January 10, 2011
AEC 2011 – Looking Forward
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Phil Bernstein, vice president, industry strategy and relations, AEC Solutions, introduced the idea of “building awareness.” He said that Revit has had an uneasy relationship with other design tools because they are more aware of shapes and Revit has an awareness of building information modeling.” In other words, Revit is aware that a wall is a wall, etc. and has an ability “to reason as a subfolder.”

Prior to Vasari, massing analyses were not possible without building an entire Revit model. “We felt there was a gap in the marketplace around conceptual modeling overlaid with BIM,” said Bernstein. “Most conceptual modeling happens in Rhino and SketchUp. Google plays with it but none of these have building awareness. Vasari allows customers to strategize about building.”

Bernstein added that people don't buy copies of Revit to experiment, “it's a big emotional commitment and it's hard to make the value proposition to architects to even buy full blown Revit. We are looking to engage a generation of students with Vasari, which is more direct manipulation.”

There have been 80,000 downloads of Vasari so far. It is a free download with free energy analysis. Bernstein said people need lots of different ways to get to BIM, so perhaps there will be other avenues offered as well.

An area that has not really been addressed in BIM is operations & maintenance - 90% of the cost of the project occurs after the building is built. According to Bernstein, owners are starting to mandate BIM in anticipation of using it for operations and maintenance. The areas of facilities management, maintenance management, project information management and energy performance can be addressed by BIM. Partnering with IBM Maximo, assets are linked to graphical through a product called Project Dasher that can capture complexity of the data and manage energy performance.

We are seeing BIM used now not by architects, which is what we thought would be the case in its infancy, but by constructors and structural engineers as well.

On the other hand, the urgency to retrofit a crumbling infrastructure calls to those in the AEC workforce to make use of technologies such as BIM to save on time, money and rework on existing infrastructure projects in the years to come.

4. 3D Laser Scanning

Since 3D laser scanning has become more accessible both in cost and in implementation, we will begin to see an even greater adoption of this technology in 2011. The need to capture a lot of as-built data for retrofit and renovation of infrastructure projects makes 3D laser scanning an accurate, affordable way of being able to have information from structures that may or may not been constructed with CAD models. In the past point clouds were so difficult to manage that even if a company had them, getting them into a usable format to use with their CAD data or in a BIM model was extremely difficult. Autodesk's new Scan-to-BIM software will make it possible to take a scanned model
directly into a BIM model. Pointools is another product that can be licensed that makes it possible to embed point cloud data into such software programs as MicroStation and Autodesk BIM.

Scanners today can capture 1.3 million points per second, users can scan for hours, and consequently end up with billions of points in a model and very large files. The focus of Pointools is to create software capabilities for people who are going to be consumers of point cloud data rather than creators of point cloud data.

5. Mobile computing

This is not the first time in history we have had tablet computers, but never has there been the bandwidth to make them truly usable before. 2010 was possibly the year of the iPad, with numerous people adopting that technology largely for its connectivity, and ability to be used anywhere on jobsites or in the office. The graphics and usability also account for its popularity, and the fact that it has a bigger screen than a Smartphone.

Smartphones have also gained in popularity and capabilities, also influenced by greater bandwidth and connectivity.

The race is on this year at CES as vendors clamour to announce their latest tablet computer, outfitted with more capabilities than the iPad.

For AEC, this technology allows stakeholders and constructors to look at drawings and models in the field, in real time, getting the most up to date versions of all these files right away. There is less room for error and miscommunication when all involved parties can be looking at the same files at the same time from wherever they are located.

Carl Bass said at AU that mobile devices are putting pressure on the market. The proliferation of applications and platforms for mobile devices has been phenomenal, and will increase as more computing power and capability become available for such devices.

6. Sustainable Design

Because Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) account for 45% of the total carbon emissions in the world, building the world's cities with a lower carbon footprint is a strong imperative taken up by such organizations as the buildingSMART alliance and Architecture 2030.

Chris Pyke of the U.S. Green Building Council said at a recent conference that “Green building is not about buildings. It is about this curve - a systematic movement devoted to changing the prevalence of practice - by creating best practices. The curve is not spatial, temporal or data driven. The USGBC put in place a collection of people and practices to move the curve.”

One manifestation of green building is buildings, said Pyke. At least 30,000 buildings are in the pipeline, which represent decisions made about water, stormwater, lighting, air space, space, etc.

Over the last decade, people have understood we have a curve, we try to remove it by adopting best practices, while a building might last 50-200 years. The curve is made up of these decisions over time.

The next 15 years of green building practice is going to be

  • Driven by evidence
  • Informed by place
  • Powered by information.

  • USGBC has created a portal to understand spatial and temporal dimensions. The portal can expose “augmented reality” information of different actual real projects on the ground. It can capture real information on a real building, so that other projects can be measured by it and come up to its standards. This technology can also be accessed through the mobile BGIG Analyst.

    7. 3D Cities

    Linked with "Sustainable Design" is another growing interest -- 3D cities, which has gained a foothold as BIM has gained more traction in the market.

    For many years, both AEC professionals and GIS professionals have wanted to access data from each other's camps, with varying degrees of success. The value of GIS being used with BIM 3D models for 3D City development is only now being touched upon.

    The advantages of integrating a GIS based analysis within the design process are building energy, vehicle miles traveled, and developing a self-mitigating plan. Coupled with the greater ability to collect data and build 3D models today, the interest in building cities in 3D can only increase in the coming years.

    Software vendors such as Autodesk and Bentley have seemed like the most likely candidates to provide this type of technology from the engineering standpoint. For these vendors, the ability to be able to integrate GIS data into engineering workflows will add value to the resulting model.

    On the GIS side of things, Esri just offered its second GeoDesign Summit to address the ambitious vision of R&D in this area - the coming together of BIM and CAD and GIS. According to Bernie Szukalski of Esri, there is now technology of maps and tools that facilitate “GeoDesign.” (Check out ArcGIS.com and ArcGIS Online.)

    Sean William Morrish, University College, Dublin gave a talk on 3D modeling and Geodesign in which he said that they use lidar to take an inventory of streets and buildings in a city. One of the largest plans they are working on is to build a metro train from the city of Dublin to the airport which would be built on a glacial hill, which causes subsidence when you build a tunnel. The lidar scan of buildings also allows them to plan flight tracks. They used finite element analysis (ANSYS) tools to assign values to the structure itself, to see how it is affected by changes in land use, below
    and above ground, subsurface, etc.

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