Technical Perspectives: Making a Case for Dynamo in 2017
After graduating with a Master’s degree in structural engineering, I anxiously began in 2006 what many would consider a traditional career path in the industry. I started working with a 2D CAD-based company that had a laser focus on everything that dealt with material properties, load cases and building codes, but never gave technology a second thought. However, I occasionally would hear discussions about transitioning from CAD to Autodesk’s Revit, which made me curious about how technology could be better applied to the work we were doing.
Revit was a new tool, but I quickly realized it would become a major player for design and project efficiency. I began to shift my focus from engineering to technology due to the potential I saw as well as the demand for such expertise in the near future.
Cloud-Based Models and Mobility
Fast forward to 2013, where I was beginning my career in consulting with 100 percent of my time devoted to delivering technological advancements to architecture, engineering, construction and operator (AECO) clients. During this time, I also was introduced to new software packages that had forward-looking technology—with most having some form of cloud connectivity.
I went from traveling to clients—a necessary, regular part of work—to where all parties could collaborate from any Internet-connected location. A cloud-based model allows all owners, architects, engineers and contractors to be in various locations, but still work and collaborate together at the same time. All parties can receive, analyze, design and deliver content with no restrictions to their normal workflow, offering flexibility to all users.
As 2017 starts, I continue to see how the design and construction industry is evolving. “Is there an app for that?” will no longer be a laughing matter, but now expected. Developers are honing in on the types of mobile tasks that structural engineers encounter as well as providing technological solutions.
Mobility becomes magnified when competition uses such solutions and wins over owners. Although content may be the same, the speed of information is becoming more important to owners. The ability to provide information as quickly as possible, but with the same quality and standards, is paramount.
The Dynamics of Dynamo
As structural engineers continue to seek technologies that help build better processes and efficiency for projects, Autodesk’s Dynamo has become a prominent tool in the continuous evolution of AECO technologies. A visual programming add-in for Revit, it can advance how engineers work and build better processes. It also allows small and medium companies to take on larger projects, while larger organizations gain the ability to deliver several complex concepts to owners in an expedited process.
Dynamo can eliminate iterative processes that take days, weeks and even months to complete. Like Revit in 2006, I believe there’s a bottomless pool of possibilities for Dynamo to attack. All AECO professionals, including structural engineers, should explore how this software can help take their projects to the next level.
Using Revit, the standard procedure for creating, naming and numbering sheets is an iterative process. If you have 10 sheets, the process needs to be manually completed 10 times. Although 10 sheets may not seem like a big deal, when there are 100 sheets or more, issues arise. This manual process can take a lot of time and lead to a higher chance of human error, which can drastically impact project costs.
Dynamo, however, can read a sheet list from any of the created formats to control the sheets, names and numbers directly in Revit, removing the manual process. Such automation also can be extended for other quality-assurance items such as naming conventions, view templates and schedules.
More specific to structural engineering are complex modeling processes. Although Revit can perform repetitive modeling for perfectly orthogonal systems very well, it requires a more-manual process when there are curves, warped shapes or space frames. Dynamo, however, allows for rules of placement associated with x, y, z coordinates that can be managed with a database. If a structure is more of an “adaptive component” system, it can be managed with Dynamo and controlled in the Revit model.
As technology in the AECO industry continues to evolve, Dynamo is a tool companies should consider implementing as part of the design process. It may not solve all your design and process issues, but it should help execute projects more efficiently and accurately.