CAD Central

31 Dec, 2004 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg,Michael Bordenaro

Analysis of CAD industry news and trends.

Intelligent Building Modeling Makes Inroads into Real-World Practice

By Michael Borden

Though intelligent building modeling software is gaining fans, legal barriers prevent many AEC firms from implementing it. The Fabrication Conference, cosponsored by ACADIA (Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture) and AIA (American Institute of Architects) from November 8–14, 2004, highlighted existing projects as well as efforts underway to revise AIA contract documents.

Eevent Highlights
Eevent Highlights

This confluence of leading technology developers and advanced users illustrates the explosion of intelligent building modeling also referred to as BIM (building information modeling) in architecture, engineering and construction.

From Front's dizzying array of façe consultation projects to Mark Bury's use of computer design to help complete Gaudi's Familia Sagrada in Barcelona to William Massie's transformational look at computer tools to Gehry Technologies' description of how it helps other architects resolve complex design issues, there was no shortage of case studies demonstrating the impact of technology in design and construction.

Examples of intelligent modeling software include Graphisoft ArchiCAD, Autodesk Revit and Bentley Generative Components.

The Baha'i Temple in Santiago, Chile, was designed using the new CATIA-based intelligent modeling application developed by Gehry Technologies. (Image courtesy of Hariri Pontarini Architects.)
The Baha'i Temple in Santiago, Chile, was designed using the new CATIA-based intelligent modeling application developed by Gehry Technologies. (Image courtesy of Hariri Pontarini Architects.)

The need to teach new and practicing architects how to take advantage of intelligent modeling tools was addressed by speakers such as Charles Eastman and Branko Kolarevic.

Legal Issues

Despite the prolific and generous transfer of knowledge about the use of advanced tools, the most significant talk at the event proposed that a legal transformation is more important to the adoption of intelligent modeling than are software developments. Phil Bernstein, vice-president of Autodesk's Building Solutions Division and a professor focusing on architectural practice at Yale University's School of Architecture, spoke about his upcoming two-year mission as chair of the AIA Documents committee.

Bernstein postulated that software tools are actually outstripping architects' ability to fully use them. He said that the true barrier to the fullest and most widespread use of BIM tools are the legal documents that govern collaboration.

As chair of the committee that is redrafting AIA documents, the most pervasive legal agreements in United States design and construction, Bernstein pledged his efforts to foster a revolutionary approach to legal arrangements that will allow designers, contractors and building owners to share information in a way that allows maximum use of the intelligent modeling tools.

Bernstein pointed out that if architects don't restructure their practice and use the AIA document's respected role in the industry to promote the use of intelligent modeling tools, their role in the building industry will be diminished.

Using a clear road map and examples of nontraditional contractual arrangements that have helped with the completion of substantial projects, Bernstein charted the steps he wants to take to reform documents to reflect the new way buildings can be designed and built.

Though Bernstein's evangelical attitude was widely appreciated by the audience, his position at Autodesk may raise fears that the fox will be in the hen house during the next two years, when the AIA documents are scheduled to be redrafted. Bernstein's commitment to advancing the profession of architecture and the built environment appears truly sincere, but there will still need to be close, public observation of this revision process.

Software News

The Fabrication conference was also used to promote new software advances and upcoming release plans. Robert Aish, developer of the Generative Components parametric modeling tool that will sit on top of Bentley Architecture, said that a beta version of the program will be available to all interested parties in January 2005. He expressed a desire to have a general release available in the summer. But more significantly, it appears that Bentley plans to make Generative Components available at no extra cost as part of the full Architecture package. Architecture is the version of MicroStation formerly known as Triforma.

Graphisoft promoted its ArchiCAD V9 with 4D modeling for contractors and intends to equip V10, planned for release in 2005, with extensive MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) and Space Planning modules.

A beta version of the MEP package has been used by SOM and Davis Brody Bond to assist with complex energy calculations for World Trade Center designs. Also, Graphisoft will establish a certification program early in 2005 to help its users better establish their value to the industry.

Gehry Technologies demonstrated how it plans to use its vast experience to help other architects and designers realize the increasingly complex geometric vision created at more and more firms.

A joint presentation by Siamak Hariri, principal with Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, and Cristiano Ceccato, a director at Gehry Technologies, outlined how the firms are working together to realize Hariri Pontarini's design for the Baha'i Temple temple of light in Santiago, Chile.

A spiritual lantern of eight multistory flower pedals clad with translucent alabaster, the temple's complex geometry was difficult to resolve in an affordable manner. Although reluctant to take on the cost of adding CATIA seats to their office, Hariri Pontarini eventually realized the program would help them realize the project.

With assistance from Gehry Technologies, Hariri Pontarini and its consultants have made major breakthroughs in the constructable design of the project, which was awarded through design competition in 2003 and promises to be an architectural landmark when complete.

Cecceto intimated that other collaborations are underway as Gehry Technologies continues to explore how it will make the experience gained through Gehry Partners available to assist the entire design and building industry.

Show Summary

The low turnout of practicing AIA architects may be explained by their expectation that a seminar cosponsored with an academic organization would be long on theory and short on practical information.

