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AIA 2018: Architosh awards 6th ‘BEST of SHOW’ honors for software and technology vendors at AIA National in New York City

Architosh announces its 2018 AIA National BEST of SHOW honors to best software and technologies shown at the national convention in New York City a week ago.

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Architosh announces its 2018 AIA National BEST of SHOW honors for the national convention and expo in New York CIty, New York. The awards highlight and draw attention to software and hardware technologies of note exhibited on the show floor.

The BEST of SHOW awards are designed to recognize the most interesting technologies making, or destined to make, an impact on architectural practice here in the United States and abroad.

Winners of these small honors receive digital BEST of SHOW placards for display in marketing and promotions and placement onto Architosh’s BEST of SHOW winners roster page.

A companion “perspectives” article—as in previous years—will provide an overview narrative behind this year’s winners as well as discuss the larger themes of technology in architectural practice. Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, editor-in-chief, and Pete Evans, AIA, senior associate editor, Architosh, walked the show floor, attended several key meetings, and spoke to various industry peers in an effort to suss out what technologies were most deserving of focus and attention at this year’s show in and around New York City.

Preface

This year was noteworthy in the history of the Architosh BEST of SHOW awards program as there was not a continued surge this year in emerging new technologies as 2016 recognized solutions for augmented reality, virtual reality and algorithmic design. This year there was a maturation, iterative growth and coherence to the software and technology presented at this year’s AIA National. Therefore, after some discussion the categories were refined for this year to include three categories: Innovation, BIM, and a new refined category we are calling Mobile+Cloud+Web. This year’s “more developed” theme also appears to support larger ideas discussed and presented in the upcoming companion “Perspectives” article.

Award Introductions and Criteria

We have changed our award categories this year by eliminating the Desktop category. With data and workflows no longer bound to particular device types but instead dispersed across devices and workflow scenarios—thanks to the cloud—we have replaced the Desktop category with a category named Mobile+Cloud+Web. This essentially retires the older Mobile category award as well. Additionally, this year we found no technology at AIA National worthy of the Emergent Technology Award. This year’s award categories and criteria are below.

  • Emergent Category Award — acknowledges industry potential for bleeding edge technology implementations that will offer “thematic” change for practice or create convergent technology paths and drive at synergistic directions for the industry.
  • Innovation Category Award — acknowledges the most “promising” companies and products that are heralding innovative new directions in AEC software or hardware technologies, as measured by: (a) implementation quality, (b) acceleration of quality of solution, (c) quality of attack on addressing “pain points” in practice, and (d) fitting convergent technology paths and driving at synergistic directions for the industry.
  • BIM Category Award — acknowledges both new or mature companies and products serving the BIM workflow industry transformation, touching down at any segment of the MacLeamy Curve where value gets added, as measured by: (a) implementation quality, (b) quality of attack on addressing “pain points” in BIM workflows, (c) adoption, extension and commitment to Open BIM philosophies so that data and tool chains are social and democratized to their fullest extent, and (d) fitting convergent technology paths and driving at synergistic directions for the industry.
  • Mobile+Cloud+Web Category Award  — acknowledges technology solutions (software or hardware) driving at full utilization of synergistic and maturing “cloud-to-mobile” and “cloud-to-web” technology stacks, exhibited or seen at the AIA convention, as measured by: (a) implementation quality, (b) acceleration of quality of solution, (c) quality of attack on addressing pain-points in AEC, and (d) fitting convergent technology paths and driving at synergistic directions for the industry.

Congratulations to the 2018 BEST of SHOW honorees listed below.

Architosh AIA 2018 BEST of SHOW Awards

BEST of SHOW — INNOVATION Category

Innovation category winners this year are both innovative and promising, shipping now or imminently available. This is technology—even if beta—that can often be put to use today. This honor looks at quality of attack at identified or known pain points in practice in addition to other criteria, such as quality of implementation. In particular, this innovation category showed a supportive expansion to a now more mature and central workflows–complementary in ways that both support ideas in the latter parts of the Gartner Hype curve, described as the “Plateau of Productivity” that Architosh incorporated in the 2016 Perspectives and appropriately dovetails into this year’s theme with Carlota Perez’s “Smart Green Future” that she locates in today’s precarious global economy (?) as a 5th technological revolution and potentially at the early part of a “Deployment Phase” which will be further articulated in the companion 2018 Perspective article.

