Momentum and money spur state Departments of Transportation to invest in digital project delivery.
Granular, interoperable, accessible data is the key to unlocking a completely new way of working in transportation.
New interoperability between Civil 3D and AASHTOWare Project is the latest example of Autodesk’s leadership in transportation infrastructure with organizations like AASHTO and Infotech.
Digital transformation has the power to connect data across the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.
Many of the world’s infrastructure systems were constructed for the population and climate of the mid-20th century and are well past their prime. In the United States, much of our infrastructure dates back to the 1960s and 1970s and was designed and built using what are now outdated design, construction, and project management methods.
To modernize our infrastructure, we must modernize the engineering and construction industry itself with digitized workflows that enable better collaboration and seamless flow of data throughout the project lifecycle. We call this process digital project delivery. We are excited to work with states and the transportation technology ecosystem to make this monumental shift.
Advancing interoperability for better project outcomes
Digital transformation is about to accelerate for the government agencies that design, build, and maintain our nation’s transportation infrastructure through a new joint effort between Autodesk, Infotech, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Montana Department of Transportation (Montana DOT). Initiated by Montana DOT, this collaboration underscores the agency’s commitment to embrace innovative technologies and enhance efficiency in the management and development of transportation systems.
Together, we’re enabling interoperability between Autodesk Civil 3D and AASHTO’s construction contract solution, AASHTOWare Project, with the help of Infotech, the official AASHTOWare Project contractor. The interoperability will enable digital project delivery from design and documentation to estimation and asset management. Departments of Transportation (DOT) across the United States and Ministries of Transportation in Canada will soon have access to it.
“With state transportation agencies in full pursuit of digital transformation, we’re excited to continue our work with Autodesk and provide an interoperable solution to those organizations,” said Chad Schafer, Chief Revenue Officer, Infotech. “This integration will help bridge the gaps in data and workflow between departments to ensure successful digital project delivery.”
Autodesk Civil 3D is civil engineering design software that supports BIM (Building Information Modeling) with integrated features to improve drafting, design, and construction documentation.
The interoperability couldn’t come at a better time. Momentum and money are finally on the side of the state agencies that are responsible for our transportation infrastructure. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will make a once-in-a-generation investment of $350 billion in highway programs through 2026. This includes the largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system 67 years ago.
The need for new infrastructure is urgent, with 1 in 5 miles of highways and major roads, and 45,000 bridges in the US alone in poor condition. State DOTs and the industry have more reasons than ever to transform the way transportation infrastructure projects are designed, built, operated, and maintained.
In a significant move, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), has established the Project Delivery Collaboration Center (PDCC), which is envisioned to be a Project Manager’s portal from project creation through final design, giving them visibility to details including, but not limited to, their project portfolio (two-week look ahead), cost (budget), dashboards and reviews. PennDOT has chosen to use Autodesk Construction Cloud as the primary tool for the PDCC. This decision, made with an agnostic approach, underscores a commitment to ensure compatibility and optimal performance across a broad spectrum of platforms, workflows, and systems.
Making data work for you
Data remains an untapped asset in engineering and construction, with consulting firm FMI reporting 96% of all data captured by the industry goes unused. But that’s about to change. The United States government is calling on state DOTs to use digital technologies such as cloud-based workflows, Building Information Modeling (BIM), GIS mapping systems, rapid construction, and digital project delivery.
States can compete for grants from the Federal Highway Administration’s Advanced Digital Construction Management Systems (ADCMS) Program to invest in technology that boosts productivity, manages complexity and cost, and delivers massive infrastructure projects quickly and safely. This ADCMS program will award $85 million in grants, showing a significant federal commitment to digital transformation.
At Autodesk, we believe that granular, interoperable, and accessible data is the key to unlocking digital transformation and driving a completely new way of working for engineering and construction teams. We simplified data management and collaboration by putting all our engineering and construction data in one location, Autodesk Docs, a common data environment that is open, secure, and accessible. Civil 3D is connected to Docs, supports BIM, and is integrated with GIS.
