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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 »

AECCafe 2017 Year in Review

December 21st, 2017 by Susan Smith

 Looking back over 2017, AEC milestones and ongoing challenges preside over the year. It was exciting this year to visit Singapore, a nation/state/city that is truly a “smart nation,” as well as a “smart city,” employing more technologies that are linked and integrated than generally used in design projects.

In terms of adoption of products, the year has seen many ways software companies help customers adopt new workflow processes, product releases and maintain upgrades.

Multi-discipline design with BIM Models

iModel 2.0 Cloud Platform from Bentley

Perhaps the biggest technology breakthrough announced at the Bentley Year In Infrastructure 2017 was that of iModel 2.0 Cloud Platform with its iModelHub Cloud service, designed to synchronize changes across disciplines.

CTO and EVP Keith Bentley and the Bentley team have been working on this development for the past five years, answering the need of customers to automate processes using many tools. “The question has always been, why is it so complicated? Each of those tools were defined and conceived to run only on the PC, and the format was to represent a piece of information created for a single program.”

iModels were invented to take all that information that is spread through many different kinds of files and provide a cohesive container to hold it all in. That part of the invention was successful, except that iModels are a snapshot of a point in time. If you needed to make a change you had to scrap the first iModel and make another updated one.

China Construction Sixth Engineering Division, Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin Tianhe-Cloud Building Engineering Technology Co., Ltd – Sanya New Airport Reclamation Project – Sanya, Hainan, China

“Now we have the concept of the cloud,” said Bentley. “The cloud is a collection of an infinite number of computers. The cloud allows us to store change. IModel Hub is a different way of thinking and stores change. If you want to do an iModel, now we can copy it and synchronize it with a new service iModel Hub, and keep track of whose changed what on your projects. It’s a radical new technology and completely different from any competitors’ approach.”

“We’ve engineered a way of producing it without changing the processes in workflows in BIM. We can simply overlay the iModel Hub. It’s ready for users to take advantage of.”

How is this accomplished? The state of the database is big, and the iModel changes are small. By hooking it through ProjectWise, it listens for any change made. A converter bridges and records the change in the database.

“We can also study change,” said Bentley.  “We might apply machine learning and may be able to predict when a project is going off the rails by noting changes.”

GitHub is a change management tool for source code and the genesis most likely for the iModelHub. Documents, models, ancillary information that are created by the engineer in the design session are stored there.

IModelHub is built specifically for the cloud, and is asynchronous. All it needs is to connect to the internet to synchronize its change data and you don’t need to have it on every computer. The Azure cloud is essential for doing this aligning and synchronizing.

It was an eye opener to feel the urgency with which Malaysia and southeast Asia view the adoption of the cloud for their infrastructure projects. It is not something accessed by a very few, but rather, a whole movement toward providing access and connectivity through the cloud, that was not possible in the past. It cannot come soon enough for these countries.

Director product management – Building Design Modeling at Bentley Systems Andy Smith spoke about the ConnectEDITION which is now available for almost all Bentley products., “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.”

Weather Prediction for Construction

One of the more interesting things Autodesk is doing is entering into partnership with ClimaCell. Rei Goffer, ClimaCell, CSO discussed with AECCafe Voice how ClimaCell is targeting the construction industry with their short-term weather prediction model. Why? “One-half the lifetime of a construction site is very weather sensitive, from the time they dig a hole for concrete, it’s a big factor on daily basis,” said Goffer. “We need to be able to plan accordingly and for each weather phenomenon. That’s why we’re addressing the construction industry.”

ClimaCell also addresses other industries. Goffer is one of three co-founders, with a background in aviation. All three co-founders come from military service where they were very affected by weather. “We knew there was a big gap in the provision of Weather data,” said Goffer.

“We are developing the world’s most accurate granular short-term prediction model,” Goffer said.  “So that basically construction site managers can’t get this from any other weather app or specialized server.”

What differentiates ClimaCell from existing weather data providers?

Goffers reports:

  1. Weather data – we have many more weather observations, at much higher quality than any other weather company.
  2. Better models – we developed proprietary models for short-term weather prediction, that are faster and more accurate than anything previously available.
  3. Computing power – we run our models on GPUs (Graphical Processing Units) rather than on CPU (standard processors), which gives us an edge in terms of competing time and resolution.”

