This CPD, sponsored by Autodesk, will consider how BIM 360 Design is overcoming the challenges design teams face and changing the nature of collaboration to improve working practices, while maintaining security on projects

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Using BIM 360 Design gives members of a design team the opportunity to work in one ‘virtual’ project office, while working remotely from a wide variety of locations

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Introduction

In the architecture, engineering and construction industries, it is well known that design teams face a series of challenges when beginning and working through a project. Appropriate decision making requires effective teamwork and communication, but three important issues need to be considered:

  1. Long projects can lead to too much “dead time”.
  2. Physical distances between design teams from the same company but working in different locations can restrict information sharing, while working with external parties can accentuate the effect of distance even more.
  3. Costs can mount and delays be extended if there is an absence of consistent communication protocols between different disciplines.

Autodesk’s BIM 360 Design can bring various teams together more effectively via the cloud, with data shared securely. This can result in a range of benefits including improved productivity, flexible resourcing and creating more time and space for creativity to flourish. 

This CPD feature will examine the challenges designers and others face and how these can be overcome. It will also consider the nature of collaboration, its impact on designers and how the nature of collaboration is changing to improve working practices, while maintaining security on projects.

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The seven benefits of using BIM 360 Design for effective design collaboration

  • Increased efficiency – teams can be freed up to work faster, more accurately and make decisions from wherever they are with easy access to relevant design information. 
  • Provides the ability to flexibly resource projects by building the project team with the best talent and allowing them to work flexibly, wherever their location. 
  • Makes room for creativity by automating time-consuming tasks, broadening a review team and recruiting the right talent to develop innovative designs. 
  • Puts an end to “dead time”, while design changes can be better managed by discipline. 
  • Eliminates costly errors and delays as there is better communication of design intent and changes can be managed with direct collaboration on the cloud – no more PDF mark-ups.
  • Reduces IT complexity by removing the need for expensive on-premise solutions and reduces IT overheads by moving to the cloud and scaling up or down according to demand. 
  • Crafts a cohesive team empowered with the tools to better collaborate on designs.

Overcoming challenges

Utilising cloud technology can help boost the return on investment in BIM and be a major factor in overcoming some of the key challenges that participants in project teams face. 

The use of multiple versions of files can lead to costly mistakes being made. Some calculate that only one-third of projects use the correct file version and have access to the latest documents. However, working in the same BIM model as the rest of the team means everyone is working from the latest version, so changes can be tracked, visualised and monitored to ensure across-the-board cooperation.

Nearly two-thirds of major capital projects miss cost and schedule targets according to a report from KPMG, but cloud-enabled BIM means decision-making can be streamlined and speeds up communications such as project updates and the achievement of scheme milestones. Decisions can also be made from any cloud-enabled location. The cloud also offers users a shared workspace without the up-front investment or personnel and running costs of installing expensive IT equipment. Overall, using the cloud makes teamwork less complex.

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Screenshot from a Corstorphine + Wright project using BIM 360 Design to coordinate a design

Why collaboration is changing

Collaboration has always been critical in the construction sector. The industry, which includes architects and engineers, is complex, with different parties looking to work together effectively and deliver the best possible product. 

Change within the industry, such as the need for productivity improvements and flexible project resourcing, and governments issuing BIM mandates across Europe, has put greater pressure on project teams to communicate better.

Traditional methods – face-to-face, emails, file sharing – are important but they encompass a linear process and do not encapsulate or lend themselves to the concept of a fully collaborative real-time workflow of information. 

Newer systems enable more effective working and the streamlining of design collaboration. The variety of data sources means adopting a more unified approach can be very effective.

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Source: Corstorphine + Wright

Corstorphine + Wright boosted productivity by 25% with the use of BIM 360 Design

Productivity benefits of BIM 360 Design at Corstorphine + Wright

Architectural practice Corstorphine + Wright had been using BIM for some time but wanted to foster greater collaboration and more effective working throughout the organisation. By adopting BIM 360 Design, the national practice was able to co-author shared Revit models, plus curate, coordinate and manage deliverables throughout the project.

Design information is published to shared folders in the cloud that enables design leads and clients to track and monitor project activity, file versions and management issues in real time.

Productivity was boosted by 25%, teams could be flexibly resourced, and the need for physical storage across the practice’s UK offices was slashed. This meant data back-up could be more manageable and led to improved data protection against physical risks such as fire and theft.

How new ways of collaborating are changing working practices

The collaborative benefits of BIM 360 Design mean that individuals and teams can work on projects more efficiently, more creatively and make better of use of their time. Speed and, more importantly, accuracy, can be increased, while decisions can be made across locations and information can be shared remotely and effectively. 

Teams and individuals can work in a flexible way as well as efficiently, while time-consuming tasks can be automated and “dead time” – such as waiting for large PDF documents to upload – can be eradicated. In this way, teams can change the way they work by using cloud collaboration. 

Thanks to the ability to workshare, teams can choose the best way to collaborate and interact based on their workflow and the requirements of the project. A true collaboration-for-design solution removes hardware constraints and obstructions caused by firewalls, meaning worksharing can take place remotely, across independent networks.

In terms of workflows, a key asset of BIM 360 Design is its offer of more control to the design disciplines within the process. All files that are uploaded in BIM 360 Design are stored in Autodesk’s cloud-based data management offering (BIM 360 Document Management). In the cloud,  BIM 360 Design provides a mechanism to share data from one team to another team. Crucially, this could be on either side of the architectural and structural teams involved in a particular project.