That assumption was disproved by the copious number of case studies provided at the event. Furthermore, with the emergence of new tools that will help designers approach their work in a new manner, there is a great need for a firm grasp of how to teach an industry how to rethink its practices.

I hope that this highly educational collaboration between the AIA and ACADIA will not be the last. In case it is, make sure to obtain the substantial proceedings from this seminal event.

The documents include a 440-page proceedings with numerous black-and-white images, a 95-page overview of Digital Fabricators and a 65-page Fabrication Education Summit White Papers collection.

The documents are available through the AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Committee ( and ACADIA (

Michael Bordenaro is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on architectural technology.

Create, Manage, Share. . .

By H. Edward Goldberg

Look around," said Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz to the few thousand attending her keynote address at Autodesk University in Las Vegas. "If God didn't make it, chances are it was made with AutoCAD."

Her address led off the high-energy opening general session of the 12th annual event, held November 30– December 3, 2004.

"Create, Manage, Share" was the three-pronged theme, highlighting the company's intended areas of focus for the coming year:

  • 1. authoring rich 3D design information
  • 2. lifecycle management of work-in-progress across project teams and
  • 3. online collaboration and communicating design information to downstream users.

Bartz was careful to temper her enthusiasm for new products and technology with reassurances to existing customers.

On the subject of 2D, Bartz noted that standard AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT are the foundation of the company and would continue to be improved for increased productivity. "We have fabulous AutoCADs coming. I don't ever want you to think that we won't work and work and work to get you a great AutoCAD."

However, she went on to say, "Position yourself for the changes that are coming. You must move to 3D."

Core AutoCAD Additions

A mainstage preview of new features that may be included in upcoming versions of AutoCAD included such things as dynamic input, where the command line becomes an input box right next to the object being edited.

Dynamic blocks are similar to symbols found in Visio and Autodesk's now-defunct Actrix product. When you stretch a conference table symbol to make it longer, its chairs also spread out, until an additional chair appears when the table is long enough to accommodate it. 3D grips resemble those found in IronCAD and the also-defunct Tri-Spectives—they let users interactively change the size and location of parts in assemblies.

Revit Revs Up

Autodesk's purpose-built AEC intelligent modeling product, Revit, maintained a high profile throughout the event. Indeed, Revit 7 was the only product that Autodesk officially launched at AU. The new version adds a trio of major new features:
  • 1. Building Maker is a conceptual modeling and design environment that takes the description of any building form and maps it to real-world elements.
  • 2. Enhanced parametric components facilitate modular design—for example, replicating hotel rooms and residential units.
  • 3. Worksharing handles project team collaboration, offering options from unrestricted simultaneous access to shared model to separate project elements.

Revit sessions were filled to capacity, indicating a high level of interest among users. I got the impression from many attendees that they are now ready to make a pilot transition to Revit. This may be the year when that product gains wide acceptance in the AEC community.

Perhaps to address user concern that Revit will displace Architectural Desktop, Bartz in her keynote praised Architectural Desktop as a superb product.

She also mentioned ABS (Autodesk Building Systems) and Autodesk's increasing focus on building lifecycle management for building owners and operators.

AU Proves Popular

Attendance this year was up 30% from last year, with Autodesk reporting more than 4,500 attendees during the four-day event. Though the event tends to be scripted in many ways, iits popularity and longevity attest to its value for users.

Autodesk University 2005 will leave Las Vegas for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in Orlando, Florida, from November 29–December 2, 2005.

H. Edward Goldberg, AIA, is a practicing licensed architect, industrial designer and AEC industry analyst. You can reach Ed at His personal Web site is

IT/CAD Manager Wins $2,000 in Cadalyst's "Where's Harry?" Contest

Derek Whitfield knows that it pays to keep up with Hot Tip Harry. He was selected the winner of the $2,000 prize in Cadalyst's "Where's Harry?" contest, which ended December 10, 2004.

Whitfield is IT manager at Martin & Martin Civil Engineers and Surveyors in Las Vegas, Nevada. He manages day-to-day operations of the network and LAN environment and offers his CAD expertise around the office as needed—even if it means drafting. "Yes, I can still do drafting," he says.

Hot Tip Harry, Cadalyst's column of AutoCAD tips from our readers, is moving to As part of the "Where's Harry?" contest, Cadalyst readers were asked to determine Harry's fictitious location. During a short tour of new features at and its four new portal sites, visitors could pick up clues to help determine Harry's whereabouts, then enter a drawing for the $2,000 prize.

Like Whitfield himself, Harry turned up in Las Vegas—"Standing in the Buffet Line at Caesars Palace."

You can still earn cash from Harry by sending in your best CAD tips.

Adobe Moves to Add 3D Support to its Document Publishing Tools

Adobe Systems has moved quickly to implement support for 3D models in its popular Acrobat PDF publishing tool. Such support is a key element in Adobe's ambitions to become the publishing option of choice for engineering files.

The soon-to-be shipping Acrobat 7 will implement support for the U3D format, which is the proposed 3D standard backed by 3DIF (3D Industry Forum), a group formed by Intel. Acrobat users will be able to include U3D files in PDF documents.

