Top Ten AEC Technology Trends Review for 2008
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Top Ten AEC Technology Trends Review for 2008

Welcome to AECWeekly! AECWeekly will be taking a break during the holiday season. We will resume publication January 12, 2009. AECCafe and AECWeekly wishes to extend best wishes and holiday greetings to all readers and supporters this season. See you next year.

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AECWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Top News of the Week, Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances, Announcements, New Products, and Upcoming Events.

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Industry News
Top Ten AEC Technology Trends Review for 2008
By Susan Smith

As we look back on 2008, probably right now the trend that is foremost in most people’s minds is the current economic crisis. With impending bankruptcy in the automotive industry, banks not providing loans, 330,000 jobs lost just in the last quarter, and these cataclysmic events rolling like a tidal wave at other countries’ shores, it’s hard to predict what will happen next or what President-Elect Obama will be able to achieve once he attains office.

One thing is certain, the Obama team did say they would make funds available for jobs for infrastructure, but how that will play out, is very difficult to predict.

Fortunately, the AEC market has been moving steadily toward providing tools that can support the future. Armed with the knowledge that yes, indeed we do have global warming, lack of engineers, an economy crisis and must provide materials and processes for green building, integrated project delivery process, interoperability, we can rest assured there are organizations, vendors, technology and standards in place to build stronger more energy efficient infrastructure than in the past.

Over the year AECWeekly has covered the following trends and topics that we consider our top ten:

1) Building Information Modeling

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Although BIM has been talked about for a number of years now, we are beginning to see actual projects benefit from the use of BIM. At Autodesk University, a number of third party partner/vendors announced or released their new BIM offerings, more than in past years, demonstrating a firm commitment to that process and a knowledge of what needed to be targeted for successful BIM implementation.

Avatech Solutions launched their BIMreview for Autodesk Revit that finds inconsistencies in a model and automates the manual process of correction for BIM. Avatech reports that the 64 bit version of Revit is used a lot now, and during the AEC keynote, 60% of attendees raised their hands when asked how many were Revit users,.

The company also offers free Revit Utilities for automation of design tools.
Autodesk signed an agreement to acquire all of the assets of BIMWorld, a privately-owned business specializing in the production and distribution of branded BIM content for building product manufacturers. Autodesk plans to combine BIMWorld with Autodesk Seek, its online source for building product design information

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IES’ claim to fame is its suite of building performance analysis tools directly integrated with Revit Architecture and Revit MEP via their plug-in toolbar. Perhaps more importantly, the company’s strategy is to provide software for different levels: a free VEware for small companies doing sustainable design who aren’t going to buy Revit. If they can use free SketchUp and free VEware together they can save 5% on their designs, according to founder and CEO Dr. Don McLean, and can learn to create more sustainable designs for the built environment. The company has also recently announced Architectural Suites which are for architects only and aims to bring architects “up a notch” regarding sustainable design.

Boulder, Colorado-based Vico Software offers a Virtual Construction Suite that offers 5D technology to improve the workflow of the design, construction, and management processes. Released in early November, the product gives contractors a 3D perspective of the model while extending a 3D BIM model to 4D for scheduling and time and 5D for costing. At AU, Vico announced its partnership with Autodesk, which allows for Vico’s 5D Virtual Construction solutions and services to be integrated with Autodesk technology.

The company also announced an export feature to field layout solutions from Trimble which will allow users to use the BIM process in the field by accessing Vico’s software with Trimble field layouts.

BIMStorm LIVE! was presented by Onuma Inc., Pasadena, Calif., at Ecobuild Fall Exhibition in Washington, D.C. BIMStorm, conceived of by Kimon Onuma, FAIA, principal and BIM evangelist and his firm, ONUMA Inc., both an architectural firm and a software company, explore open standards to facilitate building projects with their revolutionary BIMStorm approach to architecture.

Since the mid 90s, ONUMA has been involved in using BIM in an innovative way, focusing on the information in BIM, which allowed the company to collaborate with teams worldwide on projects. They employ the ONUMA Planning System or OPS, developed by ONUMA, a BIM Model Server and editor.

