By Kirsty Hogg
The AEC keynote is in large part an extension of the General keynote, expanding upon the themes laid out by Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost. It was hosted by Nicholas Mangon, Autodesk Vice President of AEC Strategy and Marketing.
Much like Andrew Anagnost, a very engaging and enthusiastic speaker. He began by saying that it isn’t just about building more, but protecting, rebuilding and improving the built environment. The UN states that we have 4 trillion built assets at risk across the globe currently. We are seeing an increase in natural disasters as well as man-made disasters. One of the examples he gave was incredibly interesting, covering the fire that gutted Notre Dame Cathedral. The rebuild is being supported by Autodesk and by incredible good fortune, AGP had completed a full laser scan of the cathedral a few years ago and used Autodesk ReCap to analyse the data. Without these scans, an accurate rebuild would be impossible. This wasn’t just an opportunity to name drop an Autodesk product but to highlight the need to capture digital versions of our existing built assets because you never know when you may need them.
This example was for a devastating fire, but just as easily I can see a digital asset being used for simulation purposes and reconstructions. As an example of what I mean, I talked to a delegate who before moving into BIM, had been responsible for designing and assessing buildings for active shooter situations. Sadly, this is a reality in society, but by having accurate digital representations of our existing buildings, simulations can be run to see where and how these buildings can be improved to minimise the risk to life during an active shooter situation. I’m sure you can think of many other examples where a digital copy of an asset pre-BIM would benefit your discipline too.
If you are a fan of robotics, Boston Dynamics makes an appearance with their robot Spot. Spot can be utilised in many areas but also in construction. The outputs from its sensors and scanners integrate with Autodesk cloud solutions, with the aspiration that the robot will autonomously navigate the construction site and automatically raise RFI’s and identifying hazards. You can read a bit more about this by clicking here.
The big announcement of the AEC Keynote was the release of Autodesk Construction Cloud. I am really just getting up to speed with this software so I can’t give you a thorough explanation of how it is all going to work! However, the concept is that the Construction Cloud will connect all the BIM 360 cloud suites available. Collaboration and connectivity across the individual 360 software units, is vital to realise the true potential of Autodesk’s cloud suite, otherwise we just have a lot of disjointed tools that work independently. Ultimately Autodesk’s goal is to create an extremely thorough and competitive common data environment (CDE). Not another CDE I hear you say! I’m personally excited to see what Autodesk come up with, because I find most CDE’s over complicated and not very user friendly.
One thing that I truly believe about the Autodesk 360 suite of tools, is that they are incredibly intuitive and user friendly. In my opinion for us as consultants to be truly collaborative in our approach to design, that means everyone being able to access information easily and not having to jump through hoops and multiple software interfaces to review a drawing or an RFI that cross references with a spec which in turn cross references with a model. Through several years of discussion with Autodesk developers, I have seen some of what they are looking to achieve, and it is exciting in it’s simple-ness! If anyone has used ProCore as a CDE, you have seen a glimpse of what a 360 CDE might look like. However, the big difference would be the level of integration with the authoring software will be greater. The user interface less complicated and the pipeline of information flow more streamlined. I will be keeping a keen eye on these developments and reading up as much as I can on the Autodesk Construction Cloud over the coming months.
Digital twins also made an appearance in the keynote, with the emphasis on how it can be utilised to improve a buildings operational and facilities management. This is interesting because, whilst it is a challenge and fun to explore what we can create in a digital twin environment, the impetuous is on us as design consultants to sell the use of digital twins to a client. We will need to explain the potential to them and show them the benefits of the research and development that we intend to do. In the future I see the concept and implementation of digital twins being a pre-construction service that potentially rolls into post construction. This is an avenue we don’t currently deliver as a discipline or as part of our fee structures but to be relevant in the future, we should start thinking about this now. Digital twins are a key area of development that I believe is ideally suited to consultants rather than contractors, which is rare in a lot of the digital innovations coming through. But to make this a reality we need to start putting the work in now and sowing the seeds with clients early to lay the foundations of a future service we could offer. The keynote outlines a great example of a hospital using a digital twin to spark your imaginations, and I urge you to watch it.
But probably the most exciting presentation of the keynote was the Virgin HyperloopOne. We haven’t seen a new mode of transportation for over a century, but with the HyperloopOne that is exactly what they are creating. If you watch nothing else of the keynote, watch this presentation. It starts at about 35 minutes in and it will I’m sure be the future of high-speed travel. 700mph with no direct emissions, travelling at the equivalent of 200,000 ft. So far, they have achieved 240mph around a track of 500m and this progress has only taken 5 years.