AEC Tech News #156

30 Nov, 2005

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

SolidWorks Expands Free DWG Tool

In other news, Autodesk surveys architects' use of green building practices

In early October, SolidWorks, a developer of 3D mechanical CAD software, expanded DWGgateway, its free plug-in that allows AutoCAD users to open any DWG file using any version of AutoCAD, as well as save any AutoCAD file to any version as far back as AutoCAD 14. This latest release of DWGgateway adds capabilities to save any AutoCAD drawing as an Adobe PDF file. It lets you easily take advantage of all the latest features of Adobe PDF, such as enabling users of the free Adobe Reader to view, redline, measure objects and more in any AutoCAD drawing.

With this move, SolidWorks joins Bentley Systems and other CAD developers to actively promote the idea that it is no longer necessary to stay current with AutoCAD upgrades in order to open drawings created with the latest version. These developers are hoping to attract AutoCAD users who might be resentful about Autodesk's recent emphasis on annual upgrades and forced retirement of AutoCAD versions as well as the inability to save newer file versions back more than a generation or two.

In late October, Autodesk entered the mix with its own free DWG tools: DWG TrueView for viewing DWG files and DWG TrueConvert for translating DWG files between newer and older versions. DWG TrueConvert updates the Autodesk Batch Drawing Converter and provides conversion tools for DWG files to be translated from one version to another. It also allows for backward and forward compatibility of DWG files: It can batch-convert files from the latest release format (2004) to R14 or 2000 DWG formats and from AutoCAD v2 to the latest release. I'll talk about these new Autodesk tools at greater length in an upcoming edition of AEC Tech News.

Autodesk Studies Use of Green Building Design
Last month, Autodesk released a report on a survey it commissioned to assess architects' current and projected use of green building techniques. Fleishman-Hillard Research conducted the survey for Autodesk.

The survey questioned architects about their use of 16 green building practices -- based on some of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards -- asking respondents to estimate how much they used the practices five years ago, how much they currently use them, and how much they expect to use them five years into the future. The answers were given as a percentage of total projects in the office, and were added up and averaged by various categories, such as firm size, how long the respondent has been in practice, project type and so forth, to arrive at what is called the Autodesk Green Building Index, a numeric value ranging from 0 to 100. A score of zero on a technique would indicate that it was not being used or expected to be used on any projects in the office, and a score of 100 would indicate a technique is being used on at least half the projects in the office.

The green building techniques in the survey included specification of high-efficiency HVAC systems, use of computer software to analyze daylighting, HVAC energy costs, solar loads and so forth. The full report (PDF) is available now for download.

High-Efficiency HVAC Use Most Common
The report indicates architects' use of green building concepts and techniques has risen by about 50% compared with five years ago. It also projects that in another five years, those same architects will increase use of green building techniques by about 100% over current levels.

By far the most commonly used green building technique today, according to the survey, is specification of high-efficiency HVAC systems. Less commonly used techniques include computation of HVAC energy costs, computer analysis of daylighting design and total building energy modeling/analysis.

Factors impeding the adoption of energy-efficient design, according to respondents, include costs associated with green building materials and techniques as well as education of clients and AEC professionals including architects and contractors. Factors affecting the expected future adoption of energy conservation techniques include increased energy costs in the future, client demand and regulatory requirements.

The report was based on 84 respondents -- obviously a very small sample of the profession -- leading me to wonder if the results could be extrapolated to accurately represent the profession as a whole. Invitations to participate in the survey were distributed only to Autodesk customers who volunteered, and who it may be assumed are users of technology in architectural practice in general. But that group of users certainly doesn't represent all CAD or BIM technology users.

Also, the self-selecting aspect of the survey implies that those who responded were likely interested in green building techniques -- and therefore likely to be using some aspects of green building design they wanted to report. Anyone who received the invitation and was not yet interested in or using green building design would presumably be much less likely to participate.

A similar survey that polled a more representative group of professionals -- perhaps conducted by the American Institute of Architects or some other AEC industry organization -- might yield significantly different results, and would be interesting to see.

Michael L. Dakan, AIA, is an architect, author and independent AEC technology consultant. E-mail him at

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