Autodesk University: Exploring Building Design Technology Trends
I come from a Building Design Industry, the first 5 years of my career I was a Structural Engineer and designed stations and tunnels for Subway in Moscow. After that, I got really interested in new building design technology based on creating virtual copies of future buildings and using these models to store/aggregate all project data. This Technology is called Building Information Modeling (BIM).
The range of problems engineers, architects, developers, construction companies are facing is very wide, hence there is a huge amount of different software that serves as the tools for BIM. And one of the best-known providers is Autodesk.
Autodesk develops a broad range of software and services for various industries: Architecture, Engineering &Construction, Media & Entertainment, and it has been used on diverse projects ranging from the One World Trade Center to Tesla electric cars.
Every year in many countries around the world, Autodesk gathers thousands of specialists passionate about innovations and new technologies to share new ideas and experience at the event called Autodesk University. I used to attend it every year in Moscow, and still hope to attend the biggest one in Last Vegas.
All presentations from this event are published on this website, the earliest are from 2011.
I thought that this project is a great opportunity to scrape all the presentations and explore how the Building Design Technology trends transformed over the years. The main reason is that knowing the trends and new products, ideas and tools are out there is a big competitive differentiator no matter whether you are an engineering firm employee or a CEO of a fast-growing engineering company, as they help improve workflows, productivity, and overall quality of your work.
The main web page looks like this:
All presentations are sorted by Country, Year and Tags that include Topics, Industry and Technology each presentation is featuring.
I used Scrapy to obtain the data and my analysis was mainly built on tags, and I also searched the description for the words related to software development.
It's important to keep in mind that there are a couple of hundred unique tags, from which I have chosen the ones I was most interested in, and multiple tags can be featured in one presentation. It means that all tags shown in one graph wouldn't add up to 100% per year.
The conference has more locations such as Russia, Japan, Korea, China, South Africa, but, sadly, the presentations from them are not introduced on the website. The only ones outside the US were Australia, London, and Middle East, but they look quite small comparing to the Las Vegas one.
It might be so because Las Vegas Conference lasts 4 days and covers all the industries: Building Design & Engineering, Construction, Median & Entertainment, Product Design & Manufacturing, whereas in other countries it might last a couple of days and cover only Building Design and Engineering, as AU in Russia. Finally, not all presentations may be uploaded to the website.
The graph shows the significant growth of the Las Vegas event over the past 10 years, as Autodesk was actively developing and promoting their products and AU itself.
Also, the event went Virtual in 2020 because of the Pandemic, and we don’t see as many presentations there as before.
Most Featured Industries
To become a speaker at AU, one must submit an application and gain approval. Autodesk decides which industries and technologies to feature at the conference. Hence, the application and selection process might affect the overall distribution.
However, it is my belief that the interests of the consumers should be the main driving factor.
The list of introduced industries was quite large so I reduced them to the six most popular.
Building Design stays the most popular industry among all, however, most of them are still related to Building and Construction.
I’ve witnessed many changes and trends from the inside.
Over this time the industry made huge steps from 2D blueprints (AutoCAD) to creating virtual copies of buildings long before they're built and aggregating data in the models (Revit, BIM 360, Navisworks).
AutoCAD is still quite widely used, but it’s getting less buzz compared to BIM products such as Revit and BIM 360 every year.
ML/AI and Big Data
Many industries now realize how beneficial the use of Machine Learning and AI is. BIM is not an exception, since it’s data-driven.
ML and AI are already used to solve various problems, such as classifying construction damage by image or monitoring safety at a building site using Neural Networks.
Quick industry growth and the perspective of creating digital cities should bring the use of ML/AI to a whole new level.
Everyone saw little 3D printed building copies and jewelry, but did you know that a whole building can be 3D printed nowadays?
With laser scanning, we can get virtual point clouds that are used to recreate existing buildings in 3D.
AR and VR make it possible to walk around a building that doesn’t yet exist or visualize MEP systems on-site before they are installed.
Robots are now able to conduct routine inspection tasks and capture data from a building site safely and accurately.
Standard software functionality is never enough, there is always a need to automate routine tasks such as documentation production, data aggregating, export, and analysis.
Autodesk products have an open API that provides limitless possibilities for creating the additional tools that every design team requires, and C# and Python are the languages that are mostly used for that.
Dynamo Studio is a visual programming environment that enables designers to explore parametric conceptual designs and automate tasks, and we can see its growth over the years along with Software Development.
According to the graph, Python, C#, and Revit API are lingering at 0 to 2.5 percent of presentations each year, which I thought is a bit odd, as I can clearly see the growing demand for knowledge of at least one programming language and Revit API for BIM Specialist positions (It would be very interesting to analyze that trend using LinkedIn data as well)
I can see substring search in the description as a possible reason for that for Python, C#, and Revit API, whereas Dynamo Studio and Software Development are found in presentation tags, and Software Development might include the first three.
In all our graphs we can see a downtick in 2020, and taking into account that all graphs are showing proportions and that all analyzed tags were cherry-picked from hundreds, it seems like the ones from the selection were less featured overall. That might mean that some other industry might have taken over in 2020. This is a subject for further investigation!
The world of Technology evolves rapidly, constantly bringing new tools to every industry.
Knowledge of the trends, available tools, and services can help companies in the construction industry determine how to reduce costs of design, building and maintenance. Optimized workflows lead to improved results. And having these tools on your toolbelt definitely makes you a more valuable specialist in the job market. Staying on top of trends might be an expensive investment but it’s always beneficial in the long run.
The data I managed to collect is not as rich as I expected, exploring presentations from Autodesk events all over the world could bring much more interesting insights.
However, the trends shown in the data confirm my perceptions, based on 10 years of experience in the industry and visiting Autodesk University in Russia each year.