AEC Terminology

AEC Innovation Alliance

As the technology supporting the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) community evolves and advances, so does the terminology for the industry. To help us better communicate among the members of this community, we offer an abbreviated “dictionary” of AEC terms. Included are links to the source documentation for the definitions, videos, project examples, and “white papers” to aid in understanding the concepts and consider the possibilities of existing technologies.

3D Printing-

The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction (AEC), industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields. One study has found that open source 3D printing could become a mass market item because domestic 3D printers can offset their capital costs by enabling consumers to avoid costs associated with purchasing common household objects.

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) — Jessie Harrington Au, program manager maker at Autodesk, talks with Ryan Chilcote about how 3D printing is giving people the ability to replace items in their home by making it themselves. He speaks on Bloomberg Television’s  “The Pulse.”  – Video

BIM for Building-

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.


The Brilliance of BIM – Video

BIM for Infrastructure-

BIM for Infrastructure is rapidly accelerating as owners and engineering service providers increasingly recognize the benefits of 3D modeling using intelligent objects.

BIM for Infrastructure A Vehicle for Business Process Transformation (White Paper 2012).pdf
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Building Automation-

Building Automation Systems (BAS) are centralized, interlinked, networks of hardware and software, which monitor and control the environment in commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities. While managing various building systems, the automation system ensures the operational performance of the facility as well as the comfort and safety of building occupants.


Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center
Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas

Cloud –

As a metaphor for the Internet, “the cloud” is a familiar cliché, but when combined with “computing,” the meaning gets bigger and fuzzier. Some analysts and vendors define cloud computing narrowly as an updated version of utility computing: basically virtual servers available over the Internet. Others go very broad, arguing anything you consume outside the firewall is “in the cloud,” including conventional outsourcing.

Cloud computing comes into focus only when you think about what IT always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities.


In a cloud computing system, there’s a significant workload shift. Local computers no longer have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to running applications. The network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead. Hardware and software demands on the user’s side decrease. The only thing the user’s computer needs to be able to run is the cloud computing system’s interface software, which can be as simple as a Web browser, and the cloud’s network takes care of the rest.


Cloud Mobility-

Access Your Files From Anywhere


Autodesk 360


Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.


BIM Data Management and Collaboration

Data Collection-

Data collection is the process of gathering and measuring information on variables of interest, in an established systematic fashion that enables one to answer stated research questions, test hypotheses, and evaluate outcomes. The data collection component of research is common to all fields of study including physical and social sciences, humanities, business, etc. While methods vary by discipline, the emphasis on ensuring accurate and honest collection remains the same. The goal for all data collection is to capture quality evidence that then translates to rich data analysis and allows the building of a convincing and credible answer to questions that have been posed.


Data Management-

Data management is the process of controlling the information generated during a project.

SGA Customer Success Story
BIM Data Management and Collaboration
YORK International Customer Success Story

Electronic PDF Mark-Up and Editing-

Since implementing Bluebeam into our plan review process, we have measurable results. We no longer have to ‘wait in line’ for our chance to review a plan set which translates into faster project completion times. RYAN CORBELLO, CITY OF ROWLETT, PUBLIC WORKS


Facilities Management-

Facility management is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.
Denver’s Airport Expansion Primes a Push Toward BIM for Facility Management


GIS is a system of hardware and software used for storage, retrieval, mapping, and analysis of geographic data.  Practitioners also regard the total GIS as including the operating personnel and the data that go into the system.  Spatial features are stored in a coordinate system (latitude/longitude, state plane, UTM, etc.), which references a particular place on the earth.  Descriptive attributes in tabular form are associated with spatial features.  Spatial data and associated attributes in the same coordinate system can then be layered together for mapping and analysis.    GIS can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, and development planning.

GIS differs from CAD and other graphical computer applications in that all spatial data is geographically referenced to a map projection in an earth coordinate system.  For the most part, spatial data can be “re-projected” from one coordinate system into another, thus data from various sources can be brought together into a common database and integrated using GIS software.  Boundaries of spatial features should “register” or align properly when re-projected into the same coordinate system.   Another property of a GIS database is that it has “topology,” which defines the spatial relationships between features.  The fundamental components of spatial data in a GIS are points, lines (arcs), and polygons.  When topological relationships exist, you can perform analyses, such as modeling the flow through connecting lines in a network, combining adjacent polygons that have similar characteristics, and overlaying geographic features.