In addition, Adobe acquired OKYZ S.A., a French company that develops 3D design collaboration software.

Adobe shows its serious about supporting 3D models by acquiring OKYZ and its unique OpenGL-based technology.
Adobe shows its serious about supporting 3D models by acquiring OKYZ and its unique OpenGL-based technology.

Rajeev Kak of the Adobe product marketing team says Adobe plans to integrate OKYZ's 3D technology into its Intelligent Document Platform products, including Acrobat Professional.

Kak expects that Adobe will adapt the OKYZ technology to enable its authoring applications to create U3D files from the graphics data stream, though the company is just starting to figure out the timetable.

OKYZ products will not be available to new customers, but Adobe will continue to support existing customers.

The OKYZ technology takes a unique approach to 3D model publishing. Instead of reading and translating geometry within a model, the OKYZ Raider3D product taps into the OpenGL dataflow between an application and the operating system. These captures preserve characteristics such as geometry, colors, textures, normals, and lights, and also retain the object's dimension and position within the coordinate system.

This hardware-based approach results in almost instanteous data capture and compatibility with any OpenGL application. Raider3D works on Windows, UNIX, and Macintosh OS X platforms.

OKYZ's products performed impressively in our December 2004 survey of 3D publishing options, particularly with its conversion speed. Ironically, slow performance is an issue that Adobe has worked to remedy in the latest release of its Acrobat lineup. This acquisition could help it sidestep that pitfall as it expands Acrobat's reach into the world of 3D collaboration.

CAD Authority, Association Leader Joe Greco Dies at Age 41

With great sadness we report that Cadalyst contributing editor Joe Greco died on December 7, 2004. He suffered cardiac arrest on December 2 while on vacation in Hawaii with his wife, photographer Heather Kadar, and Heather's parents. He was 41 years old.
 Joe Greco
Joe Greco

A familiar name in CAD circles for many years, Joe joined Cadalyst as a contributing editor after our merger with Cadence last year. He wrote the MCAD Tech News e-mail newsletter along with reviews of mechanical design and analysis software.

Joe was known for his hands-on expertise with an impressive range of design programs. He subjected each to rigorous review and was scrupulous in pointing out both the strengths and the drawbacks he encountered. Joe, who began his career as an end user and CAD manager, always kept the needs of manufacturing engineers and designers in mind. We'll miss the enthusiasm that infused his work and the many ideas he had for better serving our readers.

Joe was also president of the CAD Society, a not-for-profit industry association with the goal of fostering a sense of community and encouraging open communication among those who make a living within the CAD industry. The annual CAD Society award for fostering community will be renamed in Joe's memory, and a scholarship fund is being established in his name at: The CAD Society, 8220 Stone Trail Drive, Bethesda, Maryland 20817-4556.

Born in Manhattan in 1963, Joe was raised primarily in Brooklyn and Queens. He graduated from the New York Institute of Technology in 1985 with a degree in architecture. Early in his career, he helped found two computer industry publications, the CAD CAM Journal for the Macintosh User and Macintosh-Aided Design. He moved to Arizona in 1994, and in 2002 he and his wife built a home in Flagstaff based on his own designs.

Microsoft, Dassault to Cooperate on Product Development

Dassault Systèmes' ( PLM (product lifecycle management) products may become more appealing to small- and midsized companies after it announced a long-term global strategic alliance with Microsoft ( Dassault will synchronize development of its product line to match Microsoft's roadmap for its platform tools such as Microsoft .NET, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, SharePoint Portal Server, Windows XP 64-bit Edition and the upcoming Windows Longhorn version (due sometime in 2006).

Dassault's SMARTEAM and SolidWorks, which target the mid- to small-sized firm, are already developed only for Windows, but not so the high-end trio of CATIA, DELMIA and ENOVIA. The agreement should particularly help those companies trying to run ENOVIA and SMARTEAM in tandem.

Dassault gained a publicity boost from the presence of Microsoft chair and founder Bill Gates at the press conference announcing the alliance. However, the actual alliance appears to be little more than an agreement to share details about upcoming releases to better synchronize development cycles.

The agreement is not exclusive, and Microsoft said it welcomes similar arrangements with other PLM vendors. Likewise, Dassault will continue its support for IBM's WebSphere infrastructure, as IBM remains the primary route to the U.S. market for most of its high-end products.

"Microsoft and Dassault Systèmes share a common vision of democratizing 3D and making PLM more pervasive," said Bernard Charlès, president and CEO of Dassault Systèmes.

Microsoft and Dassault also agreed to explore opportunities to work together to encourage market adoption of XML for 3D applications across the design and graphics industry. The two companies will work with industry associations, other PLM software vendors, and 3D graphics technology companies to advance interoperability using common XML-based technologies.

This does not mean, however, that Microsoft is endorsing Dassault's 3D XML for PLM format, a lightweight, open format for compressing 3D files without altering the geometry. Again, Microsoft is keeping its options open to also support other formats designed to encourage downstream use of 3D models for purposes such as technical documentation, maintenance manuals, and marketing materials.

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

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