AIA Convention Showcases New CAD and BIM Technologies

11 Jun, 2008 By: Heather Livingston

This year's product offerings clearly indicated a migration toward integrated planning and design.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced that 23,950 registrants and 852 exhibitors attended the AIA National Convention and Design Expo in Boston, May 15-17. The predominant themes this year in the continuing education seminars were diversity and sustainability, with technology taking a back seat. However, it was a different story on the expo floor where the software pavilion was packed with attendees throughout the show. The vendors pulled out all the stops and showed off their wares with top-notch demonstrations and plenty of opportunities for one-on-one presentations. Here's but a sampling of the offerings on display.

The Wares
MADCAD announced the launch of MADCAD v2, a Web-based resource that provides online access to more than 4,000 building codes and standards from the International Code Council, National Fire Protection Association, and ASTM International. The company's simultaneous search feature allows users to search across thousands of codes and standards at the same time. Version 2 includes the ability to customize packages according to need, real-time filtering, automatic updates, and IP authentication.

McGraw-Hill Construction announced a partnering with the AIA to provide information on more than 80,000 building products at AIA Soloso, the AIA's online resource for insight, knowledge, solutions, strategies, products, and trends. Architects also will be able to directly link to detailed information and download product catalogs, CAD details, 3D models, and 3-part specifications.

Nemetschek North America introduced ThermoRender. Developed by A&A Co., ThermoRender is a VectorWorks analysis tool for the thermal environment. Its capabilities include visualizing surface temperatures and calculating heat island potential, mean radiant temperature, energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and more. VectorWorks 2008 also was on display, with Nemetschek touting the program as an "easy introduction" to 3D modeling, providing a hybrid approach that allows designers to model everything or detail with 2D.

Bentley focused its booth not on Bentley Architecture but on Generative Components, its generative design software. With Generative Components, designs can be refined by dynamically modeling and directly manipulating geometry, applying rules and capturing relationships among building elements, or defining complex building forms and systems through concisely expressed algorithms. Global Marketing Director Huw Roberts explained that Generative Components allows users to model ideals and logic and relationships rather than just results. "It's about modeling your thinking and having the geometry come out of that," he said.

Graphisoft vice-president Patrick Mays said that with the new version of ArchiCAD, it's like the company "rebuilt the engine in the car: performance and speed are vastly enhanced." Product manager Kurt Ameringer noted that the company's efforts on the new version were focused on the design team members with special needs. The resulting upgrade provides a clear distinction between components and systems; empowered capability to create associative dimension; an excellent management tool; and virtual trace technology that allows for full coordination of all project drawings and seamless integration of workflow across disciplines and roles, among other benefits.

Trelligence announced the release of Trelligence Affinity v5.5 for architectural programming and schematic design. The new release includes support for Revit Architecture 2009 and delivers new functionality that extends the benefits of BIM to the earliest phases of complex building projects. Key highlights of the new release are:

  • resource planning and programming for capacity and staffing-based project requirements

  • user-definable program views allowing for improved presentation, clarity, and analysis

  • multiple design scenarios facilitating project team collaboration

  • enhanced room and object manipulation with stickiness and alignment indicators for faster design layout

  • additional synchronization options for optimizing the bidirectional integration with Revit

  • enhanced performance, reliability, and user interface that increase user efficiencies and improve overall experience.


showcased its Web-enabled interactive touchscreen kiosk with modules that deliver information and enhance awareness about sustainability and building functioning. GreenTouchscreen provides numerous features to help educate building users with data on current and historical energy consumption, building history, the area, and the client's organization. In addition, the kiosks can inform users through building directories, room schedules, weather forecasts, upcoming events, and community information.

"By constantly having their energy consumption displayed on the Green Touchscreen, our students are developing a new awareness of how their habits impact the environment," said Mike Lubberden, director of Construction and Energy Management, Central College, Pella, Iowa.

