STW attends Autodesk University London


Author: Michael Earley

Michael is a technical architect and software developer. He is involved in both the project management and day to day operation of Building Information Modelling for technically demanding projects across all sectors.


Technology is pervasive at Autodesk University London 2018. There are many ways to do things better or differently which are attempting to be disruptive to the the way we work.

Autodesk University (AU) happens each year around this time in London and is a smaller version of the one in Las Vegas. It is open to anyone willing to pay to attend and runs over two days. Autodesk give a keynote speech about tends in the industry and the latest and greatest technology coming down the line and there are various other talks covering topical issues relating to software used to design and construct buildings. While many topics were covered in the keynote speeches, automation of manufacturing and cloud based programming using forge were the dominant themes this year. It is not possible to attend all talks at AU, so attendees have to be selective about the topics hey are interested in.

This year, Michael Earley attended as a speaker and the topic was "Delivering World-Leading Healthcare Using BIM". The presentation was shared with Chad Bedard from Campbell Reith and Lewis Wenman from Bouygues UK. We presented the UCLH Proton Beam Therapy project which is a very large and complex hospital building incorporating a Proton Beam accelerator and treatment rooms in a basement that can fit  the entirety of Albert Hall in central London. It was a very exciting day as the proton accelerator was also arriving at the same time as our talk. The project is one of the first Level 2 BIM projects in the UK and includes one of the most demanding briefs for design, construction and handover of a building and project data. Unfortunately, due to restrictions in our contract, we cannot publish the presentation, so if the project is of interest, you will have to attend a future event where we showcase the project.

What peaked my interest at the event was that there are numerous contractors looking at ways to automate construction. The skills crunch is certainly focusing minds and a whole new set of skills is required to do jobs that are being invented every day. A lot of software is transitioning towards the cloud - Autodesk are plugging BIM 360 as a replacement for C4R which now includes better document management capabilities.

Numerous organisations are starting to use Forge for viewing and manipulating BIM data in the cloud. I am certainly going to look into Forge as it may be that missing piece of the puzzle that collates data from multiple models. UCLH Proton Beam Therapy has 101 models as I write this and there will be a few more.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are very popular and there were numerous tech companies showing off their wares. Once this technology hits the right consumer price point, it will no doubt become pervasive. A dutch housebuilder is already providing a service which allows potential customers to view houses and apartments using VR or on the screen in 3D, make some customisation and then purchase online. That makes the alternatives look more than slightly boring and tedious. Holland seems to be punching above their weight at present when it comes to innovation as they have recently manufactured a bridge using 3D printing. Large scale manufacturers such as those in the airline and automotive industries are already using 3D printers to optimise the design to manufacturing process and the end result looks different as often the manufacturing process is additive which produces less waste and can be engineered very efficiently.

In summary, data and the processing of that data is heading into the cloud. Contractors are starting to see big benefits in automation and the customer is going to see more choice through alternative channels for purchasing which will provide customisation. The skills required to do all this will have to be reassessed by everyone but especially third level education providers.

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