Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium 2012

3 Aug, 2011 By: Patrick Davis

First Look Review: Bundle of joy? If you use more than one design solution, this new package could help integrate your workflow and save money.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Summer 2011 issue of Cadalyst magazine.

Among the big news for the Autodesk 2012 product lines announced this spring is the bundling of individual applications into suites designed to provide users with a more integrated workflow, as well as better value. The Autodesk Building Design Suites are comprehensive architecture and building engineering design solutions that provide a prepackaged selection of tools for the design professional and are offered in three versions: Standard, Premium, and Ultimate. For this First Look, I focused on Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium 2012.


Autodesk Building Design Suites ship on a single flash drive, which may indicate that Autodesk is phasing out CDs and DVDs. Suites are also available for download from the company’s subscription site.

The installation process, whether on the desktop or network, initiates with a single click and functions similarly to single-product installations.

Suites are available by desktop or network license. For stand-alone subscriptions, the applications within each suite can only be installed on a single computer; you cannot split applications across multiple workstations. For network licenses, customers can install varied sets of the applications on different machines.

Just the Basics

All Autodesk Building Design Suites contain the same core group of applications, including AutoCAD 2012, the AutoCAD-based vertical applications (AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Structural Detailing, and AutoCAD MEP), Autodesk Showcase, Autodesk Showcase Designer, and Autodesk Design Review.

New features in AutoCAD 2012 expand workflows. Modeling documentation improvements include the ability to import models from a variety of applications including Inventor, SolidWorks, Rhino, and CATIA. (For further details, see Cadalyst’s "AutoCAD 2012: Who Says 2D Is Dead?")

Autodesk continues to develop AutoCAD Architecture, and it’s still widely used. Improvements include faster startup and drawing load times, plus windows, doors, spaces, structural members, and IFC support.

One of the new applications for the AEC industries is Autodesk Showcase 2012, a real-time rendering and presentation tool that lets designers, engineers, and marketing team members explore and showcase their designs in an immersive 3D environment. Autodesk states that with Showcase, users can create stunning 3D visualizations without investing a great deal of time working in the application — and I tend to agree with that. You can fairly quickly bring in geometry from 3ds Max, Revit (FBX), FBX, AutoCAD, and the like; use preconfigured scenes; and add materials. In no time you’ll have a good real-time visualization of your project.

Showcase 2012 offers some pretty interesting features. It supports the Autodesk materials library, which means materials that were assigned in AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit, and 3ds Max Design can be imported into Showcase. Features include automatic ambient shadows, real-time geometry on geometry shadows, and nonphotorealistic styles.

Premium Suite

Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium includes all the tools found in the Standard edition plus building information modeling (BIM) functionality via Revit Architecture, Revit Structure, and Revit MEP. Autodesk 3ds Max Design adds advanced visualization and animation capabilities. This package is ideally suited for those who design, document, and share drawings in the DWG file format while taking advantage of the optimized workflows of BIM and enhanced visualization.

Revit Architecture 2012 has a significant number of new features. The new construction modeling tools offer better construction insight by coordinating the design and construction model in a single file.

New modeling tools in Revit Architecture coordinate the design model and construction model within a single file, providing the user with better construction insight.

A new Create Parts/Divide Model tool provides the means for dividing Revit Architecture geometry into smaller parts for the purpose of creating more accurate schedules, quantity takeoffs, and visualizations. This new functionality can help create shop drawings for prefabrication projects such as precast walls. Users can select, schedule, and tag these assemblies so they are tracked within the project.

Revit Architecture now includes Conceptual Energy Analysis and native point cloud support (so imported point cloud models behave like a modeling object within the software), and Revit element creation and modification tools are now capable of snapping to planar surfaces that are dynamically detected within the point cloud.

MEP engineers will appreciate improvements in Revit MEP 2012, including an enhanced Sloped Piping tool and Check Duct Systems and Check Pipe Systems commands that generate a disconnectedgeometry warning when a model has open-ended ducts and pipes. Revit Structure 2012 has seen a number of enhancements, such as improvements to attaching rebar.

The release of 3ds Max Design 2012 delivers three core enhancements: new rendering toolsets, enhanced iterative workflows, and an accelerated graphics core called Nitrous. With Nitrous, you have unlimited lights, soft shadows, screenspace ambient occlusion, tone-mapping, and higher-quality transparency available.

In addition, you can now natively import Autodesk Alias Design files (WIRE format) into 3ds Max Design. The iray renderer simplifies the process of getting more predictable, photorealistic results, similar to using a point-and-shoot camera, whereas stylistic rendering lets you create a variety of nonphotorealistic effects.

The iray renderer in 3ds Max Design allows for more predictable photorealistic results.

Autodesk Inventor Fusion is a recent graduate from the Autodesk Labs technology preview site. It is a relatively new 3D mechanical design solution offering a combination of history-free and history-based modeling; this provides a unique approach for modeling.

