesk Trapelo Road project more for interiors and installations, like for workstation installation there.”

You tag the elements that you’re interested in tracking and you read it with the Vela mobile device. It takes in data about that item. There are forms by which you can change the state of the item, make notes about it, and there is direct integration between Vela and those items in the NavisWorks model. When you open up a NavisWorks model with Vela/NavisWorks integration, you can be looking at a floor plan in 3D, and see different workstations in various colors. The colors represent the various states. By clicking on the 3D element in the model, you get information about that workstation: such as whether it has been installed, inspected, damaged, etc. In tracking precast panels,
you can find out where the precast panels are within the job site and in what state of implementation they are.


NavisWorks can bring in Revit files, or 3D AutoCAD files, model based files from other applications. It recognizes 40 different file types.

“You can bring in the entire model, you don’t see NavisWorks on the handheld but you see it in the trailer,” Douglas said. “You can review the whole model on the jobsite in NavisWorks because of the file compression between Revit or other software you’re aggregating, you have access to entire model and can then review the states of the various pieces, parts and systems.”

The compression rate in NavisWorks allows you to bring in a large BIM model with several components: MEP, structural, and/or architectural. According to Autodesk,

“A typical compression rate from .rvt to .nwc format would be 90% i.e. a 10MB Revit model would be 1MB when saved to NavisWorks format. The compression rate is often much higher than this, depending on the data held within the Revit model.”

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