What is Autodesk Forge and How Can It Benefit You?

What is Autodesk Forge and How Can It Benefit You?

If they want to thrive, commercial architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms need to distinguish themselves in the hyper-competitive marketplace. Many of our industry partners often overlook opportunities hidden within their existing technology investments. If you don’t have a firm grasp on the virtually unlimited capacity of BIM 360’s custom workflow dynamics or you haven’t leveraged a fully-integrated design platform, you fall into this category. 

You know that the latest technology, sustainability, and flexibility can drive performance. But, without a complete understanding, you haven’t unlocked your full potential. Here, uncover how to optimize your AEC workflows and assets by utilizing the most powerful features Forge has to offer.

What is Autodesk Forge?

Our mission at MG is to find solutions to AEC industry challenges and help firms gain a clear advantage in their niche. We couldn’t do this without Autodesk Forge. Forge is a cloud-based toolbox that enables integration between the BIM model and outside data sources including cost, schedule, GIS, and ERP. Essentially, Forge tools connect multiple Autodesk platforms for streamlined individual and team workflows.

Remember the Lego collection you had as a kid? A single block is alright to look at, but when interlocked with other blocks, pulleys, and wheels, there is no limit to the amazing creations you can come up with. And, this is what it’s like to unlock the full suite of Forge features for your business.

With an understanding of your complete and multi-faceted AEC software solution, you can solve workflow problems you didn’t realize you had.

  • Disconnected processes
  • Internal communication gaps
  • Design and prototyping errors
  • Mediocre productivity levels

Forge gives you the ability to segment data into a convenient dashboard for access to powerful insights, trends, and predictive analytics to help you discover a new range of possibilities.

The Key Benefits of Forge for AEC Planning and Design

Beyond the obvious connection between individual Autodesk software platforms, Forge delivers a multitude of advantages for AEC industry planning and design operations.

  • Unify workspaces for an entire organization/team
  • Decrypt more than 60 common AEC file formats
    • SketchUp models
    • EFC or DWG files
    • More
  • Retrieve crucial data for multiple tasks
    • Schedule planning
    • Cost estimating
    • Engineering data
    • ERP or CRM information
    • More
  • Facilitate efficient file sharing and collaboration

Before the release of BIM 360, architectural and structural model documentation was stored on multiple servers of independent consultants. Now, AEC professionals have the ability to break down operations and streamline connectivity across departments.

The Evolution of Autodesk and the Birth of Forge

Autodesk platforms were originally established with the use of non-proprietary design language to give architects, engineers, and construction professionals the ability to turn their client’s dreams into reality. The suite of tools presented AEC firms with the ability to customize workflows within their teams and share planning and design documents with external sources. This laid the groundwork for the ability to create optimized workflows.

Forge developed over time in response to what users needed most from various Autodesk platforms. Today, Forge’s key APIs include the following:

BIM 360 – Integrate with Autodesk BIM 360 platform to expand its capabilities to reach segments of the construction ecosystem that don’t have direct access to BIM.

Data Management – Access data across BIM 360, Fusion 360, BIM 360 Docs, and the Object Storage Service to build apps to display and extend data in ways that add value to users.

Design Automation – Automate repetitive tasks by leveraging on the scale of the Forge platform and running scripts on design files in the cloud.

Model Derivative – Derive outputs viewable by the Forge Viewer from more than 60 CAD file formats and extract metadata about models as well as the individual objects within the model.

Reality Capture – Convert digital images into high-resolution textured meshes, dense point clouds, and orthophotos.

Viewer – Render 3D and 2D model data within a browser. The models can come from a wide range of applications such as AutoCAD, Fusion 360, Revit, and many more.

Through this progressive technology, firms and individuals are now able to fully optimize workflows in unprecedented ways.

How Automation Impacts AEC Industry Productivity

Through BIM 360, you can fundamentally alter the way you operate. Apply automations to project setup, data synchronization, ticket & resolution tracking, process completion validation, and project management.

Document management enables shared access to all of your project documentation and maximizes collaboration within your teams. The cloud storage capabilities will allow your team members to store and retrieve application data from the apps they create.

  • Upload photos to the Object Storage Software (OSS)
  • Use the Reality Capture API to generate a 3D object (*.svf)
  • Store files on the OSS and downloaded on demand

The Design Automation API lets you create custom applications to query objects and their properties in an RVT/DWG file. Then, radii and other dimensional characteristics of geometric objects can be read. Parameter values can be extracted to an external database or checked for compliance against established standards.

Is Your AEC Client Data Secure?

