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Archive for December, 2009

Targeting building product manufacturers

Monday, December 14th, 2009

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 – “Anecdotal research shows that designers spend hundreds if not thousands of unbillable hours on some projects researching and calculating the contributions specific products will make toward achieving LEED points.

What if you could do it on the fly? Take a chair, put a fabric on it, calculate the final assembled product. Done! Change the fabric, recalculate. Done!

ecoScorecard can do that. A web-based tool accessed through a participating manufacturer’s website, ecoScorecard automates 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.

….ecoScorecard just introduced its new plug-in that works with Google SketchUp and provides a link between popular BIM (Building Information Modeling) tools and environmental rating systems such as LEED, GGHC Labs 21, CHPS, the NAHB Green Home Building Guidelines and other third-party product certifications.”

2) Autodesk Seek

Autodesk Seek incorporates information from Autodesk’s Project Showroom and Project Dragonfly. Autodesk reports that US $5-$10 billion a year is spent on marketing by building product manufacturers.

According to Scott Hale, vice president, Consulting Services for Avatech Solutions, in one year the market for linking architects with building product manufacturers has “exploded.” 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 embodies photographs and visualization to help building product manufacturers get products to their market. Seek is a pipeline to get data made into 3D models to a wide audience accessible right on the desktop. Manufacturers can make the information available on their websites.

Both Project Dragonfly and Project Showroom are set up so homeowners can select tools that they’d like to have in their homes through Seek. Over 1,000 manufacturers are in Seek at this time, and the same downloadable files are available in one manufacturers’ site currently, that of the kitchen appliance vendor, Dacor. Customers can drag and drop such items as ovens into their Revit project using Seek. Project Showroom has allowed Dacor to enhance their experience with digital models. All data comes from Seek and is modeled in 3ds Max, and is comprised of many cached images.

Q&A with Autodesk’s Carl Bass

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Carl Bass outlined the advantages of web-based computing in a Q&A session with the press on Tuesday at AU:

1) Project Twitch can run computers within a computerized data center. The user is experiencing a desktop application, and he describes it as “a really really long monitor cable.”

2) Side by side two people can co-edit simultaneously. A native application actually manages data on a server, with multiple people accessing it, and the client is just a browser. Software is designed from the ground up and deployed that way.

Project Dragonfly similar to the co-editing in that it’s native, written for the web, and deployed on servers.

“One places an opportunity for all of us to use the computing power that’s avialable for a web based model, for peak demand loading, for rendering animation and simulation and analysis,” Bass pointed out. “What if you could run a hundred Moldflow applications and the whole thing takes an hour?”

Bass said within three to five years, we will all be running variants of this and most software will be deployed this way.

Apple Mac – Bass pointed to the rising market share of the Mac, and the fact that they see a lot of Apple hardware running Microsoft. Also there are more Macs in entertainment than anything else. At one point Autodesk stopped developing AutoCAD for the Mac because there wasn’t enough user interest.

Most people have no idea that there is so much 3D in AutoCAD. The other 3D products from Autodesk have some other conceptural model underlying them. AutoCAD LT is strictly a 2D documentation system. Bass also talked about offering products at four different price points: Sketch, AutoCAD LT, AutoCAD and Project Cooper.

He said the market is changing, manufacturing is picking up faster and media and entertainment is also picking up. AEC is trailing because it will take longer for the construction business to recover.

He mentioned that about 6,000 people attended the physical AU and 16,000 people attended online. He also said he thought there would always be a reason to hold a physical conference.

Bass said relative marketshare for Autodesk in AEC was approximately 50%, manufacturing 35%. Autodesk has reduced the number of individual products by a third, and has moved a number of products together into suites.

When asked about interoperability, Bass said, “The way people work today they have less need for interoperability, but we will exchange file formats with anybody. They’re adequately served, and many companies are investing in translators.”

