Hey all, we're planning to migrate servers around Monday, so there will be a bit of downtime :) I can be contacted at dion@thinkmoult.com for anything urgent.

Autodesk Letter v3, this time from the Nordic architecture associations

I've started this as a quick article for the website, feel free to discuss the letter / story in this thread and we can link to the discussion in the article:

Martyn Day, who was a key part of the ‘Autodesk Letter’ from 2020 has written an article for AECmag with his thoughts about a new letter.

In 2020 several leading UK and international AEC firms wrote an open letter to Autodesk CEO, Andrew Anagnost, highlighting a range of deep concerns with Revit, Suites, costs, licensing & business practices. A new open letter from Nordic Architectural Associations says nothing has changed.
There has been a new Open Letter to Autodesk, this time from the Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic Architectural Associations, which represent 14,000 architects.
Martyn Day

Read the full article: Nordic architectural associations demand better value from Autodesk
This letter is not the first (and maybe not the last) time Autodesk customers have asked themselves if they are getting value for money.
A 2020 letter from UK/international architects to Andrew Anagnost CEO of Autodesk
A 2014 letter to Autodesk from Australian & New Zealand architects

Tagged:
Martin156131JanFkrandeAcecvillagrasaMoult
«1

Comments

  • ...if we only had 1/1000000th of the funding, we'd have a competitive replacement in a year.

    AcecvillagrasaMartin156131chunchkJohntlangbaswein
  • @theoryshaw said:
    ...if we only had 1/1000000th of the funding, we'd have a competitive replacement in a year.

    We will get there! It's on its way

  • edited September 2022

    Pffff... Writing letters is for little girls. True men write code of their own BIM applications.

    NigelMartin156131CoenMoult
  • Maybe change to for little kids as I hope we have some bold women coders in osarch

    brunopostleAceduncanMoultHagaeus
  • I think that apart from the obvious complaints it would be great if we had the resources to get in touch with those associations. I know several members, including one from the EU organization. But we are already pressed for resources, for me both professionally and personally. So it's hard to know what to do. If we had backing from those organizations to make some targeted EU applications we'd quickly be able to hire some developers to help with specific issues.

    Let's continue this EU funds part of the conversation here: Funding free software and osarch

    Acekrande
  • OK, turns out there are four letters. Hong Kong has also written one. https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6978033533063733248/

  • I think we all would agree that this is the original open letter, am I right ;)?
    https://thinkmoult.com/why-revit-is-shit.html

    AcebrunopostleBedsoncvillagrasaMoultMartin156131Coenduncanbitacovirvpajic
  • Call me a conspiracy theorist but I think autodesk is doing it for a reason and a good one. By leaving the gaps and allowing to patch them with add-ons autodesk is forcing (and allowing) people to become its future developers - a lot of people already heavily invested their time and creativity to sort the most common problems (and will continue to do it). You start with simple dynamo script and end up learning c# and Revit API.
    In the end, a lot of people will end up on autodesk forge or other markets selling add-ons or developing programs for autodesk software. Autodesk wants to become a platform, environment, an operating system, rather than just a good program. This is how they become the true monopolist.

    duncantlangvpajic
  • edited September 2022

    @J_W said:
    Call me a conspiracy theorist but I think autodesk is doing it for a reason and a good one. By leaving the gaps and allowing to patch them with add-ons autodesk is forcing (and allowing) people to become its future developers - a lot of people already heavily invested their time and creativity to sort the most common problems (and will continue to do it). You start with simple dynamo script and end up learning c# and Revit API.
    In the end, a lot of people will end up on autodesk forge or other markets selling add-ons or developing programs for autodesk software. Autodesk wants to become a platform, environment, an operating system, rather than just a good program. This is how they become the true monopolist.

    An old guy commenting... have spent years of my life developing fixes for proprietary software.. The clients have paid me well... From an ethical standpoint, most of it should have been paid by the vendor ...

    lukas
  • Let's not forget that Autodesk has an activist board. What has been happening to R&D is exactly what Carl Bass said would happen back in 2018
    https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/former-autodesk-ceo-carl-bass-has-his-say-activist-investors
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activist_shareholder

    theoryshawtlangCoen
  • Andrew Anagnost, CEO of Autodesk, summed up their position at AU 2022 very well, saying "And if you want a faster horse, you might not want to work with us because we will not make a faster horse. But we can be that partner and tool provider that supports professionals into the new era of architecture."

    I have to say I agree with him. Revit is not the future. In many ways the open letters are an expression of the backward looking attitude of so many consulting architects and engineers. What he fails to acknowledge is that Autodesk offers no alternative and by moving all their resources over to makes Revit look more and more like abandonware.

    Interesting follow up article: https://architosh.com/2022/09/autodesk-begins-new-era-for-future-of-architecture/

  • It's not about faster horses, it's about "not lame" horses. Ford had not been the main supplier for horses back then. He did not make everyone dependent on horses to later stall delivering bug free versions.
    We heard the promise af an "open" data centric approach already twice in the past ("plasma", "quantum"), now it is "forma" ("pro forma" means "to pretend" in German). We hear promises that the main pain points will be addressed in the next 3 to 4 release (no core problems though). I know many people who have been working with Revit for 10+ years. And they are so sick of this policy.
    The vision of a totally new and awesome way to work in a few years to come does not make our jobs easier (or sometimes, even bearable) right now.
    ADSK should know that they made the industry addicted (yes, addicted) to their half baked product. Now they want to ditch all the people that made their "horse business" work?

    cvillagrasaNigelvpajic
  • I work for The Document Foundation on LibreOffice and I have a bystander interest in seeing open source architecture tools grow.
    I contacted the Finnish architecture association and they said they could publish a guest blog post about OS arch. So now I need a co-conspirator! I'm not the right person to write about the topic, but I can translate an English text into Finnish :)
    As for the format of the content, think "elevator pitch". You can browse their blog to get an idea of the typical length of posts.
    Reply here and email me, if you volunteer to write this thing: ilmari.lauhakangas@libreoffice.org
    I also reached out to the other associations, but received no reply. We could pitch a finished article to them as well, though.

