Treats in store

IN 2021 Autodesk University will be releasing three significant additions to their range of software solutions for the construction industry, writes David Chadwick

Autodesk University was held online this year, like every other major event, but whilst the usual benefits like networking and hands-on experiences were unavailable, the number of virtual attendees was far greater, with 90,000 people from 190 different countries logging in. Autodesk also laid on quite a few more sessions, with about 750 different presentations available covering every aspect of their formidable range of software in AEC, product design, media and entertainment.

The University’s tuition sessions were of particular interest to regular users of their software, whilst the keynotes were more in my line, and were generally used to launch new software products. In this round-up we will focus primarily at the releases aimed at the construction sector.

Spacemaker is currently in the process of being acquired by Autodesk. It's a Norwegian company, based in Oslo, which uses cloud-based artificial intelligence and Generative Design to help architects, urban designers, and real estate developers plan cities and urban environments. It allows them to specify a wide range of construction constraints or requirements, or to accommodate environmental and sustainability issues and automatically create optimised building layouts.

The software's AI algorithms use iterative processes to generate design alternatives based on the different design criteria: terrain, maps, wind, lighting, traffic, zoning, carbon emission standards, etc. It then produces design alternatives that meet the full potential of the site. This gives scope to designers, who can rely on the computer's processing capabilities to handle more complex designs and balance contrasting criteria, thereby allowing them to focus on the creative aspects of their professional work.

"Spacemaker is a lesson in the power of insights and automation, creating and testing urban design ideas in minutes," said Andrew Anagnost, CEO and President of Autodesk. "With two billion more people expected to call our planet home by 2050, speed of design and sustainability in urban planning must be priorities. Spacemaker technology offers a fundamental shift in how we imagine and build cities to keep people and the planet healthy."

The need for more responsive software was echoed by Amy Bunszel, Senior Vice President for AEC Design Solutions at Autodesk, who said "Spacemaker's transformational solution will empower designers to make more informed design decisions and help solve some of the greatest challenges ahead of us all."

Spacemaker set out four years ago to help design, engineering and project teams reinvent the development of more sustainable cities and neighborhoods worldwide. Havard Haukeland, CEO and co-founder of Spacemaker explained further. "Autodesk shares our goal to create a healthier planet for everyone and is uniquely positioned to more rapidly place our product in the hands of planning teams everywhere - a proud milestone for our team and those who supported us from the start."

His comments were supported by one of Spacemakers clients. "Real-estate developers in Norway are at the forefront of the digital transformation in the building sector, resulting in increased project profitability, and critically, improving our ability to combat climate change with more sustainable real estate developments," said Daniel Kjørberg Siraj, CEO of OBOS, adding "Game-changers such as Spacemaker are part of the solution. As an early investor and adopter, I am incredibly pleased to see Spacemaker joining Autodesk and am looking forward to seeing Norwegian-born technology transform the industry at a global scale."

Autodesk Construction Cloud
Autodesk also announced a new set of products for Autodesk Construction Cloud that further connect data, workflows and teams throughout the entire building lifecycle, from design to operations. The new products - Autodesk Build, Autodesk Quantify and Autodesk BIM Collaborate -give general contractors, specialty trades, designers and owners the ability to improve their processes and outcomes, providing them with a comprehensive construction management platform with all data in one central location to simplify collaboration, handle project changes and inform managers for better decision making.

Autodesk Construction Cloud was launched last year and offers a powerful and complete portfolio of construction management products. The release of Autodesk Build, though, provides "An entirely new approach to project management," according to Jim Lynch, Vice President and General Manager of Autodesk Construction Solutions.

Autodesk Build unites the best of PlanGrid and BIM 360 with additional new functionality to create a comprehensive field and project management solution, retaining the PlanGrid Build mobile app for field workers - a connected set of field execution and project management tools integrated with all construction workflow data so teams can handle project management, quality, safety, cost issues and project closeout with a single login.

The PlanGrid Build mobile app facilitates RFI creation and issue tracking, with up-to-date drawings and markups. PlanGrid Build changes are then immediately available, reducing miscommunication, errors and rework.

Autodesk Quantify automates 2D and 3D quantification from the same comprehensive platform, allowing estimators to quickly and accurately quantify elements from both 2D plans and 3D models and manage them with associated documents. Increased transparency and collaboration on estimates provides faster and more accurate - and therefore competitive - bidding.

"Traditionally our estimating process has required multiple solutions, none of which connect or integrate with each other," said John Mack, BIM Department Manager, Dome Construction. "Autodesk Quantify will effectively supercharge the way we do our estimating and create a truly collaborative, customisable takeoff process. With takeoff data based in the cloud rather than on a desktop, Autodesk Quantify is a precision tool that will help our preconstruction team move away from spreadsheets and zero in on perfecting our takeoff workflow."

Autodesk BIM Collaborate brings design collaboration, model coordination and document management to Autodesk Construction Cloud to reduce rework, improve productivity, and accelerate project delivery. The software empowers project teams by managing the entire design collaboration and coordination workflow within a single, cloud-based solution in a common data environment. It features processes to handle project timelines, aggregated model viewing and change reviews. Integrating all functions provides design teams with deeper insights into the real-time status of the design phase. Its model coordination capabilities like clash detection and issues management ensure the highest quality designs are delivered to the field. A BIM Collaborate Pro option is also available for Revit Cloud Worksharing, Collaboration for Civil 3D and Collaboration for Plant 3D.

As part of the unified Autodesk Construction Cloud platform, every new product is reinforced by Autodesk Docs, which underpins the common data environment with centralised document management and integrated workflows, and Insights provides analytics from the data collected to feed Construction IQ artificial intelligence and to help identify and mitigate risk.

Autodesk Construction Cloud enhancements, which will be available in early 2021, include upgraded Administration features to provides centralised user management, permissioning, templates and other tools for project setup, as well as a single authentication method for any unified product.

Autodesk's Digital Twin
Autodesk Tandem brings project data together from its many sources, formats, and phases, to create a data-rich digital hub that tracks asset data from design through operations - a Digital Twin.

Digital Twins connect the digital world with the real world, creating up-to-date reflections of a model's physical self. This provides unique operational insight into a facility, building, bridge, or any structure, as well as its components. This would include, for example, the performance of heating and cooling systems, escalators, and electrical systems - valuable information for building owners who want digital data at handover, given that nearly 80 percent of an asset's lifetime value is realised in operations.

With Autodesk Tandem, all project models are brought into a single platform, creating a digital view that includes metadata for each asset. Architects, engineers and contractors can then fully support the digital handover, giving owners a digital twin of the final asset so that they can dive into all design and construction history. BIM, of course, is one of the foundational components of Autodesk Tandem.

In October 2020, Autodesk became a Founding Member of the Digital Twin Consortium, an organisation whose members are committed to using digital twins throughout their operations. Autodesk is also a member of the Open Design Alliance, a non-profit technology consortium that provides support and access to design file formats.