AEC Magazine May / June 2020

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Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology for Architecture, Engineering and Construction


How AEC firms have risen to the challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown

BIM meets GIS Nvidia Omniverse Twinview: real-time CAFM May / June 2020 >> Vol.108 p01_AEC_MAYJUNE20_Cover.indd 1

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Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology for Architecture, Engineering and Construction













Cover story: working Atvero PIM 41 BIM expert Nittygritty has developed a from home 12 Project Information Management layer How AEC firms have coped with lockdown, both technologically and culturally, and embraced new ways to communicate and collaborate

Excitech on homeworking 26

about AEC Magazine is published bi-monthly by X3DMedia Ltd Room 7, 1st Floor, Unit 2 465C Hornsey Road London, N19 4DR T. +44 (0)20 3355 7310 F. +44 (0)20 3355 7319 © 2020 X3DMedia Ltd All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without prior permission from the publisher is prohibited. All trademarks acknowledged. Opinions expressed in articles are those of the author and not of X3DMedia. X3DMedia cannot accept responsibility for errors in articles or advertisements within the magazine.


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BIM by ACCA 42 It’s not every day you find a new BIM developer, especially one that has a mature and capable software suite for digital building design and construction

The UK technology solutions and services provider shares its experiences of working with customers and technology providers during lockdown

Vectorworks 2020 update 46

ProjectWise 365 28

The latest developments in the CAD / BIM tool and CEO Biplab Sarkar’s views on future BIM software development

We find out more about Bentley Systems’ affordable Microsoft Azure-based document management service

GIS meets BIM 48 AEC Magazine is available FREE to qualifying individuals. To ensure you receive your regular copy please register online at

for Microsoft 365’s cloud backbone

Nvidia opens the Omniverse 32 This new platform technology brings together collaborators in a visually rich, real-time environment

Driving digital transformation 36 New building safety measures in the UK will have a significant impact on how buildings are designed and constructed

How Esri is working with BIM software developers to better integrate GIS for AEC professionals

Fibre performance 51 3-GIS on the challenges of designing, constructing and managing Fibre networks

Site intelligence 55 By using drones to capture images at critical stages of construction, one firm has gained unprecedented visibility into its projects

Twinview 38

BIM for temporary works 57

This new cloud service for owner operators targets the whole building lifecycle, from design through operation

How incorporating temporary works in a construction sequence can improve project delivery and help contractors win tenders May / June 2020


01/06/2020 08:48


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AEC Delta Mobility seeks to optimise data sharing

Simulating London’s microclimate imScale has updated its cloud-based simulation platform to help engineers and architects planning new developments in London to quickly assess pedestrian wind comfort and safety early on in the design process and comply with the city’s microclimate guidelines. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is recommended for buildings 25 metres or higher and required for buildings 50 metres or higher.



he Innovate UK funded ‘AEC Delta Mobility’ project is nearing completion. The project lets designers, integrators, and fabricators live-stream design changes to 3D models instead of sharing large files over-and-over again. The AEC Delta Mobility project is being worked on by Buro Happold, 3D Repo, Speckle Systems, UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management and Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group, with external support from HOK, and Atkins. The project aims firstly to help engage manufacturers in the early design stages and result in the increased premanufactured value of build assets across the construction sector, and secondly, to increase the productivity of construction projects by over 15%. The AEC Delta Mobility project breaks


open files such as .RVT or .QGS to be transactional on the individual parts of the file vs. the entire file itself. So, where a small design change (a delta) is made to a single object in a 3D model, it is only the small design change that will be transmitted. The image above shows the implementation of The Buildings and Habitats object Model (BHoM) running inside Grasshopper, linking across via live adapters to Speckle Systems and 3D Repo. The live adapters allow BIM objects to pass through to the reference platforms shown on the right-hand side. Changing the number of floors of a building in Grasshopper is then live streamed to Speckle Systems and 3D Repo to reflect the changes. The current testing phase of the project is due to finish in July 2020.


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OXX Cloud Services (BCS) is a new highperformance virtual private cloud workstation service that lets AEC firms access workstations remotely. BCS is different to other cloud workstation services because it is powered by overclocked workstations. The service is currently available in North America but BOXX is evaluating UK deployment. It already has a multi-national AEC firm whose London office is using the BOXX platform in the US data centre.



■ ■

Arkio builds capabilities beyond VR rkio, the VR-centric collaborative spatial design tool, now has enhanced capabilities for iOS, Android and Windows flat-screen mode. In the new beta v0.7.0 release users will find most of the same tools that are available in VR for creating, editing, moving, sketching, painting, deleting, measuring and splitting shapes. These

Remote cloud workstations

ProjectWise 365

tools will even work when viewing a model in AR mode on a phone or tablet. Elsewhere, the software is more tightly integrated with Revit. Through the Arkio Revit plug-in, users can choose between creating generic shapes or Revit masses. 3D models imported into Arkio now transfer directly into Revit families and the same goes for line sketches made inside Arkio.

entley Systems is waiving subscription fees for its ProjectWise 365 cloud service, until September 30, 2020, to help virtually connect infrastructure project participants forced to work from home. See page 28 to find out more about the software.




May / June 2020


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ROUND UP Bushfire program

Autodesk adds generative design capabilities to Revit

Laing O’Rourke will be using Asite’s Common Data Environment as part of its Bushfire Recovery Program in New South Wales, Australia. Asite’s platform will support the Australian arm of Laing O’Rourke as its leads the clean-up operation following the region’s devastating bushfires ■

Thermal break plates Trimble Solutions has teamed up with Farrat to develop a new plug-in for Tekla Structures designed to help facilitate the efficient design and detailing of thermal break plates into structural steel framed buildings ■ ■

RC detailing AGACAD is looking to boost Revit’s precast concrete detailing capabilities with new Wall Reinforcement and Beam Reinforcement add-ons that can generate detailed reinforcement for concrete walls and beams with all shop drawings and production files ■

Construction report Brexit, BIM Level 3, modular construction and Covid-19 and are among the topics under discussion in a new research report from Asite that examines the trends set to impact the construction industry globally in 2020, including the UK ■

Email rules A new research report by Mail Manager, the email management software developed by Arup, has revealed the lack of capabilities in retrieving information relating to a project across the AEC industries. 50% of respondents say the majority of information relating to scope changes still resides in email ■​

3D Repo for Revit Issue resolution in cloud-based BIM platform 3D Repo has been enhanced with a new optimised workflow for Revit. With the new Revit plug-in for v4.6, issues created in 3D Repo can now be accessed inside Revit. Then, any new issues / comments identified in Revit, can be synced back to 3D Repo for other collaborators to view ■


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aving started out in Project Refinery, generative design has now made its way into Revit 2021, but is only available to subscribers of the AEC Collection. Generative Design in Revit 2021 is designed to make generative design much easier to use. Users simply load up a model, select the appropriate design study and define the goals. The software then returns a range of options which can be visualised via 2D lists and interactive 3D thumbnails and ranked by certain criteria. Once the best option is chosen it is directly populated as elements into the Revit model. Generative Design in Revit currently includes three sample design studies: Maximize Window Views helps score the quality of views to the outside from any position in a room; Three Box Massing creates simple massing models and calculates areas; Workspace Layout enables more effective placement of desks in a room based on user-selected criteria.


Autodesk will add more sample files in the future and on the Generative Design Primer. The Dynamo visual programming environment can also be used to create custom design studies. Other features for Revit 2021 include support for slanted walls that can ‘instantly handle’ slanted doors, windows, and other wall-hosted geometry; the ability to create custom Revit workspaces based on discipline and job role; and improved interoperability between Revit and Inventor to offer better support for designto-fabrication workflows. Revit 2021 also includes higher quality real time visualisation with more realistic materials and lighting. Autodesk claims view navigation is much faster and smoother, performing over ten times faster than previous versions. There are also a whole host of enhancements to steel modelling, rebar detailing and electrical design. ■

Pedestrian proximity modelling asys Software has added proximity modelling tools to its 3D pedestrian movement analysis software MassMotion to help understand how buildings and facilities can be used in a post pandemic world. The new capabilities are


designed to help engineers, architects, planners, facilities owners and managers to test scenarios within MassMotion models and quickly generate visualisations that will help them understand evolving requirements for safety. The new proximity tools

show how close people are likely to get and for how long, and to see what effects the ‘new normal’ may have on capacity. The effects of changes to the layout of a building or space can be assessed quickly, and different solutions can be tested. ■

01/06/2020 11:32


LiDAR point cloud support added to Unreal Engine

Quadro RTX supports home workers remote graphics solution powered by Nvidia Quadro RTX GPUs has enabled designers at US infrastructure firm HNTB to work from home during the early days of COVID-19 ‘just like they were in the office.’ . Those are the words of Austin Reed, 3D visualisation team lead and supervisor, whose team specialises in visualisations and immersive experiences for clients across the United States.



nreal Engine 4.25, the latest release of the real time engine, includes native support for importing, visualising, editing, and interacting with point clouds. This new feature is designed to enable visualisation specialists, AEC professionals, manufacturers and others to aggregate and use huge datasets captured from the real world.


According to Epic Games, the engine can work with multiple point cloud segments. It uses a dynamic Level of Detail (LoD) system and a ‘point budget’ approach to maintain ‘steady performance levels regardless of how dense the point cloud is’. Point clouds are fully editable, allowing users to extract, delete or hide points for quick cleaning and display of data. ■

Enscape integrated with BricsCAD BIM nscape, the real time rendering and VR tool for architecture that has proved so popular with users of Revit, has now been integrated in BricsCAD BIM V20. With the new integration, architects are able to visualise their BricsCAD BIM projects at any stage of the design process.


Any changes made in BricsCAD BIM are instantly visible in Enscape, even in VR. Renderings, videos and panoramas of projects can also be created and the files shared with clients to walk through a design in real-time. An Enscape for BricsCAD subscription costs £215 per year. ■

AMD Radeon Pro VII doubles up memory MD is targeting users of design visualisation and simulation software with its $1,899 AMD Radeon Pro VII GPU The important features of the 250W, dual slot workstation GPU are up to 13.1 TFLOPs of single precision performance, 16GB HBM2 memory, support for PCIe 4.0 and support for Infinity Fabric, so two Radeon Pro VII GPUs can be combined and the memory doubled to better handle larger datasets.


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AMD has also introduced a beta SDK of AMD ProRender 2.0, its next generation physically-based rendering engine, which will support Infinity Fabric. While ProRender is predominantly a GPU renderer, the software is now able to better harness the power of AMD’s Threadripper CPUs as well.

London St Pancras social distancing digital twin platform that was originally designed to alert station managers to overcrowding at St Pancras station in London is now being used to monitor social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Developed by UK startup OpenSpace, the technology uses IoT and AI to detect and visualise the distance between passengers in real-time. The resulting data can then be used to compare historical weekly and daily information for trend analysis. It should provide a useful indicator of public adherence to Government guidelines, especially when lockdown measures are lifted in stages.



May / June 2020


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ROUND UP Social distancing A new smartphone ‘smart distancing’ app is helping maintain social distancing on construction sites. iTWOsafe smartly monitors and tracks physical distancing using a light-weight Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device attached to clothes ■

Viewpoint Team trial Viewpoint is offering contractors in the UK and Ireland a complimentary sixmonth trial to its cloud-based, web and mobile construction project management solution Viewpoint Team during the COVID-19 pandemic. ■

Slimline laptops Lenovo has refreshed the ultra-portable models in its ThinkPad mobile workstation family, replacing the ThinkPad P43s and P53s with the ThinkPad P14s and P15s, where the new model numbers dictate the screen size. The new machines feature a choice of 10th Gen Intel Core processors ■

Civil 3D investment Autodesk has acquired ProjectExplorer for Autodesk Civil 3D from 3AM Solutions (UK). The software offers a user-configurable report generator and design review tools to help simplify project data navigation, review, and model editing; more easily discover and evaluate design criteria warnings to help meet design standards; and generate custom reports and tables ■

Affordable housing Fluxus has introduced FluxHouse Generative, an AI-enabled digital toolkit to help developers and governments design, assess and deploy affordable housing projects. Fluxus is a construction / architecture technology company specialising in affordable housing through a prefab building platform ■​

Medical aid To aid design communication during the construction of Hospital Nova in Finland, Tridify was used to publish the 3D model to mobile devices via the web. The hospital is also planning on using the virtual model throughout the hospital’s lifecycle in FM ■


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Dell introduces slimline 17-inch mobile workstation ell has launched the Dell Precision 5750, a 17-inch mobile workstation which is thinner and lighter than equivalent machines from other tier one manufacturers. Historically, one of the main motivations to buy a 17-inch mobile workstation was to get access to the high-end GPUs, which weren’t available in 15-inch models. This became even more important in recent years with the rise of real-time viz, GPU rendering and VR. The Precision 5750 might be considered ‘VR Ready’, but its Quadro RTX 3000 GPU is really more for entry-level VR workflows. The main attraction is the


17-inch 4K display, built into an incredibly thin (8.67mm - 13.15mm) chassis that weighs a mere 2.13kg. The 4-sided narrow bezel ‘InfinityEdge’ display also means its footprint is not much bigger than a mainstream 15-inch. Dell has also launched five other mobile workstations and the tiny desktop Precision 3240 USFF. This new 2.3 litre machine is due to launch later this year and will stand out from the competition because of its faster GPU, the Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000, which will make it suitable for entry-level realtime viz, GPU rendering and VR. ■

Generative design to address risks of C-19 igital Blue Foam is developing a tool to help address the risks associated with the use and occupancy of interior spaces due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid Space Planner analyses factors such as total occupancy and proximity, airflow and ventilation, and the duration of activity in the space. Based on these factors, the tool applies generative design technology to recommend spatial planning


strategies, such as the location of entry points, work areas, furniture placement, and retrofits, to mitigate the risk. “With the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in many countries, people will slowly begin to move back into communal spaces. Everyone will need to look at their environment and make critical judgments,” says Camiel Weijenberg, Digital Blue Foam. ■

Pointfuse and Leica Geosystems team up ointfuse and Leica Geosystems have formed a global cooperation and development agreement designed to streamline the use of reality capture in digital construction, space management and visualisation workflows. One of the key aims is to provide a fast, simple solution to capture and convert point clouds into


deliverables that drive every stage of building construction, operations, maintenance and lifecycle management. To launch this new cooperation, Pointfuse has developed a new version of its software, called ‘Pointfuse, powered by Jetstream’, that provides users of Leica Geosystems solutions with a Scan-2BIM workflow within the

Leica Jetstream ecosystem. The software is configured with tailored profiles specifically for Leica Geosystems 3D laser scanners, including the Leica Geosystems LGS file format. For space and facilities management, it can be used as a companion solution to the new Leica BLK2GO handheld imaging laser scanner. ■

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Working from home: AEC firms under lockdown Out of the blue, Covid-19 gave AEC firms a challenge of epic proportions. Greg Corke explores how they coped with lockdown, both technologically and culturally, and embraced new ways to communicate and collaborate


n the space of a few weeks, the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything – family, friends, society, life and of course, work. Different countries have had to deal with the threat at different rates but, when the inevitable call to lockdown happened, AEC firms had to adapt very quickly. Some had business continuity or disaster recovery plans in place, but they almost certainly weren’t tailored to a pandemic of this scale. AEC firms were suddenly presented with huge range of challenges. IT consultant Iain Godwin says the immediate reaction from architectural practices was to work out what to do about end user computing, “I think the majority of people looked at remote desktop solutions; from an IT perspective how do we get 12

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back to the machines in the office? How do we get people the devices at home to access resources in the office?” Other firms were already using VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solutions, on-premise and in the cloud, and some responded by scaling up capacity. “Most big practices already had some sort of VDI so they really came into their own,” says Godwin. Godwin is deeply embedded in London’s architectural community so has a very well-informed view of how the industry responded to the threat of Covid-19. An ex senior partner and IT director at Foster + Partners, he’s now at the heart of the Architectural Technology Group - IT leaders, a forum for key practices to get together, share experiences and help progress all differ-

ent aspects of technology, process and culture within the industry. During our interview, Godwin reels off a list of members that includes BDP, Foster + Partners, Grimshaw, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Populous, AHMM, KPF, PRP, Glenn Howells and some smaller practices as well. “When Covid hit we just started meeting online on a weekly basis to share experiences,” he says. “The network has really been helping each other, so they’ve all been talking about what issues have come up.” Firms that were already into more agile working, with established work from home policies benefited substantially from just being able to roll that out, says Godwin. “Practices definitely had different attitudes to remote working — some embraced it before, others were

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he says. “Allowing people to Lockdown is - praying just connect in via NetExtender take the data home just breaks the kids don’t walk in from SonicWall and then use during that important all the chains. remote desktop to remote onto video call “I heard of one practice who the PC that’s sitting in the office. thought about it [giving staff worksta“Just to avoid any disasters with blue tions to take home] and that’s because screening or crashes or updates restartthey actually haven’t got an IT manager, ing PCs we got a LAN startup utility so but as soon as they started talking out- we can remotely power up the PC if it’s side they realised there were better ways not turned on.” of doing it and so employed RDP to Supporting the team remotely did not get people accessing the machines in come without challenges, admits Curtis. the office.” The practice uses Revit but previously had issues with real-time viz tool Get connected Enscape when trying to remote in from London-based CZWG responded to lock- the conference room’s lightweight PC. “It down by remoting into desktop worksta- would sometimes work, sometimes not,” tions in its office and the small to medium he says. “We knew this was going to be a sized architectural practice managed to problem long term but didn’t know of transition its team within the space of a the resolution.” week, as director Eion Curtis explains, “We Curtis explains that the issue became May / June 2020


very sort of command and control and you needed multiple lines of authorisation in order to be able to work from home for a limited period.” Godwin emphasises the importance of maintaining tight control over data. He explains that, prior to Covid-19, while some firms were trialling cloud-based Common Data Environments (CDEs), the norm is that data stays within the practice, on onpremise servers. “There’s a lot of scepticism around people’s IP and letting that IP out onto a project-based cloud,” he says. Post lockdown he’s seen pixel streaming technologies, both VDI and RDP [Remote Desktop Protocol], being used exclusively, and baulks at the idea of firms that have staff working from home with local data on PCs or laptops. “Decentralising data is a nightmare,”


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Cover story

critical on day three or four of working from home when a couple of architects desperately needed to use Enscape to render out some video paths and take some views. “The only solution we could give them was to unfortunately go into the office,” he says. As the team started looking at other remote technologies, including Splashtop, Nvidia resolved the issue, releasing a special tool for GeForce GPUs that could accelerate OpenGL applications with Windows Remote Desktop. “Thankfully the Nvidia utility literally came out at the right time, which was a real Godsend,” he says. “That would have been a real problem for us otherwise.”

Microsoft Azure Windows Virtual desktop technology, to run all of its design tools in the cloud. The fact that the company was already using Microsoft Azure with Nasuni technology was a massive benefit as Bond explains, “Due to the Nasuni cloud synchronous technology it was seamless. We didn’t have to worry about bulk uploading a whole load of data to enable them [the design team] to be able to work [from home]. They just logged on, and it was as if they were working in the office.” As part of the setup process, Penspen needed to size the virtual machines, as Bond explains, “We ran some tests based out of the UK, with various different software to work out what correct instances we needed, and then we just spun up the resources in the regions that we needed them, and then optimised them as people started moving to working from home.” One of the challenges faced by Penspen was that the Azure datacentres in the Middle East are not yet equipped with GPU-accelerated Virtual Machines, so those users had to run out of South

gle datacentre in Chicago where all project data is stored, as Hilda Espinal, senior vice president and chief technology officer explains. “We remote in through VDI regardless of where you’re located, whether that’s across state lines or overseas, you can basically just hop in and collaborate like if you were sitting next to one another. “Some of us who travel a lot have laptops with real horsepower. We are used to working from them and we sometimes connect to VDIs through them too.” For its VDI environment, CannonDesign uses Cisco servers, VMware Horizon on ESXi for the Hypervisor and Nvidia M6, P6 and T4 GPUs together with Quadro Virtual Cloud streaming Datacentre Workstation software. The Global engineering consultancy Penspen company has created profiles to split out also had desktop workstations in place the GPU and compute power, as Espinal but, with its 300 strong design team explains. “We’ve created what we call the based in the Middle East and Asia Pacific knowledge worker profile, which is for including, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Bangkok folks using primarily business applicaand Singapore, it chose to move its entire tions and we’ve got our designer profile, workstation resources to the cloud. which is our typical architect / engineer The company primarily works in the using Revit, and then we’ve got a renderer oil and gas industry profile, which are for and uses a variety of the folks that need Long, long term, you do wonder for companies that more GPU because applications including PDMS for 3D modelthey are doing the actuforked out millions on massive office premises, if ling, AutoCAD, visualisation, the this is going to change their outlook if they realise al STAAD, Plaxis and a walkthroughs and the that half the staff could be working from home little bit of Revit. animations [with apps Prior to lockdown, including 3ds Max, Eion Curtis, director, CZWG Penspen had been Enscape, Twinmotion]. using Nasuni technol“If you really want ogy to help it globally collaborate on pro- East Asia which gave some latency con- to go super, super polished, or you need jects. “We use it to replicate all of our data cerns. “It’s not bad, and the users are ray tracing type of level rendering, then globally. And we have virtual machines happy enough for the moment because you may want to then use something in each of our offices which are sort of they are able to stay at home, it’s just not like Unreal, or [Nvidia’s] Holodeck. caching machines which control the files quite as productive as being in the Today, for us, that’s on a physical deskgoing in and out,” says Andrew Bond, office,” says Bond. top but talk to me one or two months director of IT. “And also in Azure for When lockdown is over will Penspen from now and that’s going to be in our cloud access, and that keeps it in sync return to desktop machines? Bond is not datacentre when we’ll have virtual GPUs pretty much globally.” sure, “The flexibility that you get with the with RTX cards, and that would be Nasuni’s global file locking technology cloud virtual desktops from a worksta- another game changer.” works by automatically syncing data tion point of view, I think we will be For CannonDesign, the move to workacross multiple locations, but only the thinking very hard when it comes to pur- ing from home happened quickly. Espinal parts that have changed. In each Penspen chasing our next set of workstations.” recalls being in the midst of a roundtable office, design files are saved on a local meeting, when she heard the firm would virtual machine and the deltas get Virtually smooth be working from home offices moving forsynced to Azure, and then to the other From a technology standpoint, ward. Several of her peers had to interrupt offices on demand. CannonDesign had a virtually seamless the meeting and were asked to go back to With Covid-19 spreading, Penspen had transition to working from home. But their home office to execute a larger than to move quickly and prepared itself to be this will come as no surprise as the glob- expected remote work strategy. able to shift people to work from home, al architecture, engineering & design CannonDesign primarily focused on comall within a two-week period. firm has been using a dedicated VDI munication of this new work mode, not Staff in the UK and US mainly used solution for years. implementation. “In terms of just getting office applications and worked off lapCannonDesign has around 1,100 staff people to really be 100% ready, the only tops, so were already set up to work from located in 19 offices throughout the US, changes we had to do was to add a little home, but the workstation guys needed Canada and India. Prior to lockdowns, all more capacity because we never really 3D acceleration. Penspen turned to of the offices were connecting into a sin- had 100% of our workforce working con-




May / June 2020

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Collaborative spatial design

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Cover story

currently. It would have been maybe 80% at max prior to the pandemic, so we invested in additional capacity for VDIs and storage.”

Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Canada by CannonDesign

File control AECOM’s response to Covid-19 was to reduce its dependence on VPN connections into local servers and move projects to the cloud, as Kevin Cornish, senior VP who oversees the global engineering firm’s surface transportation business in the Americas explains, “AECOM already had a lot of our larger projects up in the cloud using connected data environment and [Bentley] ProjectWise, but we also accelerated that dramatically to move other projects.” ProjectWise relies on file-based trans-

AEC technology to support home working and collaboration Cloud workstations During lockdown, cloud workstations have proven a popular way of quickly giving users of CAD and BIM software access to GPUaccelerated virtual machines from home. There are no upfront costs and resources can be scaled up and down quickly. Nutanix Frame is great for self-starters, but the company also offers tailored services with consultancy. There are plenty of other companies to choose from, including IMSCAD Cloud, Scan, Open Boundaries, Workspot, Advance2000, CloudJumper, Cloudalize and Penguin Computing. The big cloud providers also have offerings and Amazon, Google and Microsoft have great global coverage and tonnes of other services. Most cloud workstations feature Nvidia GPUs, which are tried and tested, and the newer ones, including the Nvidia T4, support RTX for ‘real-time’ ray tracing and AI-enhanced graphics. AMD GPUs are also starting to get a look in and those powered by the AMD Radeon Instinct MI25 offer an interesting proposition for users of CAD and BIM software. As the GPU can be virtualised at a hardware level, the VMs can be better matched to the relatively low graphics demands of BIM tools, which means a lower per hour cost. The


AMD GPU is used in the Microsoft Azure NVv4 family of VMs. Workstation manufacturer BOXX has a new offering that runs on very fast hardware. BOXX Cloud Services (BCS) allows home workers to access its overclocked desktop workstations over a 1:1 connection.

On-premise VDI An on-premise Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution can be tailored to specific workflows. The data remains on site, which is often preferred to the cloud. But with big up-front costs and lengthy deployment times, an on-premise VDI solution is unlikely to provide a quick fix during lockdown. It is usually part of a longerterm strategy but firms can start planning now. There are many elements to consider, from hardware and networking to security and software such as Citrix, VMWare or Teradici PCoIP. This is why firms almost always call in the experts. In the UK, there are several firms to choose from including Creative ITC, Ebb3 and IMSCAD. Most firms tend to start pilots and then build up capability once the solution is proven. Some firms take even smaller steps. Ebb3, for example, provided a solution for SimpsonHaugh that

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plugged Citrix Cloud into the UK architectural practice’s existing desktop workstation deployment so the team could access the workstations remotely. With this groundwork, the infrastructure is now in place to support a full VDI solution in the future.

Remote workstations There’s a huge choice of workstations and GPU servers designed specifically for datacentres to form the backbone to a VDI solution. Machines are available from Dell, HPE, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Supermicro, Asus, Boston, Gigabyte and Cisco… the list goes on. Virtualisation, where multiple users connect to Virtual Machines hosted on physical 2U servers, give great density and flexibility. However, deployment can be complex and costly, so some firms prefer the simplicity of a 1:1 connection. This is where the end user remotes into a dedicated workstation, rather than a virtual machine. For CAD and BIM these are usually 1U servers kitted out with a mainstream professional GPU and Teradici PCoIP technology. Examples include the Fujitsu Workstation Celsius C780, Dell Precision 3930 Rack and Boston Roamer 110110TP. For more demanding applications, the 2U Lenovo ThinkStation P920 Rack can support up to two Nvidia

Quadro RTX 6000 GPUs Remote workstations don’t have to be specifically designed for datacentre racks. Some desktop workstations can be rack mounted, even the small ones. Seven HP Z2 Minis, for example, can be squeezed into a 5U space. The yet to be released Dell Precision 3240 can also be fitted to a rack.

Remote access Remoting into a desktop workstation is covered in the main section of this article but it’s worth mentioning a few technologies that can help. Microsoft RDP is built into Windows 10 Pro and is free. OpenGL acceleration is important for 3D applications and is supported with Nvidia Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro GPUs. Recently this was extended to Nvidia GeForce GPUs thanks to a patch ( RDP is generally considered not to offer as good an experience as Citrix HDX 3D Pro or Teradici PCoIP, which are more robust in terms of being able to adjust to meet network performance constraints. However, there’s a cost associated with both of those technologies. Mechdyne reckons its TGX 2.0 remote desktop software uses 30-50% of the bandwidth required by competitive products. Lenovo is offering a free 120-day licence

( Finally, HP is extending its HP ZCentral Remote Boost software free trial to three months for anyone on any workstation (it’s always free with HP Z workstations). Previously called HP RGS, the technology actually saved the bacon of London-based postproduction studio Lipsync during lockdown. You can learn about their experiences in a fascinating podcast from Escape Technology (

Collaboration - deltas The cloud is a great way to share project data, but filebased transfer can be slow on home broadband connections. However, there are several tools that focus on deltas, so it doesn’t kill bandwidth every time you open or save a file. With Autodesk BIM 360 Design, for example, when a Revit project is opened for the first time, the file downloads and caches to your local workstation, but every subsequent time you ‘sync with central’, only the changes are sent. This is also the case for Bentley ProjectWise. While there’s an obvious bias towards Bentley products, the collaboration tool also works with Autodesk products, including Revit, AutoCAD, and Civil 3D. With Revit, however,

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fer, but it is optimised to only download and connect to the relevant information, as Bentley VP of civil engineering Francois Valois explains “It has the notion of a delta transfer; it will not download information that it already has.” To support this way of working, AECOM needed its staff to work directly with physical workstations, so many took home laptops and dual 22-inch monitors from the office.

Security blanket Security has been a critical concern for those remoting into the office or accessing cloud services. Several architectural practices and construction businesses have been targeted, and there have been some high-profile casualities including Zaha

Hadid Architects ( Two-factor authentication has proved essential and those with established protocols in place were able to roll out remote working more confidently and more securely. “I think people who didn’t have twofactor authentication in place were much more worried by going to more remote working and subsequently have prioritised two-factor into the equation more quickly in order to be more secure,” says Godwin. Espinal explains how two-factor authentication works at CannonDesign, “You’ll need an app to install on your computer at home, whether it company provided or BYOD. The credentials are just your login name and your password.

Real-time immersive collaboration tool The Wild ProjectWise handles changes at the byte level and not at the object level. BIMcloud from Graphisoft, the developer of ArchiCAD, features patented “Delta” technology that only sends element changes between team members. According to the company, network load is minimal, making bandwidth irrelevant.

Cloud-based collaboration There’s a tonne of AECspecific tools that use the cloud to aid collaboration. BIM coordination software Revizto, which is used for real-time issue tracking, uses a local cache so users can take advantage of local hardware and the ability to work offline. In response to Covid19, the company doubled the number of users for a licence at no cost. Browser-based collaboration tools can make it easy to view large and complex

models from a variety of devices. 3D Repo, for example, stores all data in the cloud for a single source of truth, which allows users to access shared data, models, risks and issues. The software was recently enhanced with a new optimised workflow for Revit and support for MS Teams. Tridify offers a BIM publishing service for combining, sharing and viewing IFC models in a web browser. “You don’t need to go into an office to review a 3D BIM model anymore - anyone can view them wherever they may be,” says Alexander Le Bell, Tridify CEO. Viewpoint Team is a cloudbased common data environment (CDE) for construction site and project management. The web and mobile solution helps contractors pull together entire project teams to support project processes, documents, work-

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Then you need a second app to place on a secondary device, like a smartphone, which reconfirms you are the person, and that’s your second password, a dual identification security measure. Once you enter those two pieces of information, and you have an internet connection, it knows to authenticate you for that VDI we have assigned to you.” Even with VPN and two-factor authentication in place, there is still an unquantifiable risk in using people’s personal machines to access corporate systems and some sophisticated vulnerabilities remain. According to Godwin, some practices are putting more proactive threat monitoring systems in place, such as Carbon Black, Dark Trace and Arctic Wolf.

HP ZCentral software can provide a remote 1:1 connection to desktop workstations flows and communications. The company is currently offering a complimentary six-month trial. Procore, the project communications and documentation firm, responded to a huge demand for integrated video conferencing and onsite video from home-base workers. With 24 hour programming shifts, its platform now supports Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Gotomeeting, connecting those at home with those onsite. Meanwhile, Nvidia is developing a new visualisation focused platform technology called Omniverse AEC Experience that brings together architects and other stakeholders in a visually rich, realtime collaborative environment that has live links to the leading CAD and BIM. More on this on page 32. Other cloud-based collaborative tools include Asite,

Trimble Connect, Bluebeam Revu, Geopogo, AEC Hub, BIM Track, VIM, BIMcollab ZOOM, Unity Reflect and Oracle Aconex. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

VR collaboration Virtual Reality (VR) can be a powerful way to connect distributed teams and several tools have collaborative capabilities including Insite VR, IrisVR, The Wild, Symmetry VR and Arkio. Most tools offer markup capabilities for design / review, but some can be used at the conceptual stage of design. The Wild offers some basic massing tools that let you model simple 3D boxes inside VR, while Arkio has been developed specifically for this process. Using VR during lockdown does present some challenges. Home workers don’t necessarily have a powerful workstation at home, or

space for a VR setup. And while the self-contained Oculus Quest doesn’t need a workstation, it’s currently very hard to get hold of one. But collaborative VR doesn’t have to be done with a VR headset. Most software also allows participants to join with a tablet or desktop application. In fact, the Covid-19 lockdown actually led to IrisVR developing more functionality for its desktop client. Autodesk BIM 360 is also emerging as a key enabling technology for VR. Both Insite VR and The Wild recently integrated their collaborative VR products with Autodesk’s cloud-based construction management platform and Iris VR is in the process of doing so. Unity Reflect will also have a future integration. You can read more about BIM 360, VR and the Oculus Quest in this AEC article (

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Cover story

Free Wharf project by CZWG for Southern Housing Group. Modelled in Revit, rendered in Enscape. During lockdown, CZWG’s staff access their office-based desktop workstations from home. According to director Eion Curtis, the Enscape model pictured right is pretty massive, but runs smoothly on CZWG’s Remote Desktop configuration

Team work

Microsoft surfaces and iPads is really Team communication and collaboration good these days. It’s much more responhave proved two of the biggest challenges sive, in a way. People have been scouring on lockdown and architecture firms in for those tools and trying to work out particular have had to adapt quickly. their best methodologies of still getting Video conferencing has played a major their design ideas down,” he says. “So role here and is now being used widely to quite a lot of iPads have gone out so people connect teams that may in the past have can sketch and share screens on Teams.” just communicated with voice. Bora Architects of Portland, Oregon has Busy home office backdrops and cus- a very open studio culture with pin-ups tom virtual backgrounds have added a and desk critiques. Working from home personal element to discussions, but has led the practice to explore new tools there has also been video fatigue. To for collaboration to fill in the voids and to shake things up, team meetings have simulate looking over someone’s shoulder even been held inside Western action- or drawing over someone else’s sketch. adventure game Red Dead The practice has been Redemption. “Zoom sucks,” using a tool called Miro for Decentralising interactive presentations, writes Vivianne Schwartz on Twitter. “It’s nice to sit at group brainstorming sesdata is a the campfire and discuss sions, interviews, and pronightmare. projects, with the wolves ject client and user group Allowing howling out in the night.” sessions. “Zoom has been When researching this people to take our primary video conferarticle Microsoft Teams the data home encing platform for a few cropped up continually in years, and we’ve been very just breaks all pleased with the way it inteconversation. According to the chains Godwin, most firms had grates with other platforms access to the technology such as Miro to enable more Iain Godwin through Office 365 subscripdynamic virtual sessions,” tions, but it wasn’t used parsays Karim Hassanein, senticularly widely. Now with the lockdown, ior marketing coordinator. its use and adoption has exploded. Bora Architects is also working with Teams isn’t just about face to face collaboration tool The Wild, “We have engagement; its screen sharing capability K-12 and higher education project teams has proved invaluable for group meet- starting in The Wild right now. The abiliings, both internally and with clients, ty to make mark-ups inside a model is an and also for support, where a BIM man- appealing feature,” says Eric Miller, BIM ager can take remote control of the user’s Manager. “Historically we had done more PC. According to Godwin, one of the most VR design work in headsets, but this was valuable features has been the white a barrier outside the office.” board which has been used to get sketch“We’re presently exploring Oculus ing design ideas across. Quest to distribute access to more staff as “Going from manual sketching to digital the need builds,” adds Hassanein. sketching, the quality of the pen on “Supply shortages have been a challenge




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recently, but with the release of the Oculus Link cable, this seems like the most versatile headset option on the market for both tethered and standalone applications.” KPF has also experienced a shortage of VR kit, so has been making the most of the flexible VR and desktop capabilities of IrisVR to collaborate remotely during lockdown, as Mike Koutsoubis, VR specialist at KPF explains, “For remote client reviews we would actually host the calls on Zoom initially, and we’d go through a slide decks as well, but then we’d switch to VR. “The idea is that, whoever had the headset would go in and then one person would go into desktop view and then share their screen through Zoom, so that people who would just be on their cell phone at an airport, they could actually be watching a feed of what’s happening inside of the VR model. So regardless of the device you are on you can still be in this virtual design session.”

Business goes on The challenges facing AEC firms are not just related to design. New business needs to be secured and firms are still working hard on competitions and bids. “We still need to impress clients,” says CannonDesign’s Espinal. “And we have successfully done so. We just won a multi-million project with a confidential client and we did a remote interview. This was done all through video conferencing. In fact, their feedback explicitly cited our unique and successful use of technology innovation, unlike our competitors — a great thing to hear when you were the last of many to present, or should I say ‘workshop’ with them?” As part of the pitch, CannonDesign used the VR-centric collaborative spatial

31/05/2020 08:13

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Cover story

design tool Arkio to model master planning massing. In a similar way to KPF, the design team used head mounted displays to guide clients through the experience from the comfort of their home using a tablet. The client was also sent a pre-packaged file so they could do their own navigation and better understand the environment. “We worked on the files in our datacentre, then pushed them out to the web so they could be consumed on something that is super, super light,” explains Espinal. “We built some things internally, giving them parametric controls and to slice and dice models.” “It’s been an interesting journey to work remotely because it’s really pushed us to maybe think a bit further outside the box and give our clients further control over how they can interact with the design proposals. Now it’s ‘OK, here you go, use this slider, move things around, see if you like this, try this design option’. Before we would drive it for them, we would show them.”

control, be it at a building level or service to an entire neighbourhood.” With the diversity of living arrangements for those working from home, many households have had to adapt. For examples, some large families with kids have had to manage the number of devices connected to WiFi, trail cables through the house to plug directly into the router, limit bandwidth usage throughout the working day or even connect over 4G. “Some young architects will be in flat shares working on a laptop on the bed or something, and having to share WiFi, while next door he’s got two furloughed mates playing Call of Duty,” says Godwin. To help support workers, firms have issued best practices to staff working from home. “All the IT guys have risen to a massive challenge to try and communicate with end users in their home environment and try and support them,” says Godwin. “At the beginning it was a massive amount of hand holding to get people on board with working from home,

simply wasn’t room at home. “Our first order of business was to assess personal equipment and home office setups, identify any critical gaps, and pair staff members with office equipment — workstations, monitors, conferencing A/V resources, as needed,” says Hassanein, Bora Architects. “Since we’re essentially turning each home office into a mini production studio due to the increased frequency of Zoom meetings, getting everyone equipped with microphones, cameras, and tips for consistent lighting was also essential.” But shortage of kit has been a challenge for some firms. “Obviously, phones and laptops have cameras built in, but [for desktops] people generally don’t have webcams. And try and buy one at the time and everywhere was sold out,” says Curtis, CZWG Architects. This has led to multiple devices sometimes having to be used for group meetings, taking video calls on tablets or phones while sharing screens on desktop PCs. But it’s not just about having the right technology in place, the Staying connected wellbeing of staff has Fast and reliable AECOM already had a lot of our larger projects also been high on the Internet connections up in the cloud using connected data environment agenda, as Stephen have proved critical durWeeks, principal, Bora and ProjectWise, but we also accelerated that ing lockdown, both at Architects explains, dramatically to move other projects the office and at home. “Our wellness team has For connecting to office conducted regular ergoKevin Cornish, senior VP, AECOM workstations remotely nomic consultations or on-premise VDI dataand mental / emotional centres, firms have needed to rely on low which everybody seemed to manage.” stress check-ins. We’re being intentional latency connections and fast upload While firms have supported staff wher- about giving staff the space and channels speeds at the office. ever possible, there have been reports of to communicate honestly about the chalAccording to Godwin, the bigger archi- some being furloughed simply because lenges we all face personally, and Bora tectural practices were already in reason- their Internet connection was not suffi- has been providing support in the form ably good shape, “Higher speed Internet ciently fast or reliable. Never have the of bonus PTO [paid time off] for mental connections into their networks, greater ISPs had such a critical role to play. health, flexible scheduling options, and WAN resiliency has been an investment more frequent updates from leadership.” that people have been making over the The home office Penspen has been similarly aware of the last couple of years because of the way For some firms, getting people set up at importance of staff wellbeing. “Social isothat greater collaboration has been going home has been seamless but it has not lation has been a challenge, making sure on in all its forms.” been without its challenges, and compro- we’ve got engagement with our employThis was certainly true for mises have had to be made. Many firms ees, so we’re running some talks and some CannonDesign who was already serving sent out surveys to find out what equip- sessions that allow non work type chats multiple offices out of its technology hub ment staff needed to work from home. and discussions to keep people engaged. in Chicago. Other firms have had to scale While most workers had home laptops We’ve shuffled that up a bit so it’s not just up resources. or desktops to remote in with, some of the people that you would normally work Bora Architects already had work from these devices needed to be shared with with in your own office,” says Bond. home capabilities via VPN but had never family members. Laptops were provided needed to test its system to see if it could in some instances, as well as large dis- Licensing support all of its staff shifting to remote plays to help with detailed CAD work, Software companies have generally been work at once. “We increased our band- but dual screen setups were not com- accommodating with licensing to supwidth to reduce any friction for staff and mon. The reasons for this were varied - port home working. For those remoting their access to the office,” says Miller. increased bandwidth demands, the fact into the office very little has changed. “The pinch point for connectivity is often that they are not supported by some However, for those working with softat home and unfortunately beyond our remote graphics protocols, or that there ware on unfamiliar devices or for those




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Irina Viner-Usmanova Rhythmic Gymnastics Center in the Luzhniki Complex, Moscow, Russia - CPU PRIDE DEGELO ARCHITEKTEN,, Photo Š Barbara BuĚˆhler

Cover story

CannonDesign will soon be running the collaboration tool Nvidia Holodeck out of its Chicago datacentre using virtual GPUs with Nvidia RTX technology

moving workstations to the cloud, discussions have been needed. Recent changes to licensing have helped out at Penspen, “We’ve either moved to named user licencing or we’ve shifted to a single global licencing model, which essentially says that you can have so many concurrent users,” says Bond. “If we’d done this three years ago where everything was still on USB dongles, and stuff then some of the specialist software would have been extremely difficult. And would have required that sort of direct to workstation virtualisation.” “There was one or two [software vendors] where we had site-based licensing and we had to have a discussion with them and say ‘look, it’s the same people, it’s just they’re not on site, is that OK? And they’ve been relatively supportive.”

Shaping the future Everyone knew Covid-19 was coming, but few could have imagined the impact it would have on business. Lockdown certainly forced hands and some technology needed to be rolled out very quickly. Others were more prepared and with proven solutions in place just needed to scale things up. The response of some firms was shaped by doing the best with the kit they already had. In the main, these stop gap solutions have worked well, but if remote working is to become a big part of the future landscape, then dedicated remote technologies will be key. Even the smallest firms might think twice before investing new desktop workstations. As far as technology is concerned, Covid-19 has been a real eye opener for many boards, as Godwin explains, “Underneath, they knew they were so dependent on technology but felt a bit of 22

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an unease with it. Now it’s saved everybody’s bacon, by being able to work from home and collaborate, I think they are very thankful for those investments.” “The old IT model was ‘design first, technology supportive’. Whereas I think today, especially with Covid, there’s a realisation that it’s design and technology in partnership together. The two things are much more intrinsically integrated, culturally as much as technologically.” From a mitigation point of view, there’s a sense that Covid-19 came at an opportune moment. Things would have been very different if the pandemic had happened five years ago, “You would have found people having to take their stuff home, the Internet connectivity would have been miserable back to the office, cloud tools were not really there,” says Godwin. “I think it would have been devastating.” “I’d have had an awful lot less hair,” jokes Bond. Above all, lockdown has led many firms to recalibrate their attitude to home working. “There was always this kind of underlying idea that it is bad for productivity, but now that we’re all forced to do it, I think we’ve realised that actually it’s not that bad,” says Curtis. “In some respects, it’s detrimental, that you’re not sitting next to your colleagues, but that’s partially mitigated by all the communication tools like Teams and phone calls and all the normal stuff. On the other hand, it’s like going into the office early morning or staying late, when no distractions are around, you find that you just work continuously. I probably do more work now than I had previously done,” he says. Staff who have had their eyes opened

to the flexible benefits of home working will also have their say in how firms adjust post lockdown. “I think one of the most interesting aspects of it, and the discussions that we’re having with our HR department at the moment, is around what happens when employees come back and say ‘well actually no, we don’t fancy coming back to the office we’re quite happy from home,’” says Bond. Curtis believes that Covid-19 is probably going to change the workplace environment for good, as people realise that they don’t necessarily need to travel into an office every day. Of course, those decisions may also be dictated by health and safety, “Certainly, in these next few months, we’re looking at our office space and thinking how can we implement safe social distancing?” says Curtis. “It might be a case of half the office work remotely one week and then the other half work remotely the next week, or you do it by team basis or something, but you can’t have everybody coming into the office because it won’t work. “Long, long term, you do wonder for companies that forked out millions on massive office premises, if this is going to change their outlook if they realise that half the staff could be working from home.” At AEC Magazine, we’ve heard of several firms already looking to downsize offices, and now with future business uncertainty, the shift to work from home is starting to look even more attractive. In these uncertain times, firms not only get to save money, but staff get a better work / life balance. In the past, concerns around technology, collaboration and culture may have held companies back, but it’s now looking increasingly likely that Covid-19 will be the pivotal event that changed the AEC industry forever.

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Excitech on lockdown To continue our Covid-19 coverage, we talked with UK technology solutions and services provider, Excitech about its experiences with customers, technology providers and getting firms up and running, away from their offices


n our cover story this month [see tion, collaborating on data stored on a The right protocols page 12] we spoke with several AEC server on the local area network. When Remoting in using TeamViewer and firms to find out how the industry firms learnt that they would need to Splashtop worked to a degree, but it’s not responded to the Covid-19 lockdown. send staff home, most started looking at 100%, says Stone. “Applications like For a different perspective, we got in touch VPN, or remote desktop technologies Enscape require different protocols with Excitech to find out how the UK VAR like Splashtop. OpenGL, for example - so we’ve had to and AEC industry consultant responded “I would say 90% of our customers are then look at different methods of conto the pandemic, how its customers adapt- doing that today,” says Stone. “Now, that necting. Where they might have had VPN ed to home working and how they are now had some challenges because some users and RDP to begin with, they now maybe planning for the future. didn’t even have a laptop or workstation using VPN and HP RGS (Remote “For practices that are in the region at home. We then had a mad rush on Graphics Software) because it will supbetween 20 and 40 users, where they typ- orders for laptop devices. port OpenGL.” ically don’t have an IT manager, we are we “Typically, firms were buying the loware their IT manager,” explains Alan end workstations, just something to act New ways of working Stone, who heads up Excitech’s IT solu- as a dumb terminal to connect to their The sudden and very dramatic changes tions business. “When it started to look machine in the office, but everyone was that firms had to make meant customers like something was going to happen, we buying laptops at that period, so you questioned most aspects of their IT setup. realised we had to change our response. imagine in distribution the stock levels Do they move to workstation class lapSo our first test was tops? Do they only use actually to initiate our hosted data services? own business continuity [Clients] are re-evaluating how they work moving Do they still need such plan to remotely supoffices? How can forward, with a focus on allowing their staff to split big port our customers. they be more dynamic their time between office and working from home both now and in the “We did this two weeks prior to the lockfuture? Martyn Stoneham, Excitech down. Our support staff “We are starting to are based in Enfield see that whilst custom[London] and suddenly we had to take were hard to gauge. One minute laptops ers had hobbled together various soluthat team and enable them to work were in stock, gone the next! It was a real tions to help them keep working in the remotely. Shortly after, we then started to challenge for procurement in general.” short term e.g. using Dropbox, Teams get calls from customers asking for help. But it wasn’t just hardware that was etc., they are now realising they need “I’ve never known a couple of weeks the problem. Getting VPN licences gen- long-term solutions,” says Paul James, like it, we had more than triple the num- erated was also a challenge, as Stone Excitech’s head of document manageber of calls. I’ve got a team of ten engi- explains. “While all clients had a fire- ment solutions. “Digital workflows are no neers, everyone had to work full time on wall device, they only probably ever had longer a nice to have. You can’t print off the help desk and all leave was can- two or three users connected simultane- documents and walk them round desks celled. Our customers were relying on ously. Now suddenly we’ve got 20, so anymore, they need more permanent us. It went from mid-March into April VPN licences became critical. But the solutions in place.” and we went from typical IT issues to vendors were struggling with demand, According to Stone, dozens of custommoving them into a completely different so even just a generation of a licence ers have utilised the free extended access way of working.” within 24 hours became problematic programme for cloud-based collaboradue to the sheer volume, sometime tak- tion tool Autodesk BIM 360. However, Physical attraction ing 48 or 72 hours. It wasn’t just archi- some firms still don’t want their data Many of Excitech’s customers work in tects looking for this, it was the whole IT hosted on a public service and the experian office in front of a physical worksta- industry.” ence has been heavily dependent on how




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1 Dozens of Excitech clients have utilised the free extended access programme for Autodesk BIM 360 2 Clients accessing BIM 360 directly from their mobile workstations at home have had the best experience. Credit: HP ZBook 15

the service has been accessed. “50% accessed it through their office CAD workstation and 50% directly from a mobile CAD workstation,” says Stone. “Suddenly, those users accessing BIM 360 directly from their mobile device had a better experience than the ones who used VPN to access their office machine at work and then into the cloud.” This has led to some firms investing in mobile workstations to use alongside BIM 360. It gives the flexibility of being able to access the model at home, or to take the workstation into the office. However, there is a cost element to consider. Many practices have already made significant investment in desktop workstations, so replacing these with mobile workstations will be expensive. The same is true for cloud workstations, as Stone explains. “Once we start crunching numbers for desktop as a service (i.e. hosted virtual desktops) you can go and buy a high-end mobile workstation for a similar cost of a year’s service. Firms need to have those discussions internally, and weigh up the benefits vs cost of each approach. “While we have remote desktop suppliers that can get you ‘desktop as a service’ in two hours, you can’t, because there’s still this one crucial problem, the model, where do customers put their data?” Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is another option, but while big architectural firms might already have had an agile working policy in place with pools of VDI desktops, for smaller practices it’s a major investment. “VDI solutions are initially very investment heavy but the return is over a longer period,” says Stone. “Initial capital cost to deploy is very, very expensive.” “Our advice is, whatever is right for your business,” he adds.

