David Butts Shares AU Class Picks, Memorable Projects, Favorite Tech, and More
This interview is part of a series featuring the members of our diverse AU community, from speakers and conference attendees to forum participants and online commenters. You are AU.
1. What’s your current job role?
I’m the Engineering Technology Manager for the Southeast US for Gannett Fleming. I manage applications and technology for design applications across all business lines. I also provide BIM management and support across the entire firm. I’m also responsible for managing the national technical training programs for Autodesk, Bentley, and other design tool applications.
2. What are your main areas of expertise and interest?
The integration of BIM tools and workflows are at the top of my list. While my expertise focuses on the engineering side of Revit, I also support other products such as BIM 360, AutoCAD and its toolsets, Plant 3D, and more. My current interest includes integration of Power BI into our BIM 360 environment.
3. What’s your favorite piece of technology?
The GPS/sonar system on my boat. It’s made me a better fisherman and lazier at the same time. Now that I can tie my trolling motor to the GPS, I don’t run aground as much.
4. What do you enjoy most about your work?
All of it. Seriously—the evolution of design tools just across my generation has been phenomenal, to say the least. Our ability to visualize our designs, to resolve issues, to manage data outside of silos, makes our designs better. But being around co-workers and colleagues that share my enthusiasm is a great motivator.
5. Describe a favorite project you’ve worked on using Autodesk software.
There’s been a lot of them over 35 years—a couple of key ones include the Red Lion Water Treatment plant, which was the first plant Gannett Fleming designed in Revit. We learned a lot, as well as what not to do on a BIM project.”
The most recent was the Novo Nordisk Treatment Plant project, that received several design awards. We had some great folks working on that job that took the culmination of all of their training and knocked it out of the park.
6. What one thing should new graduates entering your field know?
Focus on understanding the tools that are available today and applied to today’s design process. Make your own path for learning and look outside traditional norms. Use what you learn from the real world to help make our design world better.
7. What is your all-time favorite AU class and why?
None of mine. I have too much fun doing them to take them seriously. But if I had to pick, Managing BIM Projects Without Going Crazy. Love teaching that class. Paul Aubin’s Revit Family Creation: A Step-by-Step Introduction is the gold standard every Revit user should take. Other favorites are anything by Paul Aubin, Matt Dillon, Matt Stachoni, Steve Shell, the Mackeys…there are so many brilliant ones.
8. What has been one of your most impactful moments attending AU and why?
Winning my first AU Speaker Award in 2011. The recognition was key to keeping me motivated, as I had considered stopping as a presenter.
David Butts discusses the broad applications and benefits of BIM.
Another one was helping Randy Burnette teach a class as a lab assistant on AutoCAD Electrical, back many years ago. His style was a major influence on me for teaching and moving forward. He did a great job of weaving his personal story into the class and conveyed his passion for it better than anything I had seen.
9. What inspires you?
Life—it’s the greatest gift. Happy kids. My wife. My dogs. Passionate people. My great big family, with my parents, sisters, and crazy cousins. Most of all, my faith. Seeing the light bulb go off in someone’s eyes when they figure something out.
10. Where do you see your industry in 10 years?
From a pier at the beach, since I’ll be headed to retirement around then… I’m not convinced that AI, automation, the cloud, and robots are going to completely transform the workspace. There are still so many careers and tools that require human hands, intuition, and instinct to create.
11. What new skill, personal or professional, would you most like to learn?
Right now, Civil 3D and InfraWorks. Fusion 360. We’re renovating a home at the coast, and I want to learn how to build bar tops, furniture, etc. with epoxy so it lasts more than 15 minutes here.
Check out David’s profile (and follow him) to learn more about his work and contributions to the AU community.