Rapid Changes for Autodesk

At Autodesk University 2017, which I did not attend, the theme was: “Autodesk University 2017 to address the need to prepare the world’s workforce to make anything.”

A rather long theme, but nevertheless one that may further Autodesk’s desire to push the maker industry, with its own 3D printer and expansion into areas such as its partnership with Leica BLK360 3D scanner that integrates Autodesk’s ReCap Pro.

Usership of Autodesk products has not moved far from its roots in the AEC industry, so still the company’s most popular product advancements will be those that reflect that interest, and revolve around AutoCAD, Civil 3D and 3D scanner technology.

Autodesk did not have good third-quarter results, and before their announcement the software company cut 1,150 jobs, or 13% of its workforce.

BIM 360 Glue on Forge

According to Fortune, shares in the company (ADSK, -0.37%) fell 10.4% in after hours trading to $116.10 following the announcement.

“Through the restructuring, Autodesk seeks to streamline the organization and re-balance resources to better align with the company’s priorities,” Autodesk said in a statement.

This coincides with its focus shift to selling its products on subscription-only and cloud basis away from permanent licensure, a decision that does not sit well with some of its large user base. The plan is to get customers to pay monthly subscription fees for the software thereby taking away the personal ownership of a license, eliminating some of the initial cost.

Autodesk said the job cuts would cost it $135 million to $149 million. The company reported 5% growth in third-quarter revenue to $515 million. Losses narrowed to $119.8 million from $142.8 million.

Autodesk’s new CEO Andrew Anagnost spoke at Autodesk University to a crowd of about 23,000, stating, “If you don’t value subscription, you should probably find another software solution.”

Most other software companies offering CAD and BIM software retain their permanent or perpetual license options, knowing full well that a huge volume of CAD drawings are done in 2D, and those customers need a license rather than the burdensome subscription fee and loss of ownership. While the cloud and subscription-based only offerings have become popular among software providers, namely with companies like Adobe, they are not popular with all users and have met with some resistance, particularly from individuals and smaller shops. Some Adobe users have bought older versions of Adobe software to be able to avoid going on subscription.

Whenever you take something away, there is a void that needs to be filled by the absence of that something. Bricsys may be able to fill that void provided by Autodesk with their product line based on the .dwg format, with comprehensive workflows for general design, mechanical design and BIM. At their conference this year, Bricsys announced the extension of the .dwg format with the first fundamental change in .dwg technology in 35 years. In the new BricsCAD V18, you can access your drawing metadata simply with the improved Drawing Explorer and the new Content BrowserLayout Manager and Structure Panel using the simplified user interface.

And the Open Design Alliance has been there dedicated to making the .dwg format an open format since 1998. Notably, a new version of DWG has not been released by Autodesk for 2016 or 2017. Some industry watchers speculate this may be because of Autodesk’s desire to move customers over to a cloud-based subscription offering that doesn’t rely on the DWG foundation.

According to the ODA company materials, Teigha® was launched in 2010 as the new name for the ODA software development platform for CAD and other technical graphics applications. The Teigha brand encompasses all products and is the unifying concept for an environment that goes far beyond the reading and writing of .dwg and .dgn files. Teigha enables ODA subscribers to design and build applications for their customers.

This January, the Open Design Alliance (ODA) announced the availability of Teigha BIM for general licensing. Teigha BIM is the world’s first stand-alone SDK for working with Autodesk Revit files. Prior to this announcement, Teigha BIM was only available to top-tier subscribers. Now the product has import and visualization available for production use and broadens its reach to a greater public.

ODA customers are committed to open industry-standard formats for the exchange of CAD data and to the maintenance of valuable data stored by design systems. Building on their collective expertise and experience in data analysis, drafting, design, solid modeling and rendering, customers develop and use engineering applications across all areas of business, science and education.

Singapore Land Authority

Smart Cities and Nations

Building entire cities is actually happening in Asia. The adoption of technologies to realize cities takes place more quickly there than anywhere else in the world. A small nation/state/city such as Singapore is well poised to take advantage of and demonstrate this exciting new technology. Singapore will become a blueprint for larger nations to embrace a holistic view of building, incorporating all the requirements of a nation that it was not possible to do at the birth of most countries.

Chief executive of the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Tan Boon Kai, gave a keynote entitled “Towards a Geo-Enabled Smart Nation” at this year’s “Year in Infrastructure 2017” event in Singapore. He spoke about Singapore’s push towards being the “world’s first smart nation.” This involves improving the lives of citizens, creating more opportunities and building stronger communities.

