Earlier this month, Graphisoft had a Building Together digital event where it discussed the current state of AEC collaboration as well as highlighted the recent developments in its product portfolio that were specifically focused on facilitating collaboration. This includes the release of a new product offering called Archicad Collaborate, which combines the use of its flagship BIM application, Archicad, with its cloud-based real-time project collaboration solution, BIMcloud.
Graphisoft is one of the earliest vendors of AEC technology solutions and its Archicad BIM application has been used in projects around the world. A snapshot of these is shown in Figure 1.
To capture the current state of design collaboration in AEC, Graphisoft commissioned an independent global survey among AEC firms that were using a varied set of tools and software ecosystems. One of the key findings of the study was that the industry was still relying heavily on emails, in-person and online meetings, and exchanging PDFs and markups of 2D drawings for collaboration. Less common approaches were exchanging BIM models and the use of the IFC file format, while at the lowest rung were the use of design collaborations tools and a CDE (Common Data Environment) platform. Thus, the most common approaches being used were those that did not support effective communication and collaboration, and they were especially poor in bringing other stakeholders in to provide their feedback and input. It wasn’t surprising, therefore, to find that poor communication was cited as the topmost challenge in meeting project objectives and outcomes.
At the same time, with the growing complexity of projects as well as the recent pandemic which forced remote working, the study found that more design firms were keen to adopt multi-disciplinary design. These are design solutions that integrate the core disciplines of architecture, structure, and building services, as well as landscape architecture and interior design. Graphisoft is taking steps to ensure that its product direction and strategy are aligned with this growing demand for multi-disciplinary collaborative design.
Leading the collaboration solutions in Graphisoft’s product portfolio is BIMcloud, which works as a shared resource for all the different project stakeholders where the project data lives while the work is in progress. The data, including models, can be accessed from anywhere and at any time. A firm can have multiple design projects in BIMcloud, with multiple teams on each project using different applications and file types (Figure 2). BIMcloud can be deployed by a firm on-premise or as a SaaS (software as a service) application.
BIMcloud is not just a shared platform where project files can be stored and accessed; it is, in fact, a model-based collaboration platform which can work with the individual elements within a BIM model. A great example of this was demonstrated at the event by showing how the Teamwork module within Archicad works with BIMcloud for real-time collaborative design (Figure 3). Team members can reserve parts of the model to work on and release them after they are done, enabling multiple people to work on the same model simultaneously, irrespective of where they are located. A “Delta” technology ensures that only changes to the model are updated, making the collaboration process very fast. Other features that facilitate communication include built-in instant messaging and the ability to quickly create and send screenshots and markups. It is possible for team members to work remotely without any Internet connection and sync the changes to the model when they are online. Also, BIMcloud automatically creates project snapshots and server backups on a regular basis.
As an example of a customer project which highlighted how Graphisoft’s Archicad and BIMcloud were being used for collaborative design, Graphisoft demonstrated the Merdeka 118 project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, designed by the Australian firm, Fender Katsalidis. