Now that mainstream Building Information Modeling (BIM) processes have been widely used for almost 20 years, we are starting to see more advanced uses of BIM in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. BIM, which is a design process, has as its byproducts 3D models, better visualization and ultimately better information. One of the biggest emerging uses is “connected BIM.”
We live in a world where digital connectivity is universal. We now have all media formats digitized and at our fingertips: connectivity with family, friends, coworkers, and even customers via social networks. We live in a connected world. Applied Software is starting to see this connectivity in the AEC industry and with BIM. So what is connected BIM?
Very simply, connected BIM takes the historically siloed raw BIM data and connects it to other sources, most notably the cloud. Applied Software has seen an evolution of connected BIM, and it seems to be growing in importance. Here are a few past, present and future examples of connected BIM.
One of the first examples of connected BIM that I was involved with was Autodesk Point Layout (APL). It was released along with Autodesk 2014 software and was able to drastically reduce contractors’ time in the field by allowing bidirectional connectivity from the AutoCAD/Revit/Navisworks model to the data collectors in the field. Almost overnight APL improved field accuracy and reduced costs. The software is simple but gave contractors productivity gains of over 30%. In a time in which labor is scarce and margins are slim, this is huge. Fast-forward to today: No contractor is sending out a field crew with chalk and tape measures . . . that is obsolete, and APL is now an industry standard. Many folks may forget, but one of the first and most successful forays of Autodesk into the construction industry started with APL.
One of the most successful examples of connected BIM that is currently evolving is Autodesk BIM 360 Design, formerly Autodesk Collaboration for Revit (C4R). In 2005, Phil Bernstein, FAIA, former Autodesk VP, penned a great article, “Integrated Practice: It’s Not Just About the Technology.” In it, Bernstein writes about the changes the AEC industry needs and how technology might be the spark that makes them happen. Nearly 15 years later, I think back to that article, because I believe Autodesk BIM 360 Design is the spark the industry needs to get closer to things like Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and more useful BIM processes.
Basically, Autodesk BIM 360 Design connects Revit models to the cloud and even allows firms to extend the Revit model outside of their own firewall. With BIM 360 Design, an architect can work closer with the building owner, MEP designers, interior designers, structural designers, and even contractors.
This is all made possible simply by connecting a Revit file to the cloud. Currently this product is taking the AEC industry by storm and quickly transforming the ways everyone communicates and collaborates. It will be interesting to see where it takes the industry.
Yes, Esri and Autodesk are working together and playing nice. Once bitter rivals, the two firms now see their products and offerings as complementary to each other. For those who don’t know, Esri is the world’s largest developer of geographic information system (GIS) software. I think this collaboration will be one of the best uses of connected BIM moving forward. With the latest release of Autodesk InfraWorks, Autodesk has created connectors that allow bidirectional information to the Esri ArcGIS platform. Why is this important? One example centers on how human migration trends affect the AEC industry. Most developed countries (not just the U.S.) are seeing large population shifts to urban areas. This puts a lot of pressure on AEC professionals. By leveraging Esri and Autodesk software, they can better integrate the organic world with their design models and start to make more informed design decisions. This can result in considerable savings for building owners and productivity enhancements for designers and contractors. This integration has just begun, with other connectors between Esri and Autodesk products planned for the near future.
In summary, connected BIM is beginning to bring to fruition what the BIM process promised almost twenty years ago. In hindsight, it is a little silly to think that segregating data to one product or one workflow could be that impactful. Now that the data is being extended across multiple products, processes and organizations, we will start to see the dynamism in BIM that was promised so long ago.
If your firm is ready to dive deeper into BIM, contact Applied Software for a quick discovery call to see how connected BIM can help you grow your business by taking advantage of the digitally connected world.