New tools for modelling infrastructure design are helping to create high quality results while decreasing design and modelling costs. Mark Paraskeva was recently appointed Vice-President of Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMIA) for Autodesk. New development and re-development in these regions is contributing significantly to company revenue and several new products are contributing to this growth and solving project needs. V1 Magazine editor Jeff Thurston interviewed Mark Paraskeva about his new position, the growth in these regions, the products and some of the challenges in the future.
V1 Magazine: Recognising that you have recently been promoted to your EMIA position, how is it different from what you were doing previously? What are your impressions and observations of the new area you are responsible for?
MP: Previously, I was responsible for Autodesk Northern Europe – an area on the whole very sophisticated in its use of digital technology. Now, I’m overseeing the whole of EMIA – Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. This an area of over 100 countries and huge contrasts in standard of living, language and economic opportunity, let alone how they design and innovate.
The new area brings massive opportunities – especially as it covers some of the fastest growing regions in the world and places where urbanisation is happening at a rapid pace.
Countries such as India and Russia are eager to compete with the West and are looking at ways to do so on an equal footing.
Changes in these places are happening in the digital age and at a time when climate change and other environmental issues are of great concern – architects, local governments, planners and so on have an opportunity to do things more efficiently and sustainably from the very beginning.
On the other hand, there are aspects of my new role that are very similar to the last. Especially in the way that we aim to learn from how different countries do things and take best practices from wherever we find them. It’s a learning experience.
To illustrate this; my territory now encompasses central Europe and generally many businesses, utilities and municipalities in, say Switzerland and Germany have been smart about the way they digitalise, centralise and manage their asset data – this led to our acquisition of Topobase which integrates GIS, CAD and asset data.
For example, the Düsseldorf-based firm, Henkel uses Autodesk Topobase with an Oracle Spatial database and finds it can update spatial and design data, as much as ten times faster. We can learn from the area’s great diversity and draw together the best from each region.
V1 Magazine: It was recently announced that Autodesk EMIA contributes over a billion dollars to the company revenues. How significant are infrastructure and sustainability related issues to that amount?
MP: As mentioned above, the development and redevelopment of infrastructure across EMIA is massive - and I would say that providing tools so that our customers can make more sustainable design decisions in developing this infrastructure is a major priority for Autodesk.
In fact, there’s a whole complex mix of trends interweaving here: an increased demand for geospatial data, heightened global competition for work, the economic downturn, climate change – all these macro-economic trends are combining so that customers across the region need solutions that enable them to work faster and more effectively, but at the same time make responsible and properly informed decisions about their designs or their assets.
So Autodesk sees itself in the frontline, providing as we do CAD software covering architectural, structural and civil design, GIS and mapping solutions, visualisation and analysis tools.
So yes, infrastructure and sustainability related issues are of growing importance across the region because we believe we have solutions that can really help right across the board. The expansion of our portfolio of solutions that facilitate more sustainable design is a testament to our commitment and these are enabling customers to design buildings and infrastructure in a way that they just couldn’t do – or wasn’t commercially viable before.
For example, one of our customers, the global architects HOK, wrote a complete wish-list of environmental strategies to pursue when they designed the Sheraton Ulaanbaatar Hotel in Mongolia. Because the Mongolian weather is extreme they wanted to create a building that was both aesthetically pleasing and energy efficient.
Using Revit Architecture with Autodesk Ecotect Analysis (and the structural consultant used Revit Structure) they were able to work through their list. For example, they were able to use Autodesk Ecotect Analysis to test how effectively the shadings they had designed blocked the summer sun, while still allowing sun to come through during winter. When the team discovered that some sunlight still entered the hotel during the summer, they repositioned the devices – improving the performance, while at the same time, ensuring easier window cleaning!
So as you see, we are really progressing in the area of analysis and testing for more environmentally-sound solutions – and also in the interoperability of products to facilitate these.
V1 Magazine: Several digital cities have been announced by Autodesk globally and at least one of them is located in EMIA – in Salzburg, Austria. Can you provide an overview of this initiative and what you hope to achieve with it? Why Salzburg and not London, Paris or some other place.
MP: Autodesk is working with the University of Salzburg’s Centre for Geoinformation on the pilot. The university is a longstanding partner and has many year’s experience in geospatial and infrastructure issues. Also, Salzburg is globally renowned as a beautiful city with a matchless heritage so planning, tourism and sustainable development issues are all under the spotlight here and these are all areas that will benefit greatly from the scheme. So we wanted to start somewhere – and Salzburg was the right place at the right time, but it certainly doesn’t rule out any other city in the region in the future.
The goal of the pilot is to bring together 3D models of above and below ground features in an open platform that supports secure and robust integration of CAD, building information modelling (BIM), geospatial, civil engineering and infrastructure data over a wide geographic area.
By combining this data with realistic visualisation, analysis and simulation tools, Salzburg will be able to better understand the impact of plans and proposals from any point in time and from any point of view.