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The future office Uncertainly over future working environments is having a huge impact on technology decisions. “Firms are not all going to be able to just go back to an office,” says Stone. “Firms don’t have the office space to implement a two-metre social distancing rule. It looks like firms might have to have half the staff in one day, the other half the other day. “Speaking with our clients, what has surprised me is all are re-evaluating how they work moving forward, with a focus on allowing their staff to split their time between office and working from home,” says Martyn Stoneham, Excitech’s UK BIM 360 Specialist. “Some are even looking at whether they need all their offices/ office space. A lot of customers are seeing productivity increase and a better work life balance with staff saving hours not having to travel to and from work.” “By saving on rent, they could invest in technology,” adds Stone. Stone explains that there are already a couple of customers looking at long-term solutions which would involve reducing their office space in central London, “They are looking at Nutanix Frame as a service, alongside other technologies like Panzura for data, so if they still want to maintain an office environment, they’ve got the option. They’re running Panzura locally and in AWS or Azure, and still collaborating on that same data.” This re-evaluation of office space and technolo-

gy also applies to smaller firms, for whom BIM 360 does seem to have been a key technology. The fact that it could be turned on with the flick of a switch and was free for a number of months made it more appealing, but now firms have been using it for some time, it could well lead to a more permanent way of working. Whichever technology route firms have taken to handle the challenges of working from home, they have all had to adapt quickly. “One of my clients commented around deploying Microsoft Teams, saying normally this would have taken months to deploy with a lot of push back,” says Stoneham. “As everyone had no choice, it took days, not months and with no push back. I would say this is also relevant with BIM 360 as normally one of the biggest challenges is adoption, as people don’t like change. I can honestly say no one has mentioned this as a challenge anymore. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have any other option.” ■

2 May / June 2020


01/06/2020 14:05


ProjectWise 365 AEC Magazine interviewed Dustin Parkman, Bentley Systems Vice President of Project Delivery, on the release of the company’s most affordable, cloud-based document management service

AEC Magazine: Who is ProjectWise 365 aimed at? Dustin Parkman: At Year In Infrastructure (YII) [Singapore, 2019] we had already announced plans to come up with a new ProjectWise offering, called ProjectWise 365. We launched an invitation only beta to allow early users to do some evaluations, give us feedback, and allow us to be a bit more agile in our response time before we launched it to the general public. This spring we had a global launch and the target audience has been small to mid-sized firms, for people who are not using ProjectWise today — whether that’s a small firm or small workgroup within a larger organisation. It was really meant at that lower end of the scalability, so being able to quickly adapt something at a small workgroup level, and then scale based on to your needs from there. Because it’s a cloud service, it is instant on, there is no prerequisite, there is no infrastructure so to speak that’s required by the organisation that actually speeds their time from decision to implementation, to actual production use. Whereas tried and true ProjectWise, which has 28

May / June 2020

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been around for a number of years, is AEC: How tightly integrated is more of an enterprise level system. ProjectWise 365 with Office 365? So when you’re thinking about traditional ProjectWise design DP: ProjectWise 365 allows integration, you’re usually you to take the engineering thinking about large groups, collaboration capabilities complex work in progress, that are there and embed complex spatial managethat within your day to day ment across a lot of different Microsoft Teams / Office disciplines, whether that be environment. You already mechanical, drainage, civil have a generic collaboration site works, etc. where you’re platform that you’re using; having to manage all that in ProjectWise 365 can fit into one environment and share that rather than be an alterspace, through collision native. What we are really checking, interference, typitrying to focus on, is not so Because it’s a much the generic collaboracal space management type of stuff. Because of that, that cloud service, tion that Microsoft or Zoom tends to be used more so someone like that is going it is instant on, or with larger organisations, to be focused on, we try to there is no larger capital projects. focus on what differentiates Whereas ProjectWise 365, prerequisite, us between them, which is while it can also be used on really the detail for engithere is no complex projects, we didn’t and construction infrastructure neering want to confuse the market correspondence — so the so to speak with how we positioned it. ability to share documents We positioned it at that midand BIM data, the capability tier firm or workgroup, so to spatially analyse and even a large, multinational engineering review information, to capture issues, to consultant organisation could use be able to do markups and review sesProjectWise 365. sions — whether those be 2D PDF and



01/06/2020 14:05

DWG/DGN types of workflows, or digital twin-based workflows with the new iTwin services Design Review that that comes as a part of ProjectWise 365. You kind of get the best of both worlds: you’re able to do traditional engineering design, review, QA, QCD types of processes, but you can also do more of the cutting-edge digital twin immersive types of reviews as well, so when you’re in that digital twin modelling environment, your issues, your conversations, your points of interest and observations can all be spatially anchored inside the model. It’s a multiuser environment where everybody can collaborate in real time. AEC: Compared to ProjectWise, what’s missing from ProjectWise 365? DP: The thing that ProjectWise 365 doesn’t do yet is a lot of the kind of ‘heavyweight’ features, particularly around things like title block integrations, a lot of the complexity of metadata and attribution on documents that ProjectWise does a really good job with. Also, the batch services for being able to take engineering models and periodically, on a schedule basis, being able to

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extract that data, create all those The experience that we will ProjectWise 365 downstream contract deliver- offers an immersive, have will be very much like web-based 2D/3D ables through automation. PowerPoint or Excel has with hybrid review It doesn’t also have all the [Microsoft] OneDrive. But environment engineering application plugtoday, you have to go through ins, so ProjectWise has integration built our web environment to upload your coninto MicroStation, OpenRoads, tent, and then start your collaboration OpenBuildings, Revit, AutoCAD — all sessions from there. the Autodesk flavours of products — Tekla and so on. We haven’t yet built AEC: You haven’t got integration links those pieces out, so it is today a bit more into MicroStation or Revit etc. Is that a transactional. It’s not immersive in those technical barrier, or is that a feature set actual design environments, which is barrier and you’re trying to make this a also why it’s positioned as a smaller work more attractive price point? group/ midsize firms solution. We’re not aiming for these very com- DP: I don’t think it’s really either. Design plex multi-discipline projects with hun- integration was really more about trying dreds of users all trying to collaborate to address capabilities that we felt we and have automation running, producing didn’t already have good coverage on. the deliverables downstream. We will get [ProjectWise] has the best design intethere, but this is our first launch into this gration of any collaboration software for space and we are really trying to address infrastructure design right now, so we the less complex side of the market, or the didn’t really see that as a critical first step side of the market where you’re not actu- for us to address. What we really wanted ally a designer, maybe you’re a stakehold- to address was the people who were not er, you’re a viewer, you’re a QA/QC per- doing the heavyweight design, but the son, you’re a contractor who needs to be broader ecosystem that need to particiinvolved with RFIs and construction cor- pate in that information [workflow], to be respondence — everything but the actual able to collaborate without any toolset. hardcore physical design in a complex Being 100% web, whether 2D or 3D, and multi-discipline environment. just making that information accessible May / June 2020


01/06/2020 14:05


through a browser, through your phone, through your tablet. That was kind of like the critical first step that we wanted to attack first.

to capture that into the review system to actually capture measurements and conversations within the context of the project, for QA/QC types of processes.

AEC: Does ProjectWise 365 have any particular features for civil, architectural or structural?

AEC: Can subcontractors and supply chain firms use ProjectWise 365 to be

DP: It’s $60 per quarter, but right now we are waiving all subscription fees until September 30th to help out during the Covid-19 pandemic. So $60 per quarter per person. AEC: Any constraints on web space?


DP: Right now, we don’t DP: It does have some spehave a constraint on it, so We really wanted to address the people who cific civil features for doing you have unlimited at the design reviews, particular- were not doing the heavyweight design, but the moment. ly the ability to deal with broader ecosystem that needs to participate in alignments and profiles AEC: And how do people that information workflow to be able to and offsets for civil-based get on board with collaborate without any toolset 3D digital twin models — ProjectWise 365? so a lot of the station offset measurements, a lot of DP: We have made it availthings that you would expect to have in a integrated into my full ProjectWise doc- able to all of our partners to resell and we linear type of model. umentation system? do our own direct sales. We’re working For example, if it’s a railway system or with Microsoft now to have ProjectWise a rail track system or if it’s a road — any- DP: Absolutely. 365 available on the Microsoft Store thing that’s linear, pipelines, any of that because it is an MS Azure based product. type of stuff — it has capabilities for that, AEC: What’s the price? ■


Bentley Systems - trends during Covid-19 lockdown AEC: What trends have you seen happening with Covid-19 and people working from home needing to access work data?

Dustin Parkman: What we’ve seen is the organisations that already had ProjectWise and had good global distribution usage of it, we really haven’t seen much of a change. For the most part, all of those organisations already had a good data policy, they already had good cloud strategies in place and were already working as a global unit. People were on the road a lot so they already had good work from home or good mobile work processes in place, and they already had good data management with ProjectWise, so we didn’t really see their productivity decline too much. Where we saw probably the largest aspects of decline [software usage], where we saw organisations and geographies get caught a bit flat footed, was particularly in


the government space. A lot of geographies around the world did not have a good work from home policy, they did not have a good data sovereignty policy for people working from home. They didn’t have the hardware required in some cases, particularly for graphically intense BIM applications. That was pretty consistent across all government sectors globally — obviously, there were some that were better prepared than others There were some particular countries that did not have a good work from home policy, even at a labour law perspective. Countries like India, China and a few others, they kind of struggled as well because they had to very quickly create a culture of working from home and because there was already a culture of not working at home they also had the same issues with hardware and bandwidth and things like that. Now we’re starting to see them kind of emerge, getting their data policy and

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hardware in place. They’re establishing not only federal and provincial policy, but each organisation is creating their own policies. The encouraging part is, because of the situation, everybody’s figured it out pretty quickly. They had to, in order to survive.

AEC: With Covid-19, have you seen more people up for a more open cloud?

DP: I think most organisations in our space had a hybrid approach. Some of the larger ENR top 50 organisations they were ahead of the game and had already moved mostly of everything to the cloud already. But once you get past that, most firms had a hybrid model and you still get a lot of countries where there are very specific guidelines around data sovereignty. It can’t be a Microsoft Cloud, it can’t be an AWS cloud, it has to be some regional cloud provider. I think this is, without a doubt, going to be a catalyst

to get 100% to the cloud. Most people realise they were not prepared for this from a cloud infrastructure standpoint and it introduced all kinds of challenges in their data offices.

AEC: Have you had any customers that are looking into cloud workstations, so the data is in the cloud, the workstations are in the cloud, and they’re just streaming pixels?

DP: Yeah, we have, we’ve seen a fair amount of that, particularly in areas where it was going to be an issue to get all the hardware. India is a case in point where you know that entire workforce, for the most part, wasn’t ready to work from home — bandwidth issues, most of them did not have the intense graphical hardware they needed with GPUs to do graphical web and BIM. So the quickest way for us to actually accommodate those users – I’m speaking for Bentley – was to actually

use the cloud-based virtual machines to do all that and just stream it through that. So we quickly reacted to a few different primary providers of that – Citrix XenApp being one platform, Microsoft Azure virtualisation platform, and then Frame being the other one.

AEC: Presumably, as a company, you’ve had to be more flexible with licencing?

DP: Yes, it’s been mostly on a one by one basis. What we had in the early days was users trying to use their home computers to do work. And so immediately, a lot of organisations said, ‘please stop that. You know, we’re afraid we’re going to get invoiced and overcharged for new licences and things like that.’ And so we reached out and said ‘hey, during this time of need, don’t worry about that. Later on you’ll need to get it sorted out, but as long as the total usage kind of feels within the same ballpark [it’s OK].’

01/06/2020 14:05

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18/05/2020 12:22

Enter the Omniverse Nvidia’s new platform technology brings together architects and other stakeholders in a visually rich, real-time collaborative environment that has live links to the leading CAD and BIM tools, writes Greg Corke


few years ago, Nvidia wowed its AEC and manufacturing customers with Holodeck, an experiment in using virtual environments for collaborative workflows. The platform was designed to bring together architects, designers and stakeholders from anywhere in the world to build and explore projects in a highly realistic, collaborative, and physically simulated VR environment. The visual quality of the demonstration cars and buildings was stunning, but the 3D models represented a snapshot of a project in time. With distributed teams using many different tools, designs are constantly evolving, and a linear stepped process of import and export wasn’t going to solve the real workflow challenges faced by global AEC firms. What was needed was a dynamic way for data to be shared and Nvidia looked to the visual effects industry for inspiration. 32

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Around the same time, Pixar brought out USD (Universal Scene Description), an open framework for the interchange of 3D computer graphics data, specifically focused on collaboration. As Richard Kerris, Industry GM for M&E at Nvidia, told AEC Magazine, USD “standardises toolsets and environments and models and all of the things that go into creating an object or an environment.” USD was originally designed for visual effects and animation, but it immediately started to gain traction in other industries. It provided a means of transferring files without importing or exporting, but having it happen live between applications. “That was when the team looked at what was working and was not working with Holodeck and decided that, if they standardised around USD, they could take that same approach, but now have an environment of collaboration that comes through this open standard,” explains Kerris.

Holodeck was very focused on VR, but laid the foundations for a new, much broader, collaboration platform called Omniverse, which Kerris describes as “Google Docs for your world.” Omniverse essentially allows teams to work together, interactively using their 3D design tools of choice. Data from multiple applications can be seamlessly streamed into the Omniverse and the resulting asset, be it a building, product or VFX scene, can be interacted with live in a real-time, ray-traced viewport accelerated by Nvidia Quadro RTX GPUs.

The AEC experience Omniverse can serve multiple industries, including Media and Entertainment and manufacturing, but it’s the AEC market that’s getting the most attention, as Kerris explains. “AEC, in particular, really gravitated towards us because they’ve always had this strong need to collaborate,


because sometimes the architectural firm is in London and the building is in Beijing, and some of the landscapers are in Shanghai and you know there’s all this stuff that goes back and forth. “And so we started talking with all of the major players from Foster + Partners to KPF to Woods Bagot and we’ve made them into ‘lighthouse’ accounts, meaning that they’re in, and we work with them on a fairly regular basis, about how our development is going, what is important to them, how customers would use things.” All of this has led to the development of the Omniverse AEC Experience, which provides firms with a collection of tools designed to improve the conceptual design process. “Multiple designers can work on one design at the same time and reviewers can ask for changes in real time,” explains Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. There are live links or ‘Portal connections’ to the major 3D design tools, including SketchUp, Revit, and Rhino, and viz tools 3ds Max and Unreal Engine. As one would expect, there’s a big emphasis on high fidelity, ray traced models and the use of photorealistic visualisation much earlier on in the design process. Kerris is keen to point out that Nvidia is not looking to make a product out of Omniverse. He explains that one of the guiding principles is for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to add, embellish and do whatever they want to do with it as





1 Real-time collaboration: Sketchup a platform. In the AEC tools including Revit, Revit, Rhino and Omniverse View space, Nvidia has been Rhino, SketchUp and 3ds 2 Image courtesy of Woods Bagot working very closely with Max to work collabora3 Rhino (left) and Revit (right), both tively on a building in Autodesk, McNeel, streaming data in real time into Trimble and Epic Games China designed by KPF. 4 Omniverse. Images courtesy of but is also talking to othParticipants make changWoods Bagot ers. An SDK called es to materials, windows Omniverse Kit is available to help ISVs and lights and various configurations give their products a real-time, ray-traced within the scene. All of this is being manapplication viewport. aged in real time, across the globe. According to Andrew Rink, who leads “For the first time they’re really able to global marketing strategy for AEC and collaboratively work on an environment, manufacturing at Nvidia, one of the key not just like ‘OK you do this come back breakthroughs Omniverse achieves is tomorrow when we’ve got that,’” says the ability to move among Revit, Rhino Kerris. “What’s really amazing is that in or SketchUp with just one click, “There’s that platform you will see the object to no need for data preparation or decima- build and you will see the environment, tion to view huge models with supported sunshine, clouds, etc. You will see photophotorealistic rendering software. This realistic finishing and materials on the eliminates costly delays in translation building, you’ll be able to come inside to and errors between software tools, the interiors and all of this will be taking which results in substantial time sav- place in real time.” ings,” he says. To support collaboration, users can leave “For instance, a team iterating on con- notes, annotations and highlight objects. cepts might have an architect making These are persistent within Omniverse. changes to the building model using “We’re looking at what other ways are Revit, while a designer in another office best,” says Kerris. “If you highlight somesimultaneously adds or modifies design thing can it pop open a video of somebody elements using Rhino or Trimble that may not be dynamically connected at SketchUp. All team members, and even that time, but left you a Post-it Note, if you their client, can view these changes in will, to say, ‘hey move this wall.’” real time in Omniverse as they work Omniverse broken down together and exchange feedback.” Kerris describes an example workflow Omniverse features several key modules. where a global team is using a range of Omniverse ‘nucleus’ coordinates all of the