In today’s world of cybercrime, data security is a crucial issue, especially with cloud-hosted files. Autodesk uses SOC2 Certification, which is the standard used by banking and financial industries and also complies with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations. BIM 360 users can establish individual user access and permissions that control who can access what and how of each user as part of the standard set up process. So, you can trust that your client’s data is safe within the platform.

Case Examples: Harnessing Forge’s Potential

Thousands of companies have used Forge to improve systems and processes, automate functions, and harvest data insights. Firms across the AEC industry spectrum benefit from the platform. For leading design and construction firms like Perkins + Will and JE Dunn Construction to product manufacturers such as Jeld Wen Windows & Doors and virtually everything in between, Forge builds bridges between information and action.

Within a company’s specific workflow processes, the software facilities better, faster, more informed decision-making. It enables designers, builders, and owners to collaborate remotely to reduce risks to costs, schedule, and safety. Effectively applied, Forge improves bottom-line costs and top-line quality.

Learn how these leaders enhanced their operations with Forge:

JE Dunn Construction: BIM Estimating Integration

JE Dunn Construction was founded in Kansas City, Missouri in 1924. Since then, the company has become one of the top general building contractors in the country with more than 20 U.S. offices. The firm’s vision is to be an indispensable business partner by understanding and integrating the client’s purpose, goals, and user experience into the finished building while maximizing value in each decision made.

As an early adopter in 2017, JE Dunn was among the first grantees of Forge’s capacity to customize existing software to desired solutions. JE Dunn sought a simple way to integrate internal cost-estimation tools with BIM 360 to ensure their decisions aligned with cost-achievability. The BIM model enables the company to generate a real-time dashboard view of costs. Using their SharePoint intranet, the dashboard is shared with internal and external teams, owners, and clients.

Many AEC industry brands link estimates to models using a variety of internally developed tools and software. But inevitably, they all lack the user to model interactivity that makes this version stand apart. These companies have dreamed about the functionality the brand has achieved.

Key API’s Involved:

  • Data Management API
  • Model Derivative API
  • Viewer
  • BIM 360 API
  • SharePoint API

“The Forge platform allows us to integrate our virtual models and our cost-related history into a seamless application. This integration enables greater transparency with our external users and enhances design coordination between owners and architects.” 

  • JE Dunn

Google: BIM Visualization and Analysis

Founded in 1998, today Google is a global household name. The multinational etch company specializes in internet-related products services and products online advertising, search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware.

Google approached Autodesk about developing a data bridging solution between BIM 360 and their design and construction teams in preparation for more than a billion dollars of construction. Intent on building a collection of state-of-the-art data centers around the country, Google wanted real-time team visibility into the design, construction, and commissioning process.

Using Forge, data was synchronized between designers, contractors, and Google. The ability to meaningfully interface with the design and construction solutions enhanced Google’s ability to tailor its facilities as they emerged. This reduced and efficiently controlled project costs and schedules.

Google’s great familiarity with the BIM model not only accelerated design and construction, but long-term operations costs were factored into every decision. Continual interactivity with their data centers as they were being developed through the BIM model significantly reduced the time it took Google to erect their buildings at each location.

Key API’s Involved:

  • Data Management API
  • Model Derivative API
  • Viewer
  • Google Drive API

Bouygues Construction: Revit Automation

Bouygues is the construction arm of an industrial group headquartered in Paris, France. Operating globally, Bouygues Construction provides construction services in 80 countries across a combination of public works, energy services, roadways, railways, and many sectors of commercial development including residential, corporate office, hotels, and urban property improvement.

Bouygues’ initial concern revolved around the repetitive and time-consuming processes associated with setting up projects individually case-by-case. By using Forge to establish a robust library of predetermined project parameters, now when projects are set up, users can select options from menus rather than

programming each project independently. Views of the project model are then developed based on whatever the user is tagging in the interface. This filters out unneeded information within the model, which allows it to quickly and dynamically present salient information customized to the users’ needs.

Key API’s Involved:

  • Data Management API
  • Model Derivative API
  • Viewer
  • Design Automation for Revit API
  • BIM 360 API

Signify/Philips Lighting: Enhance Design Efficiency

Signify is the new company name of Philips Lighting, a world leader in high-quality, energy-efficient lighting products systems and services. Intent on unlocking the potential of light for brighter lives, Signify turns light sources into points of data to connect more devices, places, and people through light.

Signify used Forge to help streamline the lighting placement processes within Revit. Working with BIM Object, Signify created a large product database from which to drawn upon to bring any of many different information-rich, product components into the BIM model dynamically.

By understanding the owner’s intended lux requirements for each programmed space, a bridge was created to enable the automated placement of light fixtures throughout the entire building. The results can now be seen live through the viewer. Forge also generates the product placement within the Revit file, which can be downloaded to become the working document.

