Our 3 takeaways from Autodesk University 2018

Posted on November 29, 2018 by Vincent Carignan

Our 3 takeaways from Autodesk University 2018

With its promise to impress us, educate, and inspire us, Autodesk University (AU) was back from November 13 to 15 in Las Vegas. It was an opportunity for the BIM One team to understand Autodesk’s product development roadmaps and to see what the software behemoth is preparing for the future of its suite. Because the Internet already provides us with good summaries of what has been presented about product roadmaps, we will be focusing on a few noteworthy sessions that we attended, covering American standards, dRofus, and the (famous ?) generative design.

Evolution of American standards

One of the most interesting presentations was an update on the state of the development of US standards entitled "How to Utilize the National BIM Standards to Improve Project Delivery" and led by Johnny Fortune (Bullock Tice Associates), Dr Carrie Dossick (University of Washington) and Paul Audsley ( NBBJ). With the aim of exposing the future development of American BIM standards, the presentation quickly took the form of an open discussion between the audience and the panel. Panelists also announced that new updates to existing standards are expected in the coming months.

Any updates of US standards are carefully followed by the BIM One team, as they have a very strong influence on standards and deployment both in Canada and Quebec.

Here are the key elements that were announced:

  • For the new version of the National BIM Standards US (NBIMS-US) that will be published in the next 18-22 months (unfortunately, the committee is not funded and is composed of volunteers, which significantly slows its’ production efforts!) :

    • New division of the document allowing to refer to specific sections and allowing the updating of parts of the documents without having to update the whole of the standard, which is very positive since some parts of standards tend to evolve much more quickly than others;
    • Conversion of the document (rather dry now) into an easily searchable web version. The purpose of the committee is to find all information in less than 7 mouse clicks;
    • Clarification of what is part of the standards and what can be used as a guide to implementation. The information is currently in several different documents;
    • Clarification of what is believed to be the core of BIM (the minimum requirements for conducting a BIM project) around which other standards can be built.
Johnny Fortune presenting the session introduction on the
        current state of standards
Figure 1.0 - Johnny Fortune presenting the session introduction on the current state of standards.

dRofus "off AU2018" session

Another session that caught our attention was actually not an AU session! Senior executives at dRofus, a large asset management software, held three sessions on the sidelines of the Autodesk conference at a hotel adjacent to the event. The dRofus solution is one of the solutions we carefully follow for our customers and we were pleased to be able to attend case study sessions on the use of the platform. The presentations were very concrete and made it easy to bridge the concepts of information management of an asset and its implementation through a software solution. The availability and openness of the presenters to chat with customers who have directly implemented and worked with the platform, well-represents, in my opinion, the interest of an event like AU. The CEO and CTO also took the opportunity to present the features and updates that are currently under development which we will follow closely. The presentation of the three case studies is available online here.

The BIM One team before the dRofus party. <br/>From left to right: Steve Sénéchal, Vincent Carignan, Alexine Gordon-Stewart, Christian Proulx, Eric Marrapodi, John Barkwell, and Dave Allard.
Figure 2.0 - The BIM One team before the dRofus party. From left to right: Steve Sénéchal, Vincent Carignan, Alexine Gordon-Stewart, Christian Proulx, Eric Marrapodi, John Barkwell, and Dave Allard.

Generative design

Again this year, Generative Design sessions were, among Dynamo classes, the most popular with attendees. It is still difficult to ignore some of the less positive aspects though of these sessions. And what better way to capture the essence of a reaction than a #AU2018 Twitter meme:

Space Planning meme

While the concept and applications of generative design are definitely promising and the presenters were well-qualified, it was a pity that, as Nathan Miller's proving ground tweet makes clear, some reflections were rather superficial. In defense of the speakers, the format of some sessions tended to promote black-and-white opinions. Juggling the challenge of explaining the concept as simply as possible while keeping a dose of pragmatism is not easy, but the result in some sessions lacked nuance.

However, many community commentators were able to raise the debate in different sessions, which was very much appreciated by the audience. Pardis Mirmalek, at the end of his presentation, proposed an eye-catching excerpt from the New Scientist newspaper of August 1972 on the work that would lead to the creation of Deep Blue, the first computer to defeat a human in chess. The extract read as follows:

An interesting possibility which arises from the ‘brute force’ capabilities of contemporary chess programs is the introduction of a new brand of ‘consultation chess’ where the partnership is between man and machine. The human player would use the program to do extensive and tricky forward analysis of variations selected by his own chess knowledge and intuition, and to check out proposed lines of play for hidden flaw. - Professor Donald Michie, director of the department of machine intelligence at Edinburgh University.

While the complexity of building design is much greater than the mechanics underlying chess, I think this excerpt sums up the possibilities of exploiting generative design. The designer has increasing access to processing huge amounts of information to explore more different design options by dedicating more energy to the tasks they excel at: creating value.

To continue your post-AU reflection, we suggest:


Vincent Carignan
BIM Specialist