May / June 2020


Software USD elements across the various applica- but with Nvidia Quadro Virtual Data Kerris, but Omniverse isn’t just for the tions, feeding into the rest of the platform. Center Workstation (Quadro vDWS) soft- larger practices, “We’ve got all sizes there Any changes made in Revit, Rhino or ware users can access the Omniverse actually, there’s an architect working on another authoring tool are continually fed platform using GPU-accelerated virtual [Nvidia CEO] Jensen’s house, and he got into Omniverse via ‘Connector plug-ins’ machines. It means all collaborators, him enlisted. And then we have archiwhich create a live link. The Nucleus can including clients, can view projects in tects that are working on 70 storey buildrun on a standard server or a VM within full interactive ray traced quality on low ings that are going to be iconic,” he says. an Nvidia RTX Server. powered hardware - laptop, tablet or Now with the launch of Ominiverse Omniverse ‘View’ provides a real time phone. AEC firms can also run their 3D AEC Experience, Nvidia is opening view into the Omniverse world that is design tools directly off RTX Server. things up to more firms through an Early being worked on. It uses Quadro RTX Access program. Kerris expects the numGPUs to provide high-quality photoreal- Getting immersive ber of firms to rise significantly, and not istic output of the aggregated USD model Omniverse is not just for static displays - just architects. Nvidia is also starting to and offers basic scene and material edit- XR has a massive role to play. For exam- talk to other disciplines including strucing capabilities as well as industry-spe- ple, an iPad can be used to window into tural engineers and MEP engineers. cific features like light studies. All team an AR-based view of the building that’s members, even clients, can view changes sitting on a dining room table, “We not Conclusion in real time – the idea being that every- only support the streaming out of it, we AEC firms are well served by real-time one can work together and exchange support AR kit and things that allow you viz applications – Enscape, Twinmotion feedback. By being able to pan, zoom and to have location based information so and Lumion all offer live links to the rotate a photorealistic model in the view- that you can use the viewer for more than major CAD and BIM tools and some also port anyone can quickly see how light just a portal, but actually something to have support for RTX ‘real-time’ ray tracmight reflect off a surface or a physically interact with,” says Kerris. “The things ing. They do a great job of putting visualbased material, such as wood or concrete, we’re doing with AR are much higher isation tools into the hands of architects might look under various lighting condi- fidelity than people have ever seen before but are very much personal tools for the tions. “This is a tremendous help in and the feedback has been phenomenal.” creation of viz assets or for giving real accelerating design decisions, which VR pixel streaming is on the roadmap time feedback on design decisions. leads to more time for ideWith Omniverse, Nvidia ating on innovative conhas much bigger ambicepts and faster bid prepations — to bring together A team iterating on concepts might have an ration,” says Rink. architect making changes to the building model design teams in a visually Omniverse View is not rich collaborative environusing Revit, while a designer in another office ment where industry-stanthe only way to view phosimultaneously adds or modifies design toreal content generated dard 3D tools can be used on the platform, as Kerris concurrently to drive the elements using Rhino or Trimble SketchUp explains, “If you want to design and all stakeholdstay in Rhino, you can feed ers, including clients get to the viewport back into the application, so and there will be support through its see the impact of those decisions, instantwe’ve really created it in a way that the CloudXR platform, but Kerris believes ly. And all of this is done in a photorealisISVs can take it and extend it.” AR has a more important role to play, tic environment where the impact of light Viz asset generation isn’t limited to the “From a collaborative standpoint, the and materials can be explored from a Omniverse rendering engine. The plat- feedback has been much more positive. If very early stage. form is also designed to support commer- you and I are collaborating on something Nvidia says the initial focus is on cial game engines and offline renderers, as we don’t need to have our headsets on, enhancing conceptual design, which Kerris explains. “We’re not changing we’re literally working on a window and implies that in the future the platform workflows, we’re enhancing it, so if they we can interact with it.” could be used further downstream. How go out to Unreal’s Twinmotion or they go this would work in practice remains to to Chaos [Group], things like that, all of The cloud be seen, as when AEC projects evolve those things are built to be supported by The current focus for Omniverse is for and details become more important, Omniverse - they’re all partners.” AEC firms to use on premise hardware clashes and constructability issues need but there are plans to add a cloud service. to be resolved. Powering the Omniverse “We certainly have that capability, but This looks a step too far for Omniverse Omniverse View can run on a Quadro we’re still working on how to implement itself but something that could be hanRTX desktop or mobile workstation that so that it’s in the best experience for dled by tight integration with a third-parallowing users to get an interactive view- the customers,” says Kerris. “One of the ty product like Revizto, Navisworks or port into the shared scene. However, the biggest points of feedback we’ve had from Unity Reflect, which can handle BIM real power of the platform comes into a lot of architectural firms is ‘we’re not big metadata. play when using Nvidia RTX Server, a IT firms, we are architects, and so we want It’s still very early days for Omniverse reference design available for a range of to use cloud services like we use Netflix.’” and there’s a lot we don’t yet know, but OEMs with up to eight or ten Nvidia we’re excited to see where this technoloOpen access Quadro RTX 6000 or 8000 GPUs. gy goes and, more importantly, how the RTX Server can perform multiple Omniverse is currently being trialled by AEC firms who are helping shape its roles. It not only provides buckets of pro- about 35 ‘lighthouse’ accounts. About a direction are getting on. cessing power for real time ray tracing, third are major architectural firms, says ■




May / June 2020

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21/04/2020 17:47:10


New regulations driving digital transformation New building safety measures in the UK will have a significant impact on how buildings are designed and constructed. There are clear implications for the roles of architects, engineers, contractors and construction product manufacturers, writes Richard Waterhouse, chief strategy officer at NBS


hile the construction industry as a whole is under digitised, we’re rapidly approaching a time when digital will be a ‘must-have’ not a ‘nice-to-have’. Digital transformation will be driven by legislation and a new focus on safety. While architectural and engineering professions have been leading the switch, compelled by BIM government mandate, the benefits of digital haven’t been seen across the sector. Digital tools improve standards, reduce mistakes at every stage and improve record keeping and auditing. This keeps costs down, builds on schedule and drives up standards. Recently, a number of big policy announcements have been made including: a new building safety regulator, new building and fire safety legislation and consultations from key bodies. This piece brings them together to look at how these will impact on the sector.

New regulator The new building safety regulator will be part of the Health and Safety Executive. Clear, transparent, unambiguous and it will have a significant impact throughout the building process. It will impose sanctions and instigate prosecution at any stage of construction, as well as when a building is in use. Its scope will also include revoking building safety certificates and levying unlimited fines for non-compliance. 36

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It’s being set up by Dame Judith Hackitt, who when speaking at our Construction Product Leaders’ Summit in February, expressed her frustration with the lack of progress since the Grenfell Fire. The new regulator will lead to a radical change in culture and processes. Hackitt was explicit, the regulator will have real bite, “it will not look to see you have merely followed the rules, but check the building is safe from planning to occupation and you’ve done everything in your power to ensure this.”

Better decision making For specifiers to make informed decisions, manufacturers will have to provide data and performance accreditation, use standardised systems and take a more collaborative approach. This includes adopting a transparent attitude to data sharing. As part of the new Building Safety Regulator, there will also be a new construction product regulator, focused on strengthening construction product regulations. Its remit will include market surveillance, manufacturer enforcement and advising both the industry and the government. Digital will be the norm, so the sector can expect to see less substitution, and ‘value engineering’ will move from being about cost reduction to focus on quality. Product stewardship will lie at the heart of this new approach. The increase in oversight doesn’t stop with the new regulator. ARB announced that it is looking at how it can assess

competency and skills throughout an architect’s career.

New laws Early in April, housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a series of measures comprising what he called ‘the biggest change in building safety for a generation”. This is the government’s response to Building a Safer Future’ (Hackitt, 2018), the independent review of building regulations and fire safety. The changes will apply to multi-occupancy buildings of 18m and above, or six storeys, whichever is reached first. The regulation will be expanded to include other building types as further data is available. For buildings in-scope, a duty holder regime will apply, with a client, principal designer, and principal contractor. The contractor and designers will have to demonstrate that the building is safe and the ability of the duty-holder to choose which building control body oversees construction / refurbishment will be removed. To make sure the regulation is followed, there are gateway points at various stages, requiring regulator sign-off before the project can move forward. This sign-off will be evidence-based. The gateways are positioned before planning, before construction and before occupation. The focus is on people’s safety, and includes the quality of record keeping. Design changes will need to be to be amended, signed-off and recorded.

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Grenfell Tower: the tragedy that led to recent reforms in the building safety regulatory system

Before occupation, full digital documen- know, technology can be frustrating. tation will have to be provided which Files need reformatting, cut and paste is includes drawings and a dataset of assets. part of the grind. It’s still too hard to While this makes the future move information without direction of building regulalosing data, thus risking tions for housing above 18 costly mistakes. The metres pretty clear, when Government’s push for technological aspects are ‘BIM Level 1’ will simply examined in detail, the way perpetuate this position. forward looks still looks The intent behind ‘BIM cloudy. There is also a nasty Level 2’ was to provide a surprise in the supporting better integration between economic assessment, and libraries of data and as real confusion around the such, between the systems rationale, for the use of outusing that data. It included dated ‘BIM Level 1’ as the guidance on how to set up It’s clear that the information requirebasis for information capture the future is in the ‘golden thread of informents as part of the old mation’. Employers Information both digital Requirements (EIR). and safetySewing it up Importantly, it provided the first. This The Building a Safer Future output data schema as report identified a requirerequires true COBie, originally develment for the ‘golden thread’ of collaboration oped in the US and, unlike information. Updated of the BS1192 PAS and a focus on most throughout a building’s life, documents, was recognised and in use from design to the people who as a full British Standard. occupation, it will be an accuwill live in the The latest ISO standards rate and real-time record of (and guidance) take all of buildings what has gone into a building, this a step further. you’re how it was installed and mainThere is consensus that tained. This encourages trans- responsible for interoperability is a major parency and accountability. issue. It wastes time for the Right now, the ‘golden people involved, adds no thread’ is an aspiration and a major stick- value and introduces risk. For seamless ing point is around having consistent integration and interoperability to take standards and interoperability. As we all place, the data standards required will



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need to be clear and precise. The Centre for Digital Built Britain recently released its report on interoperability, which was overseen by Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This is a welcome look at a real sticking point and could help partially explain the confusion around the detailed digital aspects in the Government response to Building a Safer Future. For technology providers to innovate, they need clear guidance and the push of government-mandated standards. The technology sector can then establish clear interoperability approaches, allowing software ‘a’ to talk to tool ‘b, so that data can flow freely. The CDBB report recommends the use of Uniclass 2015 as a standardised classification, the continued use by government of COBie and investment in upskilling construction professionals in digital.

Changing ways of working It’s clear that the future is both digital and safety-first. This requires true collaboration and a focus on the people who will live in the buildings you’re responsible for. This will no-doubt lead to a wholesale revolution around working practices, contracts and approaches. Our construction culture is too often adversarial with negative consequences. The regulations coupled with new technologies provide an amazing opportunity for us to use digital collaboration to focus on building wonderful places for people to live in safely. ■

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Twinview BIM has always held so much promise for the whole building lifecycle, from design through operation but has so far failed to reach most owners/ operators. Fortunately, there’s a new service offering to do exactly that by Martyn Day


n the early days, moving to BIM Aided Facilities Management), but on form, as it has a core set of model and was sold as a way to get automatic steroids. Unfortunately, the tools to create data viewing functions with four distinct and coordinated drawings. In a con- these twins have been specialist, or have modules, the number of which will tractual world where drawings been components which would still expand over time. were the deliverable that was a big bene- require programming to create a bespoke The base platform ‘Access’ will take fit. However, as the industry has moved solution. Many of the examples for Digital BIM models from Revit or IFC, uploaded forward and embraced the model as the Twin applications have been oil and gas or or hosted on web servers such as BIM digital prototype, resulting in so much within really large real estate owner/ 360, bring in associated 2D drawings more information being added to the developers. It is not yet mainstream. sheets, COBie data etc. and then stitch it design database, handing over drawings Enter Twinview, which is part of Space all together as a viewable, queryable makes little sense. Group, an architectural practice in model. This can be filtered, slice and The Government’s mandate for BIM Newcastle upon Tyne. Many of you might diced, dynamically sectioned and interrolevel 2 in 2016 added the deliverable of a know Space Group’s Rob Charlton and gated at a granular, component level. In take-off layer for Government-procured Adam Ward, who are key players in the essence this is a great BIM viewing tool. buildings and infrastructure, which UK BIM scene. The ‘Manage’ module is essentially a required a COBie (Construction Space Group is not only an architectur- powerful and fully featured CAFM tool Operations Building Information al practice but also a developer of BIM which operates on the core model data. Exchange) file. This spreadsheet data for- content and applications, with bimstore Within Manage, it’s possible to see any mat contains all related project and asset (, and BIM Technologies asset’s history, lists of ticket issues, maininformation contained in tenance lists and any the design by all project associated files with participants. Twinview is an easy way for everyone to reuse and assets. Twinview can be While COBie is a benefit from BIM model data. This functionality used as the authoring major improvement on tool to define composhould be in the toolkit of all architectural delivering just drawings, nents that should be practices - it’s joined up thinking for BIM it’s still not passing on maintained and assign the full BIM data set and maintenance schedules, is akin to taking a fillet which can all be steak and dicing it up to make sausage. ( Charlton is also accessed onsite through the web. All There’s also the suggestion that the the driving force behind the original UK activity is logged and is traceable in an alleged consumers of this dismembered BIM conference, BIMShow Live. audit trail. In making the Twinview data do not know what to do with it, or Twinview is a model-based platform model data set, if data is being brought in simply leave it in a desk drawer on a USB for accessing, managing and monitoring from various sources, the system can stick. It’s not reasonable to expect that buildings, with a focus on optimising the import a BS1192:4 COBie file supporting end users should have an expensive copy maintenance of assets and enhancing jobs, systems and documents. of a Revit or a Solibri, or know how to use efficiency and performance. It is the With regards to component maintethem. There surely has to be a better way product of four years of work from a nance, as Space Group owns bimstore, of passing on the benefits of BIM to own- small development team, driven by the there is also access to the component ers/operators? needs of Space Group to share its project library of manufacturers’ parts, which is BIM data seamlessly with its clients for updated and maintained to be current Digital Twins post hand-over management and mainte- and includes useful information such as While there is a lot of hype surrounding nance. Twinview is a SaaS application, so price and availability. the Digital Twin concept, the benefits are is cloud-based and securely accessible One of the key tenets of the Digital real. The idea of having a ‘living’ digital online, and therefore available every- Twin, and one that takes it beyond just asset model of a real-world building is where - phone, tablet, PC. being a BIM model, is the ability to interessentially traditional CAFM (Computer Space Group calls Twinview a plat- face with live sensor data coming from




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1 Twinview automatically analyses your model and classifies all elements and assets allowing you to filter by object, material or system type 2 A ticketing system is used for issue resolution, creation of maintenance jobs and tasks 3 Monitor the live status of any asset. In this example, energy usage of a pump 4 Twinview features one button BS1192:4 COBie import & export


the building. Impressively Twinview’s ‘Monitor’ module provides a way to take live feeds from sensors to display real time statistics of asset performance, and as it’s SaaS this can be all done remotely. Space Group has its HQ all wired up with temperature sensors in each room so they can optimise heating usage. In the future, buildings will be a mass of networks and subsystems which can be collated and displayed in Twinview. The trials and tribulations of getting good quality COBie asset data from all project participants and systems can be the stuff of nightmares for project managers. While Twinview supports the import and export of BS1192:4 COBie, the ‘Capture’ module, currently in beta, repurposes Twinview as a single authoring space to collate data from Asset Information Requests (AIRs) and assign them to be filled by specific team members. As data is input Twinview will validate it. There is a live dashboard for information managers to see the status of the COBie for all the defined stages and an audit log tracks who added what, when, as well as who is responsible for missing information. This application of Twinview makes it useful in design development and during construction, not just at handover. Although should there be extensions or rework of a building at any time in its life, this module would also be useful.



