Report: Using Autodesk Project Photofly and Project Vasari

Project Photofly

Using Project Photofly allows the ability to capture existing buildings for “renovation, rapid energy analysis, add-on design, historic preservation, fun, etc” (Autodesk, 2011). By inputting a series of 2D photographs taken around an object, person or building, Photofly’s Photo Scene Editor converts the images into a 3D mesh via cloud computing. The result can then be exported in .dwg format and manipulated in, for example, AutoCAD. Figure 1 below shows an example using the entrance foyer of Northumbria University’s Ellison Building.

Figure 1. Project Photofly’s Photo Scene Editor

As you will see, when attempting to capture an existing building, Photofly can capture the essence of the building; however, it has limited capability when converting into flat geometry. It is therefore quite difficult to capture a mesh that is uniform and will subsequently look quite distorted. Skills in 3D AutoCAD are desirable for ensuring that the imported .dwg mesh can be scaled as per the survey’s check dimensions. However; what must be noted is that the Photo Scene Editor does have benefit in providing a template to which the users can 3D trace off the photos to model in Revit or Vasari.

On another note; with the new capability of Revit Architecture 2012 to import point cloud data, other possible solutions of capturing existing buildings is achievable. An investment in a 360° laser scanner could make capturing existing buildings easy. A five minute laser scan of Northumberland Road imported into Revit 2012 (Figure 3) shows point cloud data from which a draughtsman can create the accurately dimensioned 3D survey model by simply “joining the dots”.

Figure 3. Point Cloud Capture of Northumberland Road, Northumbria University Campus

The University will soon acquire a Faro Focus 3d laser scanner which will receive a warm welcome from students and staff as surveying and modelling existing buildings and infrastructure can be achieved far more quickly and easily.

Final Thoughts…

Project Photofly is just one of a number of tools available to capture an existing building for 3D modelling. If the resources are available, laser scanning is cutting edge; however, Photofly has the potential to provide a cost effective and innovative way to capture existing buildings for analysis and option appraisal at the initial design stage

Project Vasari

From a conceptual design perspective, Autodesk Project Vasari can provide analysis of energy and carbon usage and provides “design insight where the most important design decisions are made” (Autodesk, 2011). Its ability to be used in conjunction with Autodesk Revit BIM design software makes it an ideal tool for initial energy analysis to then influence design beyond the concept stage.

As expected, Vasari’s model interface is strikingly similar to that of Revit Architecture; for existing users it is very easy to use without having to learn new layouts and methods of modelling. However; for a designer to have little knowledge of Revit software, Autodesk do a good job in ensuring plenty of tutorials and help.

Figure 4. Revit model of Wynne Jones Building

It became evident from the tutorial exercises that Vasari is a useful tool for use in conceptual building design. This conceptual level of analysis can also be applied to existing buildings. The following example provides “Rapid Energy Modelling” or the identification of potential carbon reduction for the Wynne Jones Building on Northumbria University campus. Figure 4 shows the existing Revit model imported into Vasari and as expected the interoperability between Revit and Vasari allowed the model to be loaded without difficulty.

In Vasari, the existing model is used as a basis when creating the conceptual mass model. The user can input parameters ranging from the use of the building to the type of construction. These prompts allow the calculated output via Autodesk Green Building Studio to be based on each parameter’s usage and site specific data. Green Building Studio is a web based energy analysis software that determines virtual building’s total energy use and carbon footprint (Autodesk, 2011) .Therefore there is scope to add detail and develop the model if required. Figure 5 below shows the stages of detail for the Wynne Jones building where the third stage is the most detailed with every space defined from a usage and heating/cooling method applied.

Figure 5. Increasing Level of Detail on the Vasari Model

In this particular case, the differing level of detail helped in improving the energy use output and hence became more complimentary towards the building’s actual Display Energy Certificate (DEC). However rather than chasing this figure the output analyses the renewable energy potential of the building and hence calculates how energy generation can affect the annual carbon emissions..

Final thoughts…

Autodesk Project Vasari provides designers with a tool that can provide analysis for conceptual designs. It is a basis to which any further detail will require the use of an in depth “concept-to-detail sustainable building design tool” such as Autodesk Ecotect Analysis (Autodesk, 2011). Furthermore, by utilising BIM modelling to help manage existing buildings, Vasari is a quick and easy method of providing Rapid Energy Analysis for carbon reduction identification. Its standalone Revit-like functions show intentions from Autodesk for yet more effective design and retrospective management aids.


Autodesk (2011) Autodesk Ecotect Analysis. Available at: (Accessed 5th July 2011).

Autodesk (2011) Autodesk Green Building Studio. Available at: (Accessed 13th July 2011).

Autodesk (2011) Project Photofly: Photo Scene Editor. Available at: (Accessed 5th July 2011).

Autodesk (2011) Project Vasari. Available at: (Accessed 5th July 2011).

Mark Crowe

Mark Crowe

Project Manager at BIM Academy
Mark graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Architectural Technology from Northumbria University before joining the BIM Academy in 2013. Throughout his studies, Mark gained experience in working on a variety of projects ranging in scale and complexity, and particularly focused on delivering real, practical solutions that provide long term benefits to users. This approach partially influenced his dissertation research into Social Sustainability and the Built Environment which not only questioned how we evaluate projects post completion but how we establish end user requirements before construction.
Mark has always maintained a self-driven motivation to investigate software, particularly in the design field, having accrued knowledge in Revit, AutoCAD and 3DS Max as well as a range of other software and a number of basic programming languages independently.
He also has experience leading diverse groups in a range of activities from completing his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award to managing design projects, and is used to working in time critical and high stakes environments.
Mark Crowe

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2 replies
  1. Brian M. Curran
    Brian M. Curran says:

    I create drawings of existing buildings for a living, so this article was especially interesting to me. Here and there in my spare time I’ve been keeping an eye on Project Photofly, tried to use it one day – but that effort got cut short, and also created a blog post about it. I’ve added this post of yours to my resources section of my aforementioned blog post. I think your post is the only one that I’ve run across so far that has mentioned trying to create a 2D building drawing from Project Photofly results. I was helpful to hear of your experience. Thank you!

    p.s. Emile Kfouri has a similar post that you may want to check out: . I know I appreciated it.

  2. Michael Taylor
    Michael Taylor says:

    I have worked in the Architectural Profession for 40 Years I think BIM is the future . I am keen to embrace AuotCad Revit Architecture Suite 2012. If any one has any doubts then spend as much time as you like thinking about it while I learn how to use it and show the client what this software is capable of.

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