December 20, 2010
Readers’ Top Ten Picks for 2010
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each AEC Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the AEC industry, AEC product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Known for its aerial imagery and height data, UK-based geospatial company Infoterra has been acquiring high resolution lidar data of big cities in the UK for its new 3D product Skape.

Skape is a geospatial 3D city mapping service product from Infoterra that offers advanced imagery of 3D heighted buildings of the UK's major cities. 99% of the data collected for this product is Infoterra-owned, and the company uses its own dedicated fleet of aircraft to capture fully textured imagery. The new product is designed for environmentalists, architects, planners, local authorities and surveyors, among others. Skape enables users to manipulate urban landscapes online by combining high resolution 3D textured city models with 2D mapping and terrain data.

According to Jamie Ritchie, director of marketing for Skape, Skape allows users to access major UK cities, enabling urban planners to quickly develop highly detailed architectural models and save time and costs.

Ritchie said, “One of the differences between Skape and other 3D building products is that the buildings and the terrain are very high resolution, we're talking about in London the lidar height accuracy is sub 1m and the oblique imagery resolution is between 5cm and 8cm."

Ritchie said they liken the product to being more “like building information modeling (BIM).”

Those people who are accustomed to using Google Earth and SketchUp will find Skape to be “second nature.” AEC users as well as users in local authorities who are not familiar with 3D will find it easy to use. “The cost of exporting an average 3D model would be in the region of £200,” said Ritchie, adding that in terms of licensing Skape licenses 3D models for the duration of a project so that many engineers and third parties can use it.

Infoterra (Skape) is working with architects and engineering companies to provide point cloud data service. At this point it cannot actually import point cloud data but is working with clients. Skape's Bespoke Solution makes it possible to acquire point cloud data on the streets quickly and cost effectively.

9) Indoor Mapping

Trimble's Indoor Mobile Mapping Solution (TIMMS) translates indoor environments directly into 2D & 3D models of structured interiors. The product offers a way for building owners, facilities managers, engineers and construction professionals track and manage indoor assets and facilities.

Peter Canter, director Advanced Mapping and Imaging Systems for Applanix, a Trimble Company and wholly owned subsidiary of Trimble, said, “We recognize the general public is getting familiar with mapping and the opportunity that is wide open is learning to do indoors.” Applanix' core competency is in inertial positioning, so it was a natural place to begin. GPS indoors is still relatively new.

The TIMMS unit has wheels, and some of Applanix's computers are inside the cart. Lidar and a spherical camera are also included on the cart, as well as positioning sensors. The unit is designed to be pushed with one hand through interior space and maneuvered in and out of cubicles and small spaces. “100,000 square feet a day is not difficult for us, it depends on the building," said Canter. "We walk at about 1 meter per second and the lidar sees 50 meters in each direction for 360 lidar, and the cameras are 360 degree as well, and everything is georeferenced.”

All of the data TIMMS collects is also available in 3D. The mobile capability allows the user to go into spaces that would normally be difficult to get into. It's possible to use the TIMMS to go behind the desk, into all the cubicles, into closets. “It's important to be able to get into all spaces,” explained Canter. “You can do that with mobile scanning but setting up in every corner is too much work. But the other value proposition is more in how people use the data, if we can produce 2D and 3D datasets of buildings we've started to prove that you can optimize the management of building resources and all phases of the building lifecycle.”

TIMMS demonstrates some real value for BIM models, but Canter said there is a workflow involved in doing that. This involves taking the workflow at the Trimble level to georeferencing the data and then the other party vectorizes and attributes it and gets it into CAD models that work in BIM.

Much of the functionality used in TIMMS is existing Applanix workflow previously developed for airborne and land mapping.

10) ArchiCAD 14

The importance of BIM workflow was reiterated in the June release of ArchiCAD 14.

Graphisoft's Tibor Szolnoki spoke about ArchiCAD 14, which supports the BIM workflow with a specific focus on completing the integration of the architectural workflow with the engineering world. New tools to allow architects to quickly find the load-bearing structures using Find and Select functions with an intelligent filter are among the new features that help tools prepare the model for export to the structural engineer.

Much like Vectorworks' focus on AIA BIM standards, Graphisoft is focused on IFC format. “IFC is a generic format for interdisciplinary model exchange between theme applications and other applications. As a generic format, it's a very very data rich model format; because of its complexity, it needs a very precise setting for export and import,” according to Szolnoki.

By saving as IFC, architects will have a number of translators already. They can use the Revit Structure translator, and export the model according to the structural engineer's requirements. “For that we have to make one more thing on the Revit side so we created an add-on which is also free to download, an add-on for Revit to work with the IFC models on compatibility,” said Szolnoki.

The next step in the workflow is dealing with the structural engineer's model versions. In ArchiCAD you need to be able to reference the IFC files with those structural models is and be able to find the differences between the two versions of those IFC files. Because it's not a linear workflow, but a rapid workflow with many cycles and repetitions, what you really have to do is find the differences between two IFC files within ArchiCAD. “For that we have a new tool that is called Track IFC model Changes,” said Szolnoki.


Structural modeling as part of building information modeling, BIM workflows based on open standards and IFC standards, 3D cities, the link to a familiar interface such as SharePoint and ability for construction workers to work offline to access BIM, facilities management that owners can manage themselves or access on an iPhone or iPad, indoor mapping - a more accurate view of the interior landscape using geospatial imagery and point clouds - all suggest a convergence of technologies and a need for easy, fast access to information.

The need for greater computing power to manage large datasets and imagery, for CAD and BIM to be accessible on mobile devices ushers in the notion of the cloud. The need for more stakeholders to be able to access plant design information and BIM models has spawned facilities management and other tools that are easier to use. But most of all, readers have their finger on the pulse of what is most important for AEC: the focus on workflow, workflow, workflow and what that means on both a detail and big picture level - bottom line: how to make BIM a handier tool.

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