The new AASHTOWare Project integration closes a workflow gap by enabling state DOTs to take quantities directly from Civil 3D without error-prone and time-consuming manual entry. They can use GIS information in design, push the design information to project execution with AASHTOWare Project, pull actual quantities back to as-builts, and push data back into GIS for asset management.
“Interoperability between Civil 3D and AASHTOWare Project will help us connect our design phase to our field construction operations. It will save time, save costs, and ultimately, enable us to be more accountable to the taxpayers who fund our transportation projects,” said Patrick Lane, Digital Delivery Project Manager for the Montana Department of Transportation.
Granular, interoperable, accessible data is the key to unlocking a completely new way of working in transportation.
Advocating for the future of infrastructure
Autodesk is more than a technology vendor. We’re advocating for digital project delivery at the state and federal level. And we’re supporting states’ efforts to advance digital delivery for transportation projects. For example, the California Department of Transportation, Caltrans, is using Autodesk Connectors for ArcGIS to develop workflows between data sources to improve project delivery, and the agency recently received funding in the first round of FHWA’s ADCMS grants.
We also understand that states urgently need digitally skilled workers to successfully undertake digital transformation. So, we’re helping our partners empower current workers to be confident using the latest tools. And we’re working with DOT leaders and state engineering schools to make sure their graduates are ready for the digital future.
We’re here to help states deliver on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how our nation connects communities and moves goods, people, and services.
Over the last ten years, Autodesk have integrated features into their product lineup to enhance customers’ creativity, automate repetitive tasks, and offer predictive insights through powerful analytics. “In 2024 and beyond, these capabilities will enable design and planning to become more effective, efficient, and better informed,” says Amy Bunszel. “For example, Autodesk Forma’s Rapid Operational Energy Analysis allows designers to understand how factors such as a building’s geometry and wall construction types will affect its predicted energy use–all during early stage design. Autodesk AI technology will help deliver better and more sustainable results for all.”
The expansion of Building Information Modeling (BIM) within construction is intricately connected to the upcoming fusion with AI. Despite its solid presence in design and engineering, BIM’s growing acceptance in construction is pivotal for optimizing AI in the industry. By serving as visual databases, BIM models gather abundant data from various construction phases, fortifying customer datasets and enabling more profound insights through AI.
Predictions for Emerging Tech in 2024
The utilization of emerging technologies like digital twins and virtual reality is gaining momentum in the construction sector. Digital twins are proving increasingly beneficial for owners and facility managers, offering support in areas such as remote asset management, predictive maintenance, and long-term asset planning. In response to the growing need for remote collaboration, Autodesk has introduced Workshop XR, a virtual reality workspace facilitating design reviews and issue identification before construction commences. This shift toward virtual reality explores enjoyable and efficient approaches to work, potentially shaping the future of work.
Construction firms are also exploring operational opportunities post-build, with digital twins providing rich data for informed decision-making by creating a comprehensive record from initial design to the completed structure. Additionally, augmented and virtual reality enhance the early evaluation of architectural outcomes during design reviews.
Read the full article from Autodesk: “2024 trends in the built environment: What to anticipate across AI, sustainability, and labor”, Amy Bunszel & Jim Lynch
As technology advances, architects need to combine technical know-how with high-level problem-solving.
Market pressures, technological advances, and climate change are driving the need for evolving skills in the architecture profession.
Students in architecture programs and junior architects will need to learn strong technology skills, gain an understanding of the history and theory of architecture, and develop high-level critical thinking to succeed.
As part of the job, architects will be called on to address the impacts of a project on its site, on nearby communities, and on global and local ecosystems.
The world is changing, and so are professions. The architecture, engineering, construction, and operations industry (AECO) is facing supply-chain issues, rising costs, labor shortages, and a high demand for buildings and infrastructure—and the architecture profession is evolving to meet these challenges.
But what do these changes look like? Accelerating technology, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), is one aspect. Architects are also tasked with addressing their projects’ impact on the climate and communities, as well as how to build space- and resource-efficient structures. An understanding of technology and the ability to problem-solve at a high level will shape the skills architects need to thrive in the future.