Winner: Vectorworks Architect 2018

Vectorworks Architect 2018 accelerates the architect from the beginning of an idea through a comprehensive BIM process in a very open and creative workflow, uniquely, within a single software. This is an ideal example of the power an innovative software that can provide even a small firm, which can then collaborate in powerful ways with very extensible support for open standards and direct support for several softwares for design, analysis and construction. Vectorworks Architect 2018 innovations are enhanced design modeling, workflows (including extremely dynamic UI drawing views), and Macbook Pro Touch bar support, Web View (across all devices for anytime anywhere model review) in 3D and 360 VR, revamped Renderworks and improved cloud services. “Vectorworks Architect 2018 boasts an impressive new multiple viewports technology plus an array of enhancements including new API integration with sister company Bluebeam’s cloud-based “sessions” technology,” says Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP. “The qualities of the implementations of new features in version 2018 make Vectorworks Architect 2018 a standout product at this year’s AIA.”

Winner: Abvent Twinmotion 2019

A brand new release the week of the AIA 2018 convention, Abvent presented a strong upgrade to Twinmotion. Several functions that were native and impressive to Twinmotion already were incorporated into VR menus for control within the environment. It was noted by both Architosh editors how impressive it was to have the motion-based vegetation, people and even environmental conditions (including rain and snow!) to enrich the feeling of the design in its intended place. A parallel improvement released with this new version also added the geo-location and compass information as well as the correct virtual horizon and distant surroundings. Pete Evans, AIA commented, “This is pretty amazing to be able to author a BIM model and provide this rich, dynamic context for experiencing design ideas. Twinmotion is well beyond just a technically correct immersive environment.” “I am just deeply impressed with the visual quality for a real-time renderer,” adds Frausto-Robledo. “At the heart of this innovation is the leading use of the Unreal Game engine in an AEC industry app, a smart move that enables Twinmotion to focus its resources on features useful to architects rather than on development resources focused on 3d visualization engine technology.”

Honorable Mention: IrisVR

Drag and drop plug-in level virtual reality presence at the convention was strong again with multiple vendors present and the innovations were incremental, but important steps for the technology and AEC community. IrisVR stood out as addressing a multi-user approach to VR through a very clean user interface and experience. This multi-user approach posed simple avatars representing the users each other with audio adding to sense of immersion in the model. On the exhibit floor, IrisVR had both Architosh editors in a shared environment that proved fluid and intuitive enough to convince us that this might be a rapid, iterative and collaborative project meeting space for teams especially when distant. “Today, the project experience in VR can be social and not solo, and that is significant,” said Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA. “Despite the hoopla about AR being more important than VR, we see VR collaboration becoming a de facto way of teams working together to solve a multitude of problems in AEC.”

BEST of SHOW — BIM Category

This year the BIM category acknowledges tools serving the BIM workflow transformation, including design to fabrication. Some tools that impact the BIM workflow may be awarded in other categories. Winners here emphasize the quality of attack on pain-points in BIM workflows and/or to commitments to Open BIM philosophies. The maturity of BIM workflows is fairly apparent this year which ties directly into Carlota Perez’s “Deployment Phase”—to be discussed in the upcoming Perspectives article. We seek BIM authoring tools that reach the widest set of users, across various toolchains and an emphasis on data fluidity across competing vendor ecosystems.

Winner: GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 22

ARCHICAD 22 has really pushed the possibilities of curtain wall design in BIM today. Curtain walls, a complex BIM family to manipulate, show just how powerful ARCHICAD’s solution will be for both traditional and algorithmic workflows for design and realization. GRAPHISOFT presented working demonstrations with McNeel’s Grasshopper for algorithmic integration for BIM curtain walls that were “live” in both softwares and could be manipulated from both softwares. The approach for GRAPHISOFT to work so tightly in a bi-directional manner with Rhino Grasshopper workflows illustrates the power and opportunity across any number of BIM opportunities that will greatly impact design and the production of buildings. Algorithmic design, a growing area in AEC, in this innovative solution, really showed the future potential today for an algorithmic integration into a mature and open BIM workflow. “The fluidity and elegance that ARCHICAD 22 implemented in the curtain wall toolset was very impressive,”  “The deepening connection to core BIM element tool chains to the leading algorithmic design software is just the most visible achievement,” adds Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, “but lurking behind the surface is continued leading edge programming skills with the integration of ‘machine learning’ into ARCHICAD 22 for the benefit of the user.”

Winner: AutoDesk Revit 2019

Autodesk focused much effort into the broader discipline releases of Revit for 2019. The power of this integrated product approach is clear when you realize there are full Architectural, MEP, Civil releases and across the project lifecycle. This includes fabrication, which positions the architect from design (and others like structural detailing) into new areas of design realization. The power of this vision, architect as (direct) producer, was illustrated in multiple sessions at the convention this year and echoes the theme we Architosh editors felt was prevalent. “Autodesk’s vision of design-to-fabrication is at the heart of new construction methods and the “modernization of production”—to use Carlota Perez’s key terms which we will discuss in the Perspective feature coming up. This new dimension to our views about BIM brought refocused attention to Revit this year,” adds Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, “Revit 2019 improves IFC 4 support and Rhino geometry is now supported, two areas we want to discuss in the Perspectives piece coming up.”

