Architosh announces its 2022 AIA National BEST of SHOW honors for the national convention and expo in Chicago, Illinois. The awards highlight and draw attention to software and hardware technologies of note exhibited on the show floor.
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. Pete Evans, AIA, senior associate editor, Architosh, walked the show floor, consulted with Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, editor-in-chief, and 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 this year in Chicago.
This year was very noteworthy in the history of the Architosh BEST of SHOW awards program. Coming out of the pandemic, there was a question as to the direction the AIA22 conference would take in person and how the exhibit floor would take shape. With virtual and hybrid work taking hold, a lighter conference and exhibit floor presence was expected. This was not exactly the case while the program and exhibitors did pivot.
This year there was a strong focus on cloud capabilities for both the profession’s work itself and access to the instruments of service for all stakeholders. This manifested with more technology solutions present in software for connectivity and flexibility than in hardware itself. The ability to be mobile, work anywhere and through the cloud resonated with technology solutions for collaborating at a distance.
Since our last AIA attendance, the world has confronted a global pandemic and now a significant European war—both focusing attention on matters of resiliency and performative issues. AEC as a sector still lags all others in real productivity, a topic we touched on in the latest Xpresso monthly newsletter. And just prior to the pandemic year, Robert Ivy, FAIA, stated at AIA19 the importance of inclusiveness and diversity in the architectural field, saying—”We are going to see a lot more collective genius. …no single brain will be big enough to master the body of knowledge required to lead the future.”
We both agree that cultural and practice issues impact the social performance of the practice of architecture (externally and internally). And they also have a relationship with the sector’s technologies.
This year President Obama echoed similar themes. He recalled leading cabinet meetings with the intentional effort to call on random aides in the back of the room, “Hey you, what are you thinking about (the current discussion)?” In President Obama’s view, this sent a signal about the importance of the diversity and quality of ideas from everyone in the room.
We both agree that cultural and practice issues impact the social performance of the practice of architecture (externally and internally). And they also have a relationship with the sector’s technologies. In the past few years, we have seen a significant Open Letter movement and now in the United States, the industry is facing a unionization movement. Both hit hard at the field’s troubling economic and productivity picture.
At the same time, the AIA’s 10-point plan has also impacted our thinking about digital technologies. The complexity of design in the 21st Century requires comprehensively informed decision-making where every project can be “a platform for addressing big problems and creative solutions”.
All of this will be further discussed in our AIA22 Perspectives on BEST of SHOW feature article coming up next week. Until then, onward with the winners of this year’s BEST of SHOW awards from AIA22 Chicago.
Award Categories and Criteria
This year we have adjusted our award categories, adding a new award and changing the name of another older award. An important principle in our BEST of SHOW honors is that the democratization of user data and access to that data are important measures of evaluation in these awards, but not to the entire detriment of sheer innovation and disruption. As we have said before, new solutions often take time to expand and serve the broadest diversity of audience—especially among startups. On the flip side, large established players who fail critical strategic investment to support diverse architectural practices in the connected age of anywhere, anytime, and device access fail to win us over in these award honors.
This year we renamed our old Mobile+Cloud+Web category simply “Cloud” category. And we added a “Visualization” category that focuses on all technologies that help us see with our human eyes—from state-of-the-art renderers to AR/VR to the future metaverse tech.
Our award categories are designed to be broad and flexible, enabling us to honorably note a product across a range of categories if so warranted.
- Emergent Technology (emTech) 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) acceleration of quality of solution, (c) quality of attack on addressing “pain points” in BIM workflows, (d) adoption, extension and commitment to Open BIM philosophies so that data and toolchains are social and democratized to their fullest extent, and (e) fitting convergent technology paths and driving at synergistic directions for the industry.
- Cloud 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 and novelty, (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.
- Visualization Category Award — acknowledges the most compelling visualization solutions and technologies that are transforming the architect’s workflow, heralding new ways of seeing architecture for all stakeholders and not just clients, accelerating design optioneering, material, and light discovery, design problem solving, and design collaboration, as measured by: (a) implementation quality, (b) acceleration of quality of solution, including rendering speeds and image qualities, (c) quality of attack at addressing “pain points” in practice, and (d) fitting convergent technology paths and addressing synergist directions in the industry.
Congratulations to the 2022 AIA BEST of SHOW honorees listed below.
Architosh AIA 2022 BEST of SHOW Awards
BEST of SHOW — EMERGENT TECHNOLOGY Category
Winners in this category represent emergent technologies (emTech) that are far from “center-market” and much closer to “edge-of-market.” This means they have the potential for bending the trajectory of technologies near them—including creating a convergence of disparate tech—or offering completely alternative thematic change within the industry. An example of such a thematic change would be node-based visual programming tools like Generative Components or Grasshopper when they first emerged. They both bent the trajectory of existing technologies and offered a wholesale thematic change in terms of how architects work.
