This is the last bit! Have a look at my Impressions of the conference here and at my class recommendations here.

By now you should all be very excited about AU and planning your own 2019 adventure, so here are some tips from me!

  1. DO your homework!

As soon as the list of classes is out, research them. Figure out what is important to you and strategize about your research. I personally do not think there is any point in reading the synopsis of each class – you are a busy person, you can’t dedicate that much of your time to this! Another thing you can’t afford to spend your time on is the wrong class while you are at the conference, so come up with a balanced plan.

There are two main things you want to look at – the what and the who. The “what” is a given – you want to go learn about things you care about – things that are relevant to you. Pick two topics to focus on – say Standards and Dynamo and try to stick to them – be realistic – if you go to see 16 classes that cover 16 different intense highly specialised topics, chances are by the end of the week your brain won’t have been able to absorb anything and you will be exhausted. Try to focus your studies, and maybe if you have a free slot, allow yourself a cheeky class on Healthcare design. Once you have picked your areas of interest, see how many classes there are that cover them, and read those blurbs.

The second thing – the “who”, I think is very important, not because they are a ground-breaking rock band from the 60s, what I mean is who is the BIM rock star that you are going to give your precious time to. Everyone learns differently and everyone teaches differently. Some of the presenters you may know, you may have listened to and you may know that their style of teaching perfectly suits you – prioritise this. A lot of the speakers would have given classes at previous AUs, you can look them up and watch a recording of their classes – maybe this can help you make up your mind. But also think about what their background is and what filter it will apply to the information they are giving to you. To me, who I am listening to is vital – the source of the knowledge is sometimes just as important as the facts. I have always found it extremely important to build a diverse range of opinions and experiences – If I have heard several talks on standards by white male BIM managers of large companies, I want to hear my next one from a woman of colour working in a midsized business.

  1. Queue

After all the work you have done to pick your classes, it is almost inevitable that some of them will be fully booked. Here is a secret – you may still be able to get in! Make a note of your desired classes you couldn’t get into and just go hang around the door before them and it is very likely that people would have booked them and not gone to them, or the staff would be willing to let standing audience in.

  1. Find your gang

The BIM community is huge and tiny at the same time. A conference of this size is an excellent opportunity to meet people you feel so connected to by your work, but you may find they have the audacity to live on the other end of the world.

It is, however, a huge event and if you want to meet anyone, you need to organize yourself very well. Plan what, who and where and make sure you all think the “main entrance” to be the actual same place.

Along with finding your gang – let yourself find new connections too – share the experiences with the people around yourself – you will definitely have things in common.

  1. Get a lip balm

Think practical stuff –

  • Get a lip balm for your pocket, one for your bag, one for your other pocket.
  • Get a bottle to refill – there are stations everywhere and it would have been so great if people did not use the single-use cups provided but had bottles – hydrate either way.
  • Take comfy shoes. Yes, you will be staying in the same building the entire week, but trust me there is much more walking than you think! So also –
  • Get plasters for your inevitable blisters
  • Prepare for conference food – if you have special requirements, there may be some accommodation, but if you want to be 100% sharp for your classes you may have to sort yourself out. I myself am vegan and can’t have gluten, and while at most main meals there was at least one thing I could eat, sometimes there wasn’t anything at all, and getting outside to search for food is something you simply can’t afford time-wise.

 

  1. Have some “personal time”

After all of my advice on preparing and planning, my last bit is sort of the opposite. There are classes all the time, and you can have your schedule full and still not see all you want to see. Despite that, open a slot or two for what in your AU Schedule is conveniently called “personal time”. Before I got to AU, I was so pumped for classes, I almost forgot there is an entire Expo to explore, and some of it was truly spectacular, and really not a 15-minute quick look sort of thing.

As promised – part two of my AU2018 review – 3 Class Recommendation. See Part 1 – Impressions here.

As I mentioned the sheer number of classes available was overwhelming and while I do believe the three below are outstanding, it seems too wild to me to call them “top 3”, since I only saw a tiny selection of the classes available. So here they are as the three girlfriends we have all had –

  1. The Reliable Date – Standards

It was very interesting to hear about BIM Standards in the US by Johnny Fortune in his Building your BIM Standards class. I must say, seeing how many different documents there are in the US defining BIM standards, I will not tolerate people not having read the PAS 1192 suit ever again! Unfortunately, the talk did not address the ISO 19650. An interesting aspect of the way standards seem to be written and published in the US is their intended audience – there are a documents specifically aimed to the users, the designers etc. – with the obvious caveat that I have not read or applied any of those, this initially strike me as a great idea – well the clients will finally read something, if there’s their name on it – but upon further thought, why would you want to give the different players different rulebooks to play with? I would love to hear more about these aspects of American standards from professionals that have worked with them. The class was very well structured and easy to follow – would highly recommend. It did look at a more corporate situation of business, larger scale operations etc., as, actually, was most of the conference. While there were so many valuable takes from the week, a lot of the angles of the lectures were from a scale very different to the one in the UK. Even though we do projects very comparable in size, the UK ACE business as a whole seems to like its smaller scale, and this immediately reflects on the implementation of standards.

  1. The Pixie Dream Girl – Dynamo

This year at Autodesk University there were over 70 classes dedicated to Dynamo. Alas, I was not able to go to all of them, and from all the ones I went to it was difficult to pick my favourite one.

The classes varied from very easy tools to start your automation journey with to quite complex experimentation in visual programming; there was also a very sizable contingent of classes that were telling stories about using Dynamo so that architects can keep not using Revit properly. While those were indisputably clever endeavours, and I do agree that “the best tool for the job is the tool that a designer is the most skilled in”, I think it is important to think long-term about those things – great, we have come up with several complicated but working workflows to translate things from other software into Revit, but is that what you want to teach the young staff coming in with no experience, if you can just teach them to use Revit and Dynamo on their own to achieve the same results?

If you are at the start of your beautiful friendship with Dynamo, I would highly recommend looking into automatization for project documentation – this is something that will be relevant for any stage of the project and will rarely require cleaning the data, which proves to be the most confusing thing for newbies.

Which leads me to one of my favourite classes – Marjan Sadeghi showed us her FM perspective and some excellent Dynamo tools she had developed to clean the models and data she has received from construction design teams so that she was able to successfully use them in FM software. With Marjan’s background being as rich and diverse as it is, she brought a beautifully intelligent approach to converting information to the FM process. So often we find that the BIM process becomes crippled due to the lack of connection with that last node – the FM, and what Marjan showed us was, well some may say I am exaggerating, but at least a promise for that BIM singularity we are all so longing for

  1. The Ex – Healthcare BIM

I was committed to doing Dynamo and Standardisation classes only in this intense week of learning, but I couldn’t help myself and slid a cheeky healthcare case study in between them. My love affair with Healthcare design is what brought me to BIM, and I do always keep an eye out for a hospital project I can dip in. I’ve always maintained that Healthcare architecture is one of the most fertile soils for BIM, it has been so for me at least. When trying to compare projects, as this class did, this shows even better. The materials provided were an excellent collation of case studies with data and very interesting comparisons. If you are about to embark on a new healthcare project – this class by Jacques Levy-Bencheton and Julien Drouet is a must!

Those were my highlights, but a large amount of the AU2018 classes were recorded, and if you are interested you can stream or download them along with materials (sometimes including tools you can immediately use) from the AU website. Additionally, the Winners of the Speaker Awards have just been announced, with our very good friend Sol Amour getting an honourable mention, those are always a good guide to what to look into.

 

 

In mid-November, I had the pleasure of representing Archilizer at Autodesk University in Las Vegas. The scale of the conference was more than overwhelming at first – just putting together my schedule of classes was intimidating, but once I dove into it, I found there was a sophisticated system of support.

Autodesk University 2018 in Las Vegas had about 11 000 attendees, that could benefit from a full programme of classes for the 4 main days of the conference, and additional Computational Monday classes, and various networking events every evening. Keeping all this in mind this is my – one single human – review of what went down in Vegas – it was too good folks, can’t let it stay there!

My AU2018 review comes to you in three parts. In this part one, I want to share my personal experiences and impressions. Part two will give you my three class recommendations to go and look into recordings and/or materials from. And finally, because you will be itching to go next year by the time you have gotten there, part three will give you my tips for AU2019.

The most nerve-racking thing, of course, was giving my talk – I had the enormous pleasure to speak at the Computational Forum at AU, where we had six speaker slots, 4 of which were entirely taken by women, one was a collection of speakers that also featured a woman, and only one slot was entirely dedicated to a male speaker. This was a first for me, and I was very excited to be a part of this. The entire conference did not feel exactly like this, however, and we are not at all “at the please where we don’t need “Women in …” groups”, however it was great to see that an effort was definitely made to show diversity on the promotional materials and presentations.

Fortunately, the Computational Forum was on the Monday afternoon, and I really got to appreciate that during the full day of classes prior to the Computational Forum where I spoke. I was very happy not to be that distracted for the rest of the conference. The day started with a General Computational Session, opened by Racel Williams, whose energy is always beautifully contagious, and closed off by Michael Krischner, who gave us some valuable general programming theory. Following this, I was in a developer workshop lead by Radu Gidei, whose name may make you feel like you were greeted by an Australian, but is, in fact, someone I know well from the UK Dynamo User Group. Even though I was quite nervous most of the day, he managed to present a class that even my distracted mind could comfortably understand. Radu has been working in using Dynamo to interface with platforms outside of Revit for a while now, and his insight and guidance in the world of actual real-life programming was priceless (because you know “if it’s a bunch of text on a black background it must be programming”).

The day of computation finished with a line of speakers, by whom I feel endlessly privileged to be standing. You can see the full recording, including my input on Everyday use of Dynamo (starts at 08:00) Here.

Lilly Smith hosted the forum, opening with an intro for where Dynamo is at the moment – with 1.3m downloads from the Dynamo package Manager – we can say – a good place. She also closed the evening off talking about the current projects of the AEC generative design group at Autodesk. I took it over from her and spoke about my experience getting into automation, and how easy it is to start saving time with simple data graphs. Then Shwanee Finlayson spoke about the future of automation and generative design and the importance of quality data – it was really interesting to hear about the issues she came across on the route to preparing for machine learning with Dynamo. Efrie Escott then told us about the research she has had the opportunity to do within her office gathering data and learning how to evaluate the quality of the data – something I find so important to consider – how do you make quality data off of a self-assessment comfort survey – is this even possible – well she makes it possible!  We also heard from all of the instructors from the day of computational classes headed by Racell Williams – each class was more exciting than the previous one! The last story came from Luke Church who spoke to us about the issues with machine learning, which was very interesting to hear, he suggested that a way to progress beyond the current hurdles is to implement doubt in machine learning, which I have to say I love as an idea. He also spoke to us about his work implementing machine learning in the facilitation of social dialogue with Africa’s Voices Foundation – a really brilliant spin outside the AEC industry and a truly inspirational talk.

A resounding message from the computational forum that was echoed throughout the entire conference was that the problem with data in the AEC industry is the lack of clean data. The AEC industry is predominantly visual and even though that sounds natural, it is not helpful to BIM or any other smart workflows. Something I consider one of my main priorities is to entice architectural professionals to start considering and really working with non-graphic information more.

But a picture is worth a thousand words, I hear you say. Yes, that is entirely true, however, a picture is worth a thousand, messy, inconsistent, tangled words in all of the languages imaginable. It takes some serious muscle to turn those thousand words in a thousand lines of valuable data. Because a thousand lines of valuable data – well that is worth actual something, from personal experience – refer to the end of my talk – I can tell you that 3,500 lines of valuable data, can be worth 9 working days, and because I love maths, I’ve done the numbers for you –

efficiency for words per day is 3500/9,

then 3500/9=1000/x,

so x=1000*9/3500,

x=2.571 days for 1 untangled picture

I can’t say I have any data to prove a thousand jumbled up words are worth something – if anything, they cost a lot of time to unjumble.

The opening keynote on Tuesday delivered by Andrew Anagnost was a very colourful performance. Indeed the hall and the whole set up made me feel more like at a rave, rather than technology conference, and I must admit, I did not mind that one little bit. Xxx told a narrative that may be expected, promotional and very positive towards Autodesk products and initiatives, and I can be as cynical about it as anyone, but I’d like to jump over the “well, of course, the Autodesk CEO will say that” and the “it’s all a promo for their products” kind of statements and actually take in what was given with a positive spin. “The Opportunity of Better” in letters taller than me graced us from several aggressively sized screens multiple times. And I do believe what those stand for. I have been very alarmed to hear here in the UK about the “fear” and “danger” of technology, and as someone who has the first-hand experience my job becoming better and more exciting because of technology, I don’t feel great about sewing the seeds of that kind of attitude around. Technology being compared to Brexit with its negative impact on our industry, has been something that has been making me very concerned for a while, and while the blind fearmongering is just as bad as the blind positivism, I did need some fuel for my own crusade to prove that automation and technological advancement can be positive, and this is exactly what Andrew was selling – technology making jobs BETTER. As anything non-human, technology really can’t be “Good” or “Bad” – it just is, and the way that we use it – ie the human input colours the result positive or negative. The way that we use it is very much governed by the attitude with which each and every one of us approaches it, so we need to create a positive productive attitude, rather than quoting large theoretical numbers of lost jobs due to automation.

An integral part of the conference and arguably as important as the classes was the networking aspect. I was so excited and inspired by the people I spoke to and met there. The BIM community as a whole in the UK has never disappointed with its openness and welcoming spirit, and I was a delight to witness the same on an international level. Autodesk had gone to admirable lengths to facilitate dialogue between themselves and the attendees of the conference – there were high-level management staff available for chats, idea boards and a video booth to record messages if you feel a bit shy. But all the attendees and speakers were also truly approachable. I did have several moments of “OMG, I want to be friends and work with you please” and felt no barrier to expressing those feelings – I’m looking at you *insert 20 names here*. One very meaningful interaction for me was our little BIM Manager Bootcamp gathering with the legend that is Michael Kilkelly and some of my fellow campers. (Look out for my review of Archsmarter’s BIM Manager Bootcamp in January) Getting a chance to meet my international coursemates was really great – online learning has always been very helpful to me as an audio-learner, however, there is an amplification of confidence and motivation that can only be achieved when spending time with people live. Another BIM celebrity sighting – the brilliant John Pierson was so generous to give me some advice on small BIM business development (“keep at it, not all the work is going to be super exciting, but the good things will come in-between setting up project templates for small businesses”)

As a BIM professional, AU is definitely an experience one wants to have at least once in their lifetime. The quality of the classes, the entire set up and services available were all of brilliant quality, but instead of going in detail about any of this I would like to leave you with this thought – there were DOGS – there were therapy dogs available in the AU2018 hub. If you had had too much of technology and learning, you were able to go to a white picket fence enclosure and cuddle a puppy. Because there is nothing healthier than seeing someone who has kept their cool in front of a huge international professional audience for an hour talking about super complicated things, collapse on their knees and go “ah, who’s a good gal, yes you’re a good gal, you are the GOODEST gal”. In today’s polarised and tensed-up world, this is what we need – balance. Good job Autodesk.