Cadalyst AEC Tech News #125 (August 5, 2004)

4 Aug, 2004 By: Michael Dakan

Autodesk announced improved building engineering design and analysis for Building Services 2005. This is accomplished through direct data connections via an open API (applications programming interface) to industry-leading design and analysis software solutions from Trane, Elite, and Geopraxis. These applications provide calculations for sizing of HVAC equipment and ductwork, electrical, plumbing and fire protection sprinkler systems, and energy analysis and assistance for green building design and LEEDS certification.

To take advantage of these new data connections, users of Building Services 2005 must download and install Service Pack 1 (abs2005swlsp1enu.exe; 1.45MB).

The applications can use design data extracted directly from a building model created with Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2005 and Autodesk Building Services 2005. The data connection uses building geometry and systems layout data supplemented with ddXML (duct design XML) and gbXML (green building XML) standard file format data from the model. The engineering data is stored in the building systems model objects, which facilitates sharing this data among a variety of different engineering applications and users.

This process can speed workflow by streamlining data input to design and analysis software and making the process more automatic and iterative. The engineer can quickly assess changes in system layout to get a better understanding of the implications and perhaps look at several alternative solutions to a proposed change.

It should also help to reduce data exchange errors by automating the input into engineering software, thereby eliminating keyboarding errors and misreading of the data to be input. And the common data source ensures that all users who access the data are working with the same information, thus facilitating coordination of information among all users.

The companies that initially make up the information sharing alliance with Autodesk include Trane, Elite Software, and Geopraxis. No doubt other companies will join this list over time because the information connections are provided via an open API and open, industry-standard XML file formats that anyone can use. It's easy to envision additional functionality such as cost estimating and scheduling being developed to enhance the usefulness of BIM data across the design and long-term lifecycle and use of a building.

Trane is a comfort systems equipment manufacturer that provides a complete range of HVAC heating, cooling, and air handling equipment. Engineering design and analysis software is provided through its C. D. S. division. Its tools have been in use in building engineering offices for years. Of particular interest for Building Systems 2005 users is the TRACE 700 packages for load design and analysis and Varitrane Duct Designer for distribution system layout and sizing. Because many engineering firms have used these as stand-alone tools since before the advent of CAD-based design, they may have a high comfort level with the software when it's applied to CAD design models.

Elite Software has likewise been in use in many engineering firms for a long time. The company provides products for a wide variety of building systems, including HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection sprinklers. The Elite Ductsize program, as the name implies, sizes ducts according to required airflow, volume, and pressure loss criteria. With Ductsize the engineer can import a preliminary layout directly from a Building Systems 2005 model, complete the design duct sizing, and then take the finished information back into the model and automatically generate an updated, accurate drawing of the system. Elite's FIRE application works in a similar way with pipe sizing for fire sprinklers. It performs all the hydraulics calculations for water flow and pressure loss and provides a finished design of the sprinkler pipe network.

I remember working with Elite software linked to Softdesk building engineering CAD software many years ago. I was very impressed with the automation of CAD drawing provided for these systems in the Softdesk HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical AutoCAD Release 14 add-ons.

We briefly reported on GeoPraxis' Green Building Studio in a previous AEC Tech News (March 4, 2004) when it first became available as a free tool to assist with building energy analysis. Green Building Studio is a combination of free software and access to a Web site where calculations and analysis are performed through the use of gbXML data in a model. Energy usage implications of design decisions in the early stages of building design can be quickly assessed and tested.

The use of these data connection capabilities in Autodesk Building Systems 2005 greatly extends and enhances the usefulness of an integrated, all-encompassing 3D model for building information. We will undoubtedly see more and more of this kind of thing in the future as BIM software use grows and continues to be developed and enhanced.