Using open standards, Onuma said they look beyond the envelope of the building to how it ties to the enterprise and the whole portfolio. All organizations have trouble managing existing infrastructure, and planning for the future. “How do we predict what we need when it’s a constantly moving target with the challenges we’re faced with as far as technology, budget, requirements, the world?” asks Onuma.

The Model Server uses the open standards of the web to make the entire BIM model accessible to users, without them having to download the entire BIM and then open it in client applications, an unwieldy process at best. Data such as municipal GIS and parcel data and analysis data can be also translated and imported into the Model Server to be used by BIMStorm participants.

2) Bentley/Autodesk Interoperability Agreement

Probably the most historic announcement made this year for AEC was the Bentley and Autodesk agreement to expand interoperability between their portfolios of architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) software. The agreement stated that Autodesk and Bentley will exchange software libraries, including Autodesk RealDWG, which Autodesk uses to read and write in their own products, “to improve the ability to read and write the companies' respective DWG and DGN formats in mixed environments with better accuracy.” As a result, Bentley will be able to work directly with the Autodesk code to read and write DWGs. In the other direction, Bentley has exchanged comparable DGN libraries with Autodesk.

According to Chris Barron, vice president, Corporate Marketing, Bentley, “It’s been acknowledged that Autodesk’s handling of DGN files hasn’t been quite as smooth as our ability with DWG, so I think this will improve the fidelity of Autodesk users’ ability to access DGN files.”

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass concurred in a press conference at AU that Bentley and Autodesk share many customers in common, “they are our largest third party developer. “We’re willing to share data with any vendor in the industry regardless of size.”

The two companies will also facilitate the work process interoperability between their applications by supporting the reciprocal use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This should improve AEC workflows so that information can be reused by more stakeholders in the AEC process, and project teams will be able to access more software possibilities.

In response to this news, many users in both camps say “it’s about time.”

3) Emerging Market Standards

In a recent interview, Beau Turner, director of Business Development for Avatech Solutions, said that their consulting firm has experienced a considerable increase in emerging market standards which are “driving more services.” 85% of their revenue is now derived from business services, and the company is developing more services to address these standards, which include IFC, LEED, buildingSMART Alliance and the National BIM Standard and ISO 15926.

At the BE conference this year, Rebecca Flora of the U.S. Green Building Council Flora cited three key areas of green building delivery:

She said that we need to be more involved at the federal, local and state levels in changing public policy. Although LEED is adopted internationally, the LEED model still doesn’t adapt everywhere, so work must be done to share the model more globally.

4) Creating Flat Liability on Projects

A recent study conducted by Bruce Jenkins of Spar Point Research, funded by software company Newforma, Inc., entitled “Mitigating Risk in AEC Project Execution: Perspectives from Principals, Counsel and Insurers,” took a fresh look at the industry from three stakeholder viewpoints.

The study takes into account risk sources for A/E firms, the search for solutions in the form of business practices and supporting technologies, and possible avenues to mitigating risk. Spar Point interviewed five principals of leading A/E firms, three prominent legal professionals who are closely involved with the AEC industry and three insurance professionals that specialize in A/E risk management.

Fear of liability and strong aversion to risk exposure were cited as the primary cause of the industry’s declining productivity. Lack of communication between different parties involved in projects has been ensured by the compartmentalizing of responsibility. The maintenance of business processes and project execution processes that further isolation between the different parties has become the norm as it allows each party to shift accountability to others in the asset-creation value chain. This situation, in which fear is wagging the dog’s tail, so to speak, has characterized the industry and fragmented the value chain, which in turn causes more things to go wrong in the end.

The research in this study suggests that a greater exposure to liability could in fact reduce the likelihood and severity of problems on projects. Many industry professionals are looking at a move away from the old practices of avoiding liability and shifting risk, to ways of controlling risk. This involves consciously increasing risk exposure in order to control risk and see where problems arise.

