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Meetings of minds

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technical: Bentley Systems' symposium brought together MicroStation users in unusual groupings to discuss technological preoccupations

Bentley Systems' Proactive Engineering Symposium, held this year in Philadelphia, gathered together engineers, architects, software developers and vendors. As well as the main symposium, centring on Bentley's vision of the future, a number of co-events drew a great deal of interest.

One of the major themes was infrastructure, and a number of debates took place on the changing nature of infrastructure in the built environment, especially the impact technological infrastructure will have on urban growth and its replacement of 'traditional' infrastructure elements as influences on urban regeneration. The results presented to delegates at the end of the symposium gave rise to a great deal of discussion, as the increasing importance of non-physical factors will affect every profession involved in the built environment.

One of the most exciting events during the three days was the seminar on architectural research and software development, chaired by Robert Aish with speakers including Kent Larson from mit, Paul Ritchens from the University of Cambridge and Karsten Menzel from the Technical University at Braunschweig. It covered methods of implementing new design tools, integrating architectural and engineering representations and the use of collaborative engineering tools. The event was rounded off by Bill Mitchell, the head of mit's school of architecture.

Break-out sessions provided delegates with an opportunity to meet software developers and major users to gain both hands-on experience and strategic insight. Workshops on MicroStation/J and its incarnations proved very popular as Bentley showed just what it could do. The final day of the symposium saw the shipping of J, both on-line and as a shrink-wrapped product. We managed to obtain one of the first 50 copies and will review the software in the next issue of Architech.

The inclusion of Triforma, Modeller and gis software 'in the box', in what Bentley calls 'engineering configurations', means that users no longer have to buy additional software to exploit fully 3D design technology. Basic MicroStation still exists but only as an installation option.

ProjectBank, introduced in Keith Bentley's keynote, is a client/server- based technology in which project data is held centrally in a neutral database format. Via 'schema' applications the data is translated into forms the user requires. This idea is by no means new, but Bentley has produced a stable working environment. The concept has the advantages of continuity of data, secure storage and flexibility. Working with other file formats and applications no longer requires translation, as the schema allows users to work with data in its native form. Three terms need to be understood:

Component: a unit of information in a project that makes sense to a user. It does not have to represent a real-world object, just make sense as a unit of information to the user.

Schema: a program, or kind of dictionary, that defines components. In the larger picture of how ProjectBank technology works, there will be several schemas, each interpreting components as required.

Transaction: a set of changes to a component. It is possible to add, modify, or delete a component.

ProjectBank is the collective location where components are stored, schema interpret components, and transactions involving components are managed. The first schema in ProjectBank will be dgn, from the native MicroStation file format. Future schemas will interpret other file formats, or translate components created without current-generation cad or eem programs.

In a demonstration of how ProjectBank technology works, three Bentley employees, worked in real time on data provided by Kling Lindquist architects, demonstrated how two architects could work on data from the same file at the same time. In one example, the two worked on separate parts of one drawing, and ProjectBank co-ordinated the changes. In the second example, the two architects worked on the exact same data. ProjectBank was able to force the two to recognise that they had tried to modify the same information, and allowed them to choose a solution.

In a second demonstration, the two architects used Autocad Release 14 to edit a dwg file, with changes to the file tracked using a dwg schema, the implementation of which makes service and facilities data integration possible.

Bentley also hosted the first Proactive Engineering Success Awards, with winners, from a field of over 200, including London Underground for the Jubilee Line Extension, and J Parrish from Lobb Sports Architecture who was presented the first lifetime achievement award.

For more information see www.bentley. com

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