    AcebrunopostleJ_WtheoryshawMartin156131CoenDiegoAlvarez
  • @buovjaga said:
    I work for The Document Foundation on LibreOffice and I have a bystander interest in seeing open source architecture tools grow.
    I contacted the Finnish architecture association and they said they could publish a guest blog post about OS arch. So now I need a co-conspirator! I'm not the right person to write about the topic, but I can translate an English text into Finnish :)
    As for the format of the content, think "elevator pitch". You can browse their blog to get an idea of the typical length of posts.
    Reply here and email me, if you volunteer to write this thing: ilmari.lauhakangas@libreoffice.org
    I also reached out to the other associations, but received no reply. We could pitch a finished article to them as well, though.

    Count me in! Super cool!

  • @buovjaga that's awesome and so happy to see you here! At the risk of volunteering others, perhaps @duncan might be interested in helping co-author that article?

  • @Moult said:
    @buovjaga that's awesome and so happy to see you here! At the risk of volunteering others, perhaps @duncan might be interested in helping co-author that article?

    I actually contacted him first, but he did not have cycles, so we agreed it was best to ask here. J_W has started on it and we can share it with Duncan for editorial input later.

  • Incredible, can't wait to see it published! Thanks so much for helping spread the word and grow the tiny bubble of FOSS in AEC :)

  • Update 0.1
    We are slowly working on it. So far, we have a short history of Blender - its creation and current position on a market as an example that yes, you can go open-source. Then short descriptions of BlenderBIM and FreeCAD, potential powers of change. I also included IFC.js and Speckle because I think those two have right now the biggest chance of shaking the industry.
    At the end I simply listed: LibreOffice, Thunderbird, Gimp, Krita, Scribus, Inkscape, LibreCAD, QCAD as other open-source software you can start using now.
    We already have 4 pages A4 so I am hesitant about adding more - I would love to add:
    something about IFC format (let's create culture which welcome IFC models and has standard export setting ready to use),
    Potentially some other software I am not aware of.
    In general, it’s a call to get involved and get ready for new technologies.

    Martin156131
  • @J_W could you perhaps introduce yourself in this thread: https://community.osarch.org/discussion/6/welcome-to-the-osarch-community#latest
    I can see you've only been active in this specific thread and already volunteering to write articles, which is great - we need all the hands we can get. I'm just wondering about your background. Please make an introductory post in that other thread.
    @J_W I would be keen to see this article written in the open where it can be commented on. Of course this depends on what you want to do with it. If it's a personal article from you with some links back to different projects then you're free to do things however you'd like. If you'd like something we can co-publish on the osarch.org site then we probably need to cooperate a bit.
    @Moult I just don't really have time/inclination at the moment to help much with this.

    Martin156131
  • J_WJ_W
    edited October 2022

    Post about me - ticked ;)
    As mentioned in an email to @buovjaga I don't really know how to do it. I simply think that someone needs to inform "99% of architects" that there are open-source projects which will make a difference.
    I'm posting below what I have so far. I'm happy to send invitations to google doc (or do it here) to anyone who wants to collaborate on it (change it, extend it, proofread it).
    I like magic so publishing it with osarch.org blessing sounds great to me ;)

    Fighting Leviathans! or maybe "Stop writing open letters to people who dont't listen to you"

    Open-source against the big tech companies

    Intro

    <...> - short intro about letter, with link for people who missed it and future readers

    OK, so you signed the open letter to Autodesk (I would argue it was rather “letter against Autodesk”), shared something about it on LinkedIn and during Friday beer you argued with your colleagues about how much you disapprove tech-giants practices and how their behaviour is harmful to the whole AEC industry.

    But next Monday you will as always “create your local model” and continue your work as nothing happened… To the next letter, which for sure someone else will write to Autodesk soon.

    Story of Blender

    We are not the first ones who feel hopeless. If you go back in time to 2002 and look at the 3d graphic industry, you will see a lot of similarities with a current architectural scene. It was a time when Autodesk completely ruled the computer graphic scene and you couldn’t do any animations, movies, games, visualizations without buying their software.

    But there was a man with a vision, Ton Roosendaal and community which wanted a change. In 2002 Blender Foundation was founded and after collecting €100,000 from the community to “free Blender”, the 3d graphic scene had its own free and open-source alternative.

    The beginnings were thought, but nowadays, Blender is one of the most popular 3d graphic software used at the same time by professional studios and hobbyists around the globe. In many areas, Blender managed to be better than commercial programs, accelerating the growth of the whole industry. It is constantly pushing the limits of what 3d graphic software can do. You can easily find online the whole movies made with it, games or examples of stunning art. Some people say that Blender popularity pushed Autodesk to create much cheaper “indie” licences for Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya.

    What is more important, the number of Blender users has grown significantly in the last twenty years. “In 2020 Blender has been downloaded over 14M times from blender.org. With 4 major releases during the year, this is an average of 3.5M downloads per release. “ This large community of driven individuals creates countless tutorials, models and add-ons accessible for everyone, mostly for free. They are giving back into the project, making it easier for everybody to start and do whatever they want.

