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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Interview: Building Design Modeling at Bentley Systems

December 15th, 2017 by Susan Smith

This interview was conducted with Andy Smith director product management – Building Design Modeling and Santanu Das, senior vice president, Design & Modeling, at Bentley Year in Infrastructure 2017 thought leadership conference, Singapore.

Leighton Asia Hong Kong Boundary Crossing – BIM Advancements in Construction – Be Inspired Award Winner (photo courtesy of Bentley Systems)

If we in the U.S. get too provincial in our perspective of how building takes place, all we have to do is look at how the rest of the world approaches the same process. All the senior management tracks at the Bentley Year in Infrastructure 2017 Conference held in Singapore in October had something to do with buildings. Our interview spanned viewpoints on the building industry in Asia, to how customers will receive their product updates from Bentley, to “optioneering,” i.e., trying a thousand different iterations of a design to come up with the best one.

Do you find more people in Asia using more Reality Modeling than in the U.S.?

Santanu Das: Absolutely, it’s not even close. The reason is, for example in China, when they’re building cities, there are very few places in the world where they’re building new cities. They are building one in Shanghai.

When they survey out the entire piece of land, they’re flying a plane or drone, the government says, if there’s a thousand square kilometers that you guys have to fly over, they’re sectioned off into grids, and no one company can fly over the entire thousand kilometers.  So, this company has to fly this quadrant, and this one flies the next. In response, we’re selling ContextCapture to each one of those grids. So, because they’re doing cities, LiDAR and point clouds aren’t going to work. If you do photogrammetry you don’t need millimeter accuracy when you’re doing terrain over 500 km, even a foot is good enough. You see that adoption, regulation is a lot less there and they don’t have government regulations of flyover, data capture, conversions, like we do. You have to understand China makes rules – they need to build a city, and they look at what’s in its way. In the U.S., we have the FAA with strict regulations.

Their next big new city is the new Beijing capital. They’re moving the capital away from Beijing. to between Beijing and Tianjin. About 200 miles to the east, it is a USD $118 B project and they’re going to finish it in five years. There is no environmental impact report that needs to be done. There’s probably a 2 million population between those two locations. They are just going to tell residents you have two years to move, like eminent domain. 75% of our business comes from this part of the world for capturing reality.

Andy Smith: The ConnectEDITION products have had good adoption to date. The second thing we’re talking about is how we’re going to deliver product upgrades in the future. Instead of people having these monolithic upgrades we’re moving to a patch release. You can think of it like Adobe and Microsoft do updates on your computer. Moving towards that same mentality, we are going to start increasing our products’ capability that way. So, if we wanted to have a new way of placement or duct sizing, curtain walls, etc. our concept is to not have to have people download a huge file, but rather dividing software into an incremental update.

Santanu Das: The new CEO of Microsoft said Windows 10 is our last Windows. We will not have a Windows 11 – we will roll features incrementally into your Windows, so there will never be a necessity again to get a giant upgrade of Windows 11 that companies have to plan for years in advance, and there are major costs behind. Updates will come incrementally and won’t disrupt anything.

They don’t want monolithic updates anymore because these programs are getting huge. Cloud and bandwidth are getting better, the conduit is smoother now. You’ll get these updates, we’ll put tech features in there as well.

Andy Smith: In the world of software we have LumenRT, Descartes, GenerativeComponents (GC). I think we’re getting better at bringing this together with the concept of companion features and companion applications. So ConnectEDITION is a model and GC is a companion application. We’ve done a much better job of knitting in some of the capabilities directly in the product. We’ve addressed it in the user interface, and we’re now generating real building design objects with it.

LumenRT allows you to do the same, knitting it in and getting better workflows between these applications. Rather than running this one or that one, why can’t they just communicate with each other and operate when needed.

We want to simplify adhering to the name brands. When we say AECOsim Building Designer today, we want people to think it’s got new visualization tools, cloud based services, and a brand-new UI that makes workflow faster. Other things like GC are integrated in. A lot of people like that fact you can use it for sophisticated workflow, that scalability is really a big feature of ConnectEDITION. That’s why these city projects are perfect for Building Designer, as it aggregates building and road information together, and does clash detection, etc.