V1 Magazine: 3D Geo GmbH, A spin-off of the Hasso Platter-Institute in Berlin is now a company owned by Autodesk. Can you explain how it operates and where it fits into the Autodesk program across EMIA?
MP: For a good few years now, Autodesk has had a policy of acquiring promising new technologies and investing in them to make relevant and available to a wider customer base. This is an efficient way of fast-tracking new advances and making them accessible more rapidly to our customers. Major acquisitions over the past few years include Softimage, 3D modelling software for games, TV and film, Ecotect and Green Building Studio both part of our sustainability portfolio. We’re taking the same approach to 3D Geo’s flagship product LandXplorer as we have done with these other acquisitions and have taken them in under the Autodesk umbrella.
LandXplorer was already used widely in central Europe – and quite rightly so, as it’s a very user-friendly and valuable product. However, it had very little take-up beyond this area.
Now as Autodesk LandXplorer it has a much wider reach. Already, Autodesk’s data access technology, FDO, has been added to allow direct access to geospatial data, whether held in a file format such as shp or sdf, or a spatial database such as Oracle Spatial or MySQL. This also means it can aggregate and visualise data from AutoCAD, AutoCAD Map 3D, Revit Architecture, Topobase and 3ds Max.
The advantage this brings is a real flexibility in level of detail and an accuracy and precision not possible with other products on the market.
So, LandXplorer fits very neatly with our concept of digital cities and also it builds on our range of products that integrate CAD and GIS.
V1 Magazine: AutoCAD 2010 is focusing upon documentation and design. There is a strong focus on 3D within the product. It appears that interest in 3D is growing, particularly on the building information modelling (BIM) front. What is your philosophy with respect to 3D and how does it link to the products you offer?
MP: Our aim has always been to enable users of our software create higher quality and more innovative designs, faster and more economically. Being able to work in 3D enables users to visualise, simulate and analyse designs on screen, effectively experiencing their ideas before they are real. In other words we see this as current best practice for many projects.
Autodesk was the first to use the term building information modelling or BIM and we firmly believe that it is the future. Currently, the industry is undergoing a paradigm shift even more significant than that from manual drafting to CAD. We’ve been talking about it for a long time, but due to trends such as globalisation and the general need to do more with less – plus, of course, the current economic situation, we’re reaching a tipping point.
It’s inevitable that as the economic downturn bites, more design professionals are going to do all they can to streamline the way they work and so we expect an increase in take-up of BIM and other 3D tools. While they had plenty of work, the urgency wasn’t there, but it is now.
Perhaps more importantly, they now also have some more time to assess their strategies and review the way they work. They are not only looking at ways to survive the recession, but also to prepare for the recovery. Also with increasing government regulations on the performance of buildings and the increasing concern about climate change and minimising consumption, they need a cost-effective method of complying with ever more rigorous guidelines.
And as more firms use BIM processes and tools, so will momentum grow further. Some large contractors are now specifying that sub-contractors and other partners are BIM ready, so all the signs that it will become standard practice are in place.
Having said that – we are a world leader in both 2D and 3D design and recognise that in some cases 2D or a combination of both 2D and 3D works best. In some instances, our products are the only ones on the market that enable both while using the same solution.
V1 Magazine: Everyone is scrambling with budgets at the present time due to the economic climate. What does Autodesk bring to the table that helps business, government and institutions meet these challenges?
MP: All organisations across EMIA – whether they be government departments or businesses – are facing huge challenges. They have a choice on how to address these; they can cut everything, plan to sit out the recession and hope that they will still be around for the upturn. Or they can re-engineer their design processes and make a strategic investment in technology that will help them compete more effectively.
All the advice on how to survive a downturn hinges on remaining innovative, not cutting back on new products and services and definitely not cutting back on technology that can help you be proactive - but do it more economically and efficiently.
Autodesk software helps users reduce costs by minimising errors and waste, reduce timescales by streamlining processes and eliminating inaccuracies and become more innovative by providing ways to visualise, simulate and test designs options on screen at a very early stage. Businesses are having to balance cost management with essential spending – so any investments they do make have to show an early return. Because our software enables users to work faster and more accurately but at the same time enabling better design innovation and creativity, it presents a win-win opportunity.
Take our Topobase software mentioned earlier – the Bavarian utility company ÜZ Lülsfeld has reported savings of around €100,000 a year after implementing Topobase to combine all asset data in a centralised database. So technology can provide tangible savings, as well as help do things better.
V1 Magazine: Sustainability, environment and energy efficiency are growning concerns, Autodesk speaks about Sustainable Design. What does this mean and how does it relate to the environment and sustainability?
MP: Yes, sustainable design in the way that Autodesk uses it is a broad term. The traditional definition of sustainability, from the Brundtland Commission in 1987 is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” At Autodesk, we have taken the definition one step further. Our definition of sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their needs in the areas of the environment plus social and economic demands.” Design is the key to making this happen.
When it comes to construction and infrastructure, sustainable design means creating resource efficient buildings (for example, buildings that are as energy-efficient as possible and make the most effective use of materials) and infrastructure that has no or little detrimental impact on the environment. And doing these things creating as little waste as possible in construction.
