Delivering the BIM Promise

7 May, 2008 By: Heather Livingston

Revit's 2009 offerings aim to realize the potential of building information modeling.

With its 2009 Revit product line, Autodesk's goal is to fulfill the potential and promise of the building information model (BIM), according to Rick Rundell, AIA, director of product marketing for Autodesk Building Solutions and fellow Cadalyst contributor. Through the acquisition of some key applications, Autodesk is leveraging Revit to provide AEC users with a full spectrum of analysis tools that can not only enhance collaboration across building disciplines, but also deliver a project with greater accuracy, speed, and efficiency.

"We spent the last few years making tools to capture building information and design information productively and easily so that they are very capable of producing the documents that architects need and putting in capabilities for collaboration and workflow," Rundell said. "We'll continue working on those things of course, but now that we have those things well established, the real focus is moved to enabling better design decision making through analysis."

The Offerings
On April 16, the company announced that it was shipping its 2009 product line for BIM, which includes Revit Architecture, Revit Structure, Revit MEP, AutoCAD Civil 3D, and Autodesk NavisWorks. According to the company, Revit Architecture 2009 includes sustainable design and energy analysis capabilities to assist with quantifying energy consumption and recycled content, among other measures. "The area that we have focused on is supporting sustainable design," Rundell explained. "Some of the most powerful things that can be done there have to do with quantifying the amount of energy that a building will consume, how lighting in the building behaves, and the material content — the same [information] that cost estimators want to know." Autodesk also reports that Revit Architecture's Mental Ray high-performance rendering engine also provides photorealistic images (see image) with greater ease and speed.

Revit Structure 2009 boasts enhanced modeling and documentation capabilities. The AutoCAD Revit Structure Suite now includes AutoCAD Structural Detailing, which enables steel and reinforced concrete detailing and shop and formwork drawings. With Autodesk's acquisition of Robobat, the company was able to incorporate two new technologies in its updated product. "One was structural analysis software that integrates with Revit Structure and allows for the structure to be analyzed," Rundell said. "Then, detailing software built on AutoCAD takes information from Revit Structure into AutoCAD, further details that out, and then it can be used to drive automated fabrication of the structural steel. That's another value of the type of information that comes out of BIM in terms of design to fabrication."

The photoclarity of Revit Architecture 2009 is so realistic that this rendering could be mistaken for a photograph. (All images courtesy of Autodesk.)

Revit MEP screenshot image with the outer shell and structure of the building removed.

Autodesk's recent purchase of Carmel Software provides Revit MEP 2009 users with optimized tools for building performance analysis, most notably for determining HVAC and lighting loads. AutoCAD Civil 3D 2009 aims to simplify use of BIM for civil engineering, from surveying and design through to documentation submittal and the delivery of 3D models for GPS machine control during construction. The expanded offerings include a storm water hydraulics and hydrology solution for storm sewer design, watershed analysis, detention-pond modeling, and culvert analysis; survey functionality that allows users to directly import raw data; and criteria-based road design that follows local design requirements such as stopping and passing sight and headlight distances.

Civil 3D image of public library landscape and grading.

Expanded Solutions
NavisWorks 2009 (NavisWorks Review, NavisWorks Manage, NavisWorks Simulate, and NavisWorks Freedom) enables the coordination, collaboration, and project sequencing for design and construction projects. NavisWorks allows a customer to pull together 3D building information from various software programs into an integrated environment where it can be viewed together. Commonly used by construction companies to rehearse the construction of the building before they go out into the field, NavisWorks reportedly reduces cost overruns and change orders by providing reliable clash detection.

With NavisWorks 2009, designers and builders can view all components of a building project pulled from various sources.

"The classic example is where a duct runs into a steel beam," Rundell explained. "Historically those kind of things have been so hard to figure out using conventional processes that it's been more cost-effective in the industry to allocate contingency funds for fixing those problems in the field than it was to get the designs perfectly coordinated, which was kind of a crime." With NavisWorks, said Rundell, the traditional 2-5% contingency is no longer a necessity. "What NavisWorks has done is eliminated almost all of those kinds of things in advance. It's made it efficient enough to identify those problems and fix them before construction."

According to Rundell, NavisWorks has been a very powerful tool for builders because it also helps the builder plan out construction phasing according to the time of installation, in effect rehearsing building construction digitally. "Instead of having a bunch of stuff sitting around the site that has to be protected with tarps, they can leave those [building materials] in the warehouse until shortly before needed," he explained. The more accurate projections can help contractors determine the number of people needed on site, better optimizing labor needs across the construction schedule.

Delivering on Interoperability
With regard to the promise of BIM delivering true interoperability, Rundell said, "On the Revit platform, we've made a big investment in the application programming interface, or API, for the software." An API is the mechanism by which software like Revit is opened up to a development community so they can plug their applications into it, he explained. Until a couple of years ago, the software was by and large a stand-alone solution because there weren't ways for third-party developers to easily develop applications to work with it. "We've been very pleased to see how many third-party developers have been developing add-on products to use the information that's in the Revit building information model," he said.

With palpable excitement, Rundell enthused about the 2009 updates, "It's really delivering on the promise of BIM and on what people were excited about when we first started talking about BIM. I remember back in 2002 a lot of this stuff was exciting but not there yet. It was sort of unbelievable, and here we are six years later really doing this stuff. It's no longer an academic thing with a few new technology proof points in the market. It's really arrived."

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