Collaboration with other software
About model and data exchange with 3rd party solutions: Revit, Solibri, dRofus, Bluebeam, structural analysis solutions, and IFC, BCF and DXF/DWG-based exchange, etc.

Autodesk University - a view from the floor

I spent last week in Las Vegas attending Autodesk University. Earlier this year I decided I would walk headlong into the Borg encampment at the edge of the Mojave and reconnoiter.

I was curious about a number of things:

1) what was the Autodesk ecosphere about
2) how did it’s citizens differ from those in the Graphisoft galaxy
3) what is ADSK doing with all the technology they’ve acquired
4) was their outlook on BIM different than mine and, if so, how
5) do they really hand out all the swag people talk about
6) why do they call it a university and not a convention

I arrived at the spaceport and waited for the bags to arrive. I met an old colleague from Graphisoft Reseller conferences and in what was to be the first of many meetings over the week, we outlined our respective missions. Mr. X is a Reviteer, not by choice, but as a consequence of a leveraged buyout of a large ArchiCAD firm by a larger Revit firm. I was not a reluctant convert, I explained. I was on a fact finding mission, intent on divining the truth about all that is not ArchiCAD. Mine is a career in transition. In the end, it’s the same diff, I guess.

At long last me, the bags and my friends and my colleagues from Europe were reunited at the carrousel. We were renting a muscle car and planning to play hooky at least one morning to take in the engineering marvel that is Hoover Dam.

While my friend was filling out the forms I struck up a conversation with his cohort and quickly learned that they knew something about ArchiCAD, but that they didn’t consider it BIM. It required considerable restraint and diplomacy to remind them that BIM had survived at least one lifecycle as a species before Revit came along and that we had a whole week to arrive at some understanding of this.

We piled into the car and headed for the Mandalay Bay. Talk of a Liebeskind designed development ensued and there it was, off in the distance, peeking over the excess of New York, New York.

The buzz at this year’s AU centered on the rollout of the ADSK collaborative environment. THE CLOUD, to wit. And so the first session I attended was appropriately entitled BIM Collaboration. This was the first of quite a few sessions that didn’t really live up to their names. BIM collaboration in this case meant the enabling substrate for the collaboration - hardware mostly with a bit of software thrown in for good measure. THE CLOUD, if there was one, evidently didn’t float in the air, it had mass and a plug-in. The live demo featured someone manipulating a Revit model on an iPad. Of this, more later.

The crowd ate this up. Remember this a geekfest with at least ten thousand people in clothing that ranged from the decidedly preppy to ActiveWear with lumpy people inside. AU is often a reward for achieving a productivity goal and it was clear that some people are not let out of the cave for many hours of the day. To be out in public was enough. For the others, well they weren’t there. They were on cell phones in the hallway parked close to the bottled water and breakfast bars. I’d like to see more poets and philosophers in attendance, but to bring that about will require some subtle shifts in the curriculum.

One session down and really no BIM in sight. This played well to my archly ArchiCAD opinion that Reviteers have big ears and swelled heads and just pretend to know about this stuff. I stepped into the Attitude Adjustment Cell for a minute and made a decision about the next session. If not Collaboration, then surely the term Integrated would get me closer to an Apples to Apples comparison of these two mighty BIM engines.

The integrated practice in question was the interface between architects and interior designers, the latter being a decidedly flatland species. This proved to be one of the more useful sessions of the week as the presenters quickly got down to the business of presenting their office standards and protocols.

The presenters have clearly established a workflow that keeps one scope of work away from another. Revit presents it’s own unique opportunities for workarounds and these two were not shy to describe them as such. I respected their candour and the work that went into their rather clever solutions for getting paint onto a wall to be able to specify it.

I downloaded the course material to my iPad on the AU wi-fi, saved it to iBooks and followed along. I made some notes in a note-making app thingy and smiled at the woman beside me who was doing exactly the same thing. No slouch she. When I dropped two business cards into the basket for the in-session swag, she was onto my game in a second. Neither of us won anything.

