In this electronic age things move so fast that not even the people within the industry can keep up, much less the specifiers and designers. In this feature we look at all the new and current, trusted software systems that have become available, including the plethora of new technologies in the flooring industry.
Even though some still practise it, gone are the days when architectural and design practices relied on vast catalogue and technical brochure files for seeking the right manufacturer, product and specification for their projects. They just seem to outdate much faster.
Today’s emphasis is on the vital tools available for architects, interior designers, quantity surveyors, contractors, developers and anyone in the building and construction industry including university students. Here are brief descriptions some of the more important systems on the market to take note of:
As a division of New Dimension Technology (NDTec) which has been developing and marketing software products to construction professionals in the Southern African building industry since 1996, Autospec.co.za was a natural progression from AutoSpec Professional which has been used by professional architects as a product database and specification writing tool since 2001. It is built on the same technology as AutoSpec Professional but with a greater emphasis on modern design.
AutoSpec Professional is an intelligent, database-driven product catalogue and specification writing system. Being PC- or server-based, it is fast but updates itself daily over the internet using AutoSpec’s proprietary NetSync system. It allows the user to view and compare products and their prices, view datasheets, and open CAD drawings.
The beauty of this system is that while products are being selected it writes a manufacturer-warranted specification for the user which can be then be incorporated into schedules, project specifications or copied to another system.
The benefits of the system are manifold, enabling specifiers to view, compare and specify thousands of building products using one source without leaving their desks.
It also provides: Virtual Product Experts from all major manufacturers to help select the right products; customised, manufacturer-warranted specifications produced with no need for specification writing skills; it saves time on tender documentation; is ideal for small or large practices; and suitable for any size project – plus it is always available and updated daily.
AutoSpec also provides CAD drawings, gives pricing guidance on selected products, generates door, window, finishes and sanitaryware schedules, and supplies manufacturers’ datasheets and contact details. And it is available in a version that is suitable for consumers.
NBS South Africa
NBS Construction Knowledge is an expert resource that provides instant online access to a managed collection of hundreds of construction-related South African Standards. It is provided by National Specifications (Pty) Ltd and the South African Bureau of Standards and supplies relevant, up-to-date technical information at a price that offers great value.
This system provides essential reference to those designing, specifying or constructing buildings or checking Building Regulations and quality compliance.
The benefits of NBS Construction Knowledge include instant access to relevant documents at your desktop just when you need them; access to hundreds of standards kept up to date with new and revised publications; relevant document selection reflecting modern building techniques, technologies and initiatives; current document information updated regularly; timesaving with fast and efficient easy-to-use search tools; and cost-effective annual subscription fees.
Originating in Hungary, Archi-Text is a product reference library that allows the specifier to take control of the information selection process. The Archi-Text Library consists of 29 binders packed with product brochures. There are currently 16 500 pages of product information in the library service and more are being received and added every day.
Modus operandi: A professionally trained product librarian updates the library every second month. She will not expect you to sit for hours discussing products you have no current need for. Her function will be to ensure that you have all the information needed. She will take down the details of products you require that are not currently in the service.
The Archi-Text team will then add the brochures to your library and will ensure that they are indexed by product, company name and trade name.
In short, the specifier can now subscribe to a service that offers all the benefits of a professional librarian at a fraction of the cost and without having to incur extra staffing overheads.
BIM (Building Information Modelling) is claimed to be the latest trend in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. With the advent of new technologies such as BIM the building industry becomes more and more competitive for all participants, but MyArchiCAD.com offers all the tools needed to learn (or to teach) BIM through a pragmatic “implementation” approach.
The main advantage of BIM comes from the new concept of creating a central “virtual” Building Information Modelling for retrieving information and generating associative documentation from the model. Graphisoft’s flagship product, ArchiCAD, was the first implementation of Building Information Modelling introduced in 1987 as the Virtual Building concept.
ArchiCAD is premier BIM software for architects and designers with its add-on products extended with a full series of interactive training materials available in a matter of just a few clicks.
MyArchiCAD.com allows anyone that has been working with previous versions of ArchiCAD, whether as a professional user or as a student, to download the latest version so that you can have a test drive before upgrading to check out the newest features and productivity improvements.
Several free software downloads are available, including ArchiCAD Graphisoft’s 3D architectural design software with the industry-first Graphisoft BIM Server application for model-based team collaboration.
An entire set of add-on software tools extend ArchiCAD’s design capabilities from validating the sustainability of your designs to creating and presenting your design’s virtual imagery.
Autodesk Revit for Architectural Design
Autodesk Revit software means you can develop higher-quality, more accurate architectural designs. Using tools specifically built to support Building Information Modelling workflows, you can capture and analyse concepts and maintain your vision through design, documentation, and construction.
There are two products available for architectural design: Autodesk Revit 2013, a comprehensive solution containing the functionality of Autodesk Revit Architecture 2013, Autodesk Revit MEP 2013, and Autodesk Revit Structure 2013 software, available in the Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium and Ultimate editions; and Autodesk Revit Architecture 2013, a stand-alone application.
Physical Materials for Building Performance Analysis
Physical materials improve efficiency of BIM-based building performance workflows by assigning thermal and structural properties to the building envelope. Construction thermal values defined within Revit building elements can now be exported as gbXML for downstream building performance analysis applications.
Revit Server Enhancements
Revit Server enhancements provide more control over managing central Revit models. Local accelerators can now connect to multiple hosts, allowing you to create a distributed Revit Server network. Autodesk Vault Collaboration AEC workflow has also been improved.
Autodesk Revit and Revit Architecture software offers a variety of visualisation enhancements to provide more control over the appearance of your project within the software. A new ray tracing feature offers interactive real-time rendering; and enables you to render Rich Photorealistic Content (RPC) in viewport.
Ghost surface and transparency overrides can now be customised with each building element. Preview RPC in the realistic visual style, as well as enhanced background options for creating compelling presentation graphics.
Revit offers enhancements to dimensioning capabilities. A new diameter dimension tool enables an individual segment in a multi-segment dimension chain to be selected and deleted. In addition, dimension instances can now display the segment values, equality text, or the equality formula string.
ecospecifier is an online database and educational knowledge base of lifecycle-assessed, eco- and health-preferable products, materials and technologies for the built environment.
It has been developed for the construction sector to provide information on how to design and deliver buildings, interiors and surrounds using environmentally preferable products.
It responds to the growing body of public and private sector clients, and individuals who want to save energy, water, use resources sustainably, minimise pollution and ecological footprint and reduce negative human health impacts.
This it does by providing greater clarity about what is and is not ‘green’; enabling easier identification, specification or location of eco- and health-preferred products; facilitating greater understanding of the issues surrounding eco-products; and providing clear, independently assessed and unbiased information.
Features of the system include a free-to-air knowledge base containing guides to help decision making with regard to optimising eco-, health and productivity outcomes such as: Priority Setting Guides for in-depth information on complex issues such as plastics, paints and adhesives, and carpets; a range of detailed category-based technical guides; extensive links, further resources, and much more.
Sophisticated multi-criteria Product Search functions
These functions allow access to a database of independently vetted eco- and health-preferable products in nearly 80 common industry categories and 550 sub-categories.
The database may be queried by industry categories and sub-categories (e.g. floors: carpet), by eco-outcomes (e.g. ‘water efficient’, ‘low VOC’), or by keyword.
ecospecifier assesses and presents information on sustainable and healthy materials, products, technologies, training and published materials relevant to city design, infrastructure and landscaping, building design, construction and interior fitment, and some operational and maintenance functions.