AEC Sales Development Manager Worldwide
We are receiving this week John Sullivan, Manager of the AEC Ecosystem Development Team in the world at Autodesk, an Apostle evangelizing with his team around digitalisation and BIMification of the AEC sector, allowing the acceleration of adoption of these new processes around the world.
Thanks for accepting this interview and have our readers know you better in France. You’re in charge of the global AEC and BIM ecosystems in the world for Autodesk and you have a dedicated team.
But first of all, could you please tell us more about your background, and your experience before joining Autodesk?
I have been with Autodesk since 1993, much of my career has been with Autodesk. My education is as a Digital Geographer and later a Master’s Degree in Computer IT Management.
Before I was with Autodesk I worked as a land surveyor on construction sites. My favorite job was the construction of a lake in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA. To get to the geologic bedrock and to anchor the foundation of the dam we did lot of blasting with dynamite. This was fun.
Another job was with the U.S.A. National Federal Emergency Management Agency creating digital cartographic products – flood insurance maps and other Geographic Information System (GIS) digital database systems.
I also worked for an Autodesk reseller in Washington D.C. for several years. I was a technical support manager conducting software demonstrations: AutoCAD, Civil 3d and AutoCAD Architecture as well as training on PC and Unix workstations and assembling hardware for customers. – that was a while ago.
What’s your role at Autodesk? AEC Ecosystems Development sometimes don’t speak to people. What is it really about and how important this is to the AEC Industry and for Autodesk?
Yes, AEC Ecosystem Development is a crazy name.
At the core of what we do is to listen and to try to understand ways that digital 3D modeling may help solve problems for a particular AEC workflow or industry. We describe an industry with all of the contributors/suppliers/participants as an “ecosystem”. These can be project owners, contractors, designers as well as anyone else that may participate in a project. We work to develop ecosystems of digital 3D modelers designers/contractors/consultants that effectively solve AEC design and construction problems.
One example of this approach is work we did with the USA General Services Administration (GSA). GSA is the federal government landlord for the civilian government building tenants.
GSA understood that 3D models (BIM) could help with project cost, project duration and with managing the occupant space for new and existing (approximately 8000) buildings. Our AEC ecosystem team worked with the GSA to create standard GSA BIM room types and standard GSA spaces. We saved these GSA room/space definitions within a Revit template.
We then distributed these templates free of charge to the GSA design and construction project teams (the ecosystem). With this standard data template GSA could capture space information for any project in an expected way and compare the use of space within its building portfolio. For deliverables GSA asked for three formats a.) an IFC file(s) b.) as a native BIM file (Revit in our case) c.) as a dwg file. This allowed for flexibility in supplying vendors. With this standard space information GSA could then ask if the program requested from GSA for a new building matched what was eventually built. With a standard 3D modeling ecosystem GSA can answer questions like this quickly and easily. This is one example of facilitating a AEC BIM ecosystem and is one example of the work our team does. More information on this program can be found here:
Figure 1 Example GSA Standard Space Types
A challenge in understanding our team’s work is that 3D BIM ecosystems develop in many different ways and there are many ways we can add value to these design and construction ecosystems. For instance, writing BIM project delivery policy documents is one approach. Teaching building trades professional’s 3D BIM methods is another, developing BIM technical data standards such as IFC 2×3 or IFC 4.0. is another. These are all avenues to create an effective 3D BIM ecosystem. The variety of the projects we work on keeps the work very interesting.
You run a Team of several experienced AEC professionals over several continents. What do they do and how do they interact with the AEC Industry?
Our team has a variety of experienced professionals including Architects, Civil Engineers and AEC standards experts. We educate clients on what is practical and real for today as well as what can be expected to advance in the next year or two. Our team has worked on AEC projects before coming to our team and can provide insight on existing projects.
For example, one of our team developed a BIM workflow for the Construction Industry Institute (CII). This workflow applied the CII Advanced Work Packing (AWP) procedures to BIM 360. based at the University of Texas at Austin, CII is the research and development center for the capital projects industry. Chuck Mies on our team worked on this project with Cody Austin. This process applies Autodesk BIM technology specifically to this industrial construction workflow (below). In this case we mapped the CII workflow to BIM 360 capabilities to meet the specific requirements of the CII AWP project execution methods, found here:
Figure 2 – CII AWP Workflow Diagram
A last example is with the Société du Grand Paris. This project is the largest infrastructure project in Europe (68 stations, 200kms+ railway lines, 25B€). Emmanuel Di Giacomo is working this project for us and set up data export definitions for Revit to meet the requirements of this project. This included geocoding views from Revit as a geocoded and an exported dwg file. Emmanuel utilized our Enhanced DWG Export and Geo-Coding Plugin for Revit 2018. This allows Revit to Geo-code views that are exported in DWG file format to meet the requirements for this infrastructure project’s deliverables. This capability is not available without this plugin that is developed by our Autodesk AEC Business Development Team. The plugin is available at no charge from this website:
This plugin was developed by our AEC Ecosystem Development Team. Our team focuses on where we see gaps in workflows in the AEC industry. If we find gaps that we can mitigate, we work to smooth these this plug-in the extends some capabilities of Revit is another way we map Autodesk tools to specific project works flows.