    It is a force of pure creativity, unbound by monthly subscription fee.

    For more information, visit project page at: https://www.blender.org/

    Open-source programs for architects?

    So, where are we in terms of creating “our” BIM Software? Somewhere at the beginning, which means we still have our fight for free and open source software for architects ahead of us. But there are a number of initiatives which needs your help and involvement now!

    BlenderBIM Add-on

    So I already told you how great the Blender is. Obviously there is a number of cases to use it in your practice - architectural visualisations, concept design, parametric design (check geometry nodes and Sverchok), analyses (check ladybug for blender) and many others. But what if you could do “BIM” in Blender?

    Developers of BlenderBIM Add-on are responding to this question. Their software allows its users to open IFC models and work on them in Blender. You could say that it doesn’t sound like a lot, but in reality it opens the world of Blender to IFC format. And by doing it creates a space, a framework, for its further use.

    BlenderBIM developers are already implementing a number of “OpenBIM Utilities” like clash detection, IFC validation or tools for COBie. It is even more promising when you think about all the newest and future features in Blender (for example real time rendering engine Eevee, geometry nodes etc).

    With time and resources, this project has a potential to seriously influence the industry by combining BIM approach with sophisticated 3d graphic program.

    Personally, I’m already using it at work. For example, BlenderBIM is a perfect tool to check the quality of IFC files even when Autodesk Revit has problems with importing them. For some reason, BlenderBIM is always able to open them and after taking a quick peak you can easily see where the problem is.

    For more information, visit project page at: https://blenderbim.org/

    FreeCAD Arch Workbench

    FreeCAD has an enormous potential. The software was released in 2002 as a CAD software primarily aimed at engineers. From the beginning it was a 3D parametric modeler rather than computer aided drawing board. Nowadays, its developers want it to become a platform with more and more tools dedicated to different fields. For AEC, they are developing “architectural workbench” which in time will allow creating BIM models and proper architectural documentation. We can easily imagine that in the future, this approach could result in establishing separate workbenches for structural engineers, HVAC consultants or facade engineers.

    So far similarly to commercial programs we are able to create 3d models by using basic elements (walls, floors, windows etc) and FreeCAD is able to create simple views from them (plans, sections and elevations).

    <...>

    For more information, visit project page at: https://www.freecadweb.org/

    Platforms

    Currently, more and more of us are working on online CDE platforms, software vendors are creating their own markets with apps and there is more discussion what to do with all the data created during design and constructions.

    <...>

    IFC.JS

    <...>

    Speckle

    <...>

    Other software for your practice

    The list of open-source software doesn’t stop here. I’m leaving below my personal choice of software you might use in your office (their development and current friendliness varies, but you should check them all):

    LibreOffice
    Thunderbird
    Gimp
    Krita
    Scribus
    Inkscape
    LibreCAD
    QCAD

    Conclusions

    Open-source software for AEC is slowly emerging. It is being created for us by people like us. So get involved. Support its developers and always be ready to learn new software. Convince your university to teach open-source software and install some open-source software on your computer. Instead of learning expensive 2d graphic software, invest your time to learn Gimp or Inkscape.

    <...> Get involved in osarch.org

    Blender Foundation and all the people involved in the development of Blender proved that it is possible to make a breach. They changed the computer graphic industry forever. We just need to follow in their footsteps. This way we might not have to sign another letter to Autodesk.

    AceMartin156131
  • Hey all,
    An update. Personally I don't like parts of conclusion and intro - will take a look on it this week - @buovjaga do we have any concrete deadline with it and what do you think so far.
    Also I copied Osarch.org description from web page - I will later add it in references. BTW Im still hoping for some constructive criticism ;)
    According to the markdown editor it takes 8 minutes to read it.

    Stop writing open letters to people who don’t listen to you

    Open-source against the big tech companies

    Intro

    This year Nordic architectural associations send an open letter to Autodesk expressing their concerns regarding slow development of Autodesk’s software, lack of communication with users, licensing changes, payment models and other policies. Most of the raised problems are commonly known in the industry and were already voiced in previous open letters. Sadly it is becoming a tradition that AEC Professionals rise their issues in this form.
    To read letter go to the page at:

    You probably heard about it and possibly signed the open letter to Autodesk (I would argue it was rather “letter against Autodesk”), shared something about it on LinkedIn and during Friday beer argued with your colleagues about how much you disapprove tech-giants practices and how their behaviour is harmful to the whole AEC industry.
    But next Monday you will as always “create your local model” and continue your work as nothing happened… To the next letter, which for sure someone else will write to Autodesk soon.

    Story of Blender

    We are not the first ones who feel hopeless. If you go back in time to 2002 and look at the 3d graphic industry, you will see a lot of similarities with a current architectural scene. It was a time when Autodesk completely ruled the computer graphic scene and you couldn’t do any animations, movies, games, visualizations without buying their software.
    But there was a man with a vision, Ton Roosendaal and community which wanted a change. In 2002 Blender Foundation was founded and after collecting €100,000 from the community to “free Blender”, the 3d graphic scene had its own free and open-source alternative.
    The beginnings were thought, but nowadays, Blender is one of the most popular 3d graphic software used at the same time by professional studios and hobbyists around the globe. In many areas, Blender managed to be better than commercial programs, accelerating the growth of the whole industry. It is constantly pushing the limits of what 3d graphic program can do.
    You can easily find online the whole movies made with it, games, or examples of stunning art. Some people say that Blender popularity pushed Autodesk to create much cheaper “indie” licenses for Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya. What is more important, the number of Blender users has grown significantly in the last twenty years. “In 2020 Blender has been downloaded over 14M times from blender.org. With 4 major releases during the year, this is an average of 3.5M downloads per release.” This large community of driven individuals creates countless tutorials, models and add-ons accessible for everyone, mostly for free. They are giving back into the project, making it easier for everybody to start and do whatever they want. And people are doing amazing things with it!
    It is a force of pure creativity, unbound by monthly subscription fee.
    For more information, visit project page at: https://www.blender.org/

    Open-source programs for architects?

