Autodesk University 2009
Cloud computing, or web-based computing, is the overarching technology that is accelerating other technologies, according to Bass, who said it is "becoming as cheap and reliable as electricity, so we can take greater advantage of computing power." He cites this as being a very big platform shift, the likes of which only comes around once every decade or two. It is also described as "infinite computing," and coupled with multi-core computing, may enable users to have "tomorrow's computer today." For example, cloud computing could allow Autodesk users to use the latest Revit version from a distant server rather than having it installed on their desktops.
Visualization and Simulation
An exciting presentation by producer Jon Landau of Lightstorm Entertainment introduced attendees to visual effects used in the feature film Avatar, which was shot fully in "autostereoscopic 3D" using Autodesk products, such as MotionBuilder for 3D motion-capture.
Landau said Avatar represents a huge advance in performance-capture technology. Lightstorm has virtual-camera technology used to make the animated characters of Avatar by recording the movements of the actors and transposing them onto computer-generated (CG) creatures. Through the lens, the actors see the CG world, with their animated character moving around and interacting in the virtual world. "It acts how you expect a camera to act in real life, as close to real-life action as you can get in a CG world," said Landau.
Autodesk's reorganization, though not readily apparent to attendees, sent a clear signal of the changing times. At past conferences, Autodesk has pushed the use of mechanical CAD (Inventor) in architectural design. At AU 2009, it was the other way around: practitioners in the manufacturing and even construction sectors were being encouraged to use BIM.
At a press breakfast, Phil Bernstein, FAIA, vice president of industry strategy and relations for Autodesk's AEC division, shed some light on changes in the AEC division. In 2008, AEC consisted of Building and Civil. Now the AEC division comprises Building, Infrastructure, Plant and Civil, with Civil expanded to include Water, Wastewater and Utilities.
In the past, those latter three were under the umbrella of Infrastructure and considered the domain of geospatial at Autodesk, but it seems infrastructure is now being taken to mean the "built environment," and therefore Water, Wastewater and Utilities now fit into the AEC category because of their built needs.
Autodesk's energy seems to be going into the built environment, into renovation and retrofit — perhaps not coincidentally, the same place federal stimulus funds are going.
Art Schintzel, Jr., PE, GISP, senior BIM engineer for Parsons Brinckerhoff, gave a presentation on San Francisco's Presidio Parkway, one project that has benefited from stimulus funds.
The new Presidio Parkway will replace Doyle Drive, the busy 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of Route 101 leading to the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Built in 1936, Doyle Drive has become structurally and seismically unsafe. The location of the roadway within the Presidio — a National Historic Landmark District within Golden Gate National Recreation Area — makes the project even more complex. It involves dealing with eight different construction contracts, as well as political and environmental stakeholders, and necessitates regional coordination, environmental reviews, and careful planning.
Early in the project, the need for using modeling and visualization was established. The parkway design was created in MicroStation, while Civil 3D was used to do the roadway and structural design features, and to verify the accuracy of files. The project team used 3D laser scans from Caltrans of the existing roadway to gather data to put into a 3D model and, from there, roadway simulation designs were created.
Traffic impact analysis and communications simulations made it possible for stakeholders and the general public to visually assess how to create optimal solutions. Four-dimensional models incorporated not only design parameters but also cost and schedule updates. The final parkway design includes two short tunnels, a wide landscaped median, and traffic calming transitions.
Thanks to $50 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the construction for the Presidio Parkway began more than a year ahead of schedule, in November 2009, and most of the project is expected to be completed in 2013.
Making Existing Buildings More Sustainable
A number of sustainable renovation and retrofit projects were showcased at Autodesk University.
Sustainable design pioneer Amory Lovins, CEO and president of the Rocky Mountain Institute, asserted that the strongest tool people have for achieving sustainability is improved design. One project his organization participated in was the extensive 2009 retrofit of the Empire State Building to reduce energy use by up to 38 percent, through measures such as installing more energy-efficient lights and office equipment, and upgrading the existing insulated-glass windows to include suspended coated film and gas fill. Energy-cost savings of about $4.4 million per year are projected.
Both the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) at Stanford University and the Beck Group, a design-build firm, are involved with projects for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which is like a "federal landlord," managing over 345 million square feet (32 million square meters) of office space. Renovating its existing buildings has become a focus of the GSA's; it received a $5.5 billion appropriation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and is now working toward aggressive sustainability goals set under the Obama administration.
Calvin Kam, CIFE's director of industry programs, talked about an Autodesk research project at the National Building Museum. The building, which was build in 1887, is naturally ventilated. They did a performance energy analysis in which they were able to rapidly document existing conditions using laser scans to create 3D models. The 3D model created from these laser scans was used to build a Revit model, which in turn was used with energy analysis tools to run performance simulations, which informed the recommendations to the GSA for improving the building's energy performance.
"A BIM agenda and sustainable design agenda for government are all integrated," says Kam.
Brad Phillips, managing director at the Beck Group, spoke about the Tuttle Courthouse Annex in Atlanta, Georgia. The project involves renovation of four historic buildings, design of a two-story addition, and LEED Silver certification. The Beck Group generally aggregates data from Ecotect and Green Building Studio, photos, and a 3D DWG wire-frame model. They then build a physical Revit model, then put it into simulation for obtaining energy analysis. For the Tuttle Courthouse project, BIM was mandated, and Revit was used as well as Navisworks for review. Constructware was used for project management and collaboration.
Building Products and the Seven Tech Trends of Design
Brian Matthews, vice president of Autodesk Labs, gave a presentation on the "Seven Tech Trends of Design" and the ways in which they are being addressed by products in development at Autodesk Labs.
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