While attending the Autodesk AEC Media Day event near Boston, I saw some pretty amazing new developments.  Some were solid improvements, and some were really cool visual effects.  I think the one that had the most effect on me was Navisworks 2011.

Navisworks is Autodesk’s large scale development modeler, capable of managing huge loads of data, and permitting a large scale development collaboration.  Whether you are revitalizing 3 blocks in downtown, or putting up a factory addition, Navisworks is the basemap that allows teams to collaborate and predict the entire process.


Collaboration and BIM

The need for collaboration is growing rapidly.  The ability to share data is no longer just a convenient way to work, it is now a necessity.  Budgets have become substantially leaner, and larger national companies are competing for smaller regional projects.  As a result, better collaboration and scheduling is needed to reduce cost overruns to make smaller budgets profitable.

BIM is not only a vehicle of design, but a methodology for the entire design life cycle.  More and more companies are focused on sustainability and long term goals.

Autodesk understands that “Accountability and public favorability” are the two key issues that the construction industry must face today.  Municipal and Federal contract applicants are scrutinized against bottom line costs and reliable methods of operation.  If one bidding contractor has a proven track record of on schedule delivery with the ability to manage and predict an entire redevelopment project, including when and where a particular team will be on any given day, versus another contractor who cannot… which one would you give the contract to ?


Navisworks and Revit interoperability is a specific focus within Autodesk, with improvements continuously being made.  Data is shared from Revit to Navisworks and back.  Not only Revit, but the entire line of Autodesk 2011 applications as well.  That means that I can plan an addition to a factory through Plant 3D, the site work from Civil 3D, the components from Inventor Routed systems, and structures from 1 of at least 3 different Autodesk platforms, and manage it all from one location.

The Distributable Export Utility from the 2009 Subscription Advantage Pack has been included in this version as well.

Huge Data sets


BIM delivers a powerful method to store and convey relevant design information through the design objects themselves. Navisworks uses this information to manage and collaborate the development process. The ability to handle huge data sets is at the core of the Naviswork build. The complete design information, including structures, material types, plumbing and utilities, topography and even vehicular operations can be leveraged in the application.

The application manages the data by simplifying the models where detail is not required.  You don’t need to see windows at 3000 Feet up, but you do at street level.  I asked the Technical Marketing team “just how far can you drill down into the data set?”.  They said, “just as far as you want”.

Time Management

The application will manage the entire building process, including scaffolding in 3 dimensional space and time.  Autodesk demonstrated an office addition/remodel in Navisworks. They could map on a calendar exactly which days any existing office or space would be affected.  The entire process can be viewed in a Gantt chart, permitting planned and actual process relationships to be visualized.


Not only development management, but real time data can be introduced into the scenario.  They showed us their building air conditioner in real time, with the status and it’s performance data, projected on the screen.


Materials, lights, backgrounds and render styles can be configured down to minute details providing a method to produce compelling 3D animations and images.  Over a thousand materials are built in, and real world imagery can be added.  Even the hues of the sky fade to the horizon.

Simulation, Animation, and Clash Detection

This is one of my favorite subjects, so I was glued to the presentations.  Navisworks will perform various simulations of the entire managed design.  Objects can be animated for clash and interference analysis.  Clash detections help ensure that not only the building process is planned properly, but that the intended functionality is unimpeded by lack of foresight, especially when designs merge from one team to another in the same facility.  These clashes can then be entered into the management process.


Walk throughs can be performed while animations are run of a particular portion of the design.  Notes can be tagged to objects in the 3D view as issues are noticed .



Cross sections can not only be cut, but dynamically dragged through the entire development model.  Improvements have been added to the ease and capability of section plane placements and direct manipulation.




Mouse wheel navigation for pan, orbit, and zoom combine with a significantly improved interface to round out Navisworks 2011.


I came back and spoke to a few site contractors about what I saw at the AEC event, and thought that I would be met with apprehension and dismissal.  Interestingly no; they were quite interested in the subject, and felt that was going to be the only way to make any money in the future.

Some companies have reported being 30% more profitable due to reduction in construction waste costs.  30% !  I have seen just how much time can be wasted because things were not scheduled properly.  Owners and Contractors are shaping the development model, and the power of Navisworks delivers unparalleled capabilities for those specific needs.

Think of it this way, “BIM will be the glue that keeps the development teams and the clients tied to the project”.  Without it, you are on your own, and cannot meet the rising need to collaborate and share information about your part in the process.