    So, where are we in terms of creating “our” BIM Software? Somewhere at the beginning, which means we still have our fight for free and open source software for architects ahead of us. But there are several initiatives which needs your help and involvement right now!

    BlenderBIM Add-on

    So, I already told you how great the Blender is. Obviously, there are several cases to use it in your practice - architectural visualisations, concept design, parametric design (check geometry nodes and Sverchok), analyses (check ladybug for blender) and many others. But what if you could do “BIM” in Blender?
    Developers of BlenderBIM Add-on are responding to this question. Their program allows its users to open IFC models and work on them in Blender. You could say that it doesn’t sound like a lot, but in reality, it opens the world of Blender to IFC format. And by doing it creates a space, a framework, for its further use.
    BlenderBIM developers are already implementing several “OpenBIM Utilities” like clash detection, IFC validation or tools for COBie. It is even more promising when you think about combining it all with newest and future features of Blender (like real time rendering engine Eevee, geometry nodes etc).
    With time and resources, this project has a potential to seriously influence the industry by combining BIM approach with sophisticated 3d graphic program.
    Personally, I’m already using it at work. For example, BlenderBIM is a perfect tool to check the quality of IFC files even when Autodesk Revit has problems with importing them. For some reason, BlenderBIM is always able to open them and after taking a quick peak you can easily see where the problem is.
    For more information, visit project page at: https://blenderbim.org/

    FreeCAD Arch Workbench

    FreeCAD has an enormous potential. The software was released in 2002 as a CAD software primarily aimed at engineers. From the beginning it was a 3D parametric modeler rather than computer aided drawing board. Its developers want it to become a platform with more and more tools dedicated to different fields. For AEC, they are developing “architectural workbench” which in time will allow creating BIM models and proper architectural documentation. We can easily imagine that in the future, this approach could result in establishing separate workbenches for structural engineers, HVAC consultants or facade engineers.
    So far similarly to commercial programs we can create 3d models by using basic elements (walls, floors, windows etc) and FreeCAD is able to create simple views from them (plans, sections, and elevations).
    For more information, visit project page at: https://www.freecadweb.org/

    IFC.JS

    Currently, more and more of us work on online CDE platforms, software vendors are creating their own markets with apps and there is more discussion what to do with all the data created during design and construction stages. Of course, big companies are already trying to gain control over this data to make us again dependent on them. This time not only during the design but also during the whole lifespan of a building.
    But there is IFC.JS. It is a fast and easy to learn toolkit which allows using IFC models inside your browser. Because of used technology it is compatible with all the platforms (windows, mac, linux, android, iOS) and it is extremely user friendly. You just need some basic knowledge about building webpages (HTML, JavaScript and CSS) and you are ready to go.
    For more information, visit project page at: https://ifcjs.github.io/info/

    Speckle

    Everyone in the industry is aware how problematic is bringing data (3d models or even simple 2d lines) from one program to another. Best case scenario, each time you decide to do it you lose parts of data, editability or the model you imported doesn’t look good on the drawings. Worst case, you are unable to do it or imported models are useless. For sure you will waste time doing it.
    Most of us end up staying in the realm of one software vendor, maybe using different set of programs during concept design and others for design development and construction. But what if you could decide? Frankly speaking I think you should be able to decide. Some programs are much better in one area but are lacking in another. What is more important we have different strengths. Why someone who is a great façade designer should struggle simply because he doesn’t know software used in one particular project. It doesn’t make sense. I think we often forget that we are much more than the software we are using.
    Developers of Speckle are trying to close those gaps. They developed “connectors” between the most popular AEC applications allowing smooth exchange between them. At the same time their platform introduces many other features like version control, collaboration, automation and easy access to data by others (You can use .NET, Python and JavaScript).
    For more information, visit project page at: https://speckle.systems/

    Other software for your practice (not-only AEC)

    The list of open-source software doesn’t stop here. Next time instead of buying commercial software try finding first an online open-source alternative. There is a big chance it already exists.
    Meanwhile please find below my personal choice of programs you may use in your office (their development and current friendliness varies, but you should check them all):
    LibreOffice
    Thunderbird
    Gimp
    Krita
    Scribus
    Inkscape
    LibreCAD
    QCAD

    Conclusions

    Open-source software for AEC is slowly emerging. It is being created for us by people like us. So get involved. Support open-source developers and be always ready to learn new programs. Convince your university to teach open-source software and install some open-source software on your workstation. Instead of learning expensive 2d graphic software, invest some time to learn Gimp or Inkscape. If you are a director, change the way your office works and give more chance to the people who know open source.
    For more information and more ways to help visit osarch.org. The Open-Source Architecture Community brings together like-minded users and developers who share a common goal: that the built environment can be designed, constructed, operated, and recycled with free/libre and open-source software, with increased transparency, and a more ethical approach. We’re creating a place where everyone involved in the built environment’s conception and life can meet, inspire and collaborate to develop empowering digital tools.
    Blender Foundation and all the people involved in the development of Blender proved that it is possible to make a breach. They changed the computer graphic industry forever. We just need to follow in their footsteps. This way we might not have to sign another letter to Autodesk.

