My Journey to BiLT NA 2018 St. Louis

Tobias Hathorn Tobias Hathorn October 5, 2018

5 min read

As Autodesk University Las Vegas approaches later this fall, and BiLT EUR is about to kick-off in Ljubljana next week, I wanted to summarize and recount my experience from BiLT NA 2018 in St. Louis, MO this past August.


For those who have not yet attended, BiLT is a global conference event – I was fortunate enough to attend the North America session in August with many fellow Design Technologists. In fact, I was on the same flight from Denver as my buddy Ian Roth who is a BIM manager at Stantec in Denver. We discovered we were on the same flight to St. Louis via a Slack thread – technology at its finest!?

Speaking of Twitter if you wanted to “virtually” attend the conference, the #BiLTNA hashtag connects you to a useful archive of material.


This was my second BiLT conference – last year was in Toronto, this year was in St. Louis, Missouri! I put the exclamation point there as I am familiar with this part of the US. I attended college at Kansas State and I worked in Kansas City, Missouri at BNIM architects for five years. I did not put the exclamation point there to celebrate the late summer humidity of the Midwest… yikes. But hey, the Gateway Arch is a great destination and photo opportunity no matter the season.


BILT 2018

St. Louis Arch Photo credit: Tobias Hathorn


BILT is a design technology conference, which revels in its intimate scale. It was created to contrast with the epic size of AU which serves a much broader audience – and to focus on forward thinking, bleeding edge individuals who design, construct, and operate buildings. As a community of professionals, it is dedicated to improving the way industry works together.

The beating heart of the conference is the Exhibit Hall where Autodesk and other sponsors host booths– I had many an impromptu conversation with my BIM heroes, young and old, in this hall.

BILT NA 2018

BILT NA 2018 Exhibit Hall at the Union Station Hotel St Louis, photo credit: Ian Roth


The Autodesk booth at BiLT was a truly special and well thought out centerpiece of the hall. Don’t get me wrong – there were many other excellent booths – but the design and attention to fabrication detail made this installation remarkable. Enjoy the cool video that tells the story from design to fab to install.


One of the best features of the Autodesk booth were the triangular white board panels – which did their job splendidly between classes or during evening functions.

Autodesk’s esteemed customer and long-time Revit friend Robert Manna drew his mental map of the BIM 360 ecosystem for the enjoyment and education of those gathered.

BILT NA 2018

Photo credit: Tobias Hathorn


In another corner of the exhibit hall, Aaron Maller, a long time Revit proponent – and CEO of BIM consultancy Parallax – impressed with the scale and scope of this construction model. The other half of the Parallax booth was dedicated to the myriad Dynamo tools (replete with meme oriented documentation) provided by Parallaxer John Pierson. In Aaron’s class I learned he uses sloped glazing elements for acoustic ceiling tile to see surface patterns in Reflected ceiling plans … I gotta hand it to the resourcefulness of Revit hackers.

BILT NA 2018

Photo credit: Parallax


BiLT conferences have a special tradition to host an off-site social event at a local landmark – this year it was at City Museum. The ‘museum’ could best be described as either a Willy Wonka-esque wonder of the modern world, or a whimsical death trap that somehow circumvented building codes. Your opinion depends on your feelings about heights, slides, tunnels, dim lighting, and welded metal cages. It is an incredible experience for “kids” of any age.

BILT NA 2018

City Museum St. Louis Photo credit: Tobias Hathorn


I have to give a special mention to my local Denver, Colorado Revit user group, RoMBIS. We were well represented this year…

The Classes

There were many excellent classes taught by fascinating and talented experts – too many to mention all of them – so, I’ll just mention one. I really enjoyed Sonny Andalis’ class on evolutionary solvers. The BiLT group interviewed Sonny, who will also be speaking at BILT Ljubljana, and published the interview here.

The class had more than a few noteworthy topics covering his structural engineering process at AECOM in Singapore and a few of the software tools that support him.

BILT NA 2018

Photo Credit: Tobias Hathorn
Photo Content: Sonny Andalis

The THEME – Cross Discipline Interoperability

 Aside from the classes, my favorite moments of the conference were the mainstage presentations: Dr. Anita Sengupta speaking at a lightning pace on advanced aerospace engineering subjects like the Hyperloop was supremely inspiring…

Also awesome were the Autodesk spotlights presented by Computational guru Matt Jezyk and Revit Product Manager, Harlan Brumm. Harlan showed how a Civil 3D topo magically transforms into a linked Revit topo surface! Even MORE awesome was seeing this feature released a week later in Revit 2019.1.

The Previews!

One of the opportunities for Autodesk at a conference like BiLT is to preview snippets of the work we’re doing before they are released. I’ve been working on Project Quantum and was happy to share progress and tell the story behind the process of software design and development. This short video is one data exchange workflow a customer may utilize Autodesk’s Forge data layer for in the future.

The Highlight

The most talked about slide was a perfect fit for this crowd – a data visualization of Revit’s code changes over its 20 year life span…

The Summary

And speaking of light shows – the conference was held at St. Louis’ Union Station hotel – which has a beautiful lobby that appeared normal at the outset – but transformed every hour into a magical panoply.

I think that’s a fitting way to summarize the BiLT event, a technological transformation that feels a little like magic.

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