In use Twinview has a simple web interface. On logging in, users are shown a map which pinpoints geographic locations of buildings together with an associated project list. Select a building and the interface changes to the model display. The model view will quickly render the 3D view of the building in an isometric perspective. This is currently using Autodesk’s Forge viewer, and that comes with a familiar interface: pan, zoom,

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Software Twinview can aggregate BIM models from a variety of sources Revit or IFC

orbit, walk, camera views, measure, sec- maintainable equipment. The interface tion, model tree browser and explode – also has tabs for contractor firms and any which literally breaks apart the model quotes that have been raised. like a Haynes manual. The IoT module will display live data My MacBook Pro has a decent proces- from any active sensors, tracking and sor, but crappy Intel graphics and perfor- logging performance. This can be a dashmance was actually not bad considering board or filtered on specific component the size of the model I was looking at, but feeds by space, category, owner or status the Forge view does have a tendency to (active/inactive or archived). The perforregenerate objects that aren’t strictly in mance is time logged and graphed. There the view. are all sorts of possibilities for this, but Alongside the model view, a dialogue hooking these feeds in is perhaps for the offers insight into the metadata informa- more technically advanced. In the not too tion on any component or distant future this will be group of components selectcommonplace. ed. This can be COBie data, A Project Reporting feaThis is the first Omniclass identity tags and ture breaks down the buildDigital Twin analytical information. If the ing into components by platform we data parameter required is software category, material have seen at not there, it can be added. or systems. These are disTwinview supports saved AEC Magazine, played in the 3D view, useviews which can take you to for quick filtering to see which is aimed ful predefined viewing positions all the doors, or isolate the at the masses within the model in a blink of MEP system as examples. an eye. Obviously, these can Conclusion be created using the sectioning, explode and first-person view tools. Twinview is incredibly impressive, one The associated high-resolution 2D of the most interesting applications I drawings can be pulled up at any time have seen for a long time. It has a heady within the workspace, which can be made mix of capabilities; it’s a veritable Swiss full screen, offering pan, zoom or used for Army knife for owner operators. It measurement. assists in raising the quality of BIM data The CAFM system has a comparatively and projects it forward, through the lifedense interface but it offers a lot of func- cycle of a building. It’s a Common Data tionality. There are five functions: create a Environment (CDE), a CAFM system, a new ticket, a new issue, a maintenance job, COBie authoring platform, maintenance add a new asset or add a new piece of manager, BIM model viewer, Digital equipment. Below it you can see the activi- Twin interface, complete online project ty log, together with search, as defined by document repository – and all geospaspace, or category (planned/unplanned tially and component referenced. maintenance), owner, priority and status This is the first Digital Twin platform (pending, in progress or completed). we have seen at AEC Magazine, which is While new assets and equipment can aimed at the masses. Architects or concome from bimstore, if it’s not there, there struction firms that are devout BIM users is the ability to add completely new need to think about how they can expand




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their revenue streams and business beyond traditional engagements. Using something like Twinview can bring a whole new potential income to leveraging all the BIM data that doesn’t get used post construction. This service is just as applicable for a single building as to serial developers or large estate owners. Obviously the benefits increase as more buildings are held within the platform. While many have been talking about how CAFM will really take off with BIM, in reality this hasn’t been the case - no more than it did when CAFM systems were 2D. Twinview clearly leverages the asset info in BIM, and combined with an accessible, easy to use interface, can make the identification, location, history, technical specifications and even live performance of assets accessible from anywhere. The only core feature I felt was missing was the support for point cloud data, which would bring the as built to sit alongside the architect’s original BIM model definition. I am sure this will come in time. At the moment, BIM as we know it, is really one hand clapping, especially when one considers that most of a building’s cost comes in its lifetime operation through to decommissioning. If BIM data can cross over the current post-construction chasm, without getting diced up, and play a meaningful role in the lifecycle, the value in creating the data in the eyes of all owners will go up. Twinview is an easy way for everyone to reuse and benefit from BIM model data. This functionality should be in the toolkit of all architectural practices - it’s joined up thinking for BIM. With God knows what kind of economy lying ahead of us, if you will let it, Twinview will extend business possibilities, into ‘architecture as a service’. ■

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Atvero PIM Many AEC firms have access to Microsoft Exchange, Office, Teams and SharePoint. London-based BIM expert, Nittygritty has developed a Project Information Management layer for Microsoft 365’s cloud backbone. Martyn Day reports.


he AEC industry is awash with server-based document management systems, cloud-based project hosting sites and heavyweight industrial-strength project management systems. Picking the right one for the way your company works is a daunting task. It’s easy to get bogged down looking for the ‘Goldilocks’ feature set, when all you really want is a hasslefree, simple to use system that doesn’t cost the earth and can dynamically shrink and grow with workload. Nittygritty is a London-based IT support and BIM consultancy firm which has developed Atvero, a lightweight cloudbased project management system for AEC firms. It is tightly integrated with Microsoft 365 and built on MS SharePoint, hosted in Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. While SharePoint is fairly ubiquitous, it doesn’t have much intelligence, as to design and construction workflows. Atvero brings that industry knowledge layer to help AEC firms connect their teams, have a central place for documents, and assist in their ISO 19650-2 and ISO 9001 compliance. Atvero is built around Hubs and Projects. The Hub is the company home page. This can be fleshed out with links to address books, diaries, widgets with company news, links to time sheet applications. All highly configurable and very straightforward. This front-end Hub could easily become a company’s intranet solution for all workers and project related access. The system has also been designed to integrate with data hosted on Autodesk BIM360 and directly within Revit. As it’s built on Microsoft’s technology stack, it’s like the Office Suite is built inside

Projects Below the Hub page, you can have any number of on-going projects. These get assigned to project participants and each project has a home page and again can be populated with widgets, such as showing recent documents, a live camera feed of a

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site, news etc. together with the palette of project-related tasks: Approval, Transmittal, Issued, Received, together with access to MS Office related information from Outlook such as contacts, teams, calendar and email. Every document that has been created on a project is stored in one big SharePoint library with the specified naming convention a firm wishes to adopt. This can conform to BS1192 (or not) and can even vary by project. Search offers powerful filters such as name, date created or published, building category, GA plans etc. By clicking on a file, it’s possible to see its history over time, showing revisions and versioning and what formats it is available in, who created it, its current status and any transmittal history references etc.

block. These imported drawings go into the Atvero approval workflow.

Email Email management is obviously another key element. The Atvero integration with Outlook is slick - it knows which projects people are working on. Using filters, relevant emails can be found, selected and placed into the corresponding Atvero project repository. These are filed centrally within each project along with any associated meta data. They are fully indexed for deep search too and emails keep their formatting. With each sent email, Atvero prompts the user to file the email with the corresponding project. All saved emails are filed in the Office 365 cloud, not your local Outlook, so it doesn’t tie up your machine. Again, all project emails are searchable with text and filters.


Pretty much any document can be brought into the system, added to a project and tagged - even product specifications and planning guidelines. Files can be associated with other project documents and suitability or status codes applied as meta data for complex searches. Working with Revit is obviously a key ‘must have’ and the developers have created a two-way integration which allows the easy publication of Revit sheet views into the Atvero system. It handles revision naming but not so onerously that the user can’t intercede. Revit drawings revision status is synchronised with Atvero’s document management system, so that revision, status, scale, size etc. show the same information within Revit and this is reflected in the drawing title

A new Issue starts by selecting the files to be issued. This brings up a form, to which notes can be added and a status code applied, recipients either selected from contacts or new contacts added. The format of the file can be PDF, DWF and/or DWG, and it can be sent as a zipped file or a Sharepoint web link, which requires two factor authentication. All the transmittal data is recorded in a separate template for your records and any future audit.

Conclusion The Nittygritty integration ‘glue’ pulls together Microsoft’s cloud-based offerings in a very neat online package with simple workflows and some light touch integrations. It’s not draconian in nature and prompts the user to file data as and when is necessary, or automatically kicking off a defined process like a transmittal. The underlying architecture is also really just a folder structure so would not trap customers in some proprietary document management vault. Prices start at around £15 per user per month. ■

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BIM byACCA It’s not every day you find a new BIM developer, especially one that has a mature and capable software suite addressing nearly all aspects of digital building design and construction. Welcome to the world of Italy-based ACCA by Martyn Day


e all know the main play- Edificius, which integrates with ACCA’s ers in BIM and digital other construction products. construction - Autodesk, Adherence to open standards is an Nemetschek, Trimble and underlying development philosophy, with Bentley Systems. While we have always IFC being a key feature within all prodhoped that there would be new start-ups ucts. The company is an active member of and fresh approaches within the author- BuildingSmart, winning accolades for the ing tool market, it came as a shock to be quality of its IFC output. ACCA is proud introduced to a firm, based in Italy, that that it has the highest number of IFC certihad, for a number of decades, been devel- fied BIM licences on the market today. oping professional applications for the In many respects my visit to ACCA European market. reminded me of my first trips to see Based in Bagnoli Irpino, Campania, Graphisoft and its founder Gábor Bojár. ACCA is about an hour’s drive inland ACCA was also an early pioneer of idenfrom Naples airport. Situated within the tifying the benefits of computing to the Picentini Mountains, the company’s huge building industry in the 1980s. Both solar and wind powered headquarter firms have spent decades building softbuilding (built in 2017) is a living testa- ware companies. And because of that, ment to its own design software and have proud heritages in changing the looks out onto the idyllic mountain-encir- industry. ACCA and Graphisoft also cled vista, across the valley. share strong beliefs in IFC and the The headquarters houses all OpenBIM movement at key development, sales and marketindustry fundamentals. ACCA’s clouding, together with training and based CDE ‘usBIM. an auditorium. There is also a platform’ can collate Software development ‘living’ museum for digital project information A casual browsing of ACCA’s in a spatially design tools of the past, which website ( highreferenced master the company had used, includ- model based on IFC lights just how wide the span of ing some very early 8086 computers, Apple Macs, a ZX Spectrum, some ‘luggable’ laptops and my favourite, which was a CalComp Summasketch II digitiser, which I used many, many moons ago with AutoCAD Release 10. ACCA was founded in 1989 headed up by Guido Cianciulli, as a private business which wrote its own MS-DOS, Windows and Mac OS applications for Bill of Quantities and Cost Estimating. The first commercial product, called PriMus, went on to dominate the Italian market. Based on this success, ACCA went on to develop analysis tools for building models in 1996, health and safety certification, structural and engineering calculators. In 2010 it finally launched its own BIM tool and Revit competitor, called 42

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software development has been: BIM modelling, standalone BIM viewing, clash detection, landscape and terrain modelling, MEP, structural, concrete, steel, masonry, CDE tools, photovoltaic design, thermal bridge analysis, cost estimating, quantity take off, construction planning and time sequencing, rendering (photorealistic and real time) and VR. ACCA even has a tool for scaffolding design. The company actually offers over 90 applications. Primarily the firm has concentrated on the Italian and Spanish markets which is is probably why ACCA is not so well known in Northern Europe, despite having English versions of its Windowsbased applications. However, it’s clear that the company has been developing the right tools, and it has certainly thrived in a highly competitive market, especially against the international reach and dominance of firms like of Autodesk with Revit.

BIM Before even discussing the capabilities of the company’s core BIM tool, the first thing to note is the cost. A full seat is just

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€599 a year, only a tad more than a yearly tions and isometric views, to underlying GPU, CPU and Edificius has AMD’s physically-based subscription for AutoCAD LT. And all create all the construction docmemory performance using rendering technology, that for something that is on a par with uments you need and, as you OpenCL. The quality of the Radeon ProRender, Revit in terms of functionality. This price would expect, they are all interior and exterior renders built in point is obviously a key advantage for linked for editing and autoare superb. And, according to anyone looking to get into BIM or to matic updates. the ACCA development team, images are change modeller. Edificius is a truly multidisciplinary delivered an order of magnitude quicker Now, I will admit that, for the uniniti- tool with steelwork and MEP, as well as than the previous rendering technology, ated, the naming conventions of ACCA landscape all in the same environment. especially on larger scenes. do take some getting used to. Its core The other multidisciplinary applications I was impressed specifically with the BIM tool is called Edificius. In general (Land, MEP, etc.) all share the same base quality of the interior images and the the company has a lot of included firms photobrands with ‘us’ in the match software is a simple title, but more on this way to place the proposed Before even discussing the capabilities of the later. The software is building in the context of a software, the first thing to note is the cost. straightforward and uses site photograph. A full seat is just €599 a year, just a tad more the Windows ribbon If that’s not enough, this interface. also expands out to VR, than a yearly subscription for AutoCAD LT First set up a project and which is being built into then simply start drawing the Edificius stack, enain plan or in 3D with intelligent walls, platform and interface. bling all designs to be VR ready. The doors, windows, with all the multi-repreAt this price point, it’s a bit of a gem company has developed its own interface sentational variations that you can accept and has been industry tested on residen- and construction-ready VR system for or define yourself. tial all the way up to train stations. designers and clients to navigate There are plenty of intelligent cursorThe software also has a built-in photo- through models. based tools to ensure modelling and realistic renderer and can produce solar geometry is aligned and dimensioned studies and high quality stills for clients. Common Data Environments correctly. This thing is really fast too, The development team has recently One of the new areas of development for either in modelling or bringing through a upgraded the rendering engine to utilise ACCA is the growing need for easy-to2D drawing and quickly turning it into AMD’s Radeon ProRender technology, use and fast Common Data intelligent components. which is a physically-based materials Environments (CDE) for collaboration. You get real time plan, sections, eleva- renderer which makes the most of ACCA believes there’s a lot of potential



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1 Bill of Quantities in Edificius 2 Edificius offers a “4D-GANTT” environment for integrated project time and sequencing management 3 Adherence to open standards is an underlying development philosophy and IFC support is a key feature of Edificius 4 EdiLus, is ACCA’s BIM analysis and structural design solution

here to use its IFC knowledge and modelcentric approach to connect teams throughout the lifecycle of a building. Called the ‘usBIM.platform’, the cloudbased application is capable of collating all the project information in a spatially referenced master model based on the IFC open standard. The customisable system is designed to display huge models with a real-time display on desktop or mobile. It includes a built-in gate management capability for handling and issuing Work In Progress (WIP), Shared, Published and Archived data in accordance with ISO 19650. The system also supports data and documents related to the project which can be structured and linked to the model. usBIM.platform also integrates with ACCA’s PriMus software which is used for managing construction timelines. In fact, this CDE could be used throughout the design and construction phases and then handed on to the owner after completion for asset management or Digital Twin usage. Based on the technology there is a free IFC viewing application, called usBIM. viewer+. It actually does a fair bit more than just view, it can federate multiple models, edit, modify and convert to other formats.



Conclusion Having written about CAD and BIM for decades one just doesn’t expect to find a ‘new company’ that has been around for almost as long - and one that has thrived, served on thousands of projects and developed a broad set of advanced building design and construction tools. From both the scenery, the software and the pricing, it was a bit like stumbling on an Italian BIM Shangri-La. It’s impossible to do the many developments justice in the space allocation of an article. It’s certainly worth some time looking at Edificius and the usBIM.platform, as well as downloading the free IFC viewer. When this whole pandemic is over, I am looking forward to a return visit.




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Vectorworks 2020 update Martyn Day caught up with Vectorworks CEO Biplab Sarkar to find out about the latest developments in the Mac and Windows CAD / BIM tool and to get his views on future BIM software development


nder the stewardship of CEO Biplab Sarkar, Vectorworks is building up considerable development velocity in ‘under the hood’ software architecture, whilst fleshing out the BIM features within the software. The company is also making a number of strategic agreements and partnerships bringing additional capabilities and productivity enhancements. For those that don’t know, Vectorworks is part of the Nemetschek group of companies. Headquartered in Germany, Nemetschek acts as a holding company for a variety of building and construction related companies and technologies. Uniquely in this industry, it owns no less than three BIM modelling companies – Allplan, Graphisoft and Vectorworks, which work independently of each other. While Allplan is popular specifically in Germany and Graphisoft is dominant across the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Vectorworks has a particularly strong footing in the USA and anywhere it historically did well in its previous guise of MiniCAD. In recent years Nemetschek has made strides to pull its key brands together to present a united front, but still each of the company CEOs are pretty much left to guide their product portfolios how best they see fit, depending in the needs of their respective user bases. Vectorworks has a strong Apple Mac heritage but does have a Windows equivalent, which is a challenge when it comes to matching feature and functionality within two very different operating environments. Vectorworks is obviously an architectural BIM modeller, where it slugs it out against Revit and other systems. However, it does have two specific market niches in which it easily dominates, namely landscape design, for which it has a variant called Vectorworks Landmark, and in stage and lighting design where layout and modelling is done with Vectorworks Spotlight. With each annual release new 46

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functionality is divided between these three key areas.

the code and make better use of CPU and GPU advances. SP3 brings improved file 2 Vectorworks has an Service Pack 3 open times, view updates and integration with Esri ArcGIS Vectorworks 2020 has quicker snaps. for landscape and urban designers recently been updated with There are also two Service Pack 3 (SP3), which significant partnership features a slew of quality and performance integrations, one from real time (speed) improvements. Vectorworks is visualisation developer Enscape and the undergoing re-engineering, feature by other from Newcastle’s finest, NBS, with its feature, subsystem by subsystem to update Chorus product, a multi-user, cloud-based, 1 Vectorworks has links with construction-specification system NBS Chorus

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construction-specification system which can drive standard specifications across multiple disparate BIM modelling tools. NBS Chorus integration is available to users of Vectorworks Design Series products with an active Vectorworks Service Select membership (maintenance) and an active NBS licence. For now, Enscape is providing a free beta plug-in ( vectorworks) to all Windows users in the Vectorworks 2020 SP3. The plug-in provides a live link between Vectorworks and Enscape so any changes made to the model are automatically updated in Enscape to be viewed with its high-fidelity real time engine. Designs can also be reviewed in VR at the click of a button. Unfortunately, Enscape does not currently support the MacOS platform. The main reason given is that many Macs do not have workstation level graphics, instead using Intel Iris GPUs, which just don’t have the processing welly required for Enscape. This is one of those problems when you support both operating systems - the Mac tends to have less like for third party options or, especially in CAD, have less well-developed technologies on offer.