MidCoast Water Customer Success Story

Integrated Project Delivery-

Integrated project delivery (IPD) is a collaborative project delivery approach that utilizes the talents and insights of all project participants through all phases of design and construction. The AIA provides agreements for three levels of integrated project delivery. Transitional Forms are modeled after existing construction manager agreements and offer a comfortable first step into integrated project delivery. The Multi-Party Agreement is a single agreement that the parties can use to design and construct a project utilizing integrated project delivery. The Single Purpose Entity (SPE) creates a limited liability company for the purpose of planning, designing and constructing the project. The SPE allows for complete sharing of risk and reward in a fully integrated collaborative process. AIA documents for IPD can be used on large private sector commercial projects.

AIA Contract Documents, by Family

Laser Scanning-

3D Scanning is a non-contact, non-destructive technology that digitally captures the shape of physical objects using a line of laser light. 3D scanners create “point clouds” of data from the surface of an object. In other words, 3D scanning is a way to capture a physical object’s exact size and shape into the computer world as a digital 3-dimensional representation. 3D scanners measure fine details and capture free-form shapes to quickly generate highly accurate point clouds.

Scanning on Washington’s ShoulderScanning_on_Washingtons_Shoulder_pic_180x180jpg

3D laser scanning has already changed the fields of surveying, engineering, construction, and forensics. Now, 3D laser scanning is changing the fields of education, cultural tourism, and cultural heritage preservation and management. With help and support from Scotland and Leica Geosystems, the non-profit organization CyArk carried out the first comprehensive documentation survey of the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.


Lidar whitepaper

Master Plan-

to develop or improve (land, a community, a building complex, or the like) through a long-range plan that balances and harmonizes all elements: opulation.


Model Based Design-

Model Based Design (MBD) is a method for harnessing the power of sophisticated computer simulations in the design process. MBD enables design engineers to evaluate the relative performance of varied control parameters in a virtual environment.



Point Cloud Data-

A point cloud is a set of data points in some coordinate system.

In a three-dimensional coordinate system, these points are usually defined by X, Y, and Z coordinates, and often are intended to represent the external surface of an object.

Point clouds may be created by 3D scanners. These devices measure in an automatic way a large number of points on the surface of an object, and often output a point cloud as a data file. The point cloud represents the set of points that the device has measured.

As the result of a 3D scanning process point clouds are used for many purposes, including to create 3D CAD models for manufactured parts, metrology/quality inspection, and a multitude of visualization, animation, rendering and mass customization applications.

Lidar whitepaper

SaaS –

Short for Software as a Service, SaaS is a software delivery method that provides access to software and its functions remotely as a Web-based service. Software as a Service allows organizations to access business functionality at a cost typically less than paying for licensed applications since SaaS pricing is based on a monthly fee. Also, because the software is hosted remotely, users don’t need to invest in additional hardware. Software as a Service removes the need for organizations to handle the installation, set-up and often daily upkeep and maintenance. Software as a Service may also be referred to as simply hosted applications. See related term ASP.


Sustainability/Green Building-

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations

New EPA Report Finds it Pays to Go Green (for Stormwater Management) Green infrastructure can save cities millions of dollars, provide multiple environmental and social benefits.

In the next few years, sustainable design strategies will become a standard expectation of the market, alongside traditional considerations like cost and durability. In anticipation of this market transformation, our mission at Autodesk is to make sustainability easy, insightful, and cost-effective in our highest impact industries by delivering modeling, simulation, analysis, and process management solutions to streamline and democratize the practice of sustainable design.


Virtual Design & Construction-

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) tools, which are used to visualize, analyze, and evaluate project performance. Building Information Modeling (BIM), a subset of VDC, integrates the information for multiple disciplines and project phases into a common multi-dimensional model.


BIM Becomes VDC

Clark Construction With nearly a decade of virtual design and construction experience — and a $16 billion BIM portfolio — Clark possesses a keen understanding of both the technology and the process required for its successful implementation. Continue Reading