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Architosh Talks to Viktor Varkonyi, CEO Graphisoft

At Build Boston 2009 Viktor Varkonyi, CEO of Graphisoft, sat down with Architosh to talk about ArchiCAD 13. The keynote speaker that morning at a Boston area architects BIM forum, Varkonyi explained that his company’s latest Building Information Modeling (BIM) software has changed the game in terms of what is possible with collaboration in architectural practice.

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VV: Teamwork gives a lot of value even for the freelancers. Especially in this economy when the job market is down. Hopefully we will have a recovery quite soon, and then there will be lots of start up companies. Here in the US it is a trend that outsourcing is gaining much more momentum. It is a huge trend that the smaller offices get the work from the bigger ones. So when you have this system setup where these really small practices can be an integrated part of these large practices that is a huge advancement and change in the industry.

AFR: Absolutely, I can see a lot of things happening with that.

VV (Viktor Varkonyi): I have an interesting story where we have this client from Australia who is trying to build up an office in the Middle East. Nobody from the team wants to move to the Middle East to start up a branch office from Australia, so how can they build and integrate a trained workforce? We have never considered ArchiCAD 13 can provide a significant value on this matter. But the feedback was imminent from costumers; with ArchiCAD 13 and BIM Server they are able to have minute-by-minute connections to a workforce in the Middle East and this enables among others a best-case training scenario. So you do not have to relocate people and deal with the costs. So there are lots of things that are just coming to the table now.

AFR: In our current BIM market research we are a bit surprised by just how much Revit users are aware of ArchiCAD 13 and its new BIM Server technology–it clearly made an impression on them. And some of them are telling us they are now evaluating it. Were you expecting to get this kind of reaction from the Revit crowd?

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VV: Well…the answer of course is yes. But the real question that everyone has to first evaluate is what they have today. Do they have a solution that works the way their practice works? Do they have the collaboration capabilities they dream about having? If team work and inter-office communication and collaboration are very important to them, then I think we have a very good answer today and a vision for tomorrow that can revolutionize what is the current understanding about working in teams.

AFR: What is state-of-the-Art with IFC and interoperability? Where does it need to improve?

VV: The 2×3 platform is close to five years old now. Many companies incorporated it by now, the standard is stabilizing and now it can become really an open standard. And this is what the industry missed in the last couple of years, the platform was changing and, yes, unfortunately it often resulted just a 90 percent solution with ten percent missing…but now there is really a great chance for the industry to embrace this open standard.

AFR: How does the Nemetschek Group as a whole play a part in reinforcing the value of IFC? How do you understand that?

VV: The whole Nemetschek Group treats it as extremely important and it’s a primary platform for collaboration.

AFR: People are telling us in our BIM research that they are concerned about what the BIM industry will look like five or ten years from now. They see Autodesk building a complete horizontal stack around Revit and thus are concerned that true interoperability  via neutral standards will be at jeopardy. People really want an open industry standard, not a dominate file format again. Even Revit customers, if they are really honest, will tell you they want an open standard.

VV: But they use RVT files. In the long term they want an open industry standard but in short term they support these proprietary things.

AFR: Right, which is a conflict of interest…

VV: But I am very happy that things started to change. Let’s take for example a yesterday example , Texas State, the state government, has made IFC the official method for submitting your BIM model. This is extremely important because it gives lots of credibility, and that was a future-looking decision they made.

AFR: And I know in Europe and elsewhere other governments have standardized around the industry standard IFC model.

VV: Yes, absolutely, IFC is very strong in Europe, especially in Scandinavia.

AFR: We are going through the Great Recession here in the US, money is tight, yet you have a great new release out with some exciting new technology. How successful has been the adoption rate with your current customers?

VV: So far extreamly good. It is a very tough economy but our customers are very excited about this industry-first technology and the enormous values it brings to them. The whole Graphisoft customer family is about passion; most of our customers really love the product. They are just as proud as we are about ArchiCAD 13. They know they are using a technology that enables them to implement solutions that nobody else is able to do. It is not just about design teamwork, but connecting all stakeholders of the building process. Chuck Goodman at Irwin-Pancake Architects is a perfect example for this. What he is doing with ArchiCAD 13 is truly amazing.

AFR: I have talked to Chuck recently so I am aware of that.

VV: What is even more important is that ArchiCAD 13 helps firms to develop their own vision. The tools are so powerful that they can now use it uniquely to build unique features into their delivery of architectural services to their clients. So it is vision-building for them.

AFR: As I mentioned earlier, my colleague and I are currently doing BIM market research and we are amazed to hear how Revit users are talking about the Mac, particularly Apple’s laptops, which seem to be in a lot of Windows firms now. Umm…ArchiCAD runs on the Mac and always has. Are you guys seeing an increase in interest in your BIM solution because it runs on Apple and people these days are just increasingly interested in Apple?

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