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AIA: Nemetschek Talks with Architosh

At AIA we had a chance to talk to Dr. Biplab Sarkar of Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.

At AIA I had a chance to sit down and talk to Dr. Biplab Sarkar, Chief Technology Officer at Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc. The talk was set up as an open-ended discussion or fireside chat about what’s new and anything the company might be able to share about the future of Vectorworks and other products. It was a very engaging and interesting discussion.


Of course there are things I simply cannot share at this time because they are confidential. But I can share tidbits here and there and speak more openly about this BIM player’s general direction. Also in this talk Dr. Sarkar was also able to demonstrate SimTread, a new pedestrian traffic simulation tool for Vectorworks.


SimTread is a Vectorworks add-on program that was developed by A&A Co. Limited and Takenaka Corporation in Japan. Dr. Sarkar mentioned that the initial start of this technology was research-based inside of WASEDA University.

01 - SimTread is a new third-party add-on software package for Vectorworks developed in Japan. It provides extensive pedestrian simulation within a building with numerical report output and animated movies.

The way SimTread works is you define a population inside a building, define zones such as cautionary zones like stairs and barriers and exits. The program in essence intelligently moves each occupant towards the most appropriate exit or series of exits to a final destination. It does this with quite a bit of criteria affecting the result. As a user you can define your population not just in total number and dispersement but also with such factors as walking speed. This enables you to define a mixture or specific population around age groups (eg: children and the elderly).

SimTread will produce an animation and chart with data as part of its final output. This animation can be most illuminating, revealing design weaknesses and strengths in terms of pedestrian flow. “This program will even help you define the orientation of walls,” said Dr. Sarkar. For instance in theater or museum design walls are often at angles relative to each other and to exits. Even in straight designs SimTread can help you identify problems in circulation design and allow you to further tune your design for optimal pedestrian performance.

02 - SimTread is produced in Japan and is available in English and Japanese language versions.

SimTread will calculate the time it takes for all occupants to exit a building based on the data input. This estimated number can be very informative and in some cases important data for building officials.

SimTread is capable of running multi-story pedestrian flow simulations, not just single story. It can work directly over PDFs or simple imported images or over a BIM model. The program is 1,795.USD.

Other Talk

During our talk Dr. Sarkar and I engaged in several mini-discussions about the future of Vectorworks, including the company’s cross-platform development history and various challenges that sometimes presents.

One of the things that did come up during this topic was when Vectorworks would become a 64-bit application. Dr. Sarkar stated that the development team at Nemetschek Vectorworks is in the process of removing the dependency on QuickTime and Carbon API on the Mac. QuickTime, has many may already know, is stuck at 32-bits. The Carbon API (application programming interface) would be replaced by the Cocoa framework.


Another topic we touched on was how Nemetschek Vectorworks is working internally to help more third-parties develop innovative solutions like SimTread. He mentioned that is a new primary importance to the company and he personally is directly involved. I was wondering if the company will push harder with Vectorscript and he said actually they are going to push harder with the C++ SDK (software development kit). The Vectorworks SDK has been used in SimTread, the CADFaster plug-in and the AR-works plug-in.

Part of what the company wants to happen is to demonstrate that Vectorworks is a CAD platform worth of third-party development and to stimulate interest in more options. Already there are some excellent solutions being developed by others, besides SimTread. And most are available through the Vectorworks online store like SimTread itself.

Finally, we had a chat about the value of 3D in design for BIM for architects. I brought up the value direct modeling versus parametric modeling and that the ideal BIM program has mastered both in an easy and intuitive way. Dr. Sarkar said they continue to advance their modeling and that the Siemens Parasolid modeling kernel inside Vectorworks is second to none.

When I mentioned the value not just on modeling but 3D navigation and the isolation of 3D components in space he said they had some innovative new technologies coming forward in the next two versions. While I have subsequently had a chance to explore some of these future technologies directly and play with them in beta format, I can attest that the company does indeed have some exciting new technology coming forward. And I look forward to the market’s reaction to this when it arrives.

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