The afternoon session was devoted to another favourite topic - Sustainable Design

Here I hoped to see BIM, Integrated Design and Building Simulation all rolled into one neat tidy bundle. The presenters talked about ideas which was a welcome change from the decidedly technical (how do you turn it on?) stuff in the morning sessions. The story to tell was how twelve architecture students had given up their spring break this year to do a workshop on basic sustainable design techniques enabled by Revit and Ecotect. The results were not eye candy, but these kids clearly learned enough about Ecotect to start working with it in the design studios on, what to them, would be real problems.

Two questions ensued. How was Ecotect being integrated into Revit? Answer: one part at a time, but with a sandbox called Vasari, ADSK can road test the tools and then bring them into Revit. Vasari is an open beta. a tool to use now, by anyone who cares to download it. Vasari may well be the first thing ADSK has produced on their own and rather than reserve it for the elect few, anyone can get down and dirty inside the app which is positioned as a Revit model browser. Is it flaky and buggy like Clarence says? Don’t know - haven’t tried it yet.

Second question, offered more as a suggestion was, to bring a few engineering students from the other side of the campus along with the architecture students next time and let them collaboratively work on the problem and learn a thing or two about their respective disciplines and cultures. Answer: we’re working on it.

So, AU is about education and I guess I saw some evidence of that from the moment I arrived.

Here in North America, we’ve taken three things for granted: BIM was probably invented in Europe, ADSK has no toehold in Europe, and that ADSK have subverted architectural education worldwide by supplanting real curriculum for technical dos and don’ts on the command line. I had been led to believe that ArchiCAD and AllPlan duked it out for market share and had enough of the market that ADSK couldn’t hope to compete.

Well it seems that apart from the Scandinavians, BIM is considered to be a brand new concept that has come along for the ride with Revit. I had thought that the ADSK marketing meme - “BIM invented here” was a North American phenomenon and that elsewhere in the world there were still sentient beings who understood that BIM began with ArchiCAD. A world where ArchiCAD had pole position like New Zealand for example where 85% of the architects use ArchiCAD.

I guess I was wrong.

And while we’re talking numbers, I would guess that fully 25% of the crowd were using iPads. It’s a platform crying out for the middleware and the apps to work across the spectrum of design, construction and management.

Among the myriad of souls I met last week, a few stood out. For example, there was Phillip, a wunderkind from Graz who had been flown to AU on ADSK’s dime to reward him for the work he’d done to create learning resources for himself and his fellow students across Europe. He was a kind of Harry Potter and at his version of Hogwarts he’d established an Order of the Phoenix along with all the other junior wizards so that they wouldn’t have to wait for their teachers to figure enough of it out to start teaching.

ADSK Education was everywhere in evidence at AU this year. Anyone affiliated with ADSK Education is a front line worker at this conference. They direct people to sessions, they invigilate the exams, they populate booths for all disciplines. They’re working very hard and they all seem very, very happy.

Phillip is but one person in a program started in Germany and now rolled out world wide that establishes a place for student expertise that gives them both tools and to mentors charged with the task of them acquiring the tools to think strategically as well. It’s not a new Apple used to do this on campuses all over North America. In the 80s people, in the 1980s.

Well, AU was like a Jamboree for all the other Harry Potters out there and their enthusiasm showed up everywhere. Imagine a convention centre with 50 wunderkind bouncing off the walls like rogue electrons.

AU is also in large measure about certification - about how you measure up as it were. Take the certification exams at AU and they’re free. Do it from home and it costs money. My ArchiCAD comrade was here to get certified and he spent the first few days in study hall. He has ventured further down a road that seems more inevitable for him than than for me. We are both still in agreement that Revit is a crude cudgel compared to the Henckels hollow ground steel blade that is ArchiCAD. But the Certification Exam is real, not something waiting in the wings. ADSK has Certified Professionals. Graphisoft has a Hall of Fame, but no Proctors.

