Saturday, May 05, 2007

AIA Convention 2007 - There Still Seems to be Some Confusion...

I had the pleasure of helping out in the Autodesk booth at the AIA convention here in San Antonio this week. I was tasked with showing some of the productivity features of AutoCAD Architecture (formerly ADT), as well as serving as a teaching assistant in the booth's learning lab for a Revit Architecture session and an Autodesk Impression session.

I enjoyed seeing a lot of old friends, including people I went to Architectural School 'lo those many years ago, as well as some of my customers and others that I've met at AU's, on-line, etc.

I was a bit surprised, however, to find that many, if not most of those that visited the booth were still a bit confused as to what the position of ACA (AutoCAD Architecture) was with respect to Revit Architecture. Is ACA going away? Are ACA and Revit going to become the same product? The answer to both questions is an emphatic "NO".

The follow-up question to that (paraphrased here, as it took many literal forms from those that I talked to) was "So, which one should we be using?"

It's not a simple answer - and certainly not one I can answer in a blog post, however I can shed some light on the fundamental differences between the two products.

Revit and AutoCAD are two completely different platforms. Different code-bases and different workflows. The Revit platform (currently consisting of Revit Architecture, Revit MEP and Revit Structure) are geared for Building Information Modeling. They are not CAD programs. They're building modelers and analysis tools, where the data about the building components is equally important as the graphical representations. AutoCAD is a CAD platform, and currently offers AutoCAD Architecture (formerly ADT) and AutoCAD MEP (formerly ABS) as CAD productivity tools for the building industry.

If you are needing to move to Building Information Modeling, then you should be looking at Revit. However, don't just buy it and throw it on your computers, send your staff to a 3 day class and expect to be up and running. Revit will change the way your office works in a fundamental way. Because Building Information Modeling is such a different workflow it will impact everything from staffing to project resource allocation and billing. You need to plan your implementation and you will need help, either from your reseller if they have the resources and expertise, an outside consultant, or from Autodesk. The help is there - it's not free, but it's vital to be successful and profitable with your transition - plan for it, budget for it, and use it!

If you have no need in the near future to move to BIM and you simply need to stay with a CAD product (either for 2D or 3D production - ACA will handle both), then use AutoCAD Architecture. If you're currently using it like AutoCAD, then stop wasting your investment and target 3 to 5 features in the software to get near immediate productivity gains, then go from there. If you need a quick, easy feature to target, consider the Detail Component Manager. Talk about low-hanging fruit! We're talking blocks, polylines, lines, etc. - standard AutoCAD objects - however they're linked to a database that allows you to quickly and effortlessly compose a 2D detail, then annotate it automatically with the keynote database (even if you're not using keynotes, you can use the database for standardized, automated annotation - just turn off the keynote display). As an instructor, I will tell you that I can train someone to be comfortable and productive with the Detail Component Manager in 30 minutes or less. I can train someone to customize it in a half day. It's not rocket science and requires absolutely no programming ability at all.

So... hopefully this helps clear up the confusion a bit. Autodesk is giving you a choice. Figure out which way you need to go and make it work!

To those of you that were at the AIA convention this year and were in San Antonio for the first time, I hope you enjoyed our fair city, and even more, I hope you sunk some tourist dollars into our economy! :-)



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