AutoDesSys showed off BonZai 3D, a new modeler that was developed to address the demand for a quick and simple, yet geometrically robust, approach to 3D. BonZai aims to deliver ease of use and underlying solid modeling to provide efficient workflow that minimizes input effort while maximizing productivity. If form•Z is the Swiss Army Knife of 3D modeling, then BonZai is the penknife you carry around for quick solutions, said the company.

AutoDesSys also had information on Render Zone Plus, a version of form•Z that includes photorealistic rendering based on the LightWorks rendering engine, in addition to all the modeling/drafting/animation tools found in the basic package. It offers three levels of rendering: simple, z-buffer, and raytrace. A user can start developing the image of a 3D model at the simple level and gradually turn on features and render it at the most photorealistic level.

As the official software sponsor of the AIA Convention, Autodesk had a large presence at the convention, but because I covered the company's Revit 2009 offerings last month, I didn't spend a lot of time at Autodesk's booth. However, I can tell you that, in addition to demonstrating Revit, the company was also showcasing the new Autodesk Seek Web service and product content search. The company also announced that it has sold more than 300,000 seats of its Revit software platform for BIM, representing a 200% increase in seats in the last two years. To learn about Autodesk's 2009 lineup, read the May 8 AEC Tech News article.

The Google booth was packed with folks wanting to learn more about the company's SketchUp product. An intuitive user interface makes Google SketchUp Pro 6 easy to use and allows designers to create, export, and present 3D models. Some of the features of the newest version are 3D text (eliminating the need for DXF files for signage placement); depth cues; style-builder, a tool that enables creation of own customized sketchy-edge styles; match photo, which lets the user create 3D geometry or put an image of a design on a site image; and a 3D warehouse of user-contributed models.

Although Newforma was not an exhibitor at the convention, the company did announce the release of Newforma Project Center Fifth Edition. A project information management tool, its fifth iteration greatly advances support for the contract administration phase, expands external collaboration, and introduces new dashboard project monitoring capabilities.

Z Corporation, making its first appearance at the AIA convention, showed attendees the capabilities of its 3D printers. The monochrome ZPrinter 310 Plus starts at $19,900 and can print up to 8"x8"x10" in a matter of hours. The full-color Z510 delivers high resolution and a model size of 8"x10"x14" for $49,900.

Axium was touting Ajera, its accounting and project management software. Ajera streamlines the billing process; reduces duplicate entries; provides real-time reports; tracks project lifecycle costs; and forecasts cash flow. Building on Ajera, Axium's Portfolio provides interactive project management tools to help project managers estimate, schedule phases and tasks, assign resources, and manage projects throughout the project lifecycle.

Reed Construction Data presented its new SmartBIM solutions for AEC, which includes the SmartBIM Library, SmartBIM Objects, and R.S. Means Quick Cost Estimator. The SmartBIM Library is a companion product to Revit that enhances content management by allowing design firms to organize, manage, and locate BIM content more easily and intuitively. It also allows users to generate libraries from data and objects that they currently use, and drag and drop objects directly into Revit models. SmartBIM Objects for building product manufacturers are high-quality objects designed to simulate the actual product and embed critical product data and specifications in the Revit model.

Reed also is offering the R.S. Means Quick Cost Estimator within Revit to instantly calculate the estimated value of a project specific to its location. Means data will be integrated with all SmartBIM applications and will offer unique data for its users' models.

RCMS announced the iBIM platform and launched the iBIM Review service offering at the convention. Integrated Building Information Modeling, or iBIM, is an integrated platform that leverages BIM technology to convert paper drawings into relevant and useable building information. The deliverable includes a 3D BIM model and analytics package providing key constructability and quantity information to assist in mitigating project cost and schedule risk.

Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) launched a free building energy and carbon emission software tool. Suitable for all building types across worldwide locations, it is designed to help designers determine and increase the energy efficiency of their buildings and assess performance against the Architecture 2030 Challenge.

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!