Figure 4 – Interface for Geocoded Export from Revit to DWG
Making these process/technology connections is very important and is at the core of what our team does. For software to be most valuable it needs to work in conjunction with the project’s process methods and constraints. Making this connection is very important to what our AEC Business Development Team does.
Is the situation so different between different continents? What is the level of BIM and digitization and maturity of those continents and countries and what is it driven by?
There is a lot of variation on the ways project teams are organized around the world, including what work each team member is responsible for, and the levels of BIM maturity across the continents.
There are also many similarities.
Some general trends from my personal experience are that in the USA, project teams may leap first and then look back to see how well (or if) BIM worked. In the U.K, France and Germany, more planning goes into the decision of using BIM on a project. There is also more focus on open standards such as IFC 2×3 and 4.0 in Europe. Asia seems to be a bit less mature in BIM adoption, but they are embracing BIM now and may advance very quickly.
Autodesk is deeply involved in open standards like openBIM, IFC, COBie, etc. And you’re representing Autodesk at buildingSMART’s SAC. Could you tell us a bit more about this important topic? Why openBIM is so important to Autodesk?
openBIM as sponsored by Building Smart International (BSI) is important to our team and to Autodesk because sharing information improves project execution. openBIM facilities these goals and Autodesk supports openBIM. OpenBIM provides a platform for data sharing predominantly through Industry Foundation Class (IFC) files today. A quick review of what we are doing with IFC may help to understand the importance of openBIM for us.
Software with IFC support includes:
Autodesk Revit (Architecture, Structure, MEP, LT)
Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis
Autodesk Advance Steel
Autodesk BIM 360
Autodesk Civil 3D
An important IFC capability we offer is our IFC Revit Open Source Code Libraries at:
This capability is unique among the large BIM software vendors and allows users to extend IFC capabilities without waiting for new releases of Revit. There have been 150,000 downloads of this toolkit, and this open source library. IFC is an open format, but modifying IFC for enhancements also is possible through these Revit open source IFC libraries. This allows additions to IFC functionally to be added by anyone that is interested.
Autodesk with BuildingSMART international is in the process of certifying Revit for IFC 4.0 Design Transfer View and the Reference View. Information about this project can be found here:
We also support buildingSMART International as a Strategic Alliance Council (SAC) member. This is the highest level of membership possible as a Building Smart International member and allows us to closely support IFC projects for buildings, roads, tunnels and bridges and railways. The openBIM partnership with BSI forms a foundation for of our interoperability activities.
How far do you think Autodesk’s role is important and will change the way we design, build and operate?
Autodesk plays an important role in the way things get designed and built. Three technology trends come to mind where we (Autodesk) participate and will participate more in the future. These trends are virtual reality, attribute data management and big data.
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) are powerful tools, but we are just beginning to use these tools to better experience projects before they are built. Today a great deal of work is going on with VR/AR we fully support this, but VR/AR will become even more important in the future. As the people/technology interface between us and our software improves, the immersive experience of AR/VR will gain more significance and power in communicating a design’s intent. Contracted deliverables may change to digital BIM deliverables or even hologram types of immersive experiences. These kinds of deliverables convey a much richer experience then CAD files or hardcopy deliverables of today.
A second trend is the addition and manipulation of non-graphic information associated with or attached to BIM objects. Depending on what one is responsible for within a project (concept design, construction documentation, fabrication or operations of a facility) the need for text, material descriptions, specifications or other non-graphic information that are imbedded or travel with the BIM objects become increasingly important. As with AR/VR, as the interfaces and storage and manipulation engines improve, this non graphic information will be more freely available as part of the BIM.
As attribution of BIM object’s increase, the opportunity to query or harvest these attributes for meta-statistics on projects will also increase. A wealth of new information and insight in comparing multiple BIM projects will add to better decision making across the AEC design/build/operate collection of industries. I am not exactly sure where this trend in big data will go but I am confident it will be very BIG!
Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. The future of 3D digital modeling is bright and our AEC Ecosystem Team is in the mix of these exciting technology developments.
All you've ever wanted to know on openBIM at Autodesk : https://www.autodesk.com/solutions/bim/hub/bim-interoperability