5) Nemetschek Goes to Parasolid

Nemetschek announced that they are including the Siemens PLM Parasolid engine as the new foundation for 3D in their product, Vectorworks 2009. For those unfamiliar with Parasolid, it is a solid modeling engine made by Siemens’ PLM that is used by over 350 of the world’s software applications.

Nemetschek has taken a closer look at BIM, to note that architects are not using it.
“Architects are not going to get paid more for using BIM,” said Sean Flaherty, CEO of Nemetschek North America. “The only way to adopt it is for them to see what good it does them. They don’t get paid more because it costs the owner less.” Until now, BIM has not added much to the conceptualization stage of the process, so why, indeed, would it interest architects?

What does work for architects is free form modeling, which has become one of Vectorworks’ key strengths in the marketplace, particularly in the AEC space, Flaherty noted. Free form shapes then make modeling more complex, but to represent this cutting edge architecture, BIM is needed.

This is the second time Nemetschek has switched the kernels; eight years ago they switched from GSS to Solid++, and now to Parasolid. With 2.5 million seats, the Parasolid toolkit is easy to embed, in fact, Bentley Systems uses it.

Parasolid will allow Vectorworks to more easily handle the increasing complexity in the BIM market space. “We are the least expensive Parasolid modeler on the market now and we are the only Mac Parasolid modeler in AEC,” Flaherty said.

6) Algorithmic Design

GenerativeComponents (GC), derived from Bentley’s first Applied Research Group, is now a commercial product utilizing algorithmic design, offered with the purchase of MicroStation or individually. Fostered by community based development, the product was quickly embraced by architects who wanted to explore a range of alternatives cost effectively. Those enthusiastic users have gone on to become the SmartGeometry Group.

Autodesk’s inaugural Design Computation Symposium promotes new ways of working with Autodesk tools to do algorithmic design and will have products to demonstrate in 2009. Algorithmic design is another way in which designers can access new options and ideas. What parametric design allows is an ability to preserve the relationship between elements in digital models, which has given architects more control over their designs, according to Autodesk's CEO Carl Bass. In parametric design, users can generate a range of options, however, with algorithmic design, designers are now programming to write algorithmic strips.

Neil Katz, architect at Skidmore Owens Merrill, said that algorithmic design allows you to do things you couldn’t do before, such as balance performance analysis with aesthetic goals. In designing a hypersonic vehicle for Boeing, it was discovered that using traditional methods could only explore a limited number of options, while using algorithmic design could explore many options. The final vehicle was shaped in a counterintuitive way, “not the way they would’ve come up with on their own,” noted Carl Bass, and worked better than others.

7) 3D Printing for the AEC Market

It seemed as though the creation of physical architectural presentation models had become passe, but now they are enjoying new life with the advent of 3D printing technology. Architects, engineers and contractors can now make use of 3D printers “from conceptual design through construction,” according to Z Corporation’s literature. These models are highly accurate and detailed, and take far less time than hand hewn designs of the past. The company announced their Zprinter 650 this year, which can create massing models printed directly from CAD and BIM data, and do iterations of detail components for a design study. ZCorp printers have the distinction of being the only ones that print in color currently, which is useful for presentation models.

Other 3D printing and rapid prototyping vendors who are showing their faces at AEC conferences this year include: Dimension 3D Printing, FARO Technologies, Objet Technologies and RedEye RPM.

8) Digital Cities

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As part of Autodesk’s Digital Cities initiative, Autodesk launched its infrastructure modeling offering, LandXplorer, which derives from the acquisition of 3D Geo GmbH of Potsdam, Germany, the privately held maker of intelligent 3D urban modeling software. An out of the box product, LandXplorer allows a city to create a city or infrastructure model in a very short time, according to Doug Eberhard, senior director and industry evangelist for Autodesk. A 3D infrastructure model can be created within 30 minutes. In addition to supporting AutoCAD products, LandXplorer brings in 3ds Max for buildings and texture mapping.