    Acepaireks
  • Thanks for the update, it is looking more fit for publication :) The title and intro are maybe a bit too pushy and cynical. There is no deadline.

  • J_WJ_W
    edited October 2022

    Hey all,
    It is me again. I was firstly super busy and later stayed sick in bed doing nothing for a couple of days (nothing serious just some virus).
    Update below. I made it much more positive and more fun to read - I also added some info here and there .
    Let's start to finalise it! Opinions, mistakes, proof-read are all very welcome especially now;)
    @lukas Thanks, to make it easier I will keep editing this post

    It is your fight too!

    Open-source against the big tech companies

    Intro

    Last month Nordic architectural associations send an open letter to Autodesk expressing their concerns. They listed many problems and challenges which are well-known to anyone who use daily its software.
    In a few words Autodesk was criticized for its slow development of core programs, a lack of communication with their users, disregard of their needs and latest changes in their licensing system which made Autodesk software more expensive to use. Sadly, it is not the first and probably not the last open letter send to Autodesk which voice these problems.
    Link to the letter:

    Read the letter, and if you have not signed it yet, do it now!
    But what next? You might post something about it on LinkedIn and during Friday beer with your colleagues you might tell them how much you disapprove tech giants' practices and how their behaviour is harmful to the whole AEC industry. But you know that it will not change anything because next Monday you will have to as always “create your local model” and continue your work as nothing happened… To the next letter, which for sure someone else will write soon.
    Sounds hopeless!
    We should not feel this way. We are architects, bim coordiators, designers and other professionals who on daily basis envision better future for our cities and communities, better ways for people to live and work, and more sustain ways of using scarce resources we have. We need the best tools we can have because our work makes a difference!
    In this short article I will show you that the change is coming. And what is even more important, this time is up to us how the software, we are going to use to design the buildings, will look like!

    Story of Blender

    We are not the first ones who feel that our position with software vendors is desperate and that we are doomed to pay whatever they want for whatever they provide. If you go back in time to 2002 and take a deep look at the 3d graphic industry, you will see similarities with our current architectural scene. It was a time when big software vendors dictated the rules for the whole computer graphic scene. At that time, you could not make anything related to 3d without buying extremely expensive software.
    But there was a man with a vision, Ton Roosendaal and a community which wanted a change. In 2002 Blender Foundation was founded by them and after collecting €100,000 from the community to “free Blender”, the 3d graphic scene had its own free and open-source alternative.
    The beginnings were tough, but nowadays, Blender is one of the most popular 3d graphic software used at the same time by professional studios and hobbyists around the globe. The number of Blender users has grown significantly in the last twenty years. “In 2020 Blender has been downloaded over 14M times from blender.org. With 4 major releases during the year, this is an average of 3.5M downloads per release.” In many areas, it managed to be better than commercial programs, accelerating the growth of the whole industry.
    Some people even say that its popularity pushed Autodesk to create much cheaper “indie” licenses for Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya. Also, other software vendors started offering much cheaper licences for so-called “hobbyist”, “small studios”, or “freelancers”.
    Meanwhile Blender’s large community of driven individuals creates countless tutorials, models and add-ons accessible for everyone, mostly for free. They are giving back into the project, making it easier for everybody to start and do whatever they want. And people are doing amazing things with it! They constantly push the limits of what 3d graphic programs can do. You can easily find online the whole movies made with Blender, models ready for 3d printing, games or examples of stunning art.
    It is a force of pure creativity, unbound by monthly subscription fee or proprietary code!
    For more information, visit project page at: https://www.blender.org/

    Open-source programs for architects?

    So, where are we in terms of creating “our” BIM Software? Somewhere at the beginning, which means we still have our fight for free and open-source software for architects ahead of us. But there are several initiatives which need your help and involvement right now!

    BlenderBIM Add-on

    So, I already have told you how great Blender is. Obviously, there are several cases to use it in your practice, just to name a few - architectural visualisations, concept design, parametric design (geometry nodes and Sverchok), analyses (ladybug for blender) and many others. But what if you could do “BIM” in Blender?
    Developers of BlenderBIM Add-on are responding to this question. Their add-on allows its users to open IFC models and work on them in Blender. It opens the entire world of Blender to IFC format. By doing it, it creates a space, a framework, for its further use. BlenderBIM developers are already implementing several “OpenBIM Utilities” like clash detection, IFC validation or tools for COBie.
    It sounds even better when you take into consideration all existing and future options provided by Blender like precise and easy modelling tools, real time rendering engine Eevee, geometry nodes or grease pencil.
    With time and resources, this project has a potential to seriously influence the industry by combining BIM approach and IFC format with a sophisticated 3d graphic program.
    Personally, I am already using it at work. For example, BlenderBIM is a perfect tool to check the quality of IFC files even when most of the IFC viewers have problems with opening them. For some reason, this tiny addon is always able to open them. After taking a quick peak you can easily see where the problem is and if needed export your file to a different format.
    For more information, visit project page at: https://blenderbim.org/

