News from AU
January 20, 2021

Five Trends That Will Shape Your Work in 2021


Industry transformation has been happening for decades, driven by continued advances in digital tools and materials science. In many cases, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change (think: cloud-based collaboration). As we enter 2021, we find ourselves adapting to a unique combination of both long-term and short-term forces that will surely make this year unlike any other.

Check out these top trends that will likely shape your work in 2021 and the AU learning that can help you get ready.

1. Convergence

Architecture, manufacturing, and media used to be separate industries, each with its own distinct set of tools, processes, and approaches. Then, with the Third Industrial Revolution, all these industries gradually went digital. And now that they all share a common tool—the computer—they are increasingly sharing practices, ideas, and processes.

This convergence will continue in 2021. If you’re looking for a good introduction to the topic, check out Alexander Stern’s AU 2020 class exploring industry convergence—what it is and why it’s important.

Those in architecture will continue looking to gain some of the efficiencies of manufacturing. Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA)—also known as modular construction or prefabrication—is one important way this is happening. Thomas Closs breaks down the myths and truths of industrialized construction, while John Russell and Diana Lee share tips on how to get your team ready for this approach.

Meanwhile, manufacturing continues to seek new ways to benefit from digital processes, as architecture has benefitted from BIM. Thomas Nagle walks you through his approach for getting partners, vendors, and customers aligned with the BIM4Manufacturing digitization strategy.

And the visualization capabilities of media and entertainment will help those in both AEC and manufacturing create immersive and collaborative design processes. Michael Beale and Johan Hanegraaf walk you through the steps for virtual design collaboration in architecture using Revit, Arkio, and Forge.

2. The digital and physical merge

While we make and build in the real world, we design and plan in the digital world. The lines between the two have been blurring for years, and that process will continue in 2021. Immersive design processes are just one example. New kinds of simulation and analysis are another.

Digital twins—continuously updated and integrated digital reflections of a physical self—take things one step further. And with the announcement of Autodesk Tandem at AU 2020, a true digital twin in architecture is becoming possible. Robert Bray and Tim Kelly explain the value of digital twins for building owners in their AU 2020 class.

Digital twins are making equal strides in manufacturing, along with virtual commissioning. Get started with Florian Wegmann’s AU 2020 class, Why Is Virtual Commissioning and the Use of a Digital Twin Essential Today?

3. Automation

New kinds of automation have been the foundation for every industrial revolution, from the first water-powered weaving machines to today’s neural networks. Thanks to advances in both hardware and software, 2021 will see continued adoption of automation for both repetitive and complex tasks.

In architecture, that can mean using computational design to automate routine tasks and enable more complex architectural forms. It can mean using the new generative design capabilities in Revit. Or it can mean using AI to streamline and accelerate the time-intensive bidding process for contractors, as Mehdi Nourbakhsh discusses in his AU 2020 Theater talk.

In construction, drones and autonomous robots are being used to scan, map, and manage construction projects, as Amr Rafaat shares in his AU 2020 Theater talk. And civil engineers can now use the new Grading Optimization extension in Civil 3D to generate site plans based on key parameters.

Manufacturers are using generative design to create and fabricate products with less impact on the environment—like this performance bike of the future. And media and entertainment professionals can now use generative design tools in Shotgun to further explore scheduling options for production and post-production.

4. Sustainability

With both construction and manufacturing being significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, reducing environmental impact and increasing the circularity of projects becomes more imperative every day.

Thanks to new tools, it’s also getting easier. Autodesk Insight can help you simulate and analyze building performance from a BIM model. Ferny Celina walks you through Energy Analysis with Revit Insight and Green Building Studio. Phuc Le shares another use case in his class, Solar Analysis: Calculating Shaded Areas in Revit for Sustainable Design.

Generative design also supports sustainability in a variety of ways, like lightweighting cars and airplanes in manufacturing. To get up to speed, check out How Sustainability and Fusion 360 Can Help You Save Money and the Planet with Chas Sullivan and Tyson Fogel.

5. Cloud-based collaboration

Cloud-based communication and file-sharing became a vital part of everyday work for many in 2020. As teams adjust, they will continue to refine and optimize their collaborative workflows. You can explore more than 100 new AU 2020 classes on collaboration.

New features in Forge and Fusion 360 announced at AU 2020 enable simultaneous collaboration by distributed teams on the same model. That means that engineers can validate a design’s performance even while the design team generates new ideas, and tooling can be planned and prototypes produced in parallel.

Get tips on how to lead a remote group of engineers using Fusion 360 and Fusion Team with Hamane Hiroto. And Marlo Aghazarian explains how subcontractors can centralize and streamline bid management with BuildingConnected

Learning through change

One thing these trends have in common? They all require continued learning for those who work in these industries. At Autodesk University, we’re here to support your professional growth and your learning journey in 2021 and beyond with classes, articles, thought leadership videos, and community. When you’re ready to learn, we’re ready, too.