In mid-July, Graphisoft celebrated 40 years in the industry with a special anniversary party and launch event for its latest software solutions for the AEC industry. The headlining news included the unveiling of Archicad 26 (its flagship BIM application) and updates on BIMcloud, BIMx, and DDScad.
As we have noted in some previous recent articles (see: Architosh, “The Roberts Interview—Ahead of the Graphisoft 2022 Release Event,” 11 July 2022 ) DDScad is an OpenBIM MEP BIM design solution for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers. Earlier in the year, Data Design Systems (DDS), a sibling Nemetschek Group software company, merged with Graphisoft itself. With that merger, their MEP BIM products—which are popular in Scandinavian and German-speaking countries—kept their names, but the company itself under the merger is officially now Graphisoft Building Systems.
Product Road Map
Graphisoft’s 2022 Product Launch Event was streamed live worldwide, but Architosh was invited to attend in person as part of a rather good-sized group of industry media professionals. The media was given a whole day’s worth of launch events and press activities, including two executive Q&A sessions after separate live-stream presentations to a worldwide audience.
In the second streamed event, we were presented with a detailed future Graphisoft Road Map. This future Road Map (see images above and below) outlined strategic milestones for both architecture and AEC stakeholder team collaboration. While we captured several screenshots of the streamed presentation, we have implemented some of our own graphics for the charts associated with both the Road Map and the Adaptive Hybrid Framework that we will dive into below.
Perhaps one of the most important announcements coming out of the Launch Event this year was the Roadmap itself. The Hungarian company gave a fairly clear picture of where its products were headed over the next four years out to mid-decade (2025), and it did so across Architecture, Multi-Disciplinary Design, Design Team Collaboration, and Productive Ecosystems. Here’s a bullet point list of each one’s focus:
- OpenBIM — IFC and BCF technologies and similar OpenBIM standards.
- Integrated Design — SAF and similar technologies and standards.
- DDScad — full MEP solutions based on DDScad (Graphisoft Building Systems)
Design Team Collaboration
- OpenBIM and BCF
- CDE Connections
- Graphisoft Forward — a mixture of services and promotions for firms who wish to stay on the leading edge of Graphisoft technologies.
- Graphisoft Learn — BIM education systems and Graphisoft certification programs, including Archicad BIM User, BIM Author, BIM Coordinator, or BIM Manager.
- Graphisoft Community — join the community of users globally through forums.
Now in terms of Architecture (Archicad) roadmap action, as we look ahead, we see in this release (2022) that the focus has been on a “Focus for Design,” which manifested in lots of helpful features in the UI of Archicad, including some powerful search capabilities but nothing show-stopper-ish. Next year, in 2023, the focus moves to “Choice of Consideration” with technologies for design optioneering—if I may borrow a Bentley word—and what-if scenarios. In 2024, the focus moves to “Scale at Speed,” a phrase that suggests Archicad will attempt to take the absolute performance crown, even across high-complexity large buildings.
High-complexity large buildings today significantly challenge BIM software and the hardware that runs them. This author has seen BIM rivals like Huw Roberts’ past employer Bentley Systems convincingly make the argument that vast complex buildings bring BIM systems to their knees but not on Bentley OpenBuildings BIM software. Yet, a Gehry Technologies executive made an even grander claim about Digital Project and demonstrated it running on a MacBook running Windows in emulation with heaps of RAM.
Before I go off on a Roy Batty quote from Blade Runner and say something like, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…” it is worth pointing out that likely nobody is better equipped to understand the value of BIM solutions capable of tackling extremely large and complex buildings than Huw Roberts. This is his advantage coming to Graphisoft from Bentley, a company that continues to thrive in the world of the enterprise-scale infrastructure of which several building types are commonly apart.
Finally, we can turn our attention to Graphisoft’s roadmap for Design Team Collaboration, where we see CDE connectivity to Archicad ramping up in 2023 and then leading to dynamic CDE integration with likely bi-directional real-time or near-real-time data moving between Archicad and various supported CDE systems. And again, this chart (see above) suggests the company is moving in a direction to support much larger firms, building types, and project complexities. The goal of which will be to not just challenge Autodesk’s Revit in the largest BIM market in the world (United States) but also to challenge Bentley with extremely large-scale infrastructure buildings (think transportation design where airports and rail often merge to create extremely vast complexes of building infrastructure).
Adaptive Hybrid Framework
Perhaps one of the more exciting introductions at the 2022 Launch event was the company’s unveiling of its restructured software development framework, which they are calling Adaptive Hybrid Framework. The “hybrid” in this case refers to a combination of desktop and cloud technologies. It is important to state that CEO Huw Roberts clarified that at this present time, there are zero plans to develop Archicad as a full web-accessible cloud-based application. When you think about why today’s newest developers target cloud + mobile first in lieu of desktop, a big part of it is being able to deploy their solution to the widest set of possible users for anywhere, anytime, any device (AAAD) access.