What is AEC? at Autodesk University

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

At a press breakfast this morning at AU, Phil Bernstein, FAIA, Vice president of industry strategy and relations for AEC, talked about what AEC was now at Autodesk.

Last year, AEC was comprised of building and Civil. Now the AEC division is comprised of building, infrastructure, plant and civil, with civil expanded to include water, wastewater and utilities.

What is somewhat unclear is that in the past, water, wastewater and utilities were under the heading “infrastructure,” but it seems infrastructure has a broader meaning now in the AEC space.

Bernstein said construction is a “significant growth opportunity for us.” The main business globally for all AEC software firms is in renovation and retrofit, as no one is building anything new. Autodesk is selling a lot of Revit and Navisworks into the construction market now.

Bernstein cited MEP as a “high growth area” that has been under penetrated, “AutoCAD MEP is already big, now we have to catch up with Revit MEP.”

Paul McRoberts, VP of infrastructure, described how Map 3D and Topobase are used to aggregate and reconcile data for reporting back out. Map and Topobase are used for records management and planning for property management. Visualization will be huge in transportation, he said. LandXplorer can create visualizations of cities and roads in very little time.

Roberts talked about utilizing weather data in Green Building Studio for design purposes, looking at erratic temperatures, rainfall, floods; all those weather peculiarities that can impact design and ways to predict them.

Bernstein talked about two projects that showcase Autodesk’s use of BIM and Integrated Project Delivery technologies:

1) Recent completion of the AEC Autodesk Headquarters in Waltham, MA, which cost $12 million to set up, with extensive use of BIM, sustainable design principles and IPD. The headquarters comprises 55,000 square feet and is a LEED Platinum design, built in eight months using all Autodesk tools.

The benefit of this project to the Autodesk team was that they worked very closely with the design and construction teams. The project is being used  to teach organizational change at Harvard.

2) Research project with the National Building Museum – this museum was laser scanned inside and out, then point clouds are captured in AutoCAD, converted to surface objects and then converted over to Revit.

The federal government has allocated $30 million to document existing federal buildings. There is a large amount of Stimulus money going into renovating federal buildings, as President Obama has mandate that the U.S. become carbon neutral in the year 2010 and to achieve zero carbon by 2030.

A lot of this discussion was repeated during an AEC Keynote held just after the breakfast, with the addition of more details on case studies and the plant and process sector, which I will expand upon in more detail in future writings.

The big five design technologies

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

At this morning’s Autodesk University General Session/Welcome Address Keynote event, one of the first things I heard an attendee say: “I’m one of thousands of architects in San Francisco looking for a job.”

This was followed by Autodesk evangelist Lynn Allen announcing an Elvis clone singing an Elvis song with Autodesk-centric lyrics about a disclaimer that new products discussed are not intended as promises of products to come. No photo-taking was allowed at this event, which was rather unusual.

Then CEO Carl Bass said that he was encouraged by “signs that the economy is getting better.”

He added that in talking to customers around world they say their primary challenge is in trying to stay competitive. Because of the tough economy and more complex projects, customers need to work more efficiently.

Using a timeline, Bass showed how successful technologies move from impossible to impractical, then possible, then to expected and finally to required in a continuum. He pointed out that flying was considered impossible except by those like Leonardo Da Vinci. It’s required in today’s society. Timing of the technology is a critical factor, if it’s too early, it won’t be embraced, people aren’t ready for it; if it’s too late, it misses the boat. He gave the example of the Newton PDA which was ahead of its time, while now it’s almost required that everyone have a mobile phone with a lot of features. In this continuum there is a sweet spot.

Five design capabilities or technologies are currently moving from impractical into the sweet spot, said Bass:

Exploration, analysis, storytelling, collaboration, and access.

The technological development accelerating these technologies is cloud computing – or web based computing, which is “becoming as cheap and reliable as electricity, so we can take greater advantage of computing power,” said Bass. It is a very big platform shift, and he said a shift like this comes along every ten to 20 years – that changes the way we use computers and do design and engineering work.

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