AECBytes Architecture Engineering Construction Newsletters  

AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #47 (November 24, 2009)

The Ins and Outs of Collaborating with ArchiCAD 13

Matthew Brewster
Founder and President, ARCHiDEAS

Building Information Modeling (BIM) offers many benefits, especially in the design process.  Because of this, more and more firms are entering the world of BIM to take advantage of its capabilities.  As they evaluate virtual building, frequently posed is the question: How can my design team collaborate both within an office and with outside consultants? Recently, with the release of ArchiCAD 13 and the BIM Server, Graphisoft has offered a unique answer to this challenge. We now have the ability to work in the model, in real-time, over the Internet!

ArchiCAD and BIM Collaboration

BIM projects typically involve a single building model. With ArchiCAD’s Teamwork functionality, multiple people within an office can work side-by-side on the same project without overwriting each others’ work. And now, with the new BIM Server, this is easier (and faster!) than ever. In fact users can access the BIM Server project model with a standard high-speed internet connection. This means that teams can work together from virtually anywhere in the world.

Graphisoft has developed this to be very flexible and easy to use. Their goal was a 5-minute learning curve for new users. Here’s your step-by-step guide to just how easy it is.

Step 1

After setting up a BIM Server, users launch the BIM Server Manager. Simply click Create and enter the information about the team players. Roles are used to define the level of control that individual users have. For instance, a Lead Architect role might have full control of the model and settings, while a Draftsman role is limited to the modeling and drafting tools.

Step 2

Now you are ready to create a Teamwork project. To do this, you’ll start with an active ArchiCAD Solo Project (.pln) file. Go to the Teamwork menu > Project > Share. Select your BIM Server from the drop-down list and enter a Project Name. Categories can be used to organize projects by type or phase. Choose options for user access, libraries and backups, and click Share. Files will be created in the specific location that has been set up in the BIM Server Control Center preferences. Users do not need to know where to look for Teamwork files (or Libraries) since the BIM Server takes care of that, as we shall see.

Step 3

To access a Teamwork project, you will Open or Join a project, similar to opening a Solo project. However, instead of browsing for a file, you will select from the list of available Teamwork projects on the BIM Server. The Category list is available here to help filter the list of projects. If this is the first time accessing the project, you will be "Joining.'" Once you have joined a project, you will Open it the subsequent times, until you choose to Leave Teamwork Project. The project and library files will be copied to your computer. After this, subsequent changes will only transfer the data that has been modified. This is a tiny fraction of the size of an entire file, and is what makes the process so quick.

Step 4

Now you have successfully Joined the Teamwork project! Go to the Teamwork menu and open up the Teamwork Palette. This handy palette will give you access to the Teamwork functions while you are working. At the top, it shows your Online status. You can also see the list of other Users and their status. If a User's icon is grayed, that means they have joined the project but are not currently online. This Palette also gives you options for color coding the model to easily identify your workspace.

Step 5

Choose your workspace. This process is very fluid and allows you to change your workspace on the fly. As you are working, you simply Reserve the elements that you want to edit. Do this by selecting the elements and click Reserve in the Teamwork palette (or Right-click for a contextual menu). As long as nobody else has reserved these items, you instantly have access to them. However, if someone has previously reserved an item you are trying to access, you will then Request the item(s). The other user will get an Instant Message (IM) notifying them of your request. If they choose to Grant your request, you will have immediate access to the element(s).

That’s it! You’ll find that the new Teamwork is fun to use and can increase productivity with any size team and on any size project.

Real-time Collaboration with Consultants

Working with the new Teamwork feature is a great way for members within an office to collaborate. But how can you work with your engineers in real-time using the BIM Server?

The first step is to set your consultants up with ArchiCAD 13 which will give them access to your Teamwork project via the BIM Server. All you need is a static IP address and a standard high-speed internet connection to be able to connect over the internet.

Create User Profiles for your consultants, and define their Roles and Workspace. Teamwork allows you to create saved workspaces for quick reservation of elements. Your engineer will be able to reference your entire model but only their reserved elements will be editable to them. As they input data, you will be able to check it against your model. ArchiCAD includes automatic clash detection to check for conflicts between mechanical, structural and architectural elements.

Even if your consultants are using Autocad and 2D processes, they can still work with your 3D BIM model. Have them bring their DWG file onto a Worksheet and “trace” or snap their structural or MEP objects into the model in 3D on the BIM Server. They will be working right along with you on their own layers and can instant message you while working (a new feature of Teamwork 2.0 in ArchiCAD 13) if they have any questions.

If your consultants use another BIM application, they can bring their data into ArchiCAD in a variety of ways. IFC is a common file format for BIM information and allows data to be transferred between platforms. ArchiCAD’s MEP Modeler package also offers direct connection with Autocad MEP 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Your Competitive Advantage

According to John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA, Founder and President of Digital Vision Automation:

“Since you are the source of the work flowing to your consultants, you have the power to determine how they work with you, especially in this financial climate, with many firms in real need of work. Not long ago, it would be very challenging to get engineers to transition to a new process. Jobs were plentiful. They could always say “we don't have time to learn new technology” and pass on certain projects. Today I believe a firm would be foolish to turn down a project simply because it would require learning a new tool. Since business has slowed down, firms now have the time to learn new technology, allowing us to leverage the recession.”

While the world is moving toward BIM faster than ever, we are still in a transitional period. As I’ve mentioned, BIM doesn’t have to exclude the 2D world. In fact, 2D elements are also capable of containing intelligent information which can be used in conjunction with a 3D model. The key is intelligence. Use the 3D model and 2D drawings in a coordinated manner and you can leverage that intelligence. You have the technology available today to become a leader in the BIM world!

If you’re interested in furthering your knowledge on these topics, as part of your LearnVirtual membership, you’ll have access to recorded eClasses focused on ArchiCAD’s Teamwork 2.0 and the new Graphisoft BIM Server, plus over 110 other recorded eClasses on a wide range of topics including modeling techniques, drafting techniques, process management, revision management, rendering and animation.  Also, new LIVE eClasses occur each week! To learn more about LearnVirtual, go to www.learnvirtual.com.

About the Author

The founder and President of ARCHiDEAS, Matthew Brewster is one of the preeminent ArchiCAD instructors in North America. Based in Seattle, his background is in architecture and construction. In addition to serving as an occasional instructor for the LearnVirtual online training program, he offers ArchiCAD training and BIM consulting services for the Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest. For over 10 years, Matt has focused on solutions for the AEC market and has helped a wide range of firms transition to new technologies. Please visit www.archideas.biz for more information.



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