Graphisoft is not in that position as a new cross-platform developer; they already have mature code for both Windows and Mac that they keep up-to-date with the latest operating system advances. This includes advances in chip development (think multi-core, which the company led in the industry on), including chip architecture transitions (think their transition for Archicad for macOS on PowerPC to macOS on Intel). And of course, this also includes GPU chips and graphics APIs.
Let’s look at their Adaptive Hybrid Framework in more detail. It starts with the core Microkernel code base, a fully modernized core that handles loading the app, the login process, licensing, and security services technologies in total. As for licensing, CEO Huw Roberts chastised companies for forcing subscription licensing on users. He strongly made the point that at Graphisoft, they believe that the customer owns their data, and they will continue and develop flexible licensing options.
General BIM Authoring
Next, the larger code base sitting on top of the Microkernel is a General BIM Authoring technology stack—core Archicad BIM technology developed around modern standards for both macOS and Windows operating systems. When you combine the General BIM Authoring framework component with the Microkernel framework component, this equals the BIM Authoring Platform without regard for the AEC discipline structure.
Sitting on top of the General BIM Authoring framework components are Discipline Layer components—one for Architecture, Mechanical, Plumbing, Structural, Electrical, and Other(s). By this point, it has become obvious that DDScad’s code base, or some parts of it, will be integrated into Graphisoft’s General BIM Authoring platform as a discipline-specific set of technologies.
But we have also learned that DDScad has some core technologies common to all BIM applications, like IFC technology, that are more up-to-date than Archicad’s equivalent technologies. Therefore, it is not just highly conceivable but desirable that the General BIM Authoring framework component will include technology that comes from DDScad in lieu of older technologies deemed not as modern or advanced. Whatever technology DDScad contributes to the General BIM Authoring framework, it must be technology that can work across both Mac and Windows platforms.
Back in my May conversation with Huw Roberts, I had asked if DDScad might be therefore released as a Mac and a Windows MEP software. He noted that technically, based on the new framework, it could. However, just because one could possibly compile a Mac version of DDScad doesn’t automatically mean the Graphisoft Buildings Systems group would support that. There has to be demand. And that demand, while conceivable, would largely depend on hardware trends relative to Apple. Engineers as a group would need to start to want to use Mac computers in greater numbers such that they could get many engineering software companies to produce native Mac versions. Because engineers use many applications, it will take more than just a Mac version of DDScad to see engineers start switching platforms.
This dynamic would, of course, pertain to the “Other” box in the diagram above. Whatever “Other” disciplines do emerge built on top of the General BIM Authoring framework, whether they are also cross-platform will depend on larger platform dynamics in that specialty.
Add-Ons and Libraries
Finally, sitting on top of this Adaptive Hybrid Framework model are things like add-ons and libraries that foster extensions and customization. Some may be professional programmer-supplied items, while others come from advanced users and large firms.
So one might be wondering where does the cloud sit in all of this? If you notice the color of the word Hybrid in the picture of the charts above, they correspond to orange bars sitting along blue bars. Blue bars are internal services, while orange bars equate to external services. External services are supplied outside of Graphisoft, while internal cloud services that are internal include things like BIMcloud.
We can see that at the General BIM Authoring level, there is support for both. Conceivably, this equates to allowing third-party external access (services) to talk to data at the deeper core levels of the General BIM Authoring system. You also see that at a discipline level, we have both internal and external services APIs. In the future, as we noted above, the Graphisoft Ecosystem will support connections to other CDEs.
Graphisoft’s new technology framework is diffuse with plans for both internal and external connectivity via APIs. Presumably, some of the most important future plans support and encourage fellow Nemetschek Group software solutions, including, importantly for the US market, Bluebeam, and its future Bluebeam Cloud. Huw Roberts also announced during the Launch Event that connectivity and support for Autodesk BIM 360 were also coming soon.
Because the company’s primary growth market is the world’s largest CAD/BIM market in the United States, connectivity plans for Procore would also be a smart move, in addition to connecting to Autodesk solutions. And speaking of the United States, Roopinder Tara of Enginering.com wrote a fascinating sum-up from the July Launch Event emphasizing the need to understand and represent the American market in terms the market here in the United States relates to. This is an interesting new perspective Tara deserves ample credit for making note of. Are we now experiencing a type of new patriotic nationalism that is pervading market decisions? One might say that it began under the Trump Administration with efforts to bring back US manufacturing, and it has continued under Biden’s efforts to boost US automakers who are producing EVs (electric vehicles) in the United States. I personally don’t see a “buy American” movement in the software industry playing out in the United States, and it makes absolutely no sense, given the true nature of how software is produced.
Overall, the event in July was a very positive one celebrating 40 years of innovation in AEC software with a comprehensive vision for what comes next. We look forward to learning more about what Graphisoft’s vision entails in the years ahead.