January 04, 2010
Top Ten AEC Trends of 2009
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Top Ten AEC Trends of 2009

By Susan Smith

2009 saw the growth of some trends and interest that will most likely carry over into 2010. In addition, I took a look at what were the most popular feature stories published by AECWeekly over the past year. Besides those stories listed in the categories below, note that our coverage of user conferences were among the most popular reports:

     1) Cloud computing The cloud is talked about in every technology industry today as a way to be able to access software without that software having to reside on the desktop computer, or company server.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass considers cloud computing – or web based computing, an enabling technology which is “becoming as cheap and reliable as electricity, so we can take greater advantage of computing power.” It is a very big platform shift, and he said a shift like this comes along every ten to 20 years.

An example of the use of this computing power is Autodesk’s Project Twitch, currently in Autodesk Labs, utilizing cloud computing so that users can access Autodesk software directly from the web running on a distant server.

     2) 3D laser scanning. In this past year there has been a growth of interest in 3D laser scanning of the built environment. As Stimulus funding is earmarked for renovation and retrofits of buildings, 3D laser scanning is now a relatively cost effective and very accurate way to aggregate data from existing buildings. Vendors of this technology say that the price has come down so that customers are no longer only large firms, but smaller firms can now afford to have laser scanning done. This scanning can also include lidar data, which of course, is a product of the geospatial industry.

     3) Visualization/simulation/analysis. Visualization, simulation and analysis have come a long way in 2009.

From a press release issued by Bentley in September, 2009:

“Drury Crawley, Ph.D., technology development manager, U.S. DOE, said that in the DOE’s energy building research, simulation has proven critical for designing and operating buildings to support decision making. At the same time it:

• Helps design teams and owners focus energy-use reduction efforts;

• Permits assessment of predicted performance with established benchmarks or goals;

• Enables teams to evaluate alternatives.

Autodesk’s visualization/simulation technologies have gone Hollywood in a big way, with visual effects that are a primary part of the newly released feature film, Avatar. Producer Jon Landau said this film represents “a huge advance in performance capture, breaking new ground in using visualization effects as a storytelling device.”

Autodesk is hopeful that this virtual technology will carry over into the infrastructure space.

More about analysis can be found in the category Energy and Building Performance.

     4) Social Networking – How social networking will affect the AEC industry has yet to be seen. Each technology conference this year has made a point of their Twitter and Facebook offerings, so that attendees could check to see responses to events attended and perhaps find out sooner about events with schedule or location changes.

Customers designing their homes who want to share their design choices with others can also share their designs on social networking sites.

     5) Multi-core computing - This technology is touted by hardware vendors such as Dell, HP and others, offering multi-cores that can do separate tasks at the same time. The parallel programming that is required to execute this dual or multiple tasks at the same time is still difficult, according to technology sources. Many software programs have not caught up with “parallelization” but the technology does hold hope for the future. Dual-core processing involves two cores, quad-core involves four cores. The cores are typically integrated onto a single integrated circuit die (known as a chip multiprocessor or CMP), or they may be integrated onto multiple dies in a
single chip package.

     Software packages are including 64-bit capability, which requires dual-core processors for optimum performance.


     6) Doing more with less. Avatech director of Business Development, Beau Turner, said that “doing more with less” is a big theme for 2009. Clients want to know, “how can we do this easier, cut steps out of the process?” The majority of customers are staying with their product upgrades, taking a look at software they have on the shelf and using more services. In building design, customers are not buying as many upgrades as in the past.

Taking advantage of customers’ reticence to buy upgrades, and targeting the AutoCAD LT market, IMSI/Design’s DoubleCAD XT Pro is said to be “very compatible with those users’ DWG content,” and will make round tripping of DWG files complete without any loss of data. In addition to the features of DoubleCAD XT, DoubleCAD XT Pro has a drafting palette, constraints, and parametric programming of the parts. It interfaces very well with SketchUp. Bob Mayer, chief operating officer, said they feel that the economic downturn may work in their favor for releasing a product that accomplishes virtually the same thing as AutoCAD LT at a lower price point.

Just before the holidays, IMSI/Design released their second version of DoubleCAD XT Pro, DoubleCAD XT Pro v2. The company made a point of the fact that they had released two versions of the product within the same calendar year.

     7) Project collaboration tools that enable the BIM process were big this year. 3D Civil software took off, leaving behind its designation of “shelfware.”. Industry experts point to the economy as a contributing factor: professionals have had more time to explore new technologies, and to the fact that there is stimulus money to be spent on improving the highway infrastructure.

Also reported this year was a rise in the use of BIM among constructors, demonstrating the need for more downstream tools.

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