Teaching the Next Generation (AEC in Focus Column)

31 Jul, 2007 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg

Industry helps universities, colleges, and schools teach students how to leverage the power of CAD software.

A generation is considered 20 years; therefore, a generation of professionals has grown up during the first AEC/O (architect, engineer, construction, and operations) electronic revolution. During this period, electronic drafting generally replaced hand drafting, but the professional-to-drafter relationship stayed the same. In most cases, education was done on the job or was handled by community colleges and reseller networks.

With the development of the building information model, we're going through a new digital revolution. This revolution is much more sophisticated than the previous one and will require more sophisticated education. We may even see a new category of professionals with such titles as virtual architect/engineer, digital contractor, and master building information modeling (BIM) manager. Although not totally altruistically and knowing that education is key to the success of the building information model, the four main players in the AEC/O digital design industry (Autodesk, Bentley Systems, Graphisoft, and Nemetschek North America) have reached out to the educational community.


For the K–12 level, Autodesk has several academic applications that package the latest BIM software such as Revit with project-based curricula that allows teachers to deliver relevant, engaging, and motivating instruction in the classroom. Auto-desk's academic software for middle school students is called DesignKids. The company's high school software is called Design Academy. For more information about both programs and to read case studies, visit

To support postsecondary education, Autodesk created its online Student Engineering and Design Community at (figure 1). This online portal offers students free access to the latest 3D modeling software such as Revit and Civil 3D. The site also serves as a resource for educators who want to network with one another around the world to share best practices and learning modules.

Figure 1. To support postsecondary education, Autodesk created its online Student Engineering and Design Community.
Figure 1. To support postsecondary education, Autodesk created its online Student Engineering and Design Community.

Autodesk also partners with educators at prominent architecture schools to support the next generation of architects and designers. Here is a sampling of what several schools are doing in the studio:

Cornell University. The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning teaches Revit Architecture in some sections.

New Jersey Institute of Technology. The school uses Autodesk products such as Revit Architecture, AutoCAD Architecture, VIZ, and 3ds Max. (It's one of Autodesk's biggest 3ds Max education customers.) It hopes to expand its use of Revit Architecture and Revit Structure, particularly in its comprehensive studio, and it currently teaches Revit Building as a component of its upper-level studio.

Cosumnes River College. Terry Kirkham, a professor of architectural design technology, has integrated Revit into the college's Architecture Design Technology classes. He teaches two classes using Revit Architecture, one at the beginner level and the second at an intermediate level. Kirkham addresses the difference between CAD and BIM as students explore how to design restaurants, cabins, residential houses, and medical facilities.

Yale University. For the first time, Yale is teaching Revit Building in its Advanced Design Studios. During the second semester, students design and build a house in AutoCAD for drafting then transition to Revit Building.

University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley conducted a BIM studio with Autodesk in the summer of 2006 and will hold another series of BIM studios this summer. The university currently teaches Revit Building to students in its design labs and is participating in an Autodesk video production that illustrates the integration of BIM into their curricula and the barriers that educators face.

Carnegie Mellon University. The school teaches a course in Revit Building. Students are incorporating Revit Building into their studio projects.

Bentley Systems

Bentley focuses on education through the BE Careers Network, an initiative that concentrates on secondary and postsecondary education. When a school subscribes to the BE Careers Network program, it can receive more than 54 products for civil engineering, architecture, plant engineering, geospatial, hydraulic engineering, and structural analysis.

Bentley places special emphasis on educational institutions that have the potential to, in essence, become future talent incubators for recruiters within the infrastructure community. To this end, the BE Careers Network (figure 2) offers software on a subscription basis (the same technology sold to commercial users). The network also offers free student home-use licenses for students who attend schools in their program; free training for instructors; on-demand, 24-hour-a-day learning for students starting in the fall; courseware and curricula for professors; attendance at Bentley's annual BE Conferences for professors; a résumé service for students; academic seminars/workshops; scholarships and competitions; and book-publishing opportunities under the Bentley Institute Press imprint.

Figure 2. Formerly known as the Bentley Educational Network (BEN), BE Careers Network brings software and support encompassing architecture, geospatial, plant design, civil, and environmental engineering into academic institutions.
Figure 2. Formerly known as the Bentley Educational Network (BEN), BE Careers Network brings software and support encompassing architecture, geospatial, plant design, civil, and environmental engineering into academic institutions.

The network also provides free individual software to high schools and individual students under the MicroStation PowerDraft academic program, through which more than 160,000 copies of Bentley's professional software have been distributed at no charge.

BE Careers Network supports various student competitions to encourage and support students' growth and interest in the industry. Regional efforts include such 2007 events as the American Society of Civil Engineers' 20th Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition, at which civil engineering students from 22 of the nation's top engineering schools raced canoes made of concrete, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials TRAC-Drawbridge Competition, through which departments of transportation work with students in partnership with other government organizations, universities, nonprofit organizations, and private industry. Bentley also sponsors U.S. competitions, such as the Future City Competition, as well as competitions around the world.

