At HFA, we know firsthand that remotely accessible graphics processors are becoming essential tools for architecture and engineering firms that are looking to push boundaries and accelerate design collaboration. We recently participated in a webinar with NVIDIA titled "How to Boost Productivity and Accelerate Real-Time Design Collaboration," which highlighted the benefits of giving architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) teams remote access to virtual workstations for accelerated graphics processing.
Our approach at HFA involves having all users' PCs residing on servers that are then distributed as "virtual" PCs. This means that our users no longer need to rely on their own machines to process huge volumes of data and host resource-intensive apps like Revit, Enscape, and SketchUp. This capability is crucial given the boundary-pushing use of 3D renderings, high-res imaging, and building information modeling (BIM) by architects and engineers.
A power user testing the limits of NVIDIA's evolving tools, we have four offices and nearly 400 remote team members. During the webinar, our Director of BIM, Brittany Pylant, showed the audience screen-captured footage of interactive and real-time-rendered 3D models; cinematic digital animations, and other visualizations created by our visualizations team.
"Our technology team has been working closely with our brand team to really push our visualizations to a new level," Pylant said. "Our clients are asking for one thing, but then we'll ask, 'What else can we do with this? How can we break this and keep pushing the boundaries?' It has allowed our visualization team to grow."
Our Director of IT/Systems, John Raines, who was also a panelist during the webinar, highlighted how HFA was among the first users of NVIDIA's virtual graphics-processing unit (vGPU) solutions, starting in 2014. "It goes all the way from the early generation NVIDIA Grid K1 to the most recent A40s and beyond," he said.
Raines pointed out that virtualization leads to less IT downtime and offers better version control and cybersecurity, which is critical for global firms with geographically dispersed architects and designers collaborating on projects all over the world. Graphics acceleration is also accessible from "the home office, on the road, or even on a construction site" at a time when architects and engineers are increasingly mobile.
Our clients also benefit from virtualization. In many cases, they would otherwise lack the ability to see advanced 3D models on their own systems.
"It's a really powerful tool, not just at the end of the project but while you're in design," said our BIM director. "We're screen-sharing with clients and walking them through all of the different possibilities."
In the conclusion of the webinar, Raines described how this helps us move forward on another top priority—sustainability. The approach reduces the overall amount of ewaste generated by our studio. Not only is there less hardware in the company's data center—and therefore less to eventually end up in a landfill—but the remaining machines or "boxes" can be used for a longer time.
A version of this article also appeared on Cision Network