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AIA: Event Highlights in Brief

We discuss some notes from our AIA Conference attendance


This year’s AIA Convention served only the forth time we have covered this event live by attending. As it turns out, the AIA’s national convention in late May makes a good point in the calendar year to attend a show focused on architecture. The show also generally precedes the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference as well, so May through June mark an inflection point in the year on what is new and coming.

In the past there have been more numbers of software developers exhibiting at the AIA. We would love to see the AIA and show organizers try harder to foster attendance by technology vendors, especially the many small developers who are now supporting the AEC space with mobile applications for smartphones and tablets.

Speaking of Mobility

It is clear from this event that Apple rules the tablet market like no other. It would be fair to say the ratio of iPads to other types of tablets at the show were somewhere north of 9:1. I’m not going to say I didn’t see Android devices. There were some. But I saw literally hundreds of iPads everywhere. And everyone–and I mean everyone–has an iPad app!

It should be pointed out that all four BIM suppliers now have iPad apps of some sort for architects and AEC professionals to utilize in their practice. Autodesk’s iOS app is wedded to AutoCAD in AutoCAD WS. Graphisoft has BIMx. And Nemetschek Vectorworks has Nomad. Lastly, Bentley has several iOS apps, including Bentley Navigator for the iPad which enables review of 3D design models on the iPad.

In many respects, the traditional Mac CAD developers are a bit behind their bigger competitors, Autodesk and Bentley. Both have less apps or only one iOS app as compared to the “many” apps available for Apple’s dominant platform. But having more of something isn’t necessarily better. And we have no determinations today to share about who has the better iOS BIM experience. That’s a discussion for another time.

The point is the iPad rules. And to encourage mobility I think the AIA can do something more to make it easier to foster innovation and exhibition of mobile technology offerings.

Coverage and What’s Special

We’ve only gone through about half of our planned reports and have much more coming up. As discussed before we like to work from the general to the specific so our final reports will get more detailed and special.

We had a sit down with the AIA that I think will interest readers. We also have a very good report coming up on CADFaster and a few thoughts to share about our talk with Biplab Sarkar, CTO of Nemetschek Vectorworks. He and I had a “fireside chat” of sorts (though there were no fireplaces at the AIA that I knew about) and while I cannot divulge off-the-record conversation I can share a few small things and speak in general about what this company is doing to become a stronger BIM provider.

Lastly, we’ll be talking to John Bacus, SketchUp’s long-time product manager about recent changes.

BEST of SHOW: Focusing Attention

This year we decided to focus attention on issues we feel matter most and reflect the most pressing practice concerns as they pertain to and shape technology. When it comes to technology transformations shaping practice today BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the giant white elephant in the room. So we cannot ignore that.

But just as important to BIM is the convergence of the cloud with mobility. We discussed this in depth in our special executive series last summer. The conclusion by the biggest CEO’s of technology in AEC were fairly aligned. The iPad is a cloud computing device. Period.

(editor’s note: See our: The iPad: How the CAD/3D industry is being changed, 10 Aug 2011)

Lastly, we cannot ignore sustainable design. This year the AIA announced new contracts formulated around sustainability in practice. More on that in a future report.

In light of these dominant trends we sought to identify the BEST of SHOW apps that are tools that can power “process improvements” related to the biggest trends in practice.

We were taken, for example, by HP’s ePrint and Share for iOS. The process improvement here is that in combination with new in-the-field markup tools architects can send back to the office PDF files that can be printed, remotely.

Or simply shared. Or scheduled for printing later.

And while we loved seeing this new technology in action and its many implications for improvements we were more taken by CADFaster’s cloud-based and iOS app package. This too was even more instrumental to the larger changes shaping the BIM transformation in practice.

In our 2010 BIM report of over 410 architects and firms, the number one reason architects said they were interested in BIM was for better designed buildings. In detailed feedback respondents said they wanted better modeling tools built directly into BIM. The ultimate BIM tool for design is one where advanced parametric modeling is combined and supplemented with powerful but easy to use direct-modeling (explicit modeling) capabilities. This is what PTC’s Creo offers in the mechanical CAD world.

But besides the new and very capable modeling tools in ArchiCAD 16, the company also deserves kudos for integrating its EcoDesigner software right into their BIM tool. This action helps foster exploration of sustainable design and the linking of energy concerns with architectural form making.

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