But here we are. At AU. And no one around us - and I mean no one - cares. With the Day One sessions over I headed off to the Education Reception on the 65th floor of THE hotel. The drinks are free as long as the drink you want isn’t normally priced higher than $12 bucks. We order gin on the rocks, vermouth on the rocks and make our own Martinis. Resourceful people these Education types to figure that out.

Day Two saw me in search of sessions that were designated as Education topics and panel groups. The latter were in short supply that day and so off I went to look at examples of ADSK assisting in the development of curriculum.

Enter Stephen Stott. Stephen has turned the notion of what ADSK’s role in education is on its head. The first slide he shows depicts him as a facilitator in a design workshop on biomimicry. And he’s drawing shit with a pencil, or a charcoal stick, or something. WTF?

Stephen is based in the UK, but his sandbox is the big wide world. He’s brought some educators with him today and one teaches high school outside of Toronto somewhere and the other is the most improbable looking professor I’ve ever seen in my life. Oliver Jones is a mountain of a man dressed as you might imagine Tom Jones to be in his off hours. He’s from Newcastle and he looks more like someone who pulls on the brown ale taps in a pub. A Western shirt, a Vest and Cowboy Boots.

The Ontario students are designing solar cars with solar panels and 3D printers for the bodies. Stephen shows them one way to deconstruct an animal - a horse, a toad, a human - into basic shapes and from that studied abstraction render the form of a new car. For some, the 3D printer can’t generate the form he sees, so he goes home and carves it out of clay.

The University of North Umbria architecture students aren’t doing BIM, nor are they learning how to use Revit. Stephen and Oliver have teamed up to develop problem based design projects that seem less theoretical than design projects were in my day and yet have a freshness and a language that we would expect to see from more seasoned, experienced designers.

Having developed the basis of a design language first, these kids are ready to wrap their heads around BIM and not produce work that is not constrained by the tool they use. A sandbox is a place to be experimental, not confined.

Okay. Sure. This is what design students around the world do. Many using ArchiCAD, to be sure. So what sets all this AU-ADSK stuff apart?

Graphisoft - at least on this continent - have abandoned Education as a market. I learned just this week that the person responsible for liaising with Schools was doing so largely over the phone and that he’s abandoned this post to do direct sales to commercial clients. To my way of thinking, this is sending a boy - a child soldier out to do a man’s work. A kid, with little or no practical experience selling a tool to the profession. Meanwhile, he’s created a vacuum: a blind spot: a chink. It’s not enough - clearly - to just put the stuff up on the Web.

ADSK established Education as a serious part of their business plan and at AU it shows. I was astonished this Fall when AutoCad was teleported back to Mac OS. Well guess what. This had less to do with professional demand and more with the realization that the majority of students making contact with ADSK’s Education web portals were doing so with Macs. Future clients are driving part of the development strategy and, if Stephen Stott, is any example to go by, they can bring creative minds to the table as well.

Surely Revit for MacOS is not far behind.

Apparently it’s working. In Germany alone, ADSK geared up to deliver 10,000 downloads a month from their servers. In the first week, some 30,000 copies were served out to the Mac hungry masses.

Day 3 was going to be devoted to the interface of all stakeholders in the Construction Economy. General Contractors, not architects are doing BIM here in North America and it was time to see what strides they’ve made. Vicosoftware is not, strictly speaking, about ArchiCAD centric modeling any more. Nor is Trelligence’s Pre-Design tool Affinity. They both serve as intermediaries with Revit models as well.

For the last two years, it has been the Construction discussion forums that have really been exploring and carving out a knowledge base about BIM. Architects haven't. ArchiCAD-Talkers really haven’t been looking at BIM from a high level and if you are I don’t know where you hang out. On the Revit side, it’s an open question as well. The AUGI forums are gone as of this week, apparently. Was it too much a griping pit?