Created in the Thorton Tomasetti CORE Studio and launched in fall 2020, T2D2 leverages AI and computer vision with a massive image library for predictive building analysis. “With today’s priority around maintaining and extending the life-cycle of existing buildings further, this technology introduces a new toolset and pathway for facility management and understanding, “ says Pete Evans, AIA, senior associate editor. “This is a huge leap for property management to reduce deferred maintenance and automate and prioritize work around geotagged PDF inspection reports.” T2D2 software provides continuous monitoring and inspection workflows with AI that detects, classifies, prioritizes, and groups building conditions for informed planning and action. Multiple inputs can be leveraged such as drones, phones, and actual cameras. AI and computer vision—clear emergent technologies in AEC—are combined and now applied and pointing to measurable new values in AI and computer vision for the built environment.
BEST of SHOW — INNOVATION Category
Innovation category winners deliver novel formulations around existing technologies or synthesize established technologies with emergent technologies. In particular, we look for application makers to leverage core innovations from operating systems, new types of devices, support for new hardware technologies like GPU and CPU processors (chips), or leverage new API technologies to deliver added value in workflow speed-ups. This year’s winners reflect much of these aspects while delivering technologies on mobile devices where in the post-pandemic context mobility is even more paramount.
Winner: SketchUp (2022) Ecosystem
Although not new to the AIA conferences and profession, Sketchup came to AIA22 with a trio of significant advances creating new workflows and pathways for digital design. Sketchup released a revolutionary toolset for design on the Apple iPad, re-introducing Sketchup as a full-featured design tool for a new generation. “An amazing design user interface and full-featured application to the iPad leveraging the Apple pen and gestures in ways eclipsing Sketchup’s famous push-pull logic,” notes Pete Evans, AIA, senior associate editor. In addition, Sketchup demonstrated and released a set of powerful Scan Essentials for the use of point scans in the recognized Sketchup ease-of-use paradigm. “Also new in 2022 is native support for Apple’s energy-efficient but powerful M-series (ARM-based) processor-based Mac computers,” said Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP. “This means users can power through very large models more easily while using fewer energy resources—a form of “green modeling” if you will.”
Spaces is a powerful new (October 2021) anywhere/anytime conceptual design tool immediately competing with other leading intuitive 3D digital design tools on the iPad. Integrating the Apple Pen and iPad sketching interface potential, Spaces integrates powerful computational design, parametrics, and data melding on an Apple iPad. Cerulean Labs founder, Campbell Yule, a veteran of the AEC tool design community, has created a compelling Apple Pen-driven user interface (UI) for sketching conceptual buildings in 3D, and has combined this UI with building intelligence provides comprehensive space planning, sun studies, notetaking and a sketchbook with snapshots (where you can trace over with options). “Spaces provides a creative, pen-driven, rapidly iterative, and intuitive UI on the Apple iPad with BIM-accurate high-level information feedback for reporting,” observed Pete Evans, AIA, senior associate editor.
BEST of SHOW — BIM Category
This year we have multiple winners. BIM solutions today are quite mature and in some cases based on extremely mature underlying technologies. We are mindful of the frustrations expressed in the industry at the pace of innovation in this area and ever more concerned to look for areas of progress speed-up. With the computer industry going through a chip transformation wherein ARM-architecture chips are now taking over Intel X86 architecture chips in both data centers and especially portable desktop computers (laptops)—because they lead in performance per watt by a wide margin—we especially applaud solutions that are gearing up for or are now supportive of additional ARM chip architectures and other types of GPU-based acceleration technologies.
We are also looking at an impressive acceleration of quality of solution (judging criterion), particularly in reference to convergence themes. The convergence of real-time rendering, itself helpfully benefitting from AI technology and new chip designs, into BIM solutions via integrations is a huge win for end users. The more internal and integrated solutions the better for users.
Winner: Vectorworks Architect 2022
Vectorworks Architect 2022 wins the BIM award in large measure due to its alignment with convergent technology paths and driving at synergistic directions. In more plain English, the company is ahead of the industry in supporting the underlying technologies of the immediate future in such areas as ARM-based SoC chip support and cross-platform optimization of low-overhead graphics APIs—both critical in addressing speed up of system response time when working with BIM models. “As a BIM platform, Vectorworks Architect with its Parasolid geometry engine increasingly offers users both simplified yet powerful modeling capabilities, such as its direct-editing modes on their new Walls technology,” said Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP. “Its direct stair editing and wall component controls further enable architects and designers to respond to the nuances of design while benefiting from parametrics,” adds Frausto-Robledo. Vectorworks 2022 also benefits from specialized sector support for BIM in the landscape and entertainment design space, with these tools having cross-over benefits for architects. Vectorworks feature increasingly powerful and sophisticated site modeling and grading control objects. And version 2022 saw a significant acceleration of solution in the linear, area, and volumetric take-off features.
Winner: Archicad 25
Always a consistent winner in this award, Graphisoft does it again with Archicad 25. Dozens of new features pack further advances into this leading BIM solution including tools designed to aid firm migrations from Autodesk Revit to Archicad. “Archicad 25 crushes existing pain points in practice with innovative new abilities like its Quick Shift between 2D and 3D set of features. Another area that blew the lid off the competition is new features aimed at Overlay texture, patterned fills, and software shadows aimed at all kinds of elevation views and surfaces in sections,” says Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP. “These features add nuanced depth to how architects can decide to present ideas to clients and work out design direction internally.” Archicad 25 also advances its structural analytical model technologies, an area of clear industry leadership since Las Vegas 2019. “While not as far as its sibling Nemetschek Group company in support for new chip technologies,” adds Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, “Archicad has embraced Apple’s low-overhead Metal API fully enabling faster workflows for its customers on the Apple Mac platform. Support for Apple Silicon should be imminent.”
BEST of SHOW — CLOUD Category
Perhaps no other category reflects the underlying digital revolution that is mobile+cloud in the Cloud Computing Era. Cloud computing and smart mobile devices have revolutionized all of computing. In AEC they have sped up and created novel new workflows increasing client expectations and shortening project delivery schedules. Architectural practice has been liberated from CAD/BIM workstations and desks to anywhere, anytime, on any device access to your data or SSoT (single-source of truth). Of particular note, this category evaluates CDE (common data environment) applications that are central to a democratized access to a single source of truth (SSoT), though this year we chose to focus on practice management applications.
In a crowded field of practice management solutions, FactorAE stood out from the crowd in its simplified A/E industry focus. “Its impressive KPI (key performance indicators) dashboard with the ability to compare year-over-year and annual goals performance stood out for a solution this affordable and this simple,” said Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, Architosh. “A simple SaaS solution at affordable pricing can make an impact on firm economic performance where data-driven knowledge-based decisions can help firm leaders know where the attention needs to go,” adds Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP. FactorAE keeps to the essential features such as time recording, project timeline, project planning, budgets and fees, and sub-consultant management. While it offers invoicing functionality, it also features QuickBook integration. “FactorAE’s KPIs are the key ones architects at a minimum need to pay attention to, such as gross margin, realized rate, and achieved multiple,” says Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP.
With pressing economic and productivity performative issues in the architectural industry, we have placed emphasis this year on practice management software solutions that can help architecture firms learn how to become more profitable, more stable, and more competitive.
Honorable Mention: Unanet
Honorable Mention: BigTime Software
BEST of SHOW — VISUALIZATION Category
Due to exciting chip and hardware advancements and their tight marriage with software, the AEC industry is benefitting from much faster and more compelling rendering technologies. These advances are reshaping entire workflows and heralding new ways of seeing architecture for all stakeholders. In the past, we would have placed our irisVR and similar virtual reality winners in this category, but this year our winners are both compelling rendering technologies with very broad support for a variety of leading tools. In the future, this category will continue to note AR/VR/XR technologies, plus some technologies related to the metaverse.
One of the industry’s fastest-growing renderers is German-based Enscape which showed up at AIA22 demoing its new native macOS version along with its new version 3.3 features. Enscape, fresh from a recent merger with visualization leader Chaos this January, uniquely embeds its real-time technologies into host applications (it’s not a standalone tool) offering a more intimate connection between design activities and visualization. “Enscape’s integrated workflow is its unique strength,” says Pete Evans, AIA, senior associate editor, Architosh. “Their new Mac push democratizes this technology and will further exploit powerful advantages of ARM-based processors vis-a-vis Apple’s M-chips. All stakeholders benefit from this seamless project visualization.” “Enscape is also leveraging NVIDIA Deep Learning Super Sampling to improve images, a convergence trend where AI interfaces with traditional rendering technologies,” adds Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, editor-in-chief, Architosh.
The latest release of Twinmotion (22022.1) delivers compelling new features to a previous BEST of SHOW winner in the Innovation Category. We created a new Visualization Category so we can focus more fully on how new visualization technologies are transforming the architect’s workflow for the better. “The new Path Tracer and HDRI Skydome features greatly boost the quality of this software solution’s image quality,” says Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, editor-in-chief, Architosh. “In addition, Twinmotion Cloud multiplies the benefits of these new rendering workflows accelerating overall AEC processes.” “EPIC really pushes on both the ease-of-use entry points pairing TwinMotion with several BIM and CAD tools directly, and opens the door to a very powerful Unreal Engine for an advanced immense opportunity space for the visualization of 3D design and architecture,” adds Pete Evans, AIA, associate senior editor. This release also adds the ability to load and display point clouds, which further enhances new ways of seeing architecture and design.
Honorable Mention: Lumion
More at the companion annual convention “perspectives” article which will be published in the days ahead. Please also look for our AIA show floor and technology session reports coming up later this week. This article had contributions from Anthony Frausto-Robledo.
[Editor’s note: We wish to make clear that there are multiple winners in three categories and no honorable mentions in Emergent, Innovation, and BIM categories.]