Using good data, the government can carry out better measurements and improve the nation’s performance holistically. They have limited land, and it takes just an hour to get from the airport to the furthest point on the island. Their goal is to optimize land resources for the economic and social development of Singapore.

In supporting Smart Nation, Kai said they need digital transformation, to ensure interoperability, evolving from 2D to 3D and beyond.

What do we have to do to support digital transformation? Digital transformation enables us to deliver on service making and processes, said Kai.

2D is inadequate to represent high density development, so they must capture and create 3D datasets with a high level of detail. This is very important to allow environmental studies.

Smart Cadastre development is also a key data set of the country and processes. “All agencies use this data set,” said Kai. “Our cadastre system will in future be called Smart Cadastre, and hope it’s extended in 3D format. We hope it will improve productivity, decision making as well as do analytics.”

SIReNT GNSS Reference Stations are developed to ensure the country continually gets the best position from the system. It supports up to centimeter level positioning, navigation, and monitoring, and is an open system supporting both public and private users. “We need to constantly consider improving the integrity of this system,” said Kai.

OneMap 2.0 allows public users to download and obtain map data of Singapore, today it was upgraded from version 1. Developed inhouse, this solution is a complete open source environment, providing high quality geospatial information for all kinds of apps.

3D National Mapping is done in partnership with the water agency, public utilities, and aviation of Singapore, and for planning risk management and policy development. It involves capturing data at street level and phase 1 airborne laser scanning and imaging and phase 2, mobile laser scanning and imaging.

Terrain models and 3D mapping shown in the 3D City model for Virtual Singapore is in a virtual environment.

Massive amounts of data are collected for over 6,000 roads in Singapore. 3D models collect roads and street furniture, and support driverless vehicles of the future. Laser scanning for heritage documentation allows the country to protect their national monuments.

“We are looking at methodologies to allow us to capture models and manage underground networks to integrate above and underground 3D Map,” said Kai.

SLA is trying to create efficiency without manpower, as it is one of the ways to gather efficient data.

“SiRenT is our positioning system that allows us to gather data in real time,” said Kai. “How can we gather accurate real time data? We want to consolidate all the sensor data we have.”

The role of the electric utility allows SLA to monitor energy efficiency. The problem for telcos and energy companies is the need for consolidated ways to capture. Telcos in Singapore are privatized so there is an effort to get them to share their data. “We’re hoping we’ll be able to monitor consumption levels of energy and are  looking at ways to harness natural forms of energy,” Kai said.

“We need better insight into indoor infrastructure and how buildings are created as indoor data is critical for us,” said Kai. “You’ll soon be able to input BIM data, to increase the level of data you have.”

“Our challenges in Singapore in many government agencies, is how do you accurately capture the next generation of utility data underground, while ensuring today’s underground data is accurate?” Kai asked. “There’s no way of verifying underground drawings are accurate unless you dig.”

They will need to do more underground modeling, said Kai. Many countries share these challenges and if we can all find a solution in common, then technologies will be created to address the issue.

If these weren’t large enough challenges, Kai said they are working on driverless vehicle development, with SiReNT precise navigation capability for driverless cars.

Autonomous Driving

Technology for autonomous driving such as Sanborn 3D HD Maps and the navigation technology to operate driverless cars will change the landscape of our roadways and the workforce. While autonomous driving is in its infancy, the route to making that happen is becoming shorter with more supportive third parties jumping on board.

The problem for Sanborn HD Mapping Technology is to reduce unattainable time and costs of autonomous car testing.

Their outcomes have been as follows:

  • High-precision 3D base maps
  • Substantial reduction in production time
  • 3D mesh used in driving simulation tool
  • automotive partners visualize and analyze 3D models on the Web

2018 Vectorworks

2018 Vectorworks is a notable release from Vectorworks as it integrates analysis and design. Vectorworks CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar spoke with AECCafe Voice about the release of its 2018 Vectorworks software this year. The release includes Vectorworks ® Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, Designer and Fundamentals, as well as Vision. As part of the release, Braceworks™ is a new structural load analysis add-on module aimed for designers and riggers working on temporary entertainment structures.

