January 04, 2010
Top Ten AEC Trends of 2009
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| by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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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.
“A new report found that nearly 50% of construction firms are using building information modeling tools. That’s an increase of 75% from last year, according to the McGraw-Hill Construction report. Benefits of BIM include increased productivity and profitability, observers say. However, they also note that, at this point, BIM has a limited impact on green building processes.” Environmental Leader (09/23)
-ASCE Smartbrief (09.25.09)
8) 3D printing. In the past three years, 3D printing has found its way into the AEC space, offering a more efficient way to produce physical models of buildings and parts of buildings for that marketplace. Originally designed for the MCAD market, 3D printing is now a permanent resident in AEC firms whose clients want a physical representation of their building, either in the design stages or after the building has been completed – as something to display under glass in the lobby or atrium.
2009 saw the introduction of models that can now fit on the desktop, are said to be easy to use and environmentally friendly enough to not impinge on the space around them with unused powders and toxic emissions.
9) Building Product Manufacturing
Two products that address the inclusion of manufactured products into architectural design, demonstrate the direction not only of sustainable design requirements but also of the need for product information inside building information models and to be able to extract that information for the marketing purposes of building product manufacturers.
1) ecoScorecard introduced its new plug-in that works with Google SketchUp and provides a link between BIM tools and environmental rating systems such as LEED, GGHC Labs 21, CHPS, the NAHB Green Home Building Guidelines and other third-party product certifications.
Designers thousands of unbillable hours on some projects researching and calculating the contributions specific products will make toward achieving LEED points.
ecoScorecard can do this on-the-fly. A web-based tool accessed through a participating manufacturer’s website, ecoScorecard is said to automate the process for searching, evaluating and documenting any available product catalog against every rating system in North America and Canada - in 30 seconds or less.
2. Autodesk reports that US $5-$10 billion a year is spent on marketing by building product manufacturers.
Scott Hale, vice president, Consulting Services for Avatech Solutions, reports that in one year the market for linking architects with building product manufacturers has “exploded.” Addressing that market is Autodesk Seek, which incorporates information from Project Showroom and Project Dragonfly.
The advent of Seek is right on target with the need to bring product information into the Revit model and to be able to share it out with other decision makers.
Autodesk Seek is a pipeline, accessible right on the desktop, to get data from 3D models to a wide audience. Manufacturers can make the information available on their websites, complete with visualization and simulation capabilities.
Both Project Dragonfly and Project Showroom are set up so homeowners can select products they’d like to have in their homes through Seek. Over 1,000 manufacturers are in Seek at this time. Kitchen appliance manufacturer,
, has incorporated the same downloadable files that are on Seek onto its website. Customers can drag and drop images of such items as ovens into their Revit project using Seek. All data comes from Seek and is modeled in 3ds Max, and is comprised of many cached images.
The Dacor website is an example of how architects can search Seek to put products right in front of their customers.
10) Energy and Building Performance
Energy and building performance will be an important component of all big infrastructure projects of the future. Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, said the U.S. building sector, comprised of 300 billion square feet, accounts for nearly half of all U.S. energy carbon emissions and 3/4 of its electricity consumption.
According to Architecture 2030 research, by 2050, 75 percent of the nation’s current built environment will be either new or renovated.
On January 21, Chu, a Nobel laureate physicist and big proponent of energy efficiency, was sworn in as secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy. Chu is committed to the research and development of new energy technologies, which may include fuel efficient vehicles as well as efficiency in buildings and appliances. As director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, he was responsible for heading up research on biofuels and solar energy technology. Chu’s 1997 Nobel Prize was awarded in physics for developing ways of cooling and trapping atoms with lasers.
Chu’s focus on energy efficiency is integral to the President’s Economic Stimulus Package, so that in designing and retrofitting the infrastructure over the next years, so that new jobs can be created from the need for cleaner air, more energy efficient buildings and more efficient use of space.
Last year at this time,
Inside Out: Five AEC Challenges for 2009
– those challenges were listed as:
- Energy efficiency and Sensors
3D VisualizationThis year, we have heard less about data integration, and 3D visualization seems to be on its way to being incorporated into building processes.
For 2010, I would suggest that AEC challenges for 2010 would include:
- Energy efficiency and Sensors
Doing more with lessAlliances, Agreements, Acquisitions
Sivan Design has recently signed new distributions agreements with major CAD value added reseller and training center in USA and Canada.
USA – ALACAD
With offices in Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, AL, Jackson, MS and Chattanooga, TN, ALACAD is a 20 years best value-added reseller and training center of Autodesk® 2D and 3D design and modeling software throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
Canada – Autodraft
Autodraft is an award winning Authorized Reseller and Training Centre, providing computer aided design and drafting solutions to companies in Western Canada since 1983. Customer service is the backbone of Autodraft's success.
Dexter + Chaney and Business Network Consulting (BNC) have formed a strategic alliance in which BNC will market Dexter + Chaney’s Spectrum Construction Software to construction companies in North Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. BNC will be the local Spectrum/Dexter + Chaney sales representative for heavy/highway, electrical, general/commercial, utility, mechanical/hvac/plumbing, telecommunications and materials handling contractors in that region.
Autodesk, Inc. has announced that its online Education Community has grown to one million student and educator members representing over 28,000 educational institutions in 147 countries since its launch in 2006.
Bentley Systems, Incorporated, the leading company dedicated to providing comprehensive software solutions for the infrastructure that sustains our world, today announced that the digital version of The Year in Infrastructure 2009 is immediately available at
, and print copies are available upon request at
Sketchup Sun Position Plugin Version 1.2 by Cerebral Meltdown will draw the path that the sun travels during a 24 hour period. It is fully customizable in that you can choose any location on earth or any date.
The export add-ons from ArchiCAD 12 and ArchiCAD 13 to Artlantis 2 and Artlantis 3 have been uploaded and are available
. Please download these latest add-ons for increased quality and ease of use.
Oracle announced the availability of Oracle SQL Developer Release 2.1, the latest release of the popular database development and migration tool.
A free, comprehensive tool, Oracle SQL Developer Release 2.1 introduces two new key capabilities -- PL/SQL Unit Testing and Data Modeler Viewer -- in addition to a slew of enhancements to the software overall. The new features and enhancements to Oracle SQL Developer Release 2.1 come in response to requests and input from the Oracle SQL Developer community.
IMSI/Design announced it is releasing DoubleCAD™ XT Pro v2. Version 2 is being released in the same calendar year as Version 1 due to a rapid development pace that is unique among major CAD vendors.
Structure Studios is very pleased and excited to announce that 2D AutoCAD® files can now be imported directly into VizTerra landscape design software. Within minutes, a standard 2D AutoCAD file can be transformed into a fully interactive 3D presentation. The latest update introduces a new feature which allows information from DWG files, the native file format for Autodesk's AutoCAD software, to be copied directly into VizTerra projects. This feature also allows for DXF files to be imported. This new feature makes it easy to quickly import templates, landscaping symbols, and whole 2d design projects from the AutoCAD software into VizTerra.
Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) introduced version 6.5 of its Trimble(R) RealWorks(TM) software. The software provides an intuitive and efficient solution for integrating 3D laser scanner data into the plant lifecycle work process. Version 6.5 includes new features for the rapid management of 3D data including an automated target extraction and registration function for data collected with the Trimble FX(TM) and Trimble CX(TM) 3D laser scanners. The automation significantly reduces the data processing time which can improve productivity.
Around the Web
Autodesk Labs released an update to the Project Blustreak technology preview. More information about Project Bluestreak can be found at
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-- Susan Smith, AECCafe.com Managing Editor.