Sustainable Design Enrolls at Autodesk University

Sustainable Design Enrolls at Autodesk University

This year's Autodesk University is getting a darker shade of green, from sustainability-focused classes to event practices that encourage reducing and reusing.

The four-day design software conference, running this week in Las Vegas, will include almost 20 classes focused explicitly on how to use software to bring sustainability to the design process and to actual designs. Although that's only a small portion of the 650 classes, panels, labs and presentations, it's an improvement over last year, which had four sustainability-focused classes.

Nevertheless, sustainable design and biomimicry will pop up throughout the event in other panels and presentations, and even in the way Autodesk runs the conference. "All customers will certainly be hearing about sustainable design," said Lynelle Cameron, Autodesk's director of sustainability. "This is a really important trend in multiple industries that customers are increasingly concerned about."

Cameron estimates that the majority of attendees know that sustainable design is growing in importance, but do not know much about it. "People haven't had to think about material A versus material B until recently," she said.

Attendees will also learn about Autodesk's relationship with the Biomimicry Institute and Biomimicry Guild, which has many of the same clients as Autodesk, Cameron said. Architecture firm HOK architecture, for example, is designing a community in the Himalayas on steep slopes. As part of the design, the firm wants to prevent soil erosion, and is looking a mimicking how tree roots hold soil in place.

Lower-Impact Events

Autodesk is analyzing its events to find out where its biggest impacts are and where it can make the biggest gains. "I see (what we're doing now) as more short-term, immediate things," Cameron said. Autodesk worked with the Venetian Resort Hotel, the conference location, to switch light bulbs to CFLs. Lights will be turned lower during the conference's move in and move out, and turned off when the space isn't being used. "Vegas is an indoor city, so there is almost no natural light," Camerson said. "So those changes add up." Autodesk is also minimizing printed handouts, leaving it up to attendees to print the materials they want, and all food scraps from the event will be turned into feed for a local farm.

Some of Autodesk's other actions are meant to have an impact on attendee actions and work. Signage from last year was turned into messenger bags that will be available at the event. Staff member vests are made out of recycled PET plastic, and the event's booth chairs are 100 percent recycled and recyclable. "We are trying to educate people to new ways of thinking about materials in their design by exhibiting that in the materials we've chosen," Cameron said.

Autodesk expects 9,000 attendees in Las Vegas, but is estimating the number of people who will access the presentations and other information online will reach about 50,000.