Honorable Mention: None  (no honorable mention in this category this year)

BEST of SHOW — Mobile+Cloud+Web Category

This redefined category recognizes both new and maturing products and technologies that solve both broad and narrow pain points in practice. Mobile+Cloud+Web continues to redefine an expanded practice anytime, anywhere, and any device. Being able to connect into project information at different levels of interaction or immersion for many purposes also supports the maturity of the general practice tools with broadened capabilities and efficiencies. Of note, this is the category Architosh will evaluate CDEs (common data environments) applications now and in the future. 

Winner: AutoDesk BIM 360 Design

The integrated approach Autodesk offers with its AEC portfolio is impressive and BIM 360 this year takes that potential to another level. As a common data environment, all models can be aggregated and documents can be viewed from the beginning of design to the functional operations of the building impressively as a “Change visualization.” BIM 360 pulls this together, albeit from an integrated portfolio, into a realized and continuous single point of truth for a project where it is possible to see the project at any point and understand the management and process of decisions and steps that produced the resultant building… or more succinctly the why. As a tool that captures the potential of productivity as envisioned by Perez, BIM 360 delivers. “Common data environment (CDEs) tools are major accelerators of productivity and sharp attacks at existing pain-points in the industry,” says Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, “and answering the ‘why’ of things when problems arise in projects is the mother of big pain points. The AEC industry moves faster than ever and will continue to accelerate and so an easy-to-use timeline interface that shows you clear packages of documents alongside reflective model states is core to addressing this. Autodesk BIM 360 Design delivers this beautifully. The next step is packaging the written communication (documenting who said what and why) along with docs and model states, which apparently is in the making.”

Winner: Bentley ContextCapture

Although Bentley’s ContextCapture software has been in existence for years, “reality capture” technology is now hitting the mainstream due to converging innovations. Helsinki’s work with Finnish software company Umbra has the latter massively compressing a 700 GB texture-mapped mesh model into something that will stream to a iPad or VR headset device. In that case, a gaming technology innovator is targeting the AEC industry. ContextCapture can produce mm accurate 3D mesh models, fully texture mapped, from both photographs, video and point-cloud data or all of the above. This data can be further integrated and checked against GIS and CAD data.

“What we recognize now is that multiple target devices, from VR gear to high-tech construction hardhats will emerge as destinations for two important overlapping 3D datasets,” says Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP. “One dataset is the captured 3D model while the other will be the authored BIM model. The uses for how these two models will interact will inform AECO professionals in a multitude of ways across the building lifecycle.” Bentley’s ContextCapture is arguably the most powerful and extensive reality modeling system in existence with flexible solutions for desktop, mobile and the cloud as a service.

Honorable Mention: Modelo

Described as a design asset management platform for everyone, Modelo has produced a web-based solution for the complex AEC world for true anytime anywhere ability. With web collaboration, markup capability and presentation capability–all through the browser (including animation and VR for Google cardboard with hyperlinks), Modelo has produced a significant central design hub for teams in the cloud—one that can be embedded in a web-page as an HTML object on a typical webpage. “The narrative experience of telling stories (in design) comes across strongly with Modelo as it is vital in how architecture is sold, understood and packaged to stakeholders in the industry,” describes Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP.

Honorable Mention: Datacolor Color Reader

A new attendee at the AIA conference, Datacolor demonstrated two ColorReader models on the exhibit floor. These ColorReaders exemplify the potentials converging hardware and software for a new generation of tools for the AEC profession and industry. It puts the architect into a new relationship with their environment in a analogous way to when laser distance measuring tools became available. Now architects in almost any office, can have a tool in their pocket or toolkit which can capture on demand color on stone, synthetics, or other contextual design cues. This hardware combined with software connected to the cloud bringing several paint families and color definitions in a very open and prosumer/professional manner allowing color families and local brands to enhance project color management. An exciting aspect this award recognizes is the potential to cross the physical environment into digital as Pete Evans, AIA noted, “Datacolor’s ColorReader technology brings a design previsualization even closer to the intended realization. Color and texture are really important parts of the design and ColorData have really addressed this elegantly.”

More at the companion annual convention “perspectives” article which will be online shortly.

[Editor’s note: We have updated this article to make it clear there is no honorable mention in the BIM category award and there are two winners in the BIM category award. There are multiple winners in other categories. 

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