Opinion

Maximise Profit Margins with Better Collaboration

 

In association with Autodesk here was a webinar targetted at companies and individuals that are experiencing the benefits of BIM but want to make their investment pay greater dividends.

Let’s have a look at what was covered step by step. The speakers were:

  • Øystein Kaul Kartvedt Partner, LPO Architects
  • Ives Veelaert Technical specialist, collaboration, Autodesk
  • Simon Gillis Technical specialist, Autodesk
  • Thomas Lane (Chair) Technical editor, Building

The introductions were swift and included a historic look at Autodesk before quickly getting to BIM and the fact that 24/7 connectivity has abruptly changed what we are now able to deliver.

As Simon Gillis noted, changes in what we can manufacture (especially by leveraging huge datacenters) is well within reach now, complete with robot automation and other new possiblilties as well.

To back this up Øystein provided an overview of the new Munch museum in Oslo by way of a case study. This was the result of an international competition with LPO and Estudio Herreros as the victors.

A look at differing space models was provided, showing the discinct zones of the building with a particular focus on the extensive perforated aluminium panels in use, for sunscreening and almost everything else throughout.

Interesting enough but the nub of the webinar was then addressed with a deeper look at the true nature of collaboration with LPO and Estudio Herreros (Madrid). A relationship that saw LPO convince EH to adopt Revit for the following reasons.

LPO were understandably not keen to provide direct access to their server (due to several legalities, not just risk) but they did explore .rvt central file testing on Dropbox first, but found the security levels suspect.

Other avenues were evaluated by using LPO’s server with a separate firewall and EH would VPN in - but routine tasks often took 30 minutes and this would lock the central file for everybody else. A real struggle for everybody involved.

At one point, given the amount of parties needing access to the data, a script was created that would distribute all files to all parties three times per week but this was far from ideal yet again.

This is when the project became a test item for the use of “Collaboration for Revit” (a cloud based subscription service) and the team noticed many improvements along the way. Not least their saves to central now taking a few seconds rather than many minutes.

How has real time collaboration changed the way architects and engineers work together? Øystein commented that it’s reassuring and refreshing that you have fresh content and communications at all times. They had tried Skype etc previously, not to mention flying over in person but many things soon became lost in translation thereafter. The new approach offered much closer contact with key people in key disciplines at all times. VPN's and firewalls were out of the window with Collaborate for Revit - it let’s people focus on that they want to do.

An audience poll was conducted: What are the problems you currently encounter with project collaboration?

  • It takes too long to share data (31%)
  • Responses are not recieved timely enough ((20.7%)
  • Manual processes cause delay (19%)
  • Design errors are not identified early enough (29.3%)

Indeed some collaboration barriers are cultural “we hold onto info as we feel it’s not ready for others, which causes delay”. “While what we have done might not be complete, it is at least current” which of course has value to everybody else despite elements of the design being missing.

Simon considered the poll again and commented that design errors are not identified quickly enough (and the cost of design errors can become so huge) that "a central view of the project using tools to carry out many procedures swiftly is a substantial advantage when it comes to collaborating over the cloud".

What standard do you have to comply with to collaborate effectively?

Øystein answered by stating that it boils down to standard you want to adhere to, 1192 etc, cobie drops, really down to the regulation that are in place and what you want. There is an ISO standard around the corner which will help too. Looking at how people collaborate today is key and it’s a case of making sure the right standards are setup between them.

Given all of the people and parties involved, when it comes to sharing data - who actually owns it? The team jumped in - "BIM isn’t a file or a project it’s a process, so people are adding and extracting from an AEC model all the time. This results in a snapshot of bits and pieces of what all companies are delivering at any given time so they have ownership, at least at first, of their own contributions. For a long time we’ll be seeing companies working from a WIP to Shared environment". Ultimately, at the end of the day, the client owns the model and the associated data (the PIM – Project Information Model) of course.

How do you see collaboration evolving, technology moves so fast? Autodesk are seeing more use of mobile technology via markup tools, clash detection and document management. The impact of real time collaboration is a real driver now. Also important is that more and more stakeholders are enabled to collaborate too and getting the right tools to allow them to do that is key, the team said.

What tool would you like to see? “From an LPO perspective then more players in the project team using collaborate and really road testing it more than they did”. Better adoption of existing tools was the message there. "The threshold of how different disciplines work together needs to be lowered too” which is the whole idea of the BIM in the Cloud initiative.

Tools for Collaboration - Presentation.

Ives then gave a look at the technical challenges of connecting firms in different countries together synchronously. From a technological point of view it’s relatively easily solved, but it’s entirely different to come up with a process of communication between all people at all times. Collaboration for Revit comes with a Communicator tool for diff users across the globe. With security provided by it's place within BIM360 Team.

Tools like Skype (for other alternatives see Jitsi and Wire) are all fine but not really linked into the Revit workflow. "Communications should be integrated with model, to see if someone’s interacting with model at a given time". Synchronous screenshots, markups, contextual awareness (symbols appear when another user is present, like google docs). “If I can see what’s happening as we speak then I know to expect a change”. Worksharing activity feeds are also included, as are shortened communication lines too.

BIM 360 Team - Setup

LPO setup a realm, defining the project and inviting people into the Team environement. The live model can then be interrogated remotely and user selected views and information can be published. The owner can review the files and markups etc too.

Different platforms are used by specialists (structural engineering packages and the like) how do these parties collaborate?

Ives noted “this is why Collaboration for Revit handles so many file formats and options. It’s also possible to look at very large models on the cloud too”. Before reminding attendees that it’s not just a viewer - as it holds all the information/ properties etc as well.

“With cloud based interaction it doesn’t matter where the data comes from. Interoperability is a huge cost on industry and we work hard to support multiple file formats” Ives also said. “We would hope it’s a transparent process”.

What about those that won’t buy in to the platform?

All project participants were interested in testing the technology but some didn't want to participate at that moment in time. Being conscious of their own delivery schedules, nervous of adoption, risk aversity, potential for training and delays, the technology itself - however good - was all new to them. Also, by way of example, HVAC consultants have addon simulation programs and they were afraid they would lose this functionality in the process too. So it was more a question of bad timing rather than refusal to participate outright. Also it was a question of cost of course.

The team also summarised that culturally some consultants were more interested in participation than others and wanted to be a part of it as well.

What can you do to overcome these challenges?

Ives mentioned that the challenge for Autodesk is to get the threshold so low that the tools are so easy to adopt and to use that participants are able to uptake their use even in middle (or muddle) of a project.

Conclusion (Software Used):

To wrap up this snapshot from an excellent and engaging webinar, it is important to clarify the software that was in use here (as it wasn’t 100% clear I must admit, unless you’re already familiar with it in the first place).

  • Collaboration For Revit” is a cloud hosted service allowing for cloud worksharing complete with the Revit “Communicator” tool - a chat message tool within Revit, so designers all over the world can comment “hey leave that column alone for a moment I need to move it” that kind of thing. This also comes with BIM360 Team integration.
  • BIM360 Team” (formerly A360 Team) is an online model viewing platform allowing for markups and project team communications (via email or live reviews) complete with document access and management (the policing of views, documents and published information) available to all across many devices.

At least I think so. Indeed it’s quite subtle and you may wonder why the above are not entirely one product overall? That said it's always interesting to hear case studies of technological adoption on the front line and I now have the CPD certificate to prove it ;)

Indeed more events of this nature can be found here. If you host or provide webinars yourself then be sure to add them too.

Have you used these Autodesk tools already (or are you about to)? Please feel free to comment below.

Hats off again to Building Magazine, UBM and Autodesk

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