Not only does LandXplorer appear to offer some real value to both CAD and GIS users, Autodesk is hoping that it will alter the mentality of users by allowing them an expanded level of data sharing.

LandXplorer is definitely an ambitious attempt to merge these different worlds into an interactive picture of infrastructure that has not been possible before. Autodesk’s history of providing tools for infrastructure has always been impressive, but the problems of interoperability have stood in the way of combining data from CAD and GIS.

9) Integrated Project Delivery Process

Growing out of BIM, GIS and “interoperability” is the move toward “integrated project delivery process.” At the BE Conference in May, Louis Hecht of the OpenGIS Consortium spoke on the topic, “The GIS and BIM Convergence: Broadening Interoperability with Standards,” citing three areas standards need to address: things, business process and coordination.

The integrated project delivery process is being adopted across the board, said Hecht. “Open standards means agreeing on a common definition of terms and names, attributes, properties and information,” he quoted. Open standardization also means agreeing on a common means of communication.

With regard to open interfaces and interoperability, he said that it’s about balancing users’ needs for compatibility with autonomy and heterogeneity of interoperating systems. “We need to agree on a definition of open interfaces.”

The buildingSMART Alliance, the OGC and Sponsors of the AECOO (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner and Operator) Testbed issued a Request for Quotation (RFQ) and Call for Participation (CFP) for the AECOO-Phase 1 Testbed.

The OGC and buildingSMART are collaborating on the AECOO Testbed to address the productivity problems in the AEC industry which are fragmented by professions and skills.

“Testbeds yield accelerated alignments of industry on solutions using open standards,” explained Hecht. The feedback then goes back to the standards bodies.

Another challenge is to coordinate the testbed with other standards such as IFC. A testbed results in a prototype/alpha software with interoperability “baked in.” It is then submitted to the standards organization knowing that it works in the software.

AECOO-1 strives to incorporate:

Hecht said that anyone can join the testbed. For more information click here.

10) Cloud Computing

Computing power is greater this year than ever before. Cloud computing enables organizations to take advantage of and provide internet services without having to own infrastructure themselves. This capability alone opens up all kinds of possibilities. When organizations own their own infrastructure, they need hardware and bandwidth that is not always being used, but they still have to pay for it. By using Amazon Cloud services, Microsoft Live Mesh or others, companies can effectively pay for what they use. If the company has a peak period where they need more machines for a set period of time, then automatically new computing resources are spun up just as part of the service that the cloud computing provider gives them and that’s what they pay for. But the rest of the time when the company has less bandwidth requirements and less processing, they only pay for the actual CPU, bandwidth and disk storage used.

For developers and others who may want to put a service out on the market, but are not too sure how well it will do, it would be better for them not to invest in hardware and bandwidth initially and instead use the cloud. For the AEC market, the cloud can deliver a video stream very quickly with almost no hardware on the cloud and users can create models while still working with their desktop applications.

Conclusion

Obviously, AEC technology and computing power cannot solve all the world’s problems, but it’s comforting to know that as we head into a new year, technology is poised to take on new initiatives of building infrastructure, whatever they may be.

Top News of the Week

TurboSquid in conjunction with Autodesk Seek, the online source for building product design information, have launched Revit Market, a marketplace for users of Autodesk's Revit Platform for building information modeling (BIM) to browse, buy and sell user-generated Revit content through a TurboSquid-powered marketplace.

Intergraph has released its newest SmartPlant Enterprise solution for quickly and efficiently producing industry-standard pipeline isometric drawings for small piping projects. The most recent version of Intergraph’s industry-leading piping isometric sketching software increases engineering productivity with expanded capabilities, including a SmartPlant-style user interface, concurrent engineering of multi-pipelines, instant 3D visualization, display of dimensions, and enhanced selection and editing tools.

Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances


Autodesk, Inc. announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of BIMWorld, a privately-owned business specializing in the production and distribution of branded BIM content for building product manufacturers. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Michael Baker Corporation is now a TREES customer and strategic partner with TRIRIGA, provider of real estate life cycle management software and developer of TREES (TRIRIGA Real Estate Environmental Sustainability). TREES, launched in April 2008, is the industry’s first and only integrated real estate management/sustainability system to measure, manage and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Baker will apply the system internally to assess its real estate portfolio’s carbon footprint and make strategic real estate decisions, as well as offer services to clients with the goal of improving long-term environmental, social and economic performance.

Advanced Solutions, Inc., a full service Autodesk Premier Solutions Provider, has developed a partnership with Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) Ltd. to provide green building tools to its customers. IES tools integrate directly with the Autodesk Revit software platform for building information modeling (BIM). The focus of IES is to provide innovative analysis solutions that contribute to the development of LEED Certified buildings.

Announcements

Penta and e-Builder demonstrated the capabilities of agcXML at the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) buildingSMART alliance National Conference, co-located with Ecobuild / AEC-ST Fall at the Washington Convention Center. agcXML, a buildingSMART™ initiative led and funded by The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and managed by NIBS, will enable efficient, reliable exchange of electronic project information among all design and construction professionals.

McGraw-Hill Construction released the Building Information Modeling (BIM) SmartMarket Report together with premier sponsor Autodesk at Autodesk University 2008 in Las Vegas, NV. The report shows growing enthusiasm for BIM among architects, engineers, contractors, and owners, and usage is expected to grow rapidly in the coming year, despite the economic recession. Users plan to significantly increase their investment in BIM in 2009 to realize greater productivity, improved communications, and a competitive edge.

A section of Boston’s Interstate 90 connector tunnel’s suspended concrete ceiling became detached from the tunnel roof and fell onto a vehicle July 10, 2006, killing one person. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probable cause of the ceiling collapse was the use of an epoxy anchor adhesive that was not capable of sustaining long-term loads.

In an effort to address the NTSB’s findings and help educate the profession on lessons learned, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) formed the Task Committee to the NTSB Initiative to review the final investigation report and develop recommendations. After nearly a year of review, the task committee’s report, which was released , acknowledged the role of specifications as “essential for complete understanding of the work to be performed by the builder.

The Cadac Group, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner developing Organice, a SharePoint based engineering document management solution, has scheduled a series of webcasts around the central theme: "bridging the GAP for the AEC". As a solution provider for the AEC and other project driven engineering industries, the Cadac Group is often confronted with companies struggling to create the right conditions for managing their project documents and for collaborating with their project partners. With a series of webcasts, the Cadac Group will address typical needs and challenges in the AEC and provides practical tips and tricks to improve the business process of project driven organizations. Visit Organice for further information.

The AEC industry is on the cutting edge of embracing the promise of building information modeling (BIM), the most recent digital technique to create, simulate and generate new designs. In fact, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) "The Business of Architecture: 2006 AIA Firm Survey Report", 16 percent of architectural firms have acquired BIM software and 10 percent are using it for billable work. More than a buzzword, BIM represents the latest wave in the use of multi-faceted, 3D computer software data to virtually model and document a building's design, construction and operation. BIM provides companies with extremely high quality, information-rich documents -- often in color -- that can be used in decision making, design collaboration, predicting performance, cost estimating and scheduling before the foundation for a new structure is even laid.

Building Information Modeling (BIM): Transforming Design and Construction to Achieve Greater Industry Productivity is a 45-page printed report (available as hard copy or PDF) that examines the results of research conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics regarding perceptions among BIM users about BIM adoption, implementation, value and impact within their firms. The study sheds light on the role of BIM in reshaping the way project teams work together in today's industry.

New Products

Autodesk, Inc. has announced the addition of two new structural analysis software offerings to expand its range of building information modeling (BIM) solutions. Aimed at structural engineers, and based on technology acquired by Autodesk from Robobat, Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis 2009 software and Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis Professional 2009 software are tightly integrated with Revit Structure 2009 software for BIM. The new software enables structural engineers working with Revit Structure to more seamlessly analyze complex structures.