Earlier this year, Bentley sponsored Future Cities India 2020, a university student design competition that is a partnership among government, universities, and the business community encouraging students to use their design skills to help prepare India's cities for the year 2020.


Graphisoft's ArchiCAD is the oldest 3D BIM application, and the company has a long history of reaching out to the education community. According to Patrick Mays, president of Graphisoft's North America division, students want to know "how they can hit the ground running" when they graduate from school.

"Within a typical curriculum, it's a challenge for many schools to teach all the skills necessary to become an AEC/O professional," Mays said. "That's why it's important for us to provide a complete program that can more easily be introduced into a curriculum — and that students can use to learn on their own."

Because today's students must learn more information in architecture schools, Graphisoft provides a full spectrum of support that includes a comprehensive BIM curriculum, an entire suite of free software, interactive learning materials, and online communities for teachers and students. This approach allows students to learn additional BIM skills inside and outside of the classroom.

Graphisoft's programs for education include:

Free education licenses of ArchiCAD. The current and full version of ArchiCAD is available to students, teachers, and schools worldwide, whether they are in a primary, secondary, or college program. A free copy can be downloaded at Educational institutions requesting site-wide ArchiCAD can contact Graphisoft at Graphisoft also provides students with free partner solutions, including Cadimage Tools, Door & Window Builder, Artlantis, and beginning in the fall semester, ECOTECT, a complete environmental design tool that couples an intuitive 3D modeling interface with extensive solar, thermal, lighting, acoustic, and cost-analysis functions.

Community tools. is a community site for students. It's a Web 2.0 site with content created entirely by ArchiCAD students who upload their work for review by both peers and commercial practitioners. Find great work produced with ArchiCAD at (figure 3).

Figure 3. is a community site for students with user-created content uploaded for review by peers and commercial architecture practices.
Figure 3. is a community site for students with user-created content uploaded for review by peers and commercial architecture practices.

The Professor's Forum Web site is a global online community that offers teachers support and guidance. Membership to the forum is available by application to Graphisoft at

Learning tools. Graphisoft helps instructors teach BIM by offering a free curriculum that provides all the necessary teaching resources, including PowerPoint presentations, student notes, and step-by-step hands-on lab sessions. Visit to download the curriculum.

ArchiCAD's interactive training guides are an innovative approach to learning; students use both video and voice-led instruction from inside ArchiCAD, which offer them a smooth learning experience (

Nemetschek North America

Nemetschek North America has always recognized that today's students are tomorrow's designers. To that end, the company has made a concerted effort to provide easy access to VectorWorks at the educational level. In the past, the company has offered software packages to students at a deep discount and has provided donation programs to schools and universities. This program has been effective in introducing middle school to college-age students to VectorWorks on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. This year, Nemetschek offered VectorWorks to college design students at no cost. However, discounts and free software are not the only avenues that Nemetschek North America has created for the academic community.

Because Nemetschek believes strongly in offering student support and training, the company has created an online community for design students. The Web site allows college design students to download VectorWorks Designer with RenderWorks. It also provides access to a discussion board where students can learn from their peers ( To help students plan for their future, the company provides an internship and job board where they can connect with companies looking for students and graduates who are trained on VectorWorks.

Students are just one portion of the academic community. Nemetschek also provides teachers and instructors with resources to teach VectorWorks to students of any level (figure 4). Teachers also are encouraged to join the online community, where they will find sample lesson plans and access to an instructors' forum to swap notes with their colleagues (

Figure 4. Instructors from around the country have submitted lesson plans showing how they teach VectorWorks in an academic setting.
Figure 4. Instructors from around the country have submitted lesson plans showing how they teach VectorWorks in an academic setting.

Nemetschek continues to reach out to schools themselves. Currently, VectorWorks is offered at more than 400 schools across the country, with close to 12,000 students and teachers using the software. These schools range from public middle and high schools to prestigious four-year colleges, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Rhode Island School of Design.

Since 2004, VectorWorks has been included in the laptop program at Boston's Wentworth Institute of Technology. Wentworth's laptop program outfits students with laptops that have the necessary software already installed. Florida's Full Sail has incorporated VectorWorks into their film, art, design, music, and media production programs, relying specifically on VectorWorks Spotlight to train students for production design.

For more information about the academic packages offered by Nemetschek North America, call 888.646.4223 or e-mail

H. Edward Goldberg, AIA, NCARB, is a practicing licensed architect and AEC industry analyst. Ed's full-length book, Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2008: A Comprehensive Tutorial (Prentice Hall, is now available. His new Revit Architecture book will be available in fall 2007. Visit for more information or e-mail

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