Editable Section Viewports

Direct section and elevation editing and multi-view capabilities were introduced so that the plan is ready to go when you are finished with your 1-50 or 1-100 detailed view of a particular model. “All the linework, line thicknesses, cross section, merging of areas between different walls and slabs or walls and roofs, used to be touched up by hand and the users don’t need to do that anymore,” said Sarkar. “It takes a long time to do all that touch up work on line thicknesses and hatches. You can also grab all modeling entities like change windows or move some doors, height of clad or walls.

“The site model contours are now directly editable which they were not before. Users had reported that in previous versions, the contours, once in the site model, could not be edited and required various techniques to edit the site model. Now they have better control and are able to click to the points, do polylines and drag them together or one at a time.”

The integration of analysis and design is a defining feature of Braceworks. Braceworks added to the entertainment portfolio allows entertainment professionals to have an entire workflow from design through to production in one interface that includes Spotlight and Vision Software.

ARCHICAD’s New RFA & RVT Geometry Exchange Add-on

The very useful ARCHICAD new free RFA & RVT Geometry Exchange add-on works a bit like leveraging SketchUp objects from Google Warehouse.

RFA & RVT Geometry Exchange add-on enables ARCHICAD users to import RFA (Revit™ Families) into their ARCHICAD project as objects, including doors and windows.  It also enables the geometry exchange between Revit™ and ARCHICAD.

The intent of the add-on is to use with Revit Families that have a lot of content similar to Google Warehouse. “It works within ARCHICAD itself, and we have several clients who work with Revit users, primarily structural consultants,” said Clark. “BIM6x has been working with Graphisoft for over 20 years. “We believe in offering choices and options, this extends that into being able to import the Revit families. We can hotlink merging a Revit model or export it out, but it is basically just a geometry import or export to do a comparison of two models, by no means it is close to replacement for IFC workflow, as it can import or export only.”

With IFC you can work in the other models which this doesn’t allow.

In contrast, when an IFC file is exported out, walls in ARCHICAD become walls in Revit, and translate directly over. Whereas with an RVT import or export, it is similar to importing or exporting a SketchUp file.  “It’s a mass of geometry but there’s not an intelligent translation as with IFC,” explained Clark. “The actual production flow if we’re working on projects together is IFC, that’s the way to go. The add-on allows the export or import of the families for customers who want more access to manufacturer content.”

The users are seeing the files as objects, i.e., as doors windows, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, most RFA content up to 2018. They are non-intelligent objects. Native ARCHICAD objects are intelligent and stretchy.


Launched in June, an interesting new product, Konstru, is a central interoperability platform that automates the exchange of BIM data between analysis & modeling software tools. Konstru supports all your favorite and most popular design and analysis tools and allows them to communicate with one another.

The product was created by structural engineers and for structural engineers, in order to make this communication possible between BIM software programs. Konstru is a quick plug-in download that allows you to upload your current projects model to their secure cloud. It’s possible to exchange BIM data across multiple platforms, make necessary revisions, and visually understand everything that changed.

Konstru has an open API and modern API to allow for people have the flexibility to build their own use cases and develop apps for BIM without much programming language.

Konstru to Offer Interoperability Platform to Automate Exchange of BIM Data


The importance of workflow, integration and interoperability are foremost in most of the product announcements of this past year. While the technology of autonomous driving is exciting to look forward to, most AEC professionals are interested in ways to maintain their investment in software that has made possible their unique designs, to be able to convey their designs to others on the project team, and to know what features may be valuable to them in future.

It is the job of software providers to look ahead, to see the potential for smart cities and nations before governments are quite ready to implement it, and have the solutions ready for adoption when that time comes. Those solutions will be the underpinning of new cities that will have the advantage of the integration of solutions and Internet of Things (IoT), to potentially run entire systems such as rail, road, utility, buildings, etc. more seamlessly than has been possible before.

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Categories: 2D, 3D, 3D PDF, 3D printing, AEC, AECCafe, apps, Archicad, architecture, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, BIM, building information modeling, Civil 3D, civil information modeling, collaboration, construction, engineering, field, field solutions, file sharing, generative design, geospatial, holiday announcement, IFC, infrastructure, integrated project delivery, Internet of Things, IoT, lidar, mobile, mobile printing, plant design, point clouds, project management, reality capture, rendering, site planning, SketchUp, terrain, Vectorworks, virtual reality, visualization, wearable devices, Year in Infrastructure 2017, YII 2017, YII2017

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