AU2013 Diary 1 – Adam Ward

Adam Ward shares his experiences from Autodesk University – work and play – in a series of diary entries!



Although not officially starting until the Tuesday, Autodesk University began on the Monday for me as I attended the Autodesk CAVE event. This is a mini one day event that is focused on design and creativity, and was very different from the technical and geek fest that is AU. 


I attended various presentations throughout the day most of which were lectures from successful designers and creators about how they became successful and how they maximize their creativity. Although this type of ‘fluffy and theoretic’ lecture isn’t really my thing, I definitely found it very interesting. The message from all the speakers was almost identical – most came up with their ideas and creative thinking when they were not trying to – by accident as such.


This was a similar message given by John Cleese (from Monty Python fame) as the closing speaker at the CAVE after party. He explained his creative process and how he is most creative when there is no pressure, deadlines or rules to follow. He describes this as left brain thinking and it was the process of letting the brain play without the restrictions. This was fascinating as I am certainly my most creative and come up with my best ideas when not under stress or deadlines, almost coming up with ideas by accident.


 Paul sneaking in shot with John Cleese


He continued to explain how while left brain thinking is critical, it’s also important to then use the more logical right brain to refine the idea.


He finished his speech summarising how different types of people have different minds – for example engineers and programmers tend to be very right brain-biased and logical, while artists and designers are more left brain-biased. The key is to be able to use both successfully, the left brain to play and come up with an idea and the right brain to refine it. He explained how you must sandbox your brain into right brain thinking, so when you want to be maximally creative, you can unleash it from the sandbox to let it play.


For more information he recommended a book called ‘Hair Brain Tortoise Mind’, which described the above theory. While normally I am very skeptical of this type of speech, I must admit I was enthralled.


After the CAVE event closed, there was an unofficial #ukbimcrew catch up at the Rockhouse bar.



On Tuesday, the main Autodesk University started and first up was a class from ARUP on Project OVE. I heard about this class and had a sneak peak a few months ago while attending gunslingers with Andrew Duncan from ARUP (@AGDunc) and was excited to see the final presentation.


Project OVE is an internal experiment/training/R&D exercise by ARUP and its goal is to model a human in BIM software, mimicking the real body and its systems as close as possible. This class was showing this work to date.


The presentation focused on the background of the project, an overview of each system along with some techie information on how this was achieved.


 Project OVE


The body was split into 3 main elements: Architecture – enclosing envelope; Structure – the skeleton; MEP – the body’s systems including respiratory, circulatory and nervous system etc. The team then walked through each element in detail and how it was achieved – everything from how Andrew was laser scanned to create the body to how the steel skeleton was checked and optimised.


Project OVE Cladding


The great thing about project OVE is that it has been created to reflect a real body as close as possible, for example there is a data centre in the brain, AHUs that act as the lungs and a complex electrical system that acts as the nervous system. There is even a board room in the head.


Project OVE Respiratory System


Project OVE, although a R&D exercise, is being ran as a real project and designed so it could actually be built and perform as a real building. Project OVE would stand 175m tall (gherkin size) and be the most expensive building ever built (based on usable floor area).


It was a great presentation to start AU2013 and was attended by what appeared to be the whole #ukbimcrew.


After project OVE, I headed straight to the main stage to watch the General Keynote session. This is the main keynote that the whole of Autodesk University attends together (no classes on at the time) and is always a good start to AU, setting the scene for the week ahead.


Although there were 9,500 people at AU this year (a record), I found myself sat with my former college (@Virtuarch) which was like old AUs past. The keynote kicked off with an opening performance by Penn and Teller, which was ironic as we had just gone and seen them the previous night.


The keynote was a mix of case studies and companies who use Autodesk software, and high level strategy and direction for Autodesk. One of the case studies that stood out showed how Aston Martin design a virtual prototype of a new car in record time using Autodesk product such as Recap, Maya and Showcase.


Another case study, which although nothing to do with the AEC industry, was a robot that can be controlled by Autodesk Maya and has been used in films such as Gravity for advanced precision camera work. This robot was created by a company called ‘Bot & Dolly’ who stumbled upon the idea while looking outside their industry. An interesting fact I hear after the event is that Bot & Dolly have been purchased by Google. The robot did a choreographed dance and light show while holding a disco ball, which was crazy cool!


The case studies were interesting, however they seemed to be focused around automotive or manufacturing this year, and apart from a bit on infrastructure modeling, there was nothing noteworthy from AEC which was a disappointment. 


Jeff Kawasaki was on stage next and talked about how methods such as reverse mentoring etc. His main message seemed to be that great ideas are normally found by accident and to find something totally unique, it’s important to look outside your sphere of interest and to other industries. 


One of the interesting things I noticed in this year’s keynote is that all the case studies were showing Autodesk’s cloud based solutions (A360). In previous Aus, the keynote message was all about how the cloud is coming and this year’s keynote was showing that the cloud is here.


Overall the keynote was a good one but I hope next year they add a bit more AEC into the mix (although it will be hard to compete on ‘cool’ with a dancing robot and Aston Martin sports car)!


After a quick lunch I headed to AB1252 Sustainability on the Go’ class by Tomislav Zigo from Clayci inc.


This lab class showed how lightweight and free tools such as Autodesk Vasari and Autodesk Formit can be used to perform conceptual energy analysis. Although I didn’t learn anything particularly new, it was a good to get my hands on the tools such as Formit, which has improved massively since I last taken a look at it.


The second class I attended that morning was CR1685 – Every Building has its Price; finding it with Autodesk Navisworks quantification. This was another hands-on lab session and was designed to be a walkthrough of the relatively new ‘Quantification’ feature in Navisworks 2014.


Although Navisworks is my daily tool and I consider myself fairly advanced on its use, I must admit the Quantification tools have always baffled me. This class walked us through a typical workflow and how to use the tool to accurately take off quantities and assign costs to the take off.


This class peeled back the mystery surrounding the quantification tool and it’s something I will definitely be investigating as 5D and live quantification is something we are being asked to do more and more at BIM.Technologies. We currently use Solibri for this but keeping this data in our live federated Navisworks file seems a far better solution.


After lunch I headed to 3603: Innovation forum – Design and innovation transformed.


This was the first innovation forum I attended this year and the presentation that stood out for me was by Facit Homes that showed a way of working that enables them to manufacturer quality homes in record time and cost, utilising BIM offsite manufacturing and lean thinking.


This was particularly interesting as the process they were shown was almost identical to the _spacehus concept we developed 3 or so years ago, at BIM.Technologies with a very detailed parametric BIM model linked to fabrication, and utilising the component and assembly manufacturing approach.


That concluded my first day of AU classes and after the innovation forum, I headed over to the exhibit hall that opened that evening to check out the exhibitors and have a few beers. I also bumped into Paul and Dr Dave ready for the evening’s events.


The evenings at AU are always interesting and there are always multiple events and after parties going on.  On Tuesday it was a choice between the bloggers social or the #ukbimcrew tweetup. As I was the only ticket holder for the bloggers social, I decided to stick with the wolfpack and head to the #ukbimcrew tweet up with Paul (@angrybim).


Then en-route we got an invite to the TITAN AEC after party at HYDE (famous for partying like titans apparently) from Jay Zallan, so decided to head out with the #usbimcrew instead. From this point it all gets a little blurry so photos can probably describe the night better than I can. Big thanks to Titan AEC and Jay Zallan for the invite it was an awesome night.


The Titan AEC VIP Event


Paul is in there somewhere!                               It wasn’t even raining!


                 In the BIM Limo!                                                 Paul looking very happy about something!