On the subject of development Biplab Sarkar has been CEO of Vectorworks for four years now but was previously the company’s CTO, so our conversations can range from industry gossip and trends to a fairly in-depth discussion of underlying technology components for software development. He has a great grasp of both the macro and the micro issue of model-based software development and customer usage. Vectorworks is undergoing a continual refresh and regeneration with a focus on improving performance and reliability, while at the same time preparing it for capabilities which will become more important for future usage. Vectorworks uses the powerful solid modelling kernel Parasolid at its core. In the early days of BIM this was seen as overkill but as manufacturing and the building industry converge towards a digital manufacturing future, it could give the products a natural advantage in design for manufacture workflows. The problem here is that the Parasolid kernel is developed by Siemens and while there is a Mac version of Parasolid, Siemens is certainly biased towards the development of the much more popular Windows variant, which for a dual platform developer like Vectorworks leads to performance and capability challenges.

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In general, Parasolid is slowly being redeveloped to make use of multi-core / multithreaded processing but as the work is only partially done, it can make performance unpredictable. Underlying technologies that applications rely on are also constantly changing. Apple is also in a process of removing OpenGL to adopt its Metal graphics pipeline but this process is taking time and MacOS developers need to plan for a future when perhaps OpenGL will not be there. There are also rumours of Apple using its own processors in the near future, which would require a complete recompile and maybe some rewriting of MacOS applications. Vectorworks is working on moving to using Metal on the Mac and in general is looking to achieve from games-class graphics performance. It will also help future proof graphics performance on the Mac. Software development is not just about meeting customer expectations for new features, but also juggling with evolving technologies which lie under the hood - third party components, as well as fundamental changes from the operating systems developers. Making software is very much like building extensions to skycrapers on shifting sands. Sarkar stated that, every year, 25% of software engineering work is re-engineering. While I mentioned landscaping and entertainment as being hot areas, the company also does well with interior designers. Vectorworks has traction in museums, galleries and restaurant design. In fact, Starbucks moved from Revit to Vectorworks to design all of its EMEA stores. Sarkar put this down to the software’s ease of use and how quickly a concept model can be modelled and rendered. Once the concept is created, it can be detailed out for fit and fixtures. With SketchUp, the model needs to be thrown away and it’s not particularly easy to concept model in Revit. Vectorworks is a single environment from concept to drawings.

On the subject of Landscape, Vectorworks is clearly on a mission to position itself with the big boys. Late last year the company announced a major integration with Esri’s ArcGIS online services for landscape and urban designers. The solution offers better and quicker access to GIS imagery, data and geometry within Vectorworks 2020 through two new commands, Geoimage and Geolocate. Vectorworks supports proper geographic coordinates and projection. The integration has gone down well at Esri and now they are planning future developments on site design. In general, Vectorworks has been very active forging relationships with some of the leading players outside of the Nemetschek sphere, such as Unreal, Lumion, Enscape, Revizto and NBS.

Conclusion Having a historically successful product with many thousands of customers is both a benefit and a hindrance. Software is continually developing, workflows evolve but the software has to cater both for those happy with traditional features and capabilities, as well as those that want to innovate and experiment. With a successful product, software companies could sit back and rest on their laurels, collect the subscription money and deliver a few new features and bug fixes or they can do the difficult thing, which is to please the customers they have, by making current functionality better/ faster, and addressing those that want to push the envelope. A good software firm is always delivering for the needs of all of these users, while constantly evolving and refreshing the underlying code, without breaking the software. It’s akin to changing a tyre while the car is still going at 90mph. We think Biplab and the Vectorworks team is doing a great job of getting that balance right in adding core value with each successive release. ■

Vectorworks Design Summit goes virtual If there is one thing that 2020 is teaching us, it’s to be resourceful and expect the unexpected. With events cancelled across the board, software firms have had to move online. Vectorworks had just weeks to turn its Design

Summit into an online event, with presentations and courses delivered from home. The good news is, it’s available for everyone to see, and the virtual keynote can be seen here

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Esri: GIS meets BIM AEC Magazine talked with Marc Goldman, director AEC Industry Solutions at Esri about how the company is working with BIM developers to better integrate GIS for AEC professionals

AEC Magazine: Why should your average architect be interested in GIS? Marc Goldman: In my short stint as a designer (I can’t call myself an architect or engineer because I don’t have licences nor ever did) I recall the challenge of putting my first line on paper or screen. Having geographic context allows you to overcome that inertia, provides you with greater understanding, brings insights to the surface, and allows designs and engineered projects to begin with the most amount of valuable information to be accessed, managed, and used for decision-making. AEC: Revit is a key application for readers of AEC Magazine. On a technical level, how does ArcGIS work with Revit data – both in terms of geometry and attributes? MG: In ArcGIS Pro we can import RVTs, store the geometry and attributes in a geodatabase that captures some of the semantics of the Revit file, and then use the geometry and attributes in GIS workflows, such as by converting them to I3S Building Scene Layers that can be streamed over the web to mobile and desktop experiences. AEC: The first stage of the Autodesk / Esri partnership was about connecting 48

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MG: Let me first talk about civil BIM and then get onto the “building” BIM side. On the civil BIM side, within [AutoCAD] Civil 3D and Infraworks, engineers have access to the layers and data you’d use or manage in ArcGIS Pro, or which you’d visualise and MG: We’re working on a interact in ArcGIS Online. cloud-to-cloud integration One benefit is streamlining which will allow GIS workflows, so as data is coldashboards, maps and lected in the field with Esri analysis to be performed field-based apps, that data using any files and data in appears in real time on the BIM 360, and from other engineer’s desktop in Civil cloud environments. This 3D or Infraworks. We’re experts in ‘cloud to cloud’ communiAs to improving quality, cation, whereby the data using distributed in Civil 3D and Infraworks in either cloud is accessihave access to the GIS processing and you ble to users in browsers data layers to better underand mobile apps, opens to deep learning for stand the project’s conobject detection, straints. All this means door to workflows we’ve only dreamed of in the individuals and teams can classification, AEC industry. informed design and terrain analysis, make engineering decisions by and change AEC: Esri previously told visualising collaboratively, us that BIM / GIS integrathe Infrastructure and GIS detection on tion isn’t just about giving data directly. any scale BIM models a GIS context, Looking at Building Marc Goldman BIM, once the BIM (RVT or it’s also about giving AEC firms access to Esri servicIFC) has been imported to es. Can you explain more ArcGIS Pro, the informaabout these services and how AEC firms tion is managed like other geodatabase or can benefit? And what are the challeng- shapefile data sources. This allows the es of big data? BIM objects themselves to be understood Autodesk’s desktop applications to ArcGIS. But the real prize comes from cloud — connecting Esri ArcGIS and Autodesk BIM 360. What’s the latest on this and why is it so important to AEC firms?



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visually - sliced and diced on screen. Users can tap into the properties of the BIM objects and of the project itself, getting deeper understandings than any “viewer” and easier than any modelling app. Architects, engineers, contractors and owners collaborate with a common view into the intelligence which can be gleaned from the BIM. The challenges of ‘Big Data’ for any AEC industry technology provider are the same as those of most any industry. How do we address the goal of transforming massive amounts of spatial data into manageable information? And what do we do with this ability and how do we deliver value from the data? The answer is, we’ve been doing this for decades and now we’re also ingesting real-time data from sensors, and IoT systems and delivering actionable information that automatically scales to the analysis and data storage needs of the facility or infrastructure project. Through our solutions, users reveal spatial patterns that animate and automatically aggregate as real-time data streams. Using time as a variable you can visualise massive datasets in four dimensions and identify data patterns that were previously hidden in the noise of spreadsheets, revisions and endless logs. It’s also possible to find clusters and hot spots of activity. Using regression tools, we’re able to find relationships between datasets and predict future events which drive building control

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Revit data in tems and other systems effecting Currently the greatest value, the ArcGIS performance and optimisations. most compelling integrations and We know how to make sense of user adoption is in Civil related massive imagery collections. We’re projects. However, building projects are experts in using distributed processing certainly benefitting as well from the earand deep learning for object detection, liest stages of planning through building classification, terrain analysis, and operations. Esri and Autodesk are workchange detection on any scale. ing together with our combined customWe don’t see many unique challenges; ers delivering new capabilities, higher we see many opportunities in fact. productivity and better collaboration at the intersection of GIS and BIM. AEC: Last year Autodesk admitted that it needed to work closer with Esri and AEC: What’s Esri’s strategy in the digital engage with AEC customers together, twin market, this mixes GIS, BIM, point rather than as separate entities. Is that cloud and all project data? now happening and what have Autodesk and Esri learnt from this? MG: Digital twin is one of those industry terms that means something different to MG: We’re working very closely together. everyone. But that’s OK – a digital twin I have two or three calls weekly with can mean various things to different peoAutodesk and I’m one of a several at Esri ple. At this point in time, the term is not working with Autodesk. We’re hosting a used always the same nor is a digital twin series of Joint Customer Council meetings comprised of the same information from in the US and Europe, and we’re working one project to another, one client to on various tactical efforts and strategic another, and one portfolio to another. initiatives with our shared customers. We don’t throw the term “digital twin” Our technical teams work closely on the around as much as some others in this ArcGIS Connector for Civil 3D and the industry. If there’s ever been a platform ArcGIS Connector for Infraworks, as well suited to deliver the promise of a digital as Revit & ArcGIS interop and a number twin it’s the ArcGIS platform. The platof code-named projects at various stages form can be a critical component of, or of exploration and development. even the hub of, a Connected Data We’ve learned where our efforts are Environment which collects, analyses bringing value to users across a number and provides insight on a built project of workflows and segments of AEC. from the earliest stages of planning

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through to ongoing operations and maintenance. We connect to data repositories and document management systems as part of a digital twin strategy, and we connect to the data streams from beacons and IoT devices. We bring this together to deliver the capabilities which our industry is associating with the idea of a digital twin. We’re just not throwing that term around so widely. AEC: How does ArcGIS work with IoT information and what instances have there been of customers implementing this in construction/building that you can talk about? MG: We have a product called Analytics for IoT, which is fully integrated with ArcGIS. It enables users to ingest, visualise, and analyse spatial real-time and big data. Without getting too specific, the US Dept of Energy is one of our customers; we’re working with several of the DoE laboratories exploring projects where the intersection of IoT meets energy modelling and proactive building performance management with 3D interaction and easy to use dashboards. We are still exploring.

AEC: What are the product development key focus points for Esri in the building/construction space for the next couple of years?

MG: Nemtschek – yep! Their landscape leadership with Vectorworks is of great interest and we have a partnership with May / June 2020

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our Field Apps team. We have worked together to bring high accuracy GNSS solutions for Esri products (such as Collector).

ArcGIS and Revit integration

AEC: Outside of Autodesk, which other application developers has Esri been working with? Nemetschek, Trimble, Bentley? And what level of integration can we expect? Any interesting cooperation projects going on? (Vectorworks is the leader in landscape software for instance)


ArcGIS them announced back in and ML - we’ve developed and Urban Boston November. Vectorworks has a delivered this in multiple cases. built an integration to ArcGIS – We’ve applied recognition of we’re a logical starting point, reference visual assets through photo and video point and deliver insights to Vectorworks capture for civil engineering and urban users. And, it doesn’t hurt Esri’s founder planning. Specifically, classification of and our president, Jack Dangermond, has infrastructure assets along miles of a Master’s Degree in Landscape urban and rural environments. Architecture. To this day as the company I envision we’ll see operations managgrows, he is involved in the location and ers, project superintendents, and orientation every bit of landscaping at the machine operators use AI to fill in the most lush and welcoming campus I’ve gaps in planning and scheduling dataever visited, Esri’s in Redlands, CA. bases, track materials assets in real time, Trimble – yep! We have worked collab- accurately predict arrival times, installaoratively for years. The most successful tion, and anticipate future services and collaboration has been between their maintenance needs to stay one step Trimble Geospatial Solutions group and ahead. There’s really nothing to keep us from delivering this today.

AEC: What roles are AI and simulation playing in GIS and what kind of applications have we seen/can we expect to see in digital construction, civil and urban planning? MG: The industry has a need to capture the condition, location and other statuses, and expect intervention through AI

MG: There are a number of key focus points: obviously, enabling digital project delivery for projects of all size. We aim to deliver solutions that bring the field and the office closer together through the aggregation, curation and delivering insights through the combination of: reality capture data, BIM / VDC and schedules. We will continue to bring the worlds of BIM and GIS together to realise the full potential of integrated workflows between what were once competing technologies. Also, we want to replace paper-based workflows with digital solutions that aggregate information into insightful common and connected environments. ■

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Network performance Fibre networks form the backbone to communications in the world today. We talked to 3-GIS about the challenges of designing, constructing and managing these complex systems, while at the same time maintaining legacy networks AEC Magazine: Compared to other utilities, what makes fibre networks more complicated to design, construct and manage – and what makes a full lifecycle approach so important? Michael Measels: What sets apart the telecommunications networks from your conventional utility networks is that they are continually evolving. There has been a progression of terrestrial network types from copper, coax to fibre over the past several decades, which has allowed for increased bandwidth sizes but has in turn offered even more complexity in the creation and management of these networks. Wireless technology has evolved as well, with no signs of stopping. Many of the legacy network types are still being used today and in some cases are interacting with one another. This environment is requiring GIS solutions for telecommunications to continue to evolve while still allowing customers to utilise our technologies for managing all their network assets, whether new or legacy. In addition, the very nature of a fibre network requires a detailed understanding of every individual fibre in the fibre cable. This is exponentially different to a conventional water, electric or gas network in which the pipe or strand is the only representation of the network. For example, a fibre cable that contains 864 fibre strands must be modelled in the path vs a single pipe representation in a gas or water network. Not only do you have multiple representations in the fibre cable, the flow of data is bidirectional. This is not the case in a conventional utility network in which the “flow” is typically modelled in a single direction. Designing and modelling this bidirectional flow requires an intrinsic knowledge of both the source and destination in terms of services and connectivity, which

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must be defined at the time of design in order to better understand future investment returns. This complexity, coupled with the significant investment companies are making in fibre-based technologies, requires geospatial awareness as they manage the digital asset from beginning to end. By so doing, companies are able to take advantage of the geospatial knowledge of their assets through the entire lifecycle of their assets to include the planning, design, construction and management phase.

used interchangeably within this context. To quote Webster, automation can be defined as follows: automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labour. Conversely, autonomous is defined as responding, reacting, or developing independently of the whole. As you can see, autonomous tends to lead one down the path of being intelligent and operating without intervention, while automated is simply identifying a process or processes Tommy Siniard: I always that can be automated in think of the differences as a order to replace the necessiutility network has one type ty for human labour. of energy flowing modelled These processes are often A system that in the same way. For examthose that are easily repeatcan both ple, a fibre network has able and are not necessarily automate the energy flowing at different influenced by outside influspeeds in both directions. design as well as encers. Although the outThen you have the cable side influencers to design apply what it network, that has the fibre can be overcome through has learned network as its logical netthe use of a rule-based from critical work. These layers make it approach, I would expect extremely complex to model human decisions artificial intelligence will appropriately. is the panacea allow for the ability to overcome outside influencers AEC: What role can design when it comes to and reduce the human meeting the automation and Artificial input required to deliver an Intelligence play in the acceptable result. autonomous design of fibre networks – As an example, automadesign vision now and in the future? tion plays a pivotal role in Michael Measels placing network elements MM: 3-GIS has designed a down the side of the street significant number of route while understanding the miles for both FTTH [fibre to the home] accumulated demand, in terms of fibre, as and FTTx [fibre to the x] projects using services are dropped off at each house. automation. Not wanting to get on my Intervention is often required to evalusoapbox, but automated design does not ate the constructability and permeability mean autonomous design and I am afraid of this placement and adjustments are the two terms have unfortunately been made to accommodate the in situ condi-



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AEC: ESRI has extensive capabilities to help with the efficient planning and management of 5G networks. How does 3-GIS integrate with these tools?