The Carlson Business Suite (CBS) is a complete business management software solution that will enable its users to act with authority and confidence to win new business, keep the business they have, and to grow their profits, therefore increasing their prosperity. With input from experts in the surveying and engineering fields, CBS was built and customized for the way that surveying and engineering companies work, to provide exactly the reporting that they need. Featuring Project Dashboards, Smart Charts, Real-Time Visual Reporting, Predictive Business Intelligence, and much more, CBS is visual, simple to implement, and even easier to use.

Bluebeam Software and QBS Distribution, a distributor of software technology in the UK and Ireland, have teamed together to distribute Bluebeam’s market-leading PDF software through QBS’s 600 Value-Added Resellers (VARs) and their top 100 corporate account resellers.

Luxology LLC announced that two new sets of videos focused on architectural subjects have been added to the company's growing training library. Using modo 302, Luxology's artist-friendly 3D content creation software, the "Architectural Modeling" video training album demonstrates how to create an architectural model from a given set of dimensions, and the "Architectural Interior: Lighting and Rendering" video album provides techniques for creating compelling day and night shots of a contemporary interior living space. To expedite the learning experience, Luxology provides pre-built models and images with each tutorial.

Ameri-CAD, Inc., An ITW Company, has released an affordable residential BIM solution called, VisionREZ Designer. VisionREZ Designer is an OEM customization of the Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture platform and includes AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, and VisionREZ Plug In and will be available under $1,995.00 (USD).

NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 ultra-high-end professional graphics card was introduced. With advances in GPU architecture, added graphics memory and 30-bit color, the Quadro FX 4800 gives professionals the right toolset to dramatically push the boundaries of realism, performance and quality.

RedEye, a business unit of Stratasys, announced at Autodesk University (AU) 2008 in Las Vegas last week – that AutoCAD users can now order digitally manufactured prototypes and production parts quickly and easily through a new on-demand 3D printing capability.

Elmo Solutions, provider of extraction and processing of CAD and engineering metadata, announces the official launch of Agni Enterprise Search Portal 2009 for Microsoft SharePoint. This Knowledge Management solution for Microsoft SharePoint is a unique and affordable enterprise search solution designed to meet the distinct needs of CAD and Engineering users and senior managers.

Events

 

AIAS FORUM 2008
Date: December 29, 2008 - January 1, 2009
Place: Denver, CO USA

FORUM is the annual meeting of the AIAS and the global gathering of the architecture and design students. The event provides students with the opportunity to learn about important issues facing architectural education and the profession, to meet students, educators, and professionals with common interests, and to interact with some of today's leading architects through keynote addresses, tours, workshops and seminars.

Atlanta Build, Remodel and Landscape Expo 2009
Date: January 16 - 18, 2009
Place: 3650 Jonesboro Road SE
Atlanta, GA 30354 USA

Today, our consistently growing database features 7816 Trade Shows, Exhibitions and Conferences coming from 1719 Fairs Organizers, with a total of 14092 event's dates from May 2008 to April 2010. New Trade Shows & Exhibitions are added in every month.

Underground Construction Technology International Conference & Exhibition
Date: January 20 - 22, 2009
Place: San Antonio, TX USA

Welcome to the 15th annual Underground Construction Technology (UCT) International Conference & Exhibition! UCT encompasses a wide range of products and services – focusing on underground utility construction and the rehabilitation markets as well as delivering an unrivaled educational program. Attendees worldwide come to UCT to stay connected to all things underground – in both the trenchless and conventional methods.

The International Builders’ Show® & NextBuild®
Date: January 20 - 23, 2009
Place: Las Vegas Convention Center
Las Vegas, NV USA

The International Builders' Show is proud to have been selected to participate in the 2009 International Buyer Program (IBP). As a member of the 2009 IBP, the International Builders' Show and the U.S. Commercial Service will work closely in the global promotion of the 2009 show to bring international buyers and exhibitors together to expand business both domestically and overseas.


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