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‘Time for action’ | Autodesk under fire from Nordic architects

Autodesk stifles architects’ potential by forcing them to use decades-old software at soaring prices, an open letter from industry bodies across the Nordics has said.

The Nordic letter, written by organisations representing more than 14,000 architects in the region, argued that despite the Nordics being “amongst the most digitised in the world”, a lack of “serious development” in Autodesk’s suite of tools disrupts productivity and financial certainty.

The letter said: “Unfortunately, we are not able to reach our potential in providing digital services supporting an entire building’s life cycle, much due to the lack of sufficient development and support of our digital tools.

“We also see practice revenues increasingly eaten up by rising software costs, for little serious development or regeneration.”

Autodesk owns a vast suite of widely used design and engineering software, including AutoCAD and Revit, making it the default industry standard.

Addressed to Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO of Autodesk, the letter is a follow-up to an earlier open letter spearheaded by UK practices from October 2020, which raised many of the same issues.

Quoting the original, the Nordic architects said: “Every day digital design leaders around the world wrestle with software, which at its core is 20 years old,” adding that the authors have seen “no substantial progress” in the two years since the first letter was published.

Signed by architects from firms including 3XN/GXN, BIG, Ghilardi+Hellsten Arkitekter and Tegnestuen Vandkunsten, the letter was written by the Association of Consulting Architects in Norway, the Association of Finnish Architects, the Danish Association of Architectural Firms and the Association of Architectural Firms in Iceland.

Key concerns

A lack of fixes to long-term issues, compatibility with modern computing and interoperability between products in Autodesk’s suite were the major complaints.

For example, if an architect uses Revit and the landscape architect uses Civil 3D, the experience is “poor to say the least”, the letter said, and requires “several workarounds” despite Autodesk owning both tools.

Design teams are also forced to invest in high-end workstations to compensate for Revit and Civil 3D not supporting multi-core processors for most of their functions, it added.

Alongside technical concerns, the letter also raised concerns over licence fees, which have “soared”.

Having to buy software in bundles has meant that companies buy packages with software they do not necessarily need. Multi-user licenses have also changed to single-user ones, leading to higher financial and administrative costs.

“Many design IT directors are wasting their work hours managing licences, with the fear of non-compliance audits and fines, instead of getting on with their day-to-day work of improving productivity, enabling collaborate working,” the letter said.

Software updates

A spokesperson for Autodesk said: “We’re mindful of the recent feedback we’ve received from some customers about the pace of development in Revit. Customer feedback is always welcomed, and we look forward to continued conversations with our customers about the future of Revit.

“Autodesk remains committed to investing in, innovating and delivering solutions for the AEC [architecture, engineering and construction] industries that provide connected workflows across every phase of a project’s lifecycle.

“Across our AEC portfolio broadly, and for Revit specifically, we’ve made numerous enhancements that deliver better productivity and efficiency, powerful automations, more sustainable outcomes and more openness – many of which were inspired directly by customer requests.”

Autodesk added that it had delivered more than 270 new “product enhancements and features” in recent Revit releases.

The Nordic letter called for a replacement of Revit “from the ground up” to meet modern industry needs. The replacement would need to support open data standards, run smoothly, automate repetitive tasks and “fully utilise” modern hardware. Meanwhile, licenses should not be tied to individual users and should reflect what design teams actually use, the letter said.

Proposing workshops between industry experts and Autodesk, it also called for a better partnership between the developer and its customers.

The letter ended by addressing Autodesk directly, saying: “We know you have spent a lot of time listening the last few years, now is the time to take action and show some real progress!”

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