AEC Tech News (#221)

27 Feb, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Entertainment for Architects

Autodesk 3ds Max takes aim at architectural visualization.

By Kenneth Wong

Heather Livingston photo

How would your Revit project look in 3ds Max, the same software used to spawn digital legions in computer games like Rome: Total War? Slowly but steadily, Autodesk’s architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) portfolio and its media and entertainment (M&E) products are coming together. At the recent Autodesk World Press Days, the company highlighted its latest efforts on this front.

Exposing Daylight
How realistically does light behave in Autodesk 3ds Max 2009? In the upcoming design-centric version of Max, branded as 3ds Max Design, Autodesk aims to make lighting simulation accurate enough to perform daylighting studies in architectural projects destined for LEED 8.1 accreditation. To that end, the application's Exposure technology provides output not only as rendered images but as numerical data (downloadable as Excel data), representing the distribution of light intensity across space.

"Exposure is unique to 3ds Max Design," said Rick Champagne, product marketing manager for Autodesk’s M&E Division. Listing the new version’s key features and benefits, Autodesk states, "In addition to light metering functionality with graphical output, Exposure also features the popular 3ds Max sun and sky models."

With the introduction of Exposure, 3ds Max Design tiptoes ever so slightly toward energy efficiency modeling, a field currently dominated by specialized packages such as ECOTECT (from the UK-based Square One Research) and IES-VE (Integrated Environment Solutions <Virtual Environment>). It’s highly unlikely that 3ds Max, with a long history in filmmaking and game development, will morph into an energy analysis package. The creation of 3ds Max Design is but Autodesk’s acknowledgment of the growing segment of 3ds Max users in architectural and industrial design visualization.Read more »
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Kenneth Wong is a Cadalyst columnist and former Cadence editor. He explores innovative uses of technology and its implications in his writing. Reach him at


Building with Words (AEC Insight Column)

By Jerry Laiserin

Even before CAD, computer technology -- especially word-processing software and printing and communication hardware -- helped automate the production, editing, and distribution of specifications. Today's technology potentially can go beyond merely automating spec writing to informating the process. You may ask, "What is informating? Is that a real word?" Informating is a neologism by social scientist Shoshana Zuboff, professor at the Harvard Business School and author of the 1988 classic titled In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power.

According to Wikipedia, "informating is the process that translates descriptions and measurements of activities, events, and objects into information." Thus, spec writing involves descriptions and measurements of activities, events, and objects -- the materials, means, and methods of construction -- and computer-aided or computer-enhanced spec writing informates the process and translates specifications into information that is usable and actionable by both humans and machines. Read more »      

Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

Webcast: Staying Billable for CAD Users
March 3, 2008
1:30 p.m. ET
In this Webcast, sponsored by Synergis, Cadalyst contributing editor Robert Green will show participants how to learn more to improve their CAD skills while remaining as billable as possible. Green will explore some ideas to help achieve these sometimes competing goals. Read more

Using the Functionality of AutoCAD MEP
March 11, 2008
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
At this Synergis lecture-style event, Autodesk trainer Jim Law will show why users should make the move from AutoCAD to AutoCAD MEP. Using "intelligent" objects, users assemble systems in their drawings exactly as they would be installed during construction. Read more

Webcast: Staying Billable for CAD Managers
March 17, 2008
1:30 p.m. ET
CAD managers always have too many things going on, many of which are not project-billable, yet CAD managers are still called upon to be billable. In this Webcast, sponsored by Synergis, Robert Green will present some ideas to help break the logjam. Read more

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on