Paul Doherty
First ever AEC Hackathon.

Hackathons have long been staple events in the Technology Industry since the late 1990’s.  A Hackathon is an intensive event that brings together computer programmers like software developers, graphic designers and user interface specialists along with industry process experts and professionals to identify issues and create software solutions, usually within a weekend.

The first meaningful Hackathon took place in 1999 at Sun Microsystem’s JavaOne Conference, where Sun challenged the attendees to develop Java for the new 3Com Palm 5 mobile device.  The event was a wild success.  Our design and construction industry has not attempted this type of innovative event until now.  Last week, the first AEC Hackathon was announced to be held in San Francisco, California November 8-10, 2013.

Produced by two industry innovators, IDEAbuilder and the digit group, the AEC Hackathon is a non-profit event, designed as a grassroots, traditional Hack, which is a playful, exploratory environment where disruption, innovation and creative ideas are brought to life by teams of both Silicon Valley technologists and industry stakeholders over a weekend.   The goal of the AEC Hackathon is to be a continuous venue and vehicle for tech, entrepreneurship & innovation to come together to help shape the future of our industry.  The focus of the event is not just on innovative technology for technology’s sake, but in “Hacking” into traditional processes and workflows of the AEC industry.   

Friday, Nov. 8th will provide an AEC Mixer in the evening to bring together attendees in a Downtown AEC industry environment to put together teams, listen to the areas of interest and goals of the Hackathon.  The morning of Saturday, Nov. 9 will kick off the Hackathon at a Silicon Valley venue, specially prepared for a “marathon of idea generation and software design and coding”.  Food, drinks, snacks, meeting places and sleeping spaces will be provided for the attendees.

Teams will work through the night and conclude the competitive hack at 12 noon on Sunday, Nov. 10.  The rest of the afternoon will be for the team presentations, which are the key to the success of the AEC Hackathon, as it’s the most communal and fun part of the event.  

Architects will be reminded of the infamous “Pin Up’s” in architectural school while listening to the Hack presentations.  All participant teams will present, be recorded and judged, even if they are not completely finished, as it’s all about the ideas and most Hackathon projects are not completed in time.  Each category will have one winner who will receive an award.  All team’s submissions will be hosted on the AEC Hackathon web site, with each category winner’s submission available for download as freeware to the industry.  The AEC Hackathon concludes with an AfterHack Party.

The AEC Hackathon is using open source and open standard technologies to develop the AEC Hackathon’s software solutions.   Cloud-based solutions are encouraged for all categories.   Some data sets and API’s (REST, REST3D, etc.) will be distributed before the event for all registered attendees to enable them to become familiar with the technologies and prepare for the Hackathon.  Technologies that are being encouraged include 3D Gaming, BIM, XML, iOS, Android, HTML5/javascript among others.

The AEC Hackathon will post the six categories that will generate thoughts, ideas and paths forward before the event on the web site, Facebook and LinkedIn.   There will be one overview presentation during the AEC Mixer on the Friday night before the Hack with six workshops held during the Saturday of the Hackathon to enable teams to “learn on the fly” and benchmark their designs against industry examples.  The six workshops / categories which will have awards include:

  1. Digital Fabrication  
  2. Mobile Tech
  3. Cloud Tech
  4. BIM 2.0
  5. Digital Worlds/Smart Cities
  6. AEC FutureTech

The cost to attend the AEC Hackathon is minimal, keeping in line with a traditional Hack.   A Technologist’s fee is US $25, AEC Industry Stakeholder is US $100 and students are free. There is a limit of 200 total attendees and space is going fast.   Being a non-profit event, proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warriors program. For more information, please visit or