    FreeCAD Arch Workbench

    FreeCAD has an enormous potential. This program was released in 2002 as a CAD software primarily aimed at engineers. It was designed as a 3D parametric modeler rather than computer aided drawing board. Think about it as an alternative to Autodesk Inventor or Solidworks rather than typical CAD program known in architecture.
    But then came “BIM” and idea of working in 3d environment instead of making 2d drawings gained popularity between architects. Happily, FreeCAD was designed in a way which allows us to extend it as a BIM authoring software. From the beginning its developers wanted it to become a platform with unique sets of tools dedicated to different fields of work. Because of that FreeCAD is divided into so-called “workbenches” which contain sets of special functions and commands. For example, for AEC they develop a separate “architectural workbench”. We can easily imagine that in future this approach could result in establishing new workbenches for structural engineers, HVAC consultants or facade engineers.
    The software is in an early stage of development but by now we can create 3d models by using basic elements (walls, floors, windows etc.) and generate simple views from them (plans, sections, and elevations).
    For more information, visit project page at: https://www.freecadweb.org/

    IFC.JS

    Nowadays increasingly more of us work on online CDE platforms, software vendors are creating their own markets with apps and there is constant discussion what to do with all the data created during design and construction stages. Of course, big companies are already trying to gain control over it to make us more dependent on them. This time not only during the design but also during the whole lifespan of a building.
    But there is IFC.JS. It is a fast and easy to learn toolkit which allows opening IFC models inside your browser. Because of used technology it is compatible with all major platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS) and it is extremely user friendly. You just need some basic knowledge about building webpages (HTML, JavaScript and CSS) and you are ready to go.
    For more information, visit project page at: https://ifcjs.github.io/info/

    Speckle

    Everyone in the industry is aware how risky and time consuming is bringing data from one program to another. 3d models, simple 2d lines, even data in spreadsheets – all of them come with problems and challenges. Best case scenario, each time you do it you lose parts of it or its editability. Additionally, there is always a big chance that there will be something seriously wrong with how your model shows on other software. Worst case, you are simply unable to do it or imported data are useless. For sure you will waste a lot of time doing it. Because of that we end up staying in the realm of one software vendor, sometimes using separate set of programs for concept design and other set for design development and construction.
    But what if you could decide? Frankly speaking I am sure that you should be able to decide. Some programs are much better in one area but are lacking in another. What is more important we have different strengths. Why someone who is a great façade designer should struggle simply because he does not know software used in one project. It does not make sense!
    We often forget that we are much more than the software we use. Developers of Speckle are trying to remind us about it by closing gaps between different software. They developed “connectors” between the most popular AEC applications allowing smooth exchange of data between them. At the same time their platform introduces many other features like version control, collaboration, automation and easy access to data by others (You can use .NET, Python and JavaScript).
    For more information, visit project page at: https://speckle.systems/

    Other software for your practice (not-only AEC)

    The list of open-source software does not stop here. We just present the major ones, but it does not mean that there are no other open-source projects worth supporting.
    Meanwhile please find below my personal choice of programs you may use in your office and your daily life. Their development and current friendliness vary, but you should check them all:
    LibreOffice
    Thunderbird
    Gimp
    Krita
    Scribus
    Inkscape
    LibreCAD
    QCAD

    Conclusions and Open-Source Architecture Community

    Open-source software for AEC is slowly emerging. It is created for us by people like us. So, get involved however you can. Support its developers and always be ready to learn new open-source programs. Become developer yourself. Convince your university to teach open-source software instead of closed source software – In the end they use taxpayers’ money to teach it and it makes people dependent for life on paid solutions. Install open-source software on your workstation. Instead of learning expensive 2d graphic software, invest few hours to learn Gimp or Inkscape. You do not need to spend a lot of money to change contrast of a photo, draw a few lines and add some text. If you are a director, change the way your office works and give more chances to the people who know open-source programs. Sometimes all they need from you is a permission to install it on company computers.
    For more information and more ways to help visit us at osarch.org. The Open-Source Architecture Community brings together like-minded users and developers who share a common goal: that the built environment can be designed, constructed, operated, and recycled with free/libre and open-source software, with increased transparency, and a more ethical approach. We are creating a place where everyone involved in the built environment’s conception and life can meet, inspire and collaborate to develop empowering digital tools.
    Blender Foundation and all the people involved in the development of Blender proved that it is possible to make a breach. They changed the computer graphic industry forever. We just need to “the same thing” again! This way we will not have to sign any another letter to Autodesk ever again.

    AceMartin156131
  • The beginnings were thought, but nowadays, Blender is one of the most popula >> tough ?

    J_W
  • Thanks a lot for the latest! I know how difficult it is to summarise these kinds of concepts, so I really appreciate the work.
    I made some cleanups to the language and tightened some sentences a bit. I am including the cleaned version below. If curious, you can check it with some text diffing tool, even with an online one like https://www.diffchecker.com/
    I included an "about the author" bit at the end. Let me know, if you want to change it or expand it.
    I think I could translate the text into Finnish over the weekend. Then I could send it to the Finnish association and also send the English text to the other associations in case they want to translate and publish it.

    It is your fight too!

    Open-source against the big tech companies

    Intro

    In September 2022 Nordic architectural associations sent an open letter to Autodesk expressing their concerns. They listed many problems and challenges which are well-known to any daily user of Autodesk software products.

    In a few words Autodesk was criticized for its slow development of core programs, a lack of communication with their users, disregard for their needs and latest changes in their licensing system which made its software much more expensive to use. Sadly, it is not the first and probably not the last open letter sent to Autodesk voicing these problems.
    Link to the letter: https://www.the-nordic-letter.com/

    Read it, and if you have not signed it yet, do it now!

    What next? You might post something about it on LinkedIn and tell your colleagues over Friday beers how much you disapprove of tech giants' practices and how their behaviour is harmful to the whole AEC industry. However, you know that it will not change anything because next Monday you will have to as always “create your local model” and continue your work as if nothing happened… Onward to the next letter, which for sure someone else will write soon.
    Sounds hopeless!