Merging technology and critical thinking
Key among architect skills is a solid grasp of new software and tools. However, Phil Bernstein, associate dean and professor adjunct at the Yale University School of Architecture, cautions against putting too much emphasis on specific technical skills. “At Yale, we teach skills in support of training people to think like good architects,” he says, “but we know that a lot of the skills we teach have relatively limited shelf lives.”
This is not new. When Alistair Kell, chief information officer at BDP, graduated from architecture school in 1993, his class was the last that didn’t need to produce a CAD drawing in order to graduate. After graduation, he had to learn how to use AutoCAD, then a prerequisite for getting a job.
Today’s entrants to the job market are expected to have entirely new skills that are complementary to architecture, Kell says, like being able to use computational design, script and code, and understand data and data structures. But technological advances are already making it easier for architects to work with data without the ability to code. “If I want to write a Python script now, I just ask AI to write it,” Bernstein says.
In addition, many junior architects can easily leverage new tools for the projects they’re working on. “At this point, most students coming out of architecture school are digital natives, so they’re already adept at jumping from one technology platform to the next,” says Amy Perenchio, principal at ZGF Architects.
An ongoing need in architecture education will be fostering higher-level thinking among new architects. “Architecture is a profession where we solve problems, and technology assists in the solving of problems,” Perenchio says. “But critical thinking—in the design sense—is really the baseline skill set that is needed.”
Bernstein mirrors this idea: “What we’re really trying to do is teach these people to be next-generation thinkers about the built environment—what’s important about it and how to create it.”
For Kell, creativity remains a key component of being an architect, one he hopes the profession never loses. “Architects need to be able to leverage technology as a creative tool,” he says, “in the same way they would see a pencil or tracing paper as one of the fundamental aspects of how they express themselves and develop creative solutions.”
Using AI to support innovative design
One set of new tools that will have an outsize impact on the profession is machine learning and AI, though Perenchio says the industry is still in a phase of figuring out how to best bring these tools into practice.
David Beach, associate professor at Drury University, thinks AI will be “incredibly useful” as a technical tool, used to provide checks and balances and reduce the workload associated with modeling or redundant tasks, what Kell refers to as “the drudgery and repetition of what we do.”
Even more impactful, says Beach, will be AI for design creation. Where once it would have taken a team several months to generate 30 or 40 different design options, “now we’re getting that same kind of iterative design idea generation happening in minutes or hours,” he says.
Artificial intelligence can automate repetitive design tasks.
However, to use AI effectively as a design tool, he thinks there is a need “to establish a really strong understanding of precedent, analysis, and conceptual thinking.”
Kell agrees: “It’s not just about the software. The software is fundamental, but it’s the art of the architecture that really matters,” what he sees as “sensibilities around form, our own place, and our own materiality.”
“It’s important not to lose Vitruvius’s principles,” he says, referencing Roman architect Vitruvius’s three qualities necessary for a well-designed building: strength, utility, and beauty. “We can’t let technology drive us to a different outcome. The role of the architect is fundamental to enriching everybody’s lives, rather than simply supporting.”
Considering architecture’s impact on the world
One of the fundamental roles of architecture today is addressing human-driven causes of climate change. Bernstein says this broader approach is evident in how teaching architecture has shifted over the past 20 years from “making beautiful objects to making things in context.”
Design, he says, now involves “trying to understand what the relationship is between the thing that you’re designing and how it affects the larger systems of where it sits—on its site, in its neighborhood, in its city, and in a global ecosystem.”
Kell thinks new tools available to the profession will “help address some of the more fundamental challenges we’re all having, like how you better address climate change within your designs, and how you better calculate and reduce embodied carbon in your designs.”
In fact, addressing climate change is “all about data, and it’s all about digital solutions…that will normalize this for architects and engineers,” he says. “But it’s only going to come about through a greater understanding and adoption of technology.”
Beach also sees a need for architects, as “building experts,” to take on a larger role in adapting a building over its lifespan, based on both how the client is using it and how a changing climate affects a building’s performance.
Architects are increasingly called on to address climate change in their designs, such as using vertical or rooftop gardens to help regulate internal temperature.
