Monday, December 18, 2006

Digital Project: The Fuss

It's finally been announced that we have acquired 100 licenses of Gehry Technologies' Digital Project - a modeling software built on top of Dassault's CATIA platform. As the press release states, "The acquistion is being considered an addition to SOM's technology portfolio, not a displacement of any other software system." SOM utilizes a number of products to yield the most effective results given the team members' skills, the requirements of the project and the overall design goals. As of this post, we are still using Revit (in conjunction with other tools) on over 12,000,000 square feet of projects in development by our New York office. I am just about to complete my initial training on Digital Project and will begin my comparative studies of the similarities and differences between DP and Revit.

I have started to receive messages inquiring about the future of Revit at SOM and I'd like to make it clear that DP is an addition to our BIM toolbox, not a substitution. Let me explain. On many projects, we incorporate complex external structure and curtain wall, while maintaining fairly regular and efficient cores. If we look at the digital deliverables for these two areas, there remains a clear divide. Fabricators in both the steel and curtain wall trades are pioneering the use of 3D deliverables for direct fabrication. Many of the companies with which we've collaborated in the recent past seem to be using similar tools for their 3D BIM deliverables. For the steel industry, XSteel (now known as Tekla Structures) and either Solidworks or CATIA for those in curtain wall - although we have talked to a few starting to implement Inventor as they evolve from Autocad.

While this concept sounds simple enough to implement, it really takes on a whole new life when you actually start to share files with your contractors and fabricators. I believe Graphisoft first started to address the issue of having a variety of representations of the design data (which I like to refer to as the 'onion concept' and described it in an older post). The design model must coexist, but serve a differing purpose than that of the construction model, the fabrication model, and the owner's model.

To this end, we must develop a method of eliminating data loss or production redundancy when our exchanges take place (ala Phil Bernstein's famous 'sawtooth' diagram).

Because models relating to our designs for exo-structures and curtain wall enclosures are the most likely to be utilized as direct-to-fabrication, these would be the likely candidates to use Digital Project.

Why not Revit? The geometric tools in Revit have not had the luxury of evolving along the same path as those of Dassault. Some twists and turns are simply not possible to achieve in Revit or are too cumbersome to emulate. On the other hand, the powerful simplicity of Revit as an 'architectural production engine' allows us to efficiently develop everything inside the exterior shell with blazing consistency and a minimal learning curve.

It is one of my objectives for 2007 to further build upon this translation and conglomeration of data from different platforms. Once further developed (and out of my brain...), I will share some insight into exactly how this all will come together in future posts.


  1. Hi, Was interested to see how you were going to implement it, thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for this posting. We are a contractor using DP as well as Revit and I agree with your assessment of the limitations of Revit when it comes to working with the more sophisticated manufacturers out there.
    DP is a workhorse when it comes to managing the complexity and level of detail associated with Manufacturing regardless of the overall complexity of the design.
    Revit is more accessable to most users and of course more common. Hopefully someday there will be a uniform environment for us all to work in!

  3. I was interested to see how Digital Project fits into the SOM platform mix. Thanks for sharing.

  4. So what about Generative Components? Any thoughts on how it compares with Revit and DP.

  5. Right now, I know more about DP and Revit while a few people in our firm have been studying GC. It seems that each platform has its strengths and weaknesses. The generative geometry in GC seems similar to DP, but DP seems to have a more powerful organizational engine as it is based on a tried and tested platform.

  6. Very cool. Will you post more of your insights once you get familarized with the software?

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