Inventor Fusion is a marriage between the somewhat easyto- use modeling in AutoCAD 3D and the powerful parametric modeling in Inventor. If you were to compare Inventor Fusion with AutoCAD 3D modeling and Inventor, you would find the modeling process has more in common with AutoCAD, but the user interface is much closer to Inventor.

As a building design professional, you might ask yourself, Why do I need a mechanical modeling application such as Inventor Fusion? Well, this solution lets you quickly and efficiently create solid models of building elements, such as sunscreens or even spider fittings for curtain walls. Revit can accomplish this task, but the process is time-consuming and more difficult than it should be. Inventor Fusion also has a tool that lets you simplify the geometry of your solid model. This can be a real benefit should you create a solid model of a building element that is so complex that it hinders performance in Revit.

Great Value — if You Need the Extra Tools

The amount of software offered in the new Autodesk Building Design Suites is impressive, to say the least. The bundling offers a cost savings of as much as 71% compared with purchasing all the software separately. However, don’t expect to use all these great new tools immediately after acquiring them. These are professional-level applications, and you’ll need some significant training to learn and master each one.

How do you determine if purchasing or upgrading to an Autodesk Design Suite is a smart value for you? This is the question that customers and resellers are going to struggle with during the 2012 release cycle.

If you only use a single Autodesk Building Design Suite application, such as AutoCAD Architecture, and have no plans to branch out to BIM or visualization, then the Autodesk Building Design Suite is probably not a good buy for you, unless you need access to AutoCAD MEP and AutoCAD Structural Detailing. If you are currently using an AutoCAD-based application and are planning the transition to BIM, then upgrading to an Autodesk Building Design Suite might provide you some real value.


Autodesk Building Design Suites 2012
Standard Edition
$5,495 (plus subscription)
This base package is suited for those who design, document, and share drawings in the DWG file format.
  • AutoCAD 2012
  • Autodesk Showcase 2012
  • AutoCAD Architecture 2012
  • AutoCAD MEP 2012
  • AutoCAD Structural Detailing 2012
  • Autodesk SketchBook Designer 2012
Premium Edition
$6,495 (plus subscription)
Suited for those who design, document, and share drawings in the DWG file format while taking advantage of the optimized workflows of BIM and enhanced visualization. Includes all the tools of the Standard edition, plus:
  • Autodesk Revit Architecture 2012
  • Autodesk Revit MEP 2012
  • Autodesk Revit Structure 2012
  • Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2012
  • Autodesk Inventor Fusion 2012
Ultimate Edition
$11,495 (plus subscription)
Suited for those needing a complete set of tools for design and construction. Includes all the tools of the Premium edition except Autodesk Inventor Fusion 2012, plus:
  • Autodesk Inventor 2012
  • Autodesk Navisworks Manage 2012
  • Autodesk Quantity Takeoff 2012


Once stand-alone licensing users determine that there is value in upgrading to an Autodesk Building Design Suite, the next step is determining which of the company’s users need the suite. Chances are, everyone in your organization doesn’t need all the applications in the suite. For example, a detailer who uses AutoCAD to create 2D details is not a good candidate for an Autodesk Building Design Suite upgrade.

For those on network licenses, the decision to upgrade to an Autodesk Building Design Suite provides more value. For example, while your entire staff doesn’t need to use Navisworks Manage all day, every day, purchasing the Autodesk Building Design Ultimate Edition gives you access to Navisworks Manage without losing the design application license you are upgrading from.

Many firms using Revit will find the Autodesk Building Design Suites appealing, as they provide access to all the BIM applications in a single package. This is something that many Revit users have long been requesting. Upgrading to the Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium Edition provides access to all the Revit applications, plus advanced visualization tools such as Autodesk Showcase and Autodesk 3ds Max Design.

Many customers may find that they don’t use every application that’s included, and therefore have a hard time justifying buying the whole suite, which will make the 2012 release cycle interesting for both resellers and customers trying to figure out the best mix of software to leave as is, upgrade, cross-grade, or retire.

Keep in mind that if you have a current release of Revit Suite, AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, or AutoCAD MEP, the upgrade to the Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium 2012 can cost as little $1,500. Contact your local reseller for specifics. Highly Recommended.

Add comment


Re: Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium 2012
by: coryj
November 22, 2011 - 8:57pm
I finally got around to loading this upgrade from my previous version as the added features looked they would really help my consulting work with many different clients. It took hours to download, hours to load and hours more to install only to have it fail to load most of the programs. Couldn't find any way to get back to the install program so I had to start all over again. It seemed to work after 2 1/2 days of not being able to use my main computer for fear that it would corrupt the installation. Although I should be doing paying work, I decided to try loading it on my backup computer only to have it again fail to load most of the programs so I again had to start over. It may be a great suite of software applications but you better have a couple of days with nothing else to do but watch the status bar.
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