Well, back to the Workshop. It was clear after the first hour that the facilitators had bitten off more than they could realistically chew. The deliverable was a BIM Execution Plan and they’d brought a lot of examples with them, but not much in the way of common sense. The problem they set was so open ended that by the time the cookies and Dr. Peppers were set out in the hall, the groups raced for the exits.

Rather than be smug about this, I was really disappointed. By this time I had stopped thinking about a specific platform and hoped to look BIM squarely in the eye. Revit Schmevit, Cloud / workset / Teamwork: who cared. I didn’t. This was a purely BIM-centric issue and so disagreement was inevitable and any position fair game.

The Construction guys abandoned the B.E.P. stuff and turned the session into a discussion about what kinds of tools there were out there to interface with building product manufacturers and systems suppliers. When the opportunity arose, I raised my hand and suggested that one could do MEP in ArchiCAD and collaborate via IFCs.

A hush fell on the room.

It won’t work, the Contractor said. We tried it a long time ago and the results were less than ideal. ArchiCAD’s a pretty primitive modeler and this is about Revit anyway.

The crowd breathed a sigh of relief and carried on.

I departed. Disappointed. The collaboration angle we want to see between ArchiCAD and Revit is not perceived to be there. Certainly not by this group. Not this year at any rate.

I decided to head for the Certification Hall. My friends are trying to establish an ADSK Training Centre at their University and so at least one of them had to have the credentials to be considered. One of them stepped up and scored 100%. Mission accomplished.

Andreas has used ArchiCAD, Vectorworks and now Revit. His University abandoned the Graphisoft platform as there wasn’t much rapport between the Graphisoft reps in Germany and the CAAD lab. ADSK saw an opportunity, took some great feedback from the Institute and gave it’s director the Mr. BIM Germany award this year. The relationship is collaborative and mutually beneficial. And just so that we’re clear, this University does all sorts of research that goes beyond anything ADSK can provide. It’s multi-disciplinary, global, savvy and streetwise. There is no Kool-Aid being served at their Institution.

In total, I have had Revit in my hands for a total of two hours. I walked into the examination hall and wrote the tests cold. I scored 50% on the written exam and 25% on the hands-on section. Someone gave me a copy of Mastering Revit for my troubles. I was relieved to note that my scores were what they should have been and that my poor showing helped to validate the results Andreas achieved.

Next year, I’ll ace them. And write the Inventor Exams cold.

And then it was Friday. Time to de-camp. We piled into the muscle car, took one last drive down the strip and there we were at the airport. I said good-bye to my European friends and checked in for my flight back to Canada.

I ran into my ArchiCAD colleague one last time on the secure side of the terminal. He’d brought his wife with him to Vegas and I suspect he came to write the exams and see a few shows. Not much more. The two of them looked happy to be going home. The certification will prove useful in the workplace. And mercifully, despite the bad economic times, there is a workplace to go back to.

So there we had been he and I, two people in a sea of ten thousand souls. We’ve been to Sales Meetings and Partner Conferences the world over in the last fifteen years. We’ve forged fast friendships with colleagues from around the world and in those brief moments the Graphisoft universe has always seemed very large. Suddenly it seemed very, very small.

In the three days I spent at AU I was always made to feel welcome inside the big tent. On at least two occasions I felt that everything I’ve learned and developed and evangelized about BIM had some relevance. Not all the time, but some of the time.

We haven’t got a Rosetta Stone yet, but we had better come up with one pretty quickly. A Rosetta stone that will be an interface device between ArchiCAD and Revit. But let’s be frank. For some, this Rosetta Stone will be a transitional roadmap to better navigate the fork in the road.

All in all, I think I learned that we - the ArchiCADders - have been the smug ones. We have good reason to be as long as we are talking about the tool on our belt. But like it or not, the tool is not the one true thing. that one true thing is the work we do and no one does this work in isolation. No one.