This effectively automates an entire building’s lighting design plan in less than a minute; a process that would otherwise require fixture-by-fixture placement of the complete lighting package. With near-instantaneous reconfiguration capabilities, the Forge-developed solution saves designers significant time and effort by eliminating undue hours of picking and clicking it would otherwise take to place each fixture manually.

Key API’s Involved:

  • Data Management API
  • Model Derivative API
  • Viewer
  • Design Automation for Revit API
  • BIM 360 API

US Olympic Museum: Web Embedded BIM Model

The United States Olympic Museum in Colorado Springs, CO will memorialize the legacies of American Olympians and Paralympians. The museum’s iconic architecture idealizes athletic elegance with a dynamic building form that defied typical construction.

The exterior is composed of nearly 10,000 interlocking aluminum diamonds, each independently modeled, fabricated, and precisely installed. Leveraging the incredible structure’s design, the Museum wanted to launch an innovative fundraising program that allows anyone to purchase a panel and have their names involved in the museum’s creation.

Using Forge as a link between the model and the web interface, MG began by conceptualizing the logistics of how users would interact with the model. The platform design objectives included enabling users to virtually visit the museum, become invested in panel adoption, and create personalized messaging on a panel or series of panels. Because each panel is uniquely made for specific placement on the building, they are individually identifiable by serial number and come with a certificate of adoption.

Key API’s Involved:

  • Viewer
  • BIM 360 API

“We formed a strategic partnership with MG. They were able to take this wonderful intellectual asset in the Building Information Model and make it accessible to the public in an intuitive, web-ready way.”

  • Chris Liedel, CEO US Olympic Museum

How MG Can Help You Gain an Advantage With Forge

At MG, we specialize in helping AEC industry leaders take their businesses to the next level by harnessing the power of Forge. Here’s what you can gain.

Learn more about custom, practical applications to amplify your AEC operations.

Enhance BIM 360

In reviewing Forge’s capabilities, consider a building block approach beginning with a basic Revit model. Frequently, in commercial and custom home construction, the owner wants to be in continual contact with the design team as a project is developed. Forge enables the external interface to be as simple or as information-rich as authors want it to be.

While a custom home client may only need access to select information on square footages, volumes of space, and views through and from the home, a commercial office building developer likely wants to see virtually every detail. Regardless of how complex the rendered model may be, a key facet enabled with Forge by the Viewer is that the cloud-based model is shareable via URL.

The model can then be viewed on a smartphone, tablet, or any internet-connected device without any download. Remote users have the same dynamic, interactive experience they would at a stationary computer. An accessible and purposefully activated BIM model is beneficial to owners, selected contractors, and virtually every other type of stakeholder.

As the complexity of the interface is increased for design-level users, additional tools are added to mechanize repeatable processes like creating building sections, looking at the specific properties of a roof, or even details like door and hardware counts through the model browser when needed.

Ease of material segmentation and interactivity is a facet of Forge’s deep dive capacities that is likely of interest to the construction teams.

Here are two hypothetical examples.

  • Understanding that 37% of a building is composed of concrete gives a general contractor a baseline understanding of needed construction materials.
  • Linking construction materials to cost, schedule, and processes can enhance early planning, actualize logistics, and eliminate conflicts.

Forge dashboards can dynamically make use of 2D project documentation like CADD files, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents. So, files created decades ago can be brought into the BIM 360 interface and responsively correspond with the live BIM model just like 3D files created today.

Customization of dashboards through Forge can be tailored to a client’s file structure so that the dashboard itself becomes the user’s primary functional interface. The ability to assign color schemes to systems helps engineering consultants and contractors quickly segment system components within the model. Seeing supply, return, and exhaust runs as an individual but links components with a few simple clicks (a process that could have taken hours of intense scrutiny in the days of 2D files).

Forge gives you the ability to transfer data over networks without the need for human-to-human interaction. This facilitates the ability to integrate a nearly limitless volume of information. And, by strategically integrating sensors, systems can be continuously monitored in real-time, posting the data to cloud-based storage, tracking, and review.

Strengthen Asset Management

Asset management is another area where Forge can make beneficial connections between sets of information. Campus and institutional settings like colleges and hospitals can use Forge to look at data across a collection of assets.

Beginning at 30,000 feet, systems can be built to zoom from macro to micro. Going from a Google Map scale view of the campus deep down into the actual BIM model of a particular building. Gain the ability to look at anything from overall campus energy consumption to the part number of a single burned-out light bulb.

Just as automation can be integrated into BIM’s front-end planning processes, it can be used to generate reports on systems operations in any way imaginable. Recalling Forge’s capacity to draw on a wide range of data sources, much of this insight will have no actual association with Autodesk’s programs or files.