    We should not feel this way. We are architects, BIM coordinators, designers and other professionals who on a daily basis envision a better future for our cities and communities, better ways for people to live and work, and more sustainable ways of using the scarce resources we have. We need the best tools we can have because our work makes a difference!
    In this short article I will show you that the change is coming. What is even more important, this time it is up to us to decide how the software we use to design the buildings will look like!

    The story of Blender

    We are not the first ones who feel that our position with software vendors is desperate and that we are doomed to pay whatever they want for whatever they provide. If you go back in time to 2002 and take a deep look at the 3d graphics industry, you will see similarities with our current architectural scene. It was a time when big software vendors dictated the rules for the whole computer graphics scene. At that time, you could not make anything related to 3d without buying extremely expensive software.
    But there was a man with a vision, Ton Roosendaal and a community wanting a change. In 2002 Blender Foundation was founded and after collecting €100,000 from the community to “free Blender”, the 3d graphics scene had its own free and open-source alternative.
    The beginnings were tough, but nowadays, Blender is one of the most popular 3d graphics software used at the same time by professional studios and hobbyists around the globe. The number of Blender users has grown significantly in the last twenty years. Quoting from a “Blender by the Numbers – 2020” blog post: “In 2020 Blender has been downloaded over 14M times from blender.org. With 4 major releases during the year, this is an average of 3.5M downloads per release.” In many areas, it managed to be better than commercial programs, accelerating the growth of the whole industry.
    Some people even say that its popularity pushed Autodesk to create much cheaper “indie” licenses for Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya. Also, other software vendors started offering much cheaper licences for so-called “hobbyist”, “small studios”, or “freelancers”.
    Meanwhile Blender’s large community of driven individuals creates countless tutorials, models and add-ons accessible for everyone, mostly for free. They are giving back into the project, making it easier for everybody to start and do whatever they want. And people are doing amazing things with it! They constantly push the limits of what 3d graphics programs can do. You can easily find online feature animations made with Blender, models ready for 3d printing, games or examples of stunning art.
    It is a force of pure creativity, unbound by monthly subscription fees or proprietary code!
    For more information, visit the project site at: https://www.blender.org/

    Open-source programs for architects?

    Where are we in terms of creating “our” BIM Software? Somewhere at the beginning, which means we still have our fight for free and open-source software for architects ahead of us. There are several initiatives which need your help and involvement right now!

    BlenderBIM Add-on

    I already told you how great Blender is. Obviously, there are several cases for using it in your practice, just to name a few - architectural visualisations, concept design, parametric design (geometry nodes and Sverchok), analyses (Ladybug Tools for Blender) and many others. What if you could do “BIM” in Blender?
    Developers of BlenderBIM Add-on are responding to this question. Their add-on allows working on IFC models in Blender. It opens the entire world of Blender to the IFC format. By doing so, it creates a space, a framework, for its further use. BlenderBIM developers are already implementing several “OpenBIM Utilities” like clash detection, IFC validation or tools for COBie.
    It sounds even better when you take into consideration all the existing and future options provided by Blender like precise and easy modeling tools, real time rendering engine Eevee, geometry nodes or grease pencil.
    With time and resources, this project has the potential to seriously influence the industry by combining the BIM approach and the IFC format with a sophisticated 3d graphics program.
    Personally, I am already using it at work. For example, BlenderBIM is a perfect tool for checking the quality of IFC files even when most of the IFC viewers have problems with opening them. For some reason, this tiny addon is always able to open them. After taking a quick peek you can easily see where the problem is and if needed export your file to a different format.
    For more information, visit the project site at: https://blenderbim.org/

    FreeCAD Arch Workbench

    FreeCAD has an enormous potential. This program was released in 2002 as a CAD software primarily aimed at engineers. It was designed as a 3D parametric modeler rather than computer aided drawing board. Think about it as an alternative to Autodesk Inventor or Solidworks rather than a typical CAD program known in architecture.
    Then “BIM” arrived with the idea of working in a 3d environment instead of making 2d drawings gained popularity between architects. Happily, FreeCAD was designed in a way which allows us to extend it as a BIM authoring software. From the beginning its developers wanted it to become a platform with unique sets of tools dedicated to different fields of work. Because of that FreeCAD is divided into so-called “workbenches” which contain sets of special functions and commands. For example, for AEC they develop a separate “architectural workbench”. We can easily imagine that in the future this approach could result in establishing new workbenches for structural engineers, HVAC consultants or façade engineers.
    The software is in an early stage of development but by now we can create 3d models by using basic elements (walls, floors, windows etc.) and generate simple views from them (plans, sections, and elevations).
    For more information, visit the project site at: https://www.freecadweb.org/

    IFC.JS

    Nowadays increasingly many of us work in online common data environment (CDE) platforms, software vendors are creating their own markets with apps and there is constant discussion on what to do with all the data created during design and construction stages. Of course, big companies are already trying to gain control over it to make us more dependent on them. This time not only during the design phase but also during the whole lifespan of a building.
    Enter IFC.JS. It is a fast and easy to learn toolkit which allows opening IFC models inside your browser. Because of the choice of technology it is compatible with all major platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS) and it is extremely user friendly. You just need some basic knowledge about building webpages (HTML, JavaScript and CSS) and you are ready to go.
    For more information, visit the project site at: https://ifcjs.github.io/info/

    Speckle

    Everyone in the industry is aware how risky and time consuming it is to bring data from one program to another. 3d models, simple 2d lines, even data in spreadsheets – all of them come with problems and challenges. Best case scenario, each time you do it you lose parts of it or its editability. Additionally, there is always a big chance that there will be something seriously wrong with how your model looks like on other software. Worst case, you are simply unable to do it or imported data are useless. For sure you will waste a lot of time doing it. Because of that we end up staying in the realm of one software vendor, sometimes using a separate set of programs for concept design and another set for design development and construction.
    What if you could decide, though? Actually, you should definitely be able to decide. Some programs are much better in one area but are lacking in another. What is more important we have different strengths. Why should a great façade designer struggle simply because they don’t know the software used in one project. It does not make sense!
    We often forget that we are much more than the software we use. Developers of Speckle are trying to remind us about it by closing gaps between different software. They developed “connectors” between the most popular AEC applications allowing smooth exchange of data between them. At the same time their platform introduces many other features like version control, collaboration, automation and easy access to data by others (you can use .NET, Python and JavaScript).
    For more information, visit the project site at: https://speckle.systems/

    Other software for your practice (not-only AEC)

    The list of open-source software does not stop here. We just looked at the ones most relevant to AEC, but it does not mean that there are no other open-source projects worth supporting.
    Meanwhile please find below my personal choice of programs you may use in your office and your daily life. Their stage of development and user-friendliness varies, but you should check them all:
    LibreOffice
    Thunderbird
    Gimp
    Krita
    Scribus
    Inkscape
    LibreCAD
    QCAD

    Conclusions and Open-Source Architecture Community

    Open-source software for AEC is slowly emerging. It is created for us by people like us. So, get involved however you can. Support its developers and always be ready to learn new open-source programs. Become a developer yourself. Convince your university to teach open-source software instead of closed source software – in the end they use taxpayers’ money to teach it and it makes people dependent for life on paid solutions. Install open-source software on your workstation. Instead of learning expensive 2d graphics software, invest a few hours into learning Gimp or Inkscape. You do not need to spend a lot of money to change the contrast of a photo, draw a few lines and add some text. If you are a director, change the way your office works and give more chances to the people who know open-source programs. Sometimes all they need from you is a permission to install it on company computers.
    For more information and more ways to help visit us at https://osarch.org/. The Open-Source Architecture Community brings together like-minded users and developers who share a common goal: that the built environment can be designed, constructed, operated, and recycled with free/libre and open-source software, with increased transparency, and a more ethical approach. We are creating a place where everyone involved in the built environment’s conception and life can meet, inspire and collaborate to develop empowering digital tools.
    Blender Foundation and all the people involved in the development of Blender proved that it is possible to make a breach. They changed the computer graphics industry forever. We just need to do “the same thing” again! This way we will not have to sign any letters to Autodesk ever again.

    About the author:
    Julian Wandzilak is an architect, designer and BIM coordinator based in Kraków, Poland.

    J_W
  • J_WJ_W
    edited October 2022

    Great work. I added some more details about me to make it more solid and more personal about open-source.
    Regarding the publication:
    1. I will try to contact some people in Poland (both in professional associations and arch newspapers) to get us some publicity here. And I can always translate it to Polish.
    2. Pictures - We need pictures ;) I think we need at least I picture about each mentioned software! I will try to look for some and contact some people for permission to use them.
    3. Small things I noticed:
    Then “BIM” arrived <<>> the idea of working in a 3d environment instead of making 2d drawings gained popularity between architects.
    =>
    Then “BIM” arrived and the idea of working in a 3d environment instead of making 2d drawings gained popularity between architects.

    Nowadays <<>> many of us work in online common data environment (CDE) platforms, software vendors are creating their own markets with apps and there is constant discussion on what to do with all the data created during design and construction stages
    =>
    Nowadays, many of us work in online common data environment (CDE) platforms, software vendors are creating their own markets with apps and there is constant discussion on what to do with all the data created during design and construction stages

    What if you could decide, thoug => What if you could decide?

    About the author:
    Julian Wandzilak is an architectural designer and a BIM coordinator who gained his BIM experience working in the UK and USA. Currently, he is based in Kraków, Poland and is involved in several architectural projects located not only in his home country, but also in Norway and Australia.
    He learned Blender back during his university years to do his first creative job – almost 200 illustrations for an e-learning platform. He supports Open-Source because he prefers to compete with people based on skills, merit and quality of their work, rather than based on what software they can afford to buy.

  • @J_W said:
    2. Pictures - We need pictures ;) I think we need at least I picture about each mentioned software! I will try to look for some and contact some people for permission to use them.

    Yes, the same occurred to me today. Regarding FreeCAD, it can be straightforward to pick something from the wiki as the license is already known (CC BY 3.0).

  • I'm liking how the article is improving with each revision, but I feel it reads far too much like a personal rant that has been watered down a bit, instead of something more informative. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes it seem this way, but I feel that it waters down the constructiveness of pointing people to alternative solutions. Perhaps it's the way there is a lot of references to a collective "we" that sounds like a rally cry.

    Is it possible to redraft it to be less rally-like? Or would you be interested if someone else (e.g. myself?) had a shot at revising the text?

    duncanJ_Wtheoryshaw
  • edited October 2022

    @J_W
    2. Pictures - We need pictures ;) I think we need at least I picture about each mentioned software! I will try to look for some and contact some people for permission to use them.

    There are some images here: https://wiki.osarch.org/index.php?title=AECO_Workflow_Examples which also link to the original source where there sometimes are newer better images.

    I think it would be a great idea if @Moult has time to do some editing. If we throw it up on etherpad I'd be happy to spend a few minutes after @Moult doing some final polishing.

    J_W
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