At Autodesk, we are committed to simplifying and enabling sustainable design for our customers and we feel that the single and most important contribution that we can make to this cause is to provide them with the very best design and engineering software which enables smarter design decisions to address these challenges.
So in other words, using CAD to design a road or a building doesn’t make it sustainable in itself– but with the right functionality, it enables fast and cost-effective analysis, testing and measuring to ensure users can reach the optimum design as rapidly as possible. This may involve making the most effective use of natural light in a building, avoiding the over-engineering a product, calculating cut and fill volumes for earthworks more precisely or simply ensuring more accurate ordering of raw materials.
An example of this is our newly-launched Autodesk Ecotect Analysis software which provides architects and engineers with a way to better understand and address – at the earliest stages of the design process – how environmental factors such as solar, thermal, shading, lighting and airflow will affect a building’s performance.
This represents a big step forward in making sustainability an integral part of the design rather than an expensive extra.
V1 Magazine: Many people have commented on the fact that geospatial related sectors and architectural/ engineering areas are converging in terms of tools, technologies and approaches. Do you feel this is true? Isn’t a product like AutoCAD Map 3D and AutoCAD Civil 3D as likely to be used by an engineer as a geographer? Are you seeing changes in user workflows?
MP: Yes, yes and yes… It’s a natural progression that tools and processes become interoperable creating synergies and streamlining workflows – and, for a long time, we have seen a significant crossover of users our infrastructure modelling products.
However, I know, publications such as your own have been writing about the integration of CAD and GIS for what seems like years. However, in the UK late last year we held a series of workshops for local government professionals who told us very clearly that the blending of CAD and GIS was still one of their major challenges. Although the technology – and the will – are there, there are still barriers of culture and attitude to cross. But it is happening, perhaps slowly, but definitely surely.
V1 Magazine: Your territory is a large one. How are people using Autodesk products differently across it? Are there any unique challenges or issues in EMIA for Autodesk?
MP: As you say it’s large, but also extremely diverse. In some areas it is really leading the way – ahead of the US. The work being done with LandXplorer is a case in point. However, in others we are still talking about the benefits of discipline-specific products such as AutoCAD Map 3D as opposed to vanilla AutoCAD.
I think the world is now too small – and the region itself too large for EMIA to have many unique challenges. Different pockets or countries may have individual issues they need to address; for example the EU directive INSPIRE is impacting local authorities and municipalities in Europe and in many countries, government regulations regarding accountability and transparency are increasing.
In the UK, there are the 2012 Olympics which will put the building and construction industries under scrutiny once again. However, like it or not, the problems we face now such as climate change are global issues rather than regional ones.
V1 Magazine: What are your challenges as you move ahead and what would you like to bring to EMIA as you move ahead?
MP: The main challenge is to ensure greater collaboration and learning between the different countries across the region. As I mentioned previously, we can learn much from how others are doing things and how their own individual set of circumstances has prompted innovation and new processes.
Personally, I would like to spread the word on the benefits of experiencing ideas before they are real. Creating what is effectively a digital prototype of a product, infrastructure, building or, better still, a complete digital city - visualising, simulating and analysing it on screen – will lead to far better and more sustainable end results and help the industry play a part in addressing some the pressing global challenges of today and of the future.
Since February 2009, Mark Paraskeva has been Autodesk’s vice president of Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMIA), responsible for Autodesk’s operations across the EMIA region. His appointment reflects the EMIA’s increasing contribution to Autodesk’s business, with income from the region now exceeding 40 per cent of Autodesk’s total global revenues. Prior to taking on this role, Mark was Autodesk’s vice president of Northern Europe, integrating the United Kingdom and Ireland, Benelux and Nordics into a high-performing industry-focused region.
Mark has worked in the high-tech industry for a total of 26 years. His career has spanned marketing, sales and all aspects of management, where his experience includes heading up complex multi-million pound acquisitions and driving fast revenue growth. Appropriately, he is also well-grounded in all aspects of CAD, having written CAD software for four years earlier in his career and worked as CAD manager and in CAD support.
Mark joined Autodesk in May 2004 from Mentor Graphics, an electronic CAD company, where most recently he had responsibility for Northern European direct sales. In three years, Mark transformed the region from the smallest in Europe to the largest. He was at Mentor Graphics for more than eleven years during which key roles included marketing director, Europe, general manager R&D and sales director. Before this, Mark was UK technical manager at Cadence Design Systems covering applications engineering and customer support. He has also worked for Digital Equipment Company’s (DEC) wide area networking division and at Siemens Plessey Roke Manor.
Mark has a first class honours degree in electronic engineering from Southampton University. He holds four patents in ‘self-testing silicon chips’ and software and has published several academic papers. Mark earned The Platinum Award in two out of the three years he spent focused on sales at Mentor Graphics and the Diamond Club Award in each of his first two years at Autodesk. He is married with two daughters.
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