Users often ask about the viewer’s ability to load and allow transition through large BIM files. The components of even the most complex piping systems made of countless interlocking parts and pieces can be easily rendered, reviewed, turned on end, or picked apart in exacting detail through a loading sequence that is many times faster than what standardized Revit users are accustomed to.

The key to maximizing the investment already made in Autodesk BIM 360 and many other software products is unlocking hidden value and sharing it to your customer’s benefit. The Forge Viewer can be embedded into a website to make the BIM model fully accessible via the world wide web. This can facilitate an owner or contractor’s cost analysis, give subcontractors or suppliers a genuine understanding of quantities and calculations, or function as a public-facing campaign for community enhancements to come.

Streamline Data Connectivity

MG is working on quite a few different strategies to streamline data connectivity and workflows within BIM for our many clients across the AEC industry. As part of our suite of services, MG works directly with various BIM managers at design and construction firms. In other cases, we are the BIM manager.

From this vantage, we see the day-to-day operations of many companies using BIM making us well aware of this high-powered program’s common situational challenges. Some users frequently struggle with Revit warnings while others are not following their firm’s established standards.

Eliminating the possibility of error is an ideal starting point, wherever such an opportunity exists. MG is working on using Forge to develop tools that check models as they are being developed to eliminate avoidable errors and automate common processes to our clients’ advantage.

Take Full Advantage of Revit

In other exciting news, the Revit API is also available. This “headless Revit” has no innate interface of its own and user controls must be custom-built for the owner’s intended use. Toolbars, dashboards, and user operations within the user experience must all be developed. But, in doing so, the application opens itself up to potentially amazing new possibilities.

Automating the development of Revit families, for instance, is intriguing because as presently orchestrated creating families can be a time-consuming and expensive process for manufacturers with huge, information-intense product sets. Automation, of course, can extend to a lot more than simply setting up families and there are many opportunities to gainfully monitor documentation as it is being developed.

Clash detection among contending models or systems, for instance, could also be an automated process that takes place behind the scenes on a pre-determined schedule or every time documents are updated. Checklist processes, automated reporting, and the ability to identify issues within a dynamically interactive dashboard add value and assurance that obstacles are being eliminated as they occur.

Leverage GIS

Despite their complementary nature, BIM and GIS software systems have developed separately. While BIM concentrates on the tangible components of buildings, GIS data is concerned with the spatial world. Since inception, despite what now seems to be an obvious symbiosis, BIM and GIS have both evolved as expertise and technology unto themselves. A recently-announced partnership between Autodesk and Esri around the integration of BIM and GIS information opens a world of new opportunities to push the edge of innovation.

MG was one of four Autodesk partners invited to Esri’s 2019 partnership launch conference and has since embarked on a series of projects focused on integrating these inherently complementary data sets. Zoning information like setbacks, view planes, height restrictions, code, and square footage requires are all examples of the many forms of existing data that can and should put real-world contextual drivers into the project before the first line is ever drawn.

Extend to Heavy Civil

Historically, highways, transportation, water resources, rail, and other heavy civil engineering and construction have evolved as a world apart from commercial building. Within the realm of 3D modeling, the divide may be even greater. MG recognizes major opportunities to apply innovative thinking and lessons learned from modeling vertical construction to design, building, and managing heavy civil infrastructure.

Recent updates within InfraWorks have now also been glued into BIM 360, allowing huge amounts of existing big data to be brought into BIM models to inform the planning, design, construction, and operations of civil infrastructure.

MG is working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on custom programming for Civil 3D. Stakeholders are taking advantage of the Viewer API to generate public-facing presentations of the same dynamic 3D detail the engineering team is seeing. All the dashboards, reports, cost, and schedule linkages previously detailed as innovations in vertical construction can be applied to heavy civil projects; simply through Civil 3D or InfraWorks rather than BIM 360.

Visualize for AR/VR

Increasingly, the capacity to interact with the model as a project is being developed, marketed, and occupied is in demand for both our clients and their clients across every sector. Forge opens a world of possibilities in promoting project visuals via the Viewer. MG is presently unleashing new possibilities in both Augmented- and Virtual- Reality through Forge. Cloud-based models can be shared with clients, participants, and the public through QR codes or internet links. Once again, no download or software is required for anyone, anywhere to quickly and easily access 3D visuals.

Final Thoughts

The key concept to note is that Forge is not a product but a set of tools that help tap into the unlimited potential of data to improve the performance of your assets and investments. MG’s holistic approach combines a client workflow analysis with our robust understanding of the software to recommend integrated solutions to foster growth and productivity.

With offices and training centers located in 12 states, MG combines broad expertise in professional best practices and software solutions to discover new efficiencies that benefit the people doing the work.