This does not mean the data is limited to two organisations, however. Architects on a project can iterate through their design and once satisfied can share a package of data to a shared project data environment or “single source of truth”. 

The design can then be reviewed and agreed by the structural team, which would next go through the process of adjusting the design or re-evaluating the proposal. The structural team would then reshare their package within a streamline process and the architectural team would review it again and agree it in turn. 

Technology is enabling designers and project teams to collaborate within a new context. The frustrating aspects of the traditional design process that were inefficient, time-consuming and wasted resources can be abandoned. Changes in technology and the industry are converging to improve the services that clients require. 

There are key points to consider regarding ways in which BIM 360 Design can help projects and professional practices, while focusing attention on the important aspects throughout the project lifecycle.

  • Technology – working with the latest technology enables team members to resolve design challenges in less time. By using cloud worksharing in BIM 360 Design, a design team can be more productive. Leveraging the technology within core workflows can offer huge value by reducing time spent in reworking key aspects of a building design.
  • Change management – change to existing practices and adapting to the pace of technology can prove to be a challenge and a risk to remaining competitive. BIM 360 Design shifts the form of old CAD workflows by utilising a BIM model to capture the built asset in ways not previously achievable. Change can increase production time on projects and result in tasks being more productive.
  • Enhancing the building design – issues and change orders through the project timeline can affect the work required to achieve a high-quality building. BIM 360 Design provides workflows to better manage project tasks and oversee deliverables within a project timeline. This allows more time to be focused on remaining items for design reviews to enhance the result for the client, users and stakeholders.

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Using the BIM 360 Design online tool, or mobile app, to quickly review and comment on models and documents digitally

BIM is being adopted across the supply chain and is evolving from a tool that historically has been used to drive efficiency within design into one that connects design to the build process, and from there to facilities management. The different needs of various stakeholders ought to be reflected in the way the latter interact with the model. In other words, it is no longer the preserve of the architect.

Embracing connected BIM is vital in this context. The era of connected BIM, with an emphasis on the “information” element, is characterised by a holistic project-centric process. This is relevant beyond the design community, extending to the whole industry ecosystem, including construction and facilities management. The project is at the centre from the start, not the individual files, and information can be accessed from anywhere.

Project delivery has become more collaborative and cloud-based collaboration is increasingly enabling BIM processes, new project delivery models and the desire for connectivity. Collaboration within BIM is about more than design and information sharing. It includes those people who comprise project teams and their need to work in a shared space in real time so that decisions, updates and communications are simultaneously and instantly applied, flagged, and tracked.

Reflecting a trend towards a more integrated approach to design and construction, the industry is prioritising the development of collaborative processes with external parties and investing in communications infrastructure.

A solution that takes communication beyond mere email trails and creates a unified space and record account can optimise BIM’s collaborative capabilities. Using the right cloud solution means workflows are integrated across the lifecycle of planning, design, construction and operation. It also removes barriers to communication so that project collaboration can take place in real time. Cloud-based collaboration tools can help minimise design downtime and repeating work. 

Exploiting connectivity, collaboration and the cloud

Design professionals are becoming less and less desk-bound. Growing numbers of teams work remotely, which can help bring together integrated project teams, incorporating those disciplines necessary for the building design process. That said, such “virtual teams” need a centralised collaboration solution in order to work as effectively as possible.

Industry leaders are recognising the potential of cloud technologies to enable remote data management processes. It is vital that members of design teams and other relevant teams – including lead architects or engineers, their consultants and sub-disciplines, and other relevant stakeholders – can access information in real time and on any device. Such data can then be shared, tracked and archived in the cloud.

Every team member ought to be able to contribute via a shared workspace wherever they are based. Such a strategy means collaborative teams can include specialist partners from anywhere in the world. Data issues can be resolved earlier, reducing the need to value engineer elements out at a later date. The team(s) can then collaborate on a mutually agreed solution earlier in the design process. By exploiting accessibility, such practices can lead to cost savings.

Control and security

BIM 360 Design features a cloud-based security system running on top of a similar high-trust environment philosophy, as with previous versions. However, it is designed to work in what is called a “low-trust” environment, since a variety of teams in different locations will be working together on the same project, using the same data.

Maybe the teams involved on a project have not worked together before, so the environment needs to be flexible. Security would need to be placed on the design, model and project information in such a way that it could be done by those involved in the particular job and enable them to share and communicate elements of that project in the knowledge that whatever is shared is safe and secure.

Once a project has been established, people can be added to the security network – for instance architects, structural engineers, mechanical and electrical experts, heating and ventilation specialists – and be assigned security. The project is still secure, but the entitlements for those who can see it have increased to those who need to see the relevant data and information.

Summary

Cloud technologies help teams working on a project to collaborate better. BIM 360 Design is evolving from being a tool that merely drives efficiency into one that connects elements within a construction project more effectively than before. While different stakeholders have different needs, the model can be interacted with in a way that improves outcomes for all participants.

Time and effort can be saved by those working on the project, opening up opportunities for the delivery of more work or providing better quality on existing schemes. A greater number of services can also be offered to clients through better working practices, while the drive to enhance and improve creativity can be enabled through time saved.

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