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Autodesk updates design software

The drafting and design software maker releases a new version of Revit, its 3D design software, that's meant to supplant blueprints.

Drafting and design software maker Autodesk released a new version Wednesday of Revit, the company's software for creating 3D building designs.

Revit, which Autodesk acquired last year with its buyout of Revit Technology, has become a centerpiece of Autodesk's campaign to shift the architecture and construction industries away from blueprints.

Rather than producing paper design documents, a task most commonly done with Autodesk's AutoCAD drafting software, Revit creates electronic design documents that contain much more information than paper allows.

Instead of simply creating lines and curves, Revit recognizes different elements of a building and applies appropriate logic to them, said Phil Bernstein, Autodesk vice president. A door added to a design, for example, will be accompanied by specifications stored in a database accessible to contractors and others. Revit also automatically keeps track of building materials.

"The architect can very easily say, 'You've got this many yards of Sheetrock; this much concrete,'" Bernstein said. "Those were all things that were estimated by wild-to-educated guess before. Even something as basic as calculating the rentable area in a building had to be done by hand."

Revit lets architects alter designs more efficiently and allows them to reuse design elements, Bernstein said. The design document is also richer, giving viewers a three-dimensional image of the building that gives much more information than a flat representation.

"There are places in a building where the systems converge--like the roof and the walls and electrical and ventilation systems," Bernstein said. "The relationships there are really critical, and the view in Revit tells you a lot more about what's going on."

Most architecture firms use Revit for the initial stages of the design process, Bernstein said, eventually shifting data to AutoCAD to produce the blueprints most contractors and clients still demand. But a growing number have shifted to an entirely electronic design process.

"Ninety-nine percent of the world is trained in AutoCAD, so it's sort of a failsafe option for output," he said. "But we do have customers that have abandoned AutoCAD altogether; they're pure Revit."

Enhancements in Revit 6 include new collaboration capabilities and design tools that allow greater freedom for blending information from sketches with finished building models. The software is available now through resellers or as part of Autodesk's subscription program, at an annual rate of $695 per license.