The Week in Summary: Project Quantum, BIM Saves History & Superhero Generative Design

It's finally Friday! Those of us in the Bay Area are looking forward to a weekend of sunshine after what's been a very soggy couple of weeks. But before we break out the sunscreen, let's take a look at what's been going on in the world of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) this week.

Many of our favorite building information modeling (BIM) tools come to us from the folks at Autodesk. They announced this week that they will be continuing their march toward simplifying BIM workflows with Project Quantum. Not a design tool per se, Project Quantum is a platform that lightens the data load required by BIM software and allows for faster, easier sharing of relevant information: "Project Quantum represents a fundamental shift of mindset at Autodesk in developing products for AEC and was not what we were expecting to hear. On the face of it, it's not about rewriting or regenerating Revit, but is a much broader vision that aims to tackle collaboration and workflow." Our traditional Autodesk BIM tools aren't going anywhere, but Quantum seeks to make them work better and faster, thereby streamlining the design process.

The many facets of Project Quantum. (Source: AEC Mag)

Some of us believe that the purpose of BIM is just for the design and building of a structure. Yet depending on if you're an architect, contractor, or engineer, you may view and use BIM in different ways. BDC Network points out that those who manage facilities after they're built may have yet another use for BIM: operating and maintaining the structure. The historic Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. has had its share of structural and financial woes, and in 2014, a three-year renovation was in order. "Due to the historic stature of the building, the Building Team could not penetrate the walls or floors. Historic drawings were tied up in legal limbo and could not be accessed. So the team used virtual technology to explore the building's bones, lungs, and arteries without performing invasive surgery." However you use BIM, it's clear that it's not just a futuristic technology that only applies to the newest structures, but rather, it's a way to preserve history and ensure that it will be around for yet another century.

This Revit model of the Corcoran Gallery allowed the oldest private art museum in Washington to be fully renovated. (Source: BDC Network)

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Flight? Invisibility? How about generative design? The folks over at Dezeen think that generative design might just be the push that designers need to enter into superhero mode, and Autodesk agrees: "'Generative design is a departure from the way that we have traditionally done design,' said Jeff Kowalski, chief technology officer of software company Autodesk. 'But these technologies are not a threat, they're more like superpowers.'" From athletic shoes to furniture to entire buildings, the options that generative design opens up are groundbreaking and exciting, and 3D printing seems limitless. As long as it remains the superhero and not the super villain, we're on board.

Every superhero needs a 3D-printed mask. (Source: Dezeen)

The job site is about to get a major makeover. From smart vending machines to avatars, the future is officially here. Construction Dive reports that "The job site trailer has begun to take a high-tech turn. Touch-panel plan tables, smart lockers, video conferencing, super-range wireless and equipment vending are helping to cut down on clutter and offer more efficient onsite collaboration." One of the obstacles, however, is employees who are set in their old-fashioned ways. "From a small GC to a Balfour Beatty, you are still dealing with a senior person in the room who is in their 60s or 70s and only willing to learn so many new things before they retire. If we move to digitize everything, they'll refuse to use it. I don't think it's a fault, I think it's simply a natural progression where you need to pick one or two technologies at a time and roll them out and prove that they work," says Julian Clayton of Fieldlens. So maybe we won't innovate everything at once after all.

Now those expensive tools can always have a safe home in a smart locker. (Source: Construction Dive)

We've talked a lot about the Augmented Age lately, and how the future of robots working alongside humans will change our day-to-day reality. In this TED Talk below, futurist Maurice Conti gives a preview of how the next 20 years will shape and define the way that we interact with computers using generative design. Instead of focusing on how artificial intelligence will take jobs away from people though, Conti emphasizes that robots aren't the future – we are. With just a few enhancements…



Cover image: "Generative Design" is a processing bot that takes the latest abstract pictures from Flickr using an API and re-designs them by shifting groups of pixels randomly to the left and right. You can contact Ondina Frate of @GenerativDesign at

If you work for a general contractor, subcontractor, or design firm and want to collaborate on whitepapers that quantify how computational methods of working will change our industry, reach out to us and let's talk about what we can do. We're open to collaborations worldwide and have lots of ways of measuring performance indicators to gain insight into change in our industry. Contact Brett Young at

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Tags: BIM Artificial Intelligence Generative Design

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