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How app developers unlock BIM productivity

At Autodesk, we recognize every customer has unique needs, so we make our products flexible and customizable. Our software can be tailored to each customer through application programming interfaces (APIs) and plug-ins that work with both desktop and cloud solutions. We envision a future state in which Autodesk Forge, our cloud-based API platform, becomes the single environment where innovators come to design and create, no matter their industry or discipline. They’ll no longer think about the products they’re using—they’ll just solve problems. As we build out our vision for Forge, we continue to foster a community of third-party programmers who use APIs to develop solutions for our desktop products like Revit. This community is called the Autodesk Developer Network (ADN). Here are two stories of how our customers work with ADN members to automate processes, streamline workflows, and accelerate productivity in the building industry.

Ideate Software: Countless hours saved on megaproject

Delivering a railway network that connects the urban to the suburban, Sydney Metro Northwest is Australia’s largest public transport project. From viaducts to bridges to tunnels, the project has generated a mountain of design data. Tucked into each decision about structural support piles and girders are tiny, but important, details. The task of unearthing that information for the right people at the right time can be enormous. Here’s how SMEC, one of the lead design firms on the project, describes it.

“One part of the project had close to 500 piles, all with differing top and bottom reduced levels and pile diameters,” said Aaron Cass, Technical Officer, SMEC. “At one point during design, we were asked to produce a table of all the piles with a prescriptive set of descriptions. This is the kind of manual work that can really slow us down.”

All of those details existed inside the building information models (BIM) in Revit, but SMEC needed a simple way to unlock them. The team turned to Ideate Software for help managing project data. Ideate Software is a long-time member of ADN, creating plug-ins for Revit to help building designers save time and improve their accuracy.

“A Revit project can be extremely sophisticated and nuanced,” said Glynnis Patterson, Software Development Director for Ideate Software. “Our customers are regularly asking us to help expose more information so they can have more access and more control of their data.”

Ideate developers have responded to customer requests with many solutions, including Ideate BIMLink, a tool that gives deep visibility and useability of your Revit data by converting it into Excel. For the Sydney railway data request, the BIMLink app exported the pile information so values could be manipulated, standardized, and reimported to Revit. Cass said the process would have normally taken three days, but BIMLink cut it to “mere hours from start to finish.”

Recent product enhancements include Ideate Automation, which allows users to script and run Ideate BIMLink on multiple models at convenient times like non-business hours. Ideate Software offers four additional applications in the Autodesk app store. And according to Patterson, Ideate Software’s mission across its suite of products is to increase productivity by reducing the time spent on routine, manual tasks.

Ideate BIMLink

Ideate BIMLink. Image courtesy of Ideate Software.

CTC Software: Automating hospital design

Whether they’re innovating a pod environment to maximize emergency department capacity or elevating hospital design to attract international clientele, HKS Architects brings deep experience in health care design. Their specialists blend the intricacies of patient flow, medical equipment, and security with the need to create a healing environment. Capturing these design decisions is no small feat. Occupancy calculations, for example, had required time-consuming workarounds between Dynamo, Revit, and Excel until 2017, when HKS was introduced to CTC Software. CTC, another member of ADN, offers BIM Project Suite, which automates the occupancy calculations right in the model.

“Implementing CTC’s suite of plug-ins has been one of the best decisions I’ve made,” said Vibhuti Harris, HKS Firmwide BIM Leader. “Without burning our own time on development, we could take CTC’s off-the-shelf tools to achieve those calculations and automate other mundane tasks in basically one click.”

Recognizing that CTC’s programming expertise could further enhance Revit, HKS wanted to do even more. Occupancy rules are complex on medical projects. For instance, architects not only account for people per floor, but in the event of a fire, they also map out people per smoke compartment, door access and closures, and points of egress. In partnership with HKS, CTC built an occupant flow analyzer plug-in, allowing architects to model multi-floor paths to egresses. That automated workflow is now part of BIM Project Suite.

“Productivity and speed are key in the industry today,” said Saeid Berenjian, President, CTC Software. “Our apps enable better project outcomes because data use is more sophisticated, information fidelity is higher, and our customers can get paid far better on their elevated deliverables. This is part of what we call BIM 3.0.”

CTC developers have long used our desktop APIs, providing additional Revit and Civil 3D toolsets in the app store. And more recently, they have begun harnessing the cloud-based APIs on Forge. One of CTC’s newest offerings is HIVE. With dashboarding and model analytics, HIVE centralizes content management in the cloud. HIVE customers include HKS Architects, whose project managers have greater need than ever for anywhere, anytime control over teams in different settings and time zones.

CTC BIM Project Suite

CTC BIM Project Suite. Image courtesy of CTC Software.

An open ecosystem for diverse needs

Our API toolsets, which fuel solutions like Ideate BIMLink and CTC’s BIM Project Suite, are an essential strategy for advancing a more open and interoperable software industry serving architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC). Together, Forge, Autodesk Developer Network, and our app store represent a growing ecosystem of solutions and service providers that uses our cloud-based and desktop APIs to advance software capabilities and productivity, according to Jim Quanci, Senior Director of ADN. Since Autodesk began developing APIs, Quanci says the goal has always been the same: to make our products customizable and flexible for firms of every size, region, and specialty.

“The app store and APIs are all about creating an open platform that gives our customers more choices,” said Quanci. “We nurture this ecosystem because it allows our customers to go where they need to go.”

Whether you manage massive infrastructure projects like the Sydney railway or specialize in medical facilities or other industry segments, the complexity of project data is only growing, as are demands to deliver projects more efficiently. These trends make open, collaborative, and connected workflows more critical than ever to a thriving AEC industry. We’re committed to providing the platform, ecosystem, and partnerships that ensure you can deliver better projects faster and with more confidence in your data. Learn more about how we’re moving the industry forward: