Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Meeting the Vasari developers

Blog entry by: Dominik Holzer

A large number of architecture and engineering firms currently undergo a major change in their tool infrastructure. BIM software is continuously gaining ground on traditional CAD tools as means for documentation. BIM software developers are not satisfied with limiting their tools to the documentation aspect of design and they aim at introducing options for conceptual modeling within their suite of software.  A prime example these developments is the approach Autodesk has taken for offering tools that assist their clients in early environmental checks. With several (partly complementary) products on the market, the frontrunner in that niche seemed to have been Ecotect  (acquired by ADSK in mid 2008).  When considering the lack of development after its purchase, ADSK rather seemed interested in extracting some of its features than retaining it as a standalone product. A strong indicator for this to be true is the current development of Vasari that is slowly making its way out of the Autodesk Labs.

Jon Morgan (Arup) exploring the principles behind Vasari during the Designing the Dynamic workshop

Vasari is a hybrid between a conceptual modelling tool, a parametric design tool, and an energy analysis tool. Its versatility positions it close to the centre of what environmentally conscious designers may want for conceptual exploration when multiple options get analysed and their qualities get evaluated. The CFD analysis component within Vasari is based on Ecotect and some additional Ecotect features are making their way to Vasari as well. Vasari is not yet available as a commercial product, but it is likely to get there within the next year. It is strongly aligned with Revit (having the same user interface and direct export capacity to Revit), and it also allows users to link in and out geometric data with other applications.

Late last year, I joined a small team of designers who tested Vasari’s urban modelling and simulation capabilities in a workshop setting (Designing the Dynamic). Supported by a Computer Scientist from RMIT University (Flora Salim) and Arup Melbourne’s main Physics engineer in Australia (Jon Morgan) workshop attendees developed several test cases for Wind Tunnel Analysis and facade optimisation.

Overall, Vasari showed some excellent capabilities and workshop attendees were impressed by its potential. In particular the combination of conceptual mass modelling with preliminary energy and wind tests is appealing to our designers. At the same time, there are also a number of improvements that need to be made to increase Vasari’s usefulness. At this point it is simply not reliable enough unless users have an in-depth understanding of building physics and are able to compensate for any bugs! The approximations used during CFD can easily yield incorrect results and any outcome from the analysis should at best be seen as a trend indicator.

Upon invitation by Autodesk, I communicated these suggestions to the Vasari developers in a face to face meeting at the AU. A summary of comments/suggestions about Vasari improvements can be found here.

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