The difference between planning configurators and design configurators
The fact Autodesk acquired Spacemaker is no longer news.
Let's think a little about why now and why Autodesk.
Autodesk is a company that has a variety of different products for all possible AEC directions, but they didn't have a Planning Configurator before the actual deal.
So why now? The answer is as simple as possible - such tools did not exist before; they began to appear along with the aggregation of data around cities.
The first planning configurators and their founded dates:
Archistar.ai - 2010 (crunchbase link)
Testfit - 2016 (crunchbase link)
Spacemakerai.com - 2016 (crunchbase link)
Digitalbluefoam.com - 2016
Prism-app.io - 2016 (crunchbase link)
BuildRz - 2016 (crunchbase link)
Delve.sidewalklabs.com - 2020 (crunchbase link)
All these tools have one thing in common - they all work more or less with market context, site context, and planning context. We can also say that they all 'market aware', 'site aware' and 'planning aware' (each to a different degree).
Let me explain better what does it mean (the sources below are mostly from the UK market):
As you see, besides Planning Configurators itself, there is a lot of other sources of data. The difference between Planning Configurators and other data sources is that the Planning Configurator produces massing models taking into account the data itself.
Below you can see output from Archistar:
As you notice, it is pretty detailed massing: each unit/flat/apartment is equal to a polyhedron, the master plan has roads, green zones, etc. Also, the tool calculates different metrics around this particular site: developable site ratio, GFA (gross floor area), etc.
A couple more remarkable comments about Planning Configurators:
Prism-app is the first open-source Planning Configurator (compliments aside UK government for financing it).
Prism-app is the first Planning Configurator connected to the supply chain ('prefab aware'), which is also unusual for Planning Configurator.
Testfit connected well to the site context (roads configurator is absolutely amazing). The parking and multi-family building concepts are speedy and flexible.
Among all Planning Configurators, Testfit is the best from the side of building concept implementation. It is not about polyhedrons just stacked on top of each other. There is a building topology. Moreover, there is a mixed-use building topology. Thus Testfit closer to Design Configurators than others. Look at that:
Over the years, the tools above have evolved and came to the optimal jelly mould.
Autodesk Revit was founded in 1997, and Autodesk bought Spacemaker at the end of 2020 because the time has come. 💁🏻♂️
However, even the most advanced Planning Configurators doesn't cover Building Context (see the table above). In my opinion, to be a real Building Configurator, you need to work not only with topology but also with the kit of parts. Here are examples of such tools:
Kreo Modular - 2020 (crunchbase link)
Ice - 2005 (it is more close to Production Configurator software, but this is the next point)
A lot of firms try to create their Design Configurators internally (they are all doomed to fail, they need to hire us 🤓)
I can tell you a lot about Kreo Modular because my gang and I created this product. But I promised myself to be brief.
Kreo Modular does automation of building concepts. There is one key point: all the parts we use to configure a building within our platform need real prefab elements.
This is why we use the Lego comparison to explain better what we do and how it works, and this is why we have integration with .rvt and .ifc formats.
The Kreo Modular user flow goes through the map, too, although we don't use a lot of contexts (only daylight/sunlight calculations) to generate masterplan:
We will not cover the market/site/planning context because others pretty well cover it (and it will be better and better). Thus we are looking for cooperation in this field with the data providers.
To make the difference between Planning Configurators and Design Configurators even more transparent, let describe the end-users of products:
Real Estate Agents
Technical Sales Engineers
Architects are the key! 🗝
Here are a simple industry landscape and data flow for Planning Configurators and Design Configurators:
The world has not seen the configurator that takes into account market, site, planning, and building contexts yet.