Graphisoft continues to produce the superior product for doing BIM, but they have not created the user experience that their sole competitor has. Not even close. Not even some proportional approximation of the experience that is Autodesk University.

The lesson of AU wasn’t about software at all. In the end it would appear to be all about the collective buzz of people trying to figure it out.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of opportunities to feel jaded about the AU Event itself. Carl Bass is no Steve Jobs, but he still does a keynote. And the reception where we were fed hamburgers and wine while we listened to the ADSK Executive Team talk about THE CLOUD really gave them an opportunity to thank Cisco, Dell and HP - their sponsors. Those events were about sales and the real audience were those who talked about sales stuff. Bums in seats.

But you know what? These guys - the suits - show up. And for one week they manage to assemble a highly organized event that can be just about whatever you want it to be.

In my fifteen years using and selling ArchiCAD that has never happened.

BTW, Hoover Dam was awesome.
Swag Collected or Pilfered: 4 T-Shirts; Mastering Revit 2011; and 5 martini glasses.
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25 REPLIES 25
Laszlo Nagy
Community Admin
Community Admin
bestsurfcity wrote:
G.S. Could you please censure Bricklyne?
He's at again, with long windy rear end ranting against Graphisoft.
This type of negativity doesn't help.
This is an open forum so people have the right to voice their opinions and concerns.
If things start to get nasty with personal insults, that is when we say enough and take some action.

So I take this opportunity to ask the gentlemen to keep the discussion civilized.
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Anonymous
Not applicable
laszlonagy wrote:
bestsurfcity wrote:
G.S. Could you please censure Bricklyne?
He's at again, with long windy rear end ranting against Graphisoft.
This type of negativity doesn't help.
This is an open forum so people have the right to voice their opinions and concerns.
If things start to get nasty with personal insults, that is when we say enough and take some action.

So I take this opportunity to ask the gentlemen to keep the discussion civilized.
I always thought that the tone and arguments people use in a discussion speak mostly about the person making them, and the reader has to try and find out if there could be hidden agendas behind certain consistent behaviors.

That said, people being emotive about their point of view is not something to be avoided, quite the opposite. If we argued like machines this would be a sad world indeed.
bestsurfcity wrote:
G.S. Could you please censure Bricklyne?
He's at again, with long windy rear end ranting against Graphisoft.
This type of negativity doesn't help.
You know, rather than asking GS to "censure" me, why don't you try contributing to the discussion yourself by, oh I don't know, arguing your point of view as to why you think I'm wrong. Kinda like how Krippahl is doing.

Perhaps you might even inject a little positivity if you feel like I'm being too negative.

One might think that that would be infinitely more productive than telling the powers-that-be to "shut people up" in an open forum simply because you don't agree with them and coming from what it supposed to be an open society where freedom of speech and expression is valued.
I would have imagined that sort of thing belonged in a George Orwell novel but maybe that's just me.

Alternatively, you could always do what most rational people might presumably do and simply choose to ignore or skip over "long windy rear ended rants" and save yourself the agony you seem to suffer so much from reading them.

I didn't insult anyone.
I didn't personally attack anybody.
I didn't even insult or attack GS or anybody that works there.
Anonymous
Not applicable
Since we all spend many hours with this software and our livelihoods depend in part on its and GS's performance it is not surprising that things can get a bit heated at times. As long as we don't sink to ad hominem attack and troll like behavior a bit of intensity is a good thing.

One of my rules to live by is;
All things in moderation, especially moderation.
Rakela Raul
Participant
I think 'BC' is a great communicator
(many of us would wish have that ability) and very straight forward..it is what it is !!
as ML said it, moderation is the key... relax !!
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Laszlo Nagy
Community Admin
Community Admin
Matthew wrote:
All things in moderation, especially moderation.
That's a good one.
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Loving Archicad since 1995

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