Artificial Intelligence Strategies for MEP Firms

In his 2016 Autodesk University Keynote, Jeff Kowalski spent considerable time explaining Autodesk's vision for the intersection of how the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry currently works and its future interface with artificial intelligence (AI). Kowalski, CTO of Autodesk, outlined recent significant advancements in AI, like the once inconceivable win by AlphaGo playing the pinnacle of strategy games, Go. But advancements in AI are coming faster than one would imagine. A recent Wired article listed the many large technology firms pushing hard into AI, and we already know that Google is using AI for its AEC operations. In addition, the work of BuildingSP is based on heuristic algorithms, which is a field of study within AI. The influence of AI is already being felt in our industry and it is expanding rapidly.

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BIM Around the World

We've been traveling in Denmark and Norway this week and working with the Danish firm MT Højgaard, one of the largest general contractors in Scandinavia. It has been fascinating, insightful, and exciting to explore the similarities and differences in virtual design and construction (VDC) practices across continents.

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Computational Design: The Focus on Facades

In 2013, I was interested in attending a computational design conference. I looked over the agenda, speakers, and other details and I realized that other than one structural engineering company, no other design consultants were involved with this computational design conference. In particular, I was interested in the following question:

What does computational design for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems look like?  

The term "computational design" is very similar to other computationally heavy uses of computing for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. This includes generative design, computational building information modeling (BIM), and the visual scripting features of Dynamo by Autodesk. If you look at the professional practices that characterize these terms, I think you'll still find that architecture and, to a lesser extent, structural engineering, dominate computational design. Even today, where are the computational or generative uses of BIM being applied to MEP systems? 

We all need to work to promote the use of computational and generative design in the MEP trades. MEP systems, in our experience, account for between 15% and 85% of the building cost. They are also a very large contributor to non-elective change orders on projects. MEP systems are important and we think it is crucial to implement computational and generative design in MEP, both to reduce cost and to improve efficiency in the design process.

If this thinking resonates with you, check out our webinar, "Getting Started With Dynamo & GenMEP." In this webinar, we discuss autorouting with GenMEP and how Dynamo can be used with GenMEP to automate MEP workflows.

 

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Innovation in AEC & "the Macomber Line"

We're going to be bold and coin a new term: "the Macomber Line." The Macomber Line is a combination of concepts that we believe are very important to innovation in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) space.

This term is in reference to an individual who is both an industry veteran and and an insightful visionary. John Macomber is a lecturer at both Harvard University and MIT, an investor in construction software, a former general contractor, and a real estate developer. Macomber wrote a paper (requires purchase) that we often cite in our conversations around innovation because it describes how construction economics directly impact innovation.

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Innovation in AEC & the Gartner Hype Cycle

For many years, we've been referencing the Gartner Hype Cycle to describe innovation in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. We primarily use the Hype Cycle to demonstrate that innovation in AEC is difficult and that it takes time to develop strategies that overcome the limitations of technology. We thought we'd share additional insight into the Hype Cycle and how it relates to AEC. Here are three such insights: 

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Machine Learning for MEP Firms

Let's continue our discussion about how the work of BuildingSP intersects with the major themes of Jeff Kowalski's 2016 Autodesk University Keynote. We previously wrote about artificial intelligence and how firms can prepare for a new generation of automation tools. Artificial intelligence is a broader field than many realize, and one related sphere is machine learning. Machine learning is the use of computers to change workflow behaviors without having to explicitly program the basis for these behaviors. The purpose of this post is to describe how this will affect firms that design, detail, or install mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems.

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The Augmented Age of AEC & Smart Cars

A team from Ford conducted an amazing test this past week that speaks to the coming augmented age in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. Using Lidar, a car was able to autonomously drive in complete darkness without headlights. It has been possible to drive in complete darkness using technology like night vision goggles for many years, and autonomous driving is rapidly becoming more feasible. Yet combining both of these in one test entered a new realm because it went beyond the capabilities of a human driver.

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The Changing Face of Clash Detection in MEP Modeling

BuildingSP recently announced the release of ClashMEP, a real-time clash detection solution for the Autodesk Revit platform. ClashMEP is a building information modeling (BIM) innovation that redefines how we do clash detection. Talking about the difference between "batch" and "continuous" processing modes can be rather dry, so we wanted to offer a simple analogy to illustrate the improvements we're making to BIM workflows at BuildingSP.

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Why ClashMEP is Important for BIM Today

Earlier in 2016, we posted about the ongoing challenge that we see with clash detection. The building information modeling (BIM) community responded enthusiastically to our views that there are inherent limitations in how we perform clash detection on today’s projects. On LinkedIn alone, we had thousands of views and hundreds of likes, indicating to us that there needed to be a change to the clash detection workflow. 

Today, we’re here to tell you how our product, ClashMEP, fits in to the practice of clash detection and how it can change today’s projects.

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