In addition, given current supply-chain issues, labor shortages, and rising costs—and the potential for an influx of environmental refugees over the next two decades—he thinks students should learn skills that directly tackle these challenges. These include prefabrication and modular construction, Beach says. “Not that we think this is the future of everything, but we know that our students are going to have to be leaders in this.”
In addition to addressing climate change, Perenchio sees a strong need for finding “ways to engage the community so that marginalized groups can have voices at the table.” This makes it necessary for team members to have “a sense of empathy and emotional intelligence.”
While all architects need to consider the broader impacts of a project, Beach says the burden falls more heavily on the younger generations. “It is their responsibility to figure out how to usher us through these changes that are going to happen,” he says, and “to be responsible stewards of the environment and stewards of our communities.”
If you’ve ever wondered how AI works in Autodesk’s AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) software then read on. In this blog post we’ll take a look at how we’re advancing AI in our software, and how it supports improved workflows, more informed decisions, and better project outcomes for AEC teams.
At Autodesk, we’ve invested in AI for the past ten years because we recognize its transformative power for the industries we serve. Across AEC disciplines and project types, Autodesk’s advancements in AI are helping customers tackle complex challenges and harness new opportunities in their projects–not just by increasing productivity, but by giving them the tools to be even more ambitious and creative.
Recent releases of popular tools like Midjourney allow AEC professionals to prompt, generate, and refine vast multitudes of ideas, spurring the imagination forward. The focus in our product teams takes a complementary approach: how can you use AI to translate imagination to reality? We invest in AI to improve the design, documentation and construction workflows that help AEC professionals turn their ideas into the buildings, infrastructure, and communities we all use and inhabit.
Our focus is on advancing Autodesk AI in three main areas:
Our solutions use a combination of AI technologies, mostly rule- and learning-based systems. No matter the type of AI technology, we believe it should always support the user, to help improve your workflows and optimize for the best outcomes. AI is simply a tool that’s very good at completing specialized tasks. When we look at the toolbox used by AEC professionals, Autodesk AI is an evolution of these tools which lends a helping hand, like a digital assistant, to make light work of normally time-consuming tasks and help you get where you want to be faster.
What’s important to keep in mind is that the AI is always steered by the user. You’re the one who decides how you want to combine manual and automatic adjustments to achieve your targeted outcomes, whether it’s for design and feasibility, compliance or buildability. You’re in the driver’s seat and the final decisions are always yours.
Now, let’s take a look at some examples of how AI is integrated into our AEC software and how it helps users improve their way of working:
Analyze: immediate insights, earlier
What are the consequences of a design change? Where is there room for improvement? These questions can be answered even faster with predictive AI-powered analysis tools which analyse project data to provide quick, actionable insights to AEC professionals. They’re intended to help you better understand–and design for–the results you want to achieve from the very earliest phases.
Machine learning speeds up the analysis process because, unlike conventional computational analysis, it can make accurate predictions–that were impossible before– based on previous simulations. This means you’ll get feedback in seconds, allowing you to assess and iterate your designs faster and more fluidly. Forma’s rapid analyses predicts results for noise and wind conditions and operational energy for early-stage design and planning, helping AEC teams design the healthy, sustainable communities they envisioned for their clients. Think of it this way: the rapid analysis offers an almost instant, educated guess which is comparable in accuracy to a full analysis thanks to machine learning. Use it like a pre-analysis for rapid experimentation and complement it with a full analysis for more detailed verification.
Forma’s Rapid Operational energy analysis gives immediate insights into a building’s energy use, helping users design with energy efficiency in mind.
When it comes to drainage design, stormwater analysis is a must for the design of resilient environments that can weather extreme conditions. With Autodesk InfoDrainage’s Machine Learning Deluge Tool, drainage designers can quickly generate responsive flood maps without having to rerun complex computational simulations. The tool analyzes and predicts water channelling and ponding, giving live feedback to help you complete a site analysis faster. This enables more informed decision making in the drainage design process whether it‘s locating optimal areas for stormwater controls or helping infrastructure owners and developers avoid problem areas when siting their structures.
