Data Management

Autodesk Pushes AEC Modernization, Part 1: New Tools for Construction Cloud, Digital Twins

22 Nov, 2020 By: Cadalyst Staff

At Autodesk University 2020, the company spotlights products and capabilities intended to digitize construction management, enhance operational insights, and help disparate groups collaborate.

A few months ago, Autodesk was rebuked by a group of architectural firms unhappy with the company’s investment — or lack thereof — in improving Revit. In response, Amy Bunszel, senior vice president of Autodesk’s AEC Design Solutions group, explained that the company had made a tradeoff in recent years: Revit development resources were shifted to focus on the needs of engineering and construction customers instead, with the goal of enabling “all major stakeholders to participate in the BIM [building information modeling] process.”

At the 2020 Autodesk University (AU) conference, held online November 17–20, the company highlighted results of those redirected efforts. “The work we’re doing to truly connect all parts of AEC is so exciting, because I believe it will enable this industry to collaborate in near–real time, with agility and productivity,” said President and CEO Andrew Anagnost.

To that end, Autodesk is expanding its AEC Collection and Construction Cloud offerings; unveiling Autodesk Tandem, which expands building information modeling (BIM) functionality with digital twins; and also investing in design authoring capabilities, Anagnost said.

The Call to Connect AEC

“The reality is that connected data has already revolutionized every industry around us, and the AEC industry is no exception,” stated Leona Frank, Autodesk senior industry marketing manager, during AU’s AEC keynote.

“When we talk about data-connected design,” Frank said, “it’s first of all an acknowledgement that design doesn’t happen in a vacuum: You have numerous stakeholders working together, each adding their part — and their data — to make sure the design meets expectations. And the better connected these project team members and stakeholders are, the more efficient and less error-prone the process. This puts the common data environment, or CDE, with cloud data storage and document management squarely in the middle of the design process, empowering innovators like you to work with one single source of truth.”

Pushing Construction Toward the Cloud

Digitalization of construction was under way before the pandemic reshaped workflows, but not proceeding with enough urgency, according to Anagnost. “Today, it’s a necessity. And soon, after we’re on the other side of this crisis, construction will be permanently digitized,” he predicted.

At Autodesk University 2019, the company announced Autodesk Construction Cloud, which promised “greater depth, breadth, and connectivity across our construction solutions ... a truly connected construction experience,” as Anagnost put it. According to Frank, Autodesk Construction Cloud gives design and construction professionals a unified platform, helping them to share data and reduce the risk of errors and rework: “Just imagine the value your design data will have to a contractor tasked with bringing it to life — or to you, when it’s enriched with construction data and you receive a change order.”

Now, Construction Cloud is being expanded with the following new cloud-based construction solutions, Anagnost explained:

  • “Autodesk Build, a new project, cost, and field collaboration solution that leverages the best of BIM 360 and PlanGrid.” (This means that Autodesk Build combines new functionality to better connect connect data, workflows, and teams with features of the existing BIM 360 project management and PlanGrid field collaboration solutions, including the PlanGrid Build mobile app for field workers.) 
  • “Autodesk Quantify, for integrated 2D and 3D quantification.” Quantify helps estimators to automate 2D and 3D takeoffs and manage documents in a single, cloud-based environment. According to Product Manager Nick Zeeben, using separate processes and tools for 2D and 3D takeoffs hampered the transmission of data between the two systems, slowing work and making it difficult to collaborate and identify nuances. “For most estimators, this means their time is spent on fixing mistakes, instead of value-added activities like cost analysis and supporting project managers and executives to win more business,” he wrote in an Autodesk Construction Cloud Blog post.

With Autodesk Quantify, estimators can conduct 2D (above) and 3D (below) takeoffs in the same tool. Image source: Autodesk.


  • “Autodesk BIM Collaborate — model coordination and design collaboration brought together.” This new tool focuses on professionals, such as project managers and owners, who need to review designs but don’t create them. This tool manages the design collaboration and coordination workflow in a single solution, with the goals of reducing rework and accelerating project delivery. This includes management of issues, model reviews, and markups; change analysis; and clash detection.

Autodesk BIM Collaborate can help users manage design issues. Image source: Autodesk.

The new construction management products are supported by Insights, which analyzes the data collected; Construction IQ artificial intelligence, which can help users identify and mitigate risk; and Administration, which handles tasks such as product authentication and user management.

All the new tools are all built on Autodesk Docs, “a shared data environment that enables powerful insights throughout the entire lifecycle of a project,” Anagnost continued. According to Autodesk, keeping all construction data in one central location can help users collaborate, anticipate project changes, and glean data-driven guidance for organizational improvement. “Today, all of you in the AEC industry — architects, engineers, contractors — need to be able to coordinate your work from anywhere,” said Anagnost. These products will become available in early 2021.

Tandem Digital Twin Tool Aims to Boost Operational Efficiency

“In AEC, it used to be that when a building project moved to construction, the architect’s model got flattened into drawings, and all that rich information was lost, just when it was most needed,” said Anagnost. That’s changed, both in terms of what the current technology makes possible and what customers expect. “Building owners have woken up to the value of BIM, and they’re asking for a digital handover where all of the data generated throughout design and construction comes together to form the basis of a digital twin,” he said. According to Autodesk, that demand is driven by the fact that nearly 80% of an asset’s lifetime value is realized in the operations stage.

To meet tomorrow’s demands, Anagnost stated, “data will need to flow from design to construction, and directly into a building’s digital twin. This is where insights will cycle from operations back into the hands of architects and engineers, builders, and owners, allowing all of these disciplines to make decisions based on data generated throughout the entire lifecycle of an asset.”

To give owners and operators greater insight into their assets — and hopefully, enable greater operational efficiencies as a result — Autodesk created the new Tandem digital twin solution. “Today, we’re taking the first step toward delivering a true digital twin for AEC,” Anagnost announced. Tandem uses Autodesk’s Forge cloud platform to aggregate project data “from BIM to IoT and beyond,” he said.

Autodesk Tandem creates a digital replica of a real-world structure and its components. Image source: Autodesk.

Tandem creates a hub for data from multiple sources and phases of a project, from design through operations. This includes all project models and metadata. The digital twin tracks data about both structures (buildings or bridges, for example) and their components (such as heating and electrical systems).

The first public beta of Tandem will be available “soon,” Anagnost said.


About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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