Some of the things we’ve worked on are ease of use of our products. When you launch a new ConnectEDITION products you see a whole.  You have welcome screen that provides you on the right-hand side the dashboard. In the center, we query against our own learning content, so when you come into ConnectEDITION describer. You get a popup on Welcome screen, saying hey, did you know we have this new space management layout. On the left-hand side, we have examples, what that allows firms to do is if you have standard procedure, you can embed that. So instead of just launching a product you get this kind of “good morning newspaper” about things that are going on.

Second approach you’ve heard about: ConnectAdvisor: how do I learn to route a duct, people don’t want to sit in a 2-day class to do that. It’s a data aggregation tool, so if you place a duct, so we look through our old note system for placing ducts, we can go to YouTube, we have 3 minute videos on placing ducts, or we can go to several sources to find that because we’re doing tagged content now, so we call it adaptive learning, don’t have to read a book about how to do it now.

Santanu Das: I can probably tell you that in Word, the features I used in 1990 are pretty close to the features I use today. I see all the widgets and buttons and don’t have time to investigate how to do things. I could be more efficient with the tools I have but I don’t have time to do it. What we’re doing with adaptive learning in ConnectAdvisor, is send an email at the end of each week, that says, you know we see you used bold italics quite a bit, we have a new tool called Paintbrush and if you just double click wherever you want to do bold italics. If we give this to the manager, saying there are inefficiencies in your project workflows, you may want to push these trainings out to them, maybe not now, but before they start the next project to use these features. That’s what we call recommendations in Adaptive Learning that are non-intrusive.

Andy Smith: We learned a lot from Amazon, who tracks your buying patterns, for example. Some of those notions can be applied to software so we can have a recommendation based on what you are working on.

Santanu Das: For the first time, we’re giving engineers the ability of optioneering. They can try a thousand different iterations and see which one is more economical, safer, energy efficient. In the past, we didn’t have the power and secondly, we didn’t have the time. We’ve cut all those things down because you don’t have to switch from Rhino and Grasshopper and come back it’s all there together. This will be a great advancement.

Andy Smith: Scenario Services for Optioneering is a way to filter against an object to look for the optimal performance area. It’s structural like in a roofing system, so you might want to know what are the performance metrics you’re looking for in designing something and looking for performance on a ProjectWise Scenario Service?

We have done more in ProjectWise in the last couple of years than we did in the previous ten.

Santanu Das: While going out for bids, they’re looking for a little bit more intelligent project proposal than just a sketch from SketchUp. They don’t want to use something like AECOsim Building Designer as that’s way too heavy for what they want to do. There needs to be something in the middle that if they do choose to, they can move to a detailed design to show the owner a drawing with some intelligence to it.

Andy Smith:  With ContextCapture we can go out and create a reality mesh, reference it inside Building Designer, and start building blocks. We can talk about designing in context, with raster reference files. You can get started quickly without having to have all the survey data.


References to entire cities being built in Asia:

Set to be complete by 2020, Nanhui will be a “satellite city” (kind of like an urbanized suburb) in the Pudong area of Shanghai. It’s over a decade in the making. Construction, including residential complexes, eight university campuses, a museum, offices, plazas, and retail began in 2003.  

Designed by the German architects Gerkan, Marg, and Partners, Nanhui New City plans to attract 800,000 residents and reportedly cost $4.5 billion.  

The Chinese government has spent billions of dollars constructing Yujiapu Financial District, nicknamed “China’s new Manhattan” (There are even skyscrapers inspired by Rockefeller Center and Lincoln Center). Construction on the 1.5-square-mile site started in 2008, and will total an estimated $30.4 billion.

Located outside Tianjin, it will feature 47 new residential and office towers when complete in 2019.

But so far, it may be shaping up to become a ghost city, full of half-built and rarely occupied skyscrapers, according to Bloomberg and CNN.  

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Categories: 2D, 3D, 3D PDF, AEC, AEC training, AECCafe, apps, architecture, Bentley Systems, BIM, building information modeling, collaboration, construction, engineering, field, field solutions, file sharing, generative design, infrastructure, integrated project delivery, IoT, lidar, MEP, mobile, plant design, point clouds, project management, reality capture, rendering, simulation, site planning, SITEOPS, SketchUp, sustainable design, video, virtual reality, visualization, Year in Infrastructure 2017, YII 2017, YII2017

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