The interactive Machine Learning Deluge tool inside Autodesk InfoDrainage generates responsive flood maps for placing stormwater controls more accurately and efficiently.
Augmentation: enhancing exploration and experimentation
As many of you know, exploration, experimentation and iteration are at the heart of the design and make process–and now it gets a boost with AI and data. Augmentation features enhance the creative process by widening the scope of exploration while improving the speed and accuracy of iterations, helping users find innovative solutions faster.
These features have been game-changing for data-driven ideation and optimization across different project phases. Starting with massing, Forma’s initial set of generative design tools helps you answer the question ‘what if…?’ in a fraction of the time it normally takes when assessing a site. You can rapidly generate layout options, using these quick massing studies to easily gauge a site’s feasibility. Key area metrics help you monitor targets and consider any trade-offs. Then, send your generated proposal to Forma’s rapid analyses (see Analysis section) to get a first impression of wind and noise conditions and operational energy. For car parking design, normally a thankless manual task, Forma’s parking tool happily takes this over. It lets you efficiently generate parking options for enclosed areas according to parameters such as lot dimensions, aisle width, and number of stories. For outdoor parking, you can leverage the optional TestFit parking extension, a third-party tool. Combining insights from both tools gives you a more complete overview of parking needs already at the early stage, helping you create a more accurate parking strategy, faster.
Explore in Forma helps you create quick massing studies to get a first impression of a site’s potential.
Generative Design in Revit gives designers a way to model the most optimal solutions by defining desired design outcomes, considered alongside competing goals and constraints. For example, how can you maximize the number of seats in a new stadium while ensuring each spectator has good sightlines to the field? How can you configure desk layouts in an open office to provide optimal occupancy while addressing egress and circulation? Leveraging what’s known as a genetic algorithm, Generative Design in Revit assists designers in quickly turning complex, multivariable design challenges into viable design directions for further development.
Automation: reducing tedious tasks for more creativity
Fewer tedious, repetitive tasks and more time for creative exploration and problem-solving: this is the potential of automation to help you do more of the high-value design and make work that you love doing and excel at. Automation features have the potential to unlock more streamlined, efficient ways of working, speeding up steps in a workflow that traditionally require significant manual input and effort.
Automation features anticipate the user’s next move to help them complete their task faster. In AutoCAD, Markup Import and Markup Assist help drafters iterate faster. Markup Assist uses machine learning to identify markups on print or digital formats and help you incorporate changes easier and faster. When it comes to replacing block references, AutoCAD Smart Blocks: Replacement suggests similar blocks from your block library for you to choose from. AutoCAD Macro Advisor generates macro insights based on your unique command usage.
Another valuable automation feature is Revit’s Steel Connection Automation which assists in the design of steel structural systems, helping structural engineers model design intent faster and estimate cost and constructability with greater accuracy, especially when facing bid deadlines. Reducing a normally repetitive task in the structural engineering workflow, this capability allows you to use rules-based connection libraries to efficiently identify, place, and replace steel connections.
Revit’s Steel Connection Automation
For sewer asset inspections, we’re exploring the integration of VAPAR’s AI image technology into Info360 Asset. VAPAR technology automatically flags problematic issues in pipes, saving operators hours of watching tedious sewer line inspection videos while significantly reducing capital expenditure costs. We will share more details in the near future.
Like how a word processor predicts words to complete your sentence, Prescriptive Scripting in Dynamo (also known as Node Autocomplete) helps you create your scripts more quickly and accurately by predicting the upcoming nodes based on what you’ve written previously.
In the bigger picture, AI advancements in Autodesk’s AEC software are there to help enhance your creativity and decision-making, enabling you to find new solutions to challenges faster and more sustainably. Autodesk AI is an evolution of your AEC toolbox that thinks along with you and supports more fluid workflows for your project teams; throughout the process, you as the user remain in the driver’s seat. At Autodesk we are committed to the thoughtful, responsible development of AI to address our customers’ needs and are actively researching, developing, and acquiring additional AI technology so that together we can design and make a better world for all.