The state of BIM
Some architects and engineers refer to Building Information Modeling (BIM) as an evolution of existing 2D-to-3D technology. But BIM is much more than access to Revit applications or clash detection capability.
For example, a building owner recently asked one of our partners to recommend materials in his new project that would appreciate in value over the years. The reason, of course, is that he plans to sell the building 10 years from now at a much higher price.
This meant selecting the right materials in the early phase of the design by focusing on such attributes as durability and re-usability as opposed to cost alone. Today, it is possible to save this type of data in a BIM model that stores all relevant building information during the building project’s life cycle.
BIM also facilitates project collaboration. Participants in the building process can cooperate on information models that are perfectly connected with each other and are integrated in a central database. Once a project has been completed and delivered, this database can be handed to the building owner who can then use it for facility management and operation. These modern tools bring transparency and efficiency to the building’s project life cycle, and help ensure that a building can be completed on time and on budget.
Real-time collaboration on 3D models: the cloud advantage
Information Technology plays an important role here. Deployment speed and performance limitations, however, hinder collaboration among multidisciplinary teams.
“Deploying infrastructure and managing systems performance is a time-consuming and devious process”, says Kristof Vandenbogaerde, BIM Manager at BIMplan. A Belgian company, BIMplan works as a mediator on large BIM coordination projects, and often faces IT-related issues in the early stages of joint ventures.
Speed is always a factor in these projects. All project phases must go through a planning process. But this planning doesn’t always take into account the time that is needed for effective IT deployment. IT managers must be quickly brought together to provide project engineers with the necessary BIM tools and workstations.
Project participants also run into Revit Server collaboration issues. The participants may all use their own servers, but who will be hosting the central model, and who will assume responsibility for the database? Discussions can also quickly arise among partners about who will pay what and to whom. Systems performance during the design phase can also suffer because of poor 3D model synchronization across servers and workstations – particularly in geographically dispersed sites that end up wasting time and money.
Fortunately, cloud technology can now deliver a solution by providing easy access to Revit servers and workstations in the cloud. Revit workspaces are simply virtualized workstations that engineers can access on any device – including laptops, tablets, and thin clients – over an internet connection.
These workstations’ CPU, graphics cards, Windows OS and apps run virtually in a datacenter. Only the screens are transferred to the end-user. Both data servers and virtual workstations for computing reside on the same cloud. This makes real-time and synchronized design on the same 3D models possible. What’s more, this IT infrastructure – including virtual workstations – can be deployed in minutes instead of weeks.
Cloudalize offers this new technology with GPU dedicated desktops-as-a-service. This service shortens lead times for overall building projects, because creating collaboration within different teams takes only a few minutes now, no more wasting time on synchronizing the data and waiting for IT support.
What about security?
The future of design may lie in the cloud, but is this technology secure? We asked Jan Festjens, former IT Manager at a large architecture firm to respond to this concern. “I’ve seen workstations and CAD laptops stolen on construction sites”, he replied. Security on these computers is often deficient. Data and 3D models, as a result, may fall into the wrong hands.
Under the cloud model, in contrast, the Windows OS, apps and even the entire computer run in the cloud. Only the screens get transferred to the end-user device. So the disappearance of a device isn’t associated with the loss or theft of expensive hardware or data. In fact, the security-level protection associated with virtual workstations now compares favorably with that of home banking.
Opportunities for BIM managers
Adopting a BIM collaboration model does not usually happen overnight, and BIM managers continue to face challenges. Implementing a disruptive technology on 30-year old workflows, for example, requires more than learning new software.
It is important to understand what resources, roles and responsibilities are needed to create a self-sustaining BIM ecosystem. As new countries mandate BIM adoption, however, we can expect that use of this technology will continue to expand exponentially.
Running the numbers
BIM technology, cloud computing and real-time collaboration go hand in hand. As statistics become more available, it also becomes easier to support a business case for adopting BIM and collaboration models.
Indeed, the cost of errors/failures now ranges from 5 to 15% of a project’s total cost. This is a huge waste of resources and money that can be avoided through the use of BIM technology.
We know, for example, that detecting a potential clash or error in the design phase of a BIM project costs up to 13 times less than during the construction phase. BIM technology also reduces CAD drawings rework from 48% down to 2%. Equally important are commercial advantages: leveraging BIM technology in sales proposals, for example, can increase by a factor of six the odds that a company will win the project.
Now, it’s time to consider cloud
BIM technology does not only assists with the bidding process, but also offer some other benefits like: real-time access to project information, a reduction in the number of potential failures/mistakes, the ability to identify potential clashes early at the design stage… The emergence of improved 4D simulation and project visualisation techniques confirm these trends.
Thanks to new developments in cloud computing, businesses can easily set up the cloud workstation for BIM environment, it is fast and efficient.