Construction tions. In the future I would expect TS: Esri is always working to artificial intelligence to play a key progress tracking provide a platform that can supin 3-GIS | Web role in understanding why the port its clients and partners with designer chose one side of the road the base that can be extended as over the next and begin to apply this deci- needed. Our job is to build on top of that sion making to the automated output. This base - the extensions that meet our clican, and will be, quite complex as network ents’ needs. Again, the complexity of a topology, design rules, permitting require- fibre network and its various uses make ments, construction preferences, etc. can it impossible to create a single solution significantly impact the final design. that is ‘Out of the Box ready’ for everyA system that can both automate the one. We work continuously to keep up design as well as apply what it has learned with advances Esri makes in its base and from critical human decisions is the pana- then improve our solution with its cea when it comes to meeting the autono- advances when appropriate. mous design vision. AEC: Putting bizarre coronavirus conAEC: 3-GIS is built on ArcGIS from ESRI, spiracy theories to one side, 5G is maswhich has several tools for utility net- sive news for the future of communicaworks, including fibre. Why is there a need tions. With the 5G network supported for a specialist GIS tool for fibre networks? by a fibre backbone, what role can GIS play in the roll out and what are the MM: Esri has built a tremendous platform challenges? capable of managing geospatial data across many disciplines to include utili- TS: Planning a fibre network is greatly ties, and yes, even some telecommunica- improved by using the data of the earth. tion applications. However, the complexity When planning a wireless network you of the networks deployed by telecommuni- can easily see how information about the cation companies I spoke about earlier surrounding area can greatly improve requires tailored applications that have the the efficiency of the new network. With depth to both manage existing networks 5G, the detailed information of the surand their infrastructure but are also capa- rounding area will determine where my ble of evolving to meet the ever changing antennas should be placed based on folineeds of the market. Esri is providing a age, elevation and structures. time tested foundation from which to Millimetre bands can carry lots of data build our application and 3-GIS has been but have limitations on distance: they do honoured to provide a premier fibre net- not travel far (300 - 500 ft) and they are work management solution as part of a full easily disrupted by anything they suite offering to include Esri technology. encounter in their path. So placement of As you once told me Tommy, “fibre is the antennas will consider trees, struchard”. To this end, if you are not living, ture locations and materials used in the breathing and eating fibre networks it is construction of the structures. very easy to get left behind. 3-GIS lives and Mm waves get obstructed easily from breathes telecommunication and we have foliage, buildings, and that type of thing built a solid foundation from which to so it’s even more important to know deploy fibre management solutions across your surroundings when planning that the entire breadth of an organisation. type of network.


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MM: Esri is the global GIS platform leader and provides a multitude of industryspecific applications and guidance to include telecommunications. These applications provide a strong foundation from which to create a system of engagement across organisations planning, designing, building and managing networks. 3-GIS takes advantage of this foundation by delivering a solution to address the business needs in a way that empowers users in every role in the enterprise to both understand and engage with their network assets. As an example, our solution takes advantage of Esri’s analytic capabilities in our Prospector extension. By leveraging Esri algorithms, Prospector generates routes from source to demand point destinations which are used to derive high level costing of network expansion at scale. The ability to provision this type of Extension would be inherently difficult if it were not for the capabilities Esri provides to our solution and as such 3-GIS constantly evolves our roadmap as new technologies are made available through the Esri platform. AEC: How do BIM data, network data and geographical data integrate? TS: As we mentioned previously, when planning for a 5G network your surroundings determine the coverage area. Since 5G signals can be easily obstructed providing the proper placement will determine their ability to perform efficiently. 5G will also be used in office buildings and manufacturers’ sites. Understanding the footprint and configuration of these structures will allow optimum network coverage. The BIM data is a good representation of a structure - a building - it is recorded. As mentioned previously, with 5G it is even more important to know the surroundings when placing antennas, understand what the building looks like and what material it is made out of. For example, signals bounce off glass, but can be absorbed by concrete. Big 5G markets are going after offices and multi-dwelling units. So based on that, I need to understand the layout, the overall format of the building, the footprint so I can plan my network appropriately. BIM is also going to come into play as we get more sophisticated and start doing

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Interview 3D modelling. The BIMs are going to give us the information we need to model those 3D representations correctly. AEC: Digital twins is a very hot topic and one that we’ve covered extensively in AEC Magazine over the last 12 months. Fibre networks seem an ideal candidate to benefit for this emerging technology. Can 3-GIS harness real time network performance data and, if so, what benefits does it bring? TS: If we can, through the use of our APIs, we could take the input of the data and associate it to the physical path that that data is flowing on. So if I were to get bit rates or information about a port, I could show how that port is serving the network and from that I would also be able to tell the end point of the network that might be seeing some reduction in bandwidth because maybe some errors being thrown off, something of that nature. So a digital twin network is a digital representation of a physical component. What it allows me to do is to model the network on my digital, so I can make the right decisions on how I am going to use it on my physical. Or as the physical gives me information, I can model it, simulate it on the digital plan so I can see what is going on. I think we are very well suited for that because we literally build a digital twin of the physical network. I have it in my computer system when you are doing things like planning extensions for example, or I am trying to estimate what my loss is going to be over a distance, or I am trying to get a certain bandwidth to a customer. What is the best way to do that and what is going to be needed? Short answer, yes, we are suited very well. Can we take feedback from the physical network as it is modelled? Yes. AEC: Digital twins can benefit greatly from the amalgamation and free flow of data from many different systems. How portable is data from 3-GIS and how could it work in the context of a smart city or a national digital twin - both technically and practically? TS: We do differently. We have an object that models the light path that is being taken and it tells the bandwidth the usage of that light path. In a larger model when it is working with others, you can tell them not only who is being served down this path - what customers are using - but what type of bandwidth I have available, the consumption (what’s being used) of

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what is available at any given time. I might make it much better when I am looking to get from point A to Z to share this information with somebody so they can understand the path that needs to be taken - or as I plan it out using automation to plan the new path, being able to share that with others and let them see what is planned, so maybe they can build their plans off of that also. That would be like if I were going to run a trunk line between Atlanta and Charlotte, I’d run a big transmission cable that way and if I could share that with others, they could start doing an analysis of what they need to pull off that. They would have everything they need business-wise to take that information forward. Again, to get to revenue quicker. I don’t have to wait until it’s done to start figuring this out. I could simulate the whole thing. AEC: With a city twin, ensuring everyone knows where the cables are in the ground is fundamental. What technologies can be used to accurately map their positions vs the old unsuccessful ways?

used to report the current state of the asset. Oftentimes, we see companies creating network designs using CAD-based tools which do not often allow for creating the discrete attribution of the network asset down to the strand and light path level. Beyond this, we then see the as-built information brought back to the office from construction in the form of redlines that are quite literally drawn on a paper map! To be successful in creating a digital twin, the lifecycle of a cable should be collected in a single system capable of understanding the inherent attributes of that cable. In other words, the cable should be documented through its plan, design and build phases so that as the cable matures in terms of detail and location it can then be managed within the digital twin. Gone are the days of simply putting the as-built drawing in a drawer for future reference. Carriers are looking for comprehensive solutions capable of modelling the lifecycle of its network assets so they Big 5G markets can leverage the significant are going after investments they are making in their network build offices and outs. By doing so they can multi-dwelling take advantage of the digiunits. So based tal twin to inform mainteon that, I need nance, information sharreporting and more to understand ing, importantly new customer the layout, the turnup.


MM: Unfortunately I am not sure there is a magic bullet to this question. Digital cities will require a comprehensive approach across all utility disciplines to better understand the location of assets and overall format their impact to one another of the building, TS: From our standpoint in terms of geospatial coinwe give people the tools to the footprint so accurately record the inforcidence, but that is probaI can plan my bly a question for another mation. day. If we were to focus priWe can help them record network marily on telecommunicathe existing network, we appropriately tions assets, it is important can get satellite data to help Tommy Siniard very accurate information, to not only understand where the cable is in the we can record connectivity ground but to also know and the splices, where the the elements that constitute the cable cable is located in the building, take data itself in terms of strands, type, place- from mobile devices with cameras to take ment, etc. What I mean by this is, if we photographs to share more information were to model and simulate where and and show what’s available as far as spachow the light is traversing this particu- ing goes. lar cable, the inherent attributes of the ■ cable are critical. More importantly, understanding the Tommy Siniard oversees the strategy and develinherent assets of the individual strands opment of 3-GIS’s telecom software solutions. in the cable and how they are connected is the only means by which one can accu- Michael Measels is VP of product managerately model the digital twin. This ment. He specialises in driving vision and requires rethinking the technologies roadmap for 3-GIS.


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Case study

Site intelligence By using drones to capture images at critical stages of the construction process, one US firm has gained unprecedented visibility into its projects


ohn Andres is the third generation of his family to work at Andres Construction, a Dallas-based firm that manages major commercial, institutional, and developer construction projects across Texas. For many years the company contracted with a helicopter company to capture aerial images of its construction sites. While the images captured from the helicopter were attractive marketing assets, they didn’t deliver valuable construction site information. The airborne photographer didn’t capture the images from the same angle at regular frequencies, which meant that the images didn’t provide full construction site visibility or reliably measure change over time. Plus, they had to be manually organised and processed—a time-consuming exercise that didn’t deliver additional business insights. John, a drone enthusiast, knew that drones would give Andres Construction much-needed visibility into its construction sites. With high-resolution 360 photos, John and his colleagues could zoom in to precision data captures and gain detailed site awareness. Multi-angle image series would allow them to see the full perimeter view of their sites, monitor progress, and ensure safety and compliance. Highprecision orthomosaics would give them a birds-eye-view tool to remotely measure distance, area, volumes, and improve site planning. But before John could create a drone program, he had to convince company leadership—his father, uncle, and grandfather—that it was a good idea. Andres conducted a test project where site images were captured with both a

helicopter and a drone. The drone used types to look at the site from multiple JobSight, a software tool that uses flight angles, John determined that the piers automation to capture images from the were laid out to be drilled in the wrong same angle, at the same frequency and place. John and his team overlaid their deliver them to users as three data types: drawings onto a JobSight orthomosaic 360 photos, multi-angle image series, image of the site and determined the corand orthomosaic images. rect placement for the piers, remedying The Andres Construction team found what could have been a costly and timethat JobSight offered unprecedented visi- consuming mistake. bility into its construction projects. It gave them up-to-date information on their 20/20 vision flight schedules and allowed them to con- John Andres starts his workday at the trol the timing of their data capture — a JobSight dashboard, where he monitors major benefit given that construction sites project progress and ensures that all proare active throughout the day and project jects are safe and on schedule. He gets a timelines often change. Images could be notification every time JobSight captures captured at critical stages during the con- new images. Those images are sorted by struction process, including prior to pour- date in the JobSight viewer, so John can ing concrete. By capturing pre-pour data, see what happens on the company’s conAndres Construction could maintain site struction sites week to week. visibility and look beneath the surface “It’s impossible for us to go to every proeven after concrete was poured. The soft- ject site every day when we’re in the main ware allowed them to monitor progress, office,” John said. “At the same time, we check on available materials, and screen need to track production rates, ensure that for safety concerns from their central material is on-site, and be able to see the office, without having to leave their desks. work that got done a week ago, or several Now, Andres Construction works with months ago. JobSight allows us to do that.” a Drone Service Provider (DSP) and uses For Andres Construction, JobSight has JobSight to capture and process thou- been a powerful way to track all their sands of images across its entire portfolio projects, offer their clients a quality of construction projects and deliver pro- assurance value-add, and create a comgress updates to customers. prehensive system of record. On a recent build, the Andres team was “Every week we capture the same imagpreparing to drill piers, the load-bearing es from the same angles,” John Andres supports that hold up a buildsaid. “With JobSight, we can 1 360 degree photo from ing. When John conducted a peel back the layers on a JobSight, showing a high routine review of the construcbuilding, see that progression, resolution and detailed tion site’s JobSight captures, and know that things were progress update something didn’t look quite done right along the way.” 2 360 degree photo (right) right. By using JobSight’s data ■ and an orthomosaic (left)


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BIM for temporary works Understanding how temporary works will be incorporated in a construction sequence as early as the strategy phase can improve project delivery and even help contractors to win tenders, writes Paul McLaughlin, Mabey Hire


emporary works form an integral part of many construction schemes; whether that’s the façade retention of a listed building front while work continues behind, or the shoring and bracing of large groundworks excavations. . With temporary works contributing a significant amount of the total construction cost, it is evident that the efficiency of its delivery will often prove vital for the overall project success. That said, digitisation and BIM have historically only been considered for the permanent works design, despite the great benefits that can arise from the implementation of BIM throughout the entire construction sequence, including both temporary and permanent – an issue that we at Mabey Hire identified several years ago. To put it in the timeline context of a Digital Plan of Works (DPoW), more often than not we are seeing temporary works being incorporated on large construction, infrastructure or commercial development projects as late as Stage Four (Design) or even Stage Five (Build). Understandably, being considered so late on in the construction sequence has the potential

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to cause considerable issues, for the temporary works provider, contractors and indeed the project as a whole. By such late stages of a project, the 3D model of the proposed structure will likely be well-developed, or even completed. While the detailed model will provide the temporary works specialist with a high level of information and data around the project, the model will often have to be stripped back in order for the temporary works to be correctly and efficiently designed and incorporated within. Modelling the temporary works required when the superstructure has already been modelled above can make it a more time-consuming process, as well as being difficult to visualise how the temporary works will fit into the overall building design and construction sequence. With temporary works often being required on a project either before the permanent works begin or as a means of assisting and facilitating the construction process, the two should either be considered in the appropriate sequential order or given the same level of precedence. The advantages of considering and visualising

temporary works at the initial strategy or concept stage of the DPoW can be huge, with the benefits felt throughout the whole project.

Supporting design decisions Perhaps the most apparent and overriding benefit of visualising temporary works at the early stages of a construction sequence is the ability to make early design decisions and achieve a betterinformed overall design stage as a result. This provides project teams with the ability to identify potential issues early on and take a proactive approach to solving them. In comparison, limited

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visibility of how the temporary and safety perspective. Not only will having permanent works would work and perform a clear visualisation of the proposed together could result in design teams being temporary works from an early project forced to react as and when they occur, stage allow contractors to identify and potentially under time-critical pressures. mitigate potential site safety risks but Ultimately, using BIM to visualise can also provide installation teams with a project’s temporary works provides a virtual walk-through of the site prior to improved confidence and certainty in construction commencing, meaning that highly complex design programmes, they’re already familiar with the works with the 3D model and accompanying and conditions. data contributing towards Incorporating temporary a ‘digital rehearsal’ of works at the strategy stage the works. Here, every of a project’s DPoW isn’t Ultimately, component can be fully only about the practicalities using BIM to considered, designed and and efficiencies of visualise a analysed to ensure its delivering the design. project’s constructability, as well as It could also even help maximise on the efficiency contractors to potentially temporary of the overall design, prior works provides win project tenders, for to the commencement of presenting the prospective improved any work on site. This is client with a BIM model especially key considering confidence and of the temporary and the significant upheaval that permanent works not only certainty in can be caused should the visibility of the highly complex improves temporary works design not proposed construction design have been correctly or fully sequence but it also incorporated within the showcases the technological programmes early stages of a project. For skill of the project partners, example, design issues or providing assurance of a component clashes could both potentially coordinated and efficient approach. result in severe time delays or the need for Full coordination and visibility on any rework on site, causing a whole project to construction project is key. Much attention effectively come to a standstill. has been recently placed on how digital technology, such as BIM, information Safety first management platforms and mixed/virtual This ‘digital rehearsal’ can also provide reality, can contribute to the creation of a substantial benefits from a health and streamlined, efficient and collaborative




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workflow. However, how can this vision be achieved if a significant portion of the works are not being considered at the most beneficial stage? Put simply, it is imperative that all project elements, whether they be temporary and permanent works or steel and concrete, are considered as one, providing all parties with a full and comprehensive overview of a project. This is why a Common Data Environment is so beneficial; a platform, usually cloud-based, where all project parties, both temporary and permanent works related, are able to provide, review and share project data data which is then controlled and conveyed across all stages of the DPoW. Due to its very title, temporary works can perhaps be seen as being transient, short-term or of less importance; when in fact they are often the works that enable the permanent to be carried out. The potential consequences for neglecting to consider the temporary works until a late stage, compared to the advantages of designing and visualising temporary works at the strategy or concept phase and early contractor involvement, are widely evident. Perhaps it is time, therefore, for there to be a shift in view amongst the BIM and construction industry. ■

Mabey Hire presents itself as the only temporary works specialist to have received the BSI ISO19650 accreditation. The company primarily uses Revit and Navisworks for the design of its clients’ temporary works

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