Vectorworks asserted its independence today with a rebranding effort that includes a new, standalone legal name (simply Vectorworks, Inc.), a new logo (see video thumbnail above), and the tagline “a Nemetschek company.” Formerly the Columbia, Md.–based software developer was known as Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc. CEO Sean Flaherty says that the emphasis on the individual component brand better reflects how the overall company—the Nemetschek Group headquartered in Munich—is run “as a strategic holding company of independent brands.”

The marketing move may not captivate the everyday architect’s interest, but coinciding with the company’s news is the public release of  its eponymous 2016 CAD and BIM software programs, which include Vectorworks Architect ($2,695) and Vectorworks Architect with its rendering engine, Renderworks ($3,245). Packed with more than 100 updates and features, the 2016 software suite is “a watershed release,” Flaherty says. “We have a lot of technology that sets us apart in the marketplace. … We’re trying to create a platform that can handle modeling of the entire built world.”

More than 70 percent of the updates and features originated from customer feedback, according to Vectorworks’ press release. Among the long list of program tweaks are five major features that have been in the making for a couple of years, says chief technology officer Biplab Sarkar, who debuted them during the company’s Design Summit in April.

We highlight the five major adds to the Vectorworks Architect below, along with several other updates that help iron out former software quirks.

Project Sharing
This feature enables real-time, peer-to-peer collaboration within the same Vectorworks file among team members and across firms. After assigning users the appropriate access privileges and particular layers or building areas in the project file, an administrator can designate tasks that can be worked on simultaneously and then call all users to check in their working layers to the common model. Because designers don’t need to wait their turn to jump into the building model, the likelihood of bottlenecking may be reduced. The project file is kept on a designated user server while each team member gets a working file that is copied on their local machine.

Teams can keep tabs on what each member is working on and are prevented from checking out the same layer simultaneously. As layers are checked back in, members are notified and the project file is updated.

Vectorworks


Marionette
As coding becomes more an integral part of design, as evidenced by the popularity of the Grasshopper plug-in for Rhino, Bentley Systems’ Generative Components, and Autodesk Dynamo, Vectorworks is introducing a built-in scripting tool of its own. Marionette uses a Python-based programming environment that lets designers automate everything from culling BIM data to generating parametric shapes that satisfy specified criteria, such as constructability. Sarkar says that Marionette differs from existing algorithmic tools by letting developers “store parameters in the form of an object and give that object to other people for collaboration.”

Marionette
Vectorworks Marionette


Energos

Using the Passivhaus calculation method, the Energos module allows architects to assess the project’s anticipated energy performance as early as conceptual design “when there’s a still a lot of flexibility,” Flaherty says. Sarkar says that all designers need to do to get feedback, in the form of a color-coded energy rating, is to specify the project's location and create a single building wall. Of course, as the building design and envelope are developed, the energy model will become more accurate. For example, users can see how upgrading to triple-pane glass affects energy usage. The program can also check a design’s compliance with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, ASHRAE standards, BREEAM, and Mindergie, the sustainable building standard in Switzerland.

Vectorworks


Point Cloud Support
As reality-capture technology becomes more sophisticated, accessible, and feasible cost-wise, designers are turning to it to survey existing or as-built conditions. Processing the millions of data points can still cause CPUs to churn, but the software is catching up fast. Users can import PTS, E57, LAS, and XYZ file formats, manipulate individual points, and take measurements from the data.

Vectorworks


Subdivision Surfaces
Based on Pixar Animation Studios’ OpenSubdiv library, this feature allows designers to turn primitive shapes, such as a square, sphere, or torus, into voluptuous, irregular, and organic surfaces and objects.

Subdivision Surfaces
Tim Connors / Inspired by a pavilion by Barrio Escudero Subdivision Surfaces


Caustic reflections in Renderworks
Caustic reflections in Renderworks

Renderworks
Available as an add-on to the company’s software line, Renderworks receives a boost in performance in this release. Powered by Maxon’s Cinema 4D rendering engine, the application now offers a full-screen preview, quick-cancel option, and creative camera controls that allow users to specify depth of field, exposure, vignetting, and back lighting. It also adds caustic effects, to simulate the appearance of light refraction through transparent surfaces, such as glass and water; ambient occlusion to improve the appearance of shadows, and a new grass shader that improves the look of large swaths of textured surfaces such as carpet and grass.

Envirronmental reflections on glass
Envirronmental reflections on glass
Grass shader tool
Grass shader tool
Ambient occlusion enhances shadowing in renderings (right)
Vectorworks Ambient occlusion enhances shadowing in renderings (right)


Additional Updates
Mac users of Vectorworks 2016 can now—finally!—dock their tool palettes.

Interactive PDF documents chocked full of hyperlinks made drawing sets easier on the shoulders and faster to parse. Vectorworks 2016 can now export 3D PDFs to allow others to share and view BIM models without having the design software.

Drawing tools for roof systems, walls, and foundation slabs were updated to contain more information and to be more intelligent. For example, after users define a particular roof system, the program will automatically top a wall system with the roof, mimicking construction in real life.

Vectorworks is also embracing the maker bandwagon, allowing users to import OBJ and STL files from the vast libraries of 3D objects on the Internet into project files.

The Eyedropper and Select Similar tools allow users to swiftly pick objects based on properties, architectural attributes, and dimensions and manipulate or maneuver them as needed.

Page through object libraries with thumbnails
Vectorworks Page through object libraries with thumbnails
Auto-join wall features
Vectorworks Auto-join wall features


The English-language version of Vectorworks 2016 is available to Service Select customers immediately by download. Shipping of the box software in the U.S. begins on Sept. 23.