IN MAY, I FOUND MYSELF IN HUNGARY on vacation and had a chance to visit American Huw Roberts, CEO of Graphisoft. We did a brief tour of the Graphisoft buildings, and Roberts explained that most employees were still working from home.
I had about an hour and a half to sit down and talk to Roberts about the upcoming Graphisoft 40th anniversary celebration planned for mid-July. In his role as CEO for nearly three and a half years now, I also wanted to cover other broader topics—knowing full well that details of the upcoming Archicad 26 were not going to be on the table before the July event.
We believe in the famous Wayne Gretzky quote—skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.
In the following four-part interview, Roberts and I discuss topics such as the DDS merger with Graphisoft, OpenBIM versus closedBIM, global competition with Revit, the Nemetschek Group, and possible synergies, BIMcloud and BIMx, and thoughts on the productivity paradox in AEC.
Roberts, never without an astute quote from the past, provides insightful thoughts about these items and more.
Interview Part 1
(Anthony Frausto-Robledo) Can you tell me a bit about what will happen in Budapest in July at Graphisoft? And as you might expect, I am clearly inclined to learn about your Apple Silicon plans.
(Huw Roberts) This is our 40th anniversary year as a company, and we have an exciting set of announcements and events planned for you all. As for the products and the technical items, and the new features and capabilities, we will share all of that with you in July.
We will also have a session with our head of R&D talking about how we are “retooling our factory”. Just like Apple and the software industry are constantly updating and need to do those sorts of things, so do we – both to stay in sync and to deliver our own innovations. Zsolt Kerecsen will talk about what we are doing with our code base, cloud services, APIs, and other integrations.
As for Apple Silicon? We believe in the famous Wayne Gretzky quote—skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. So, we need to know strategies from the Apples and Microsofts of the world, and we have exceptionally good relationships there, so we don’t get surprises and can stay ahead of what’s coming next.
It’s important that we don’t get too focused on the advantages of those platforms in themselves; we have to stay focused on leveraging the benefits of our ecosystem. That is fundamentally our platform.
For example, we consider BIMcloud and BIMx and how they provide services to the tools you are using locally—so that they can deliver capabilities and convenience to our users.
So, I take it the cloud is now the heart of your ecosystem? It connects everything.
Yes, we see great benefits from harnessing the cloud in our ecosystems, really our users’ ecosystems. Cloud technology is an important enabler for collaboration and provides new capabilities for sure. But we recognize there will always be many reasons why people may not be connected to the cloud or will not want to rely on the cloud and we intend to serve them well also.
We do not expect to transform Archicad into a cloud application. Again, there is no added value to the customer for doing that. But for collaboration, BIMx can share models and information with a broader audience who are not BIM authors…from a browser, anywhere. And through BIMcloud we can offer all sorts of capabilities that extend Archicad for both teams and individual users. Using the cloud for what the cloud is good at as an extension of the devices for what the devices are good at is fundamentally our strategy.
Part 1 Commentary
The strategy of emphasizing the unique strengths of technologies, devices, and operating systems in a balanced way such that the ecosystem is most substantial is trumping alternative strategies that may emphasize the absolute capabilities of any one technology, device, or operating system.
While it is common for executives to share more details off the record, and I will delve into further Apple Silicon items further down the article, the important take-away from my visit with Roberts is how Graphisoft is thinking more about the strength of its ecosystem rather than any one product.
Interview Part 2
(AFR) When the news broke about the Graphisoft merger with DDS, I couldn’t help but think about integrated MEP in Archicad and that this merger was some kind of admission that there are indeed advantages in file-level integration.
That is an aspect of it, but we have a slightly different approach to it.
Because you are still believers of OpenBIM?
We are still believers of OpenBIM.
What sounds like competing ideas are both essential truths to us. So, one is that we fundamentally believe in OpenBIM. The data belongs to the customer, and it needs to be nimble and connected to all these other tools and systems. On the other hand, we recognize that there are aspects of workflows and design, engineering, or documentation processes where a really tight real-time integration is the best move.
Let’s step back a bit because you first introduced a new type of integration that was near real-time and was not a closed-BIM type of file-level integration.
So, in Archicad 24, we launched “integrated design” with structural. And that has been a great proving ground for our ideas. We have both Open BIM IFC connectivity on the structural engineering side and our SAF file-type analytical to BIM model connection technology. More than fifteen structural engineering and analysis vendors now support it.
We think of it [SAF type] as our integrated design technology. It is an immediate “fast-cycle time” sharing mode based on shared open standards instead of file types. So how can that apply to the rest of the engineering disciplines?
We want to support both worlds in our world. We think the Open BIM connectivity is for the broad connectivity to other ecosystems and tools, which will be, in our view, the traditional way. And this will be highly valuable, in fact essential, for the foreseeable future. And this fast-cycle integrated design approach complements that.
So, there will be a “new way” for integration aimed at the other disciplines that are a fast-cycle time sharing mode similar to SAF? The message is it will be more deeply integrated than traditional IFC. Do I have that right?
Exactly, but both – full Open BIM and tightly integrated design. And our roadmap is something we will be sharing at our event in July.
Are we talking about Graphisoft rebranding the DDScad technology and products?
We are not talking about anything like that now. And while we are integrating technologies from both directions, the product line is still called DDScad. The company has become part of Graphisoft.
Part 2 Commentary
The fast-cycle time data sharing and integration between Archicad and structural engineering tools are based on an open technology called SAF that Graphisoft has created in conjunction with Nemetschek. Showcased at the AIA Las Vegas show in 2019, it works brilliantly if an architect is fortunate to have an engineer working with one of the software packages that support it.
The DDScad fast-cycle time integration will evolve in stages, Roberts shared with me. And that is all we can share now with readers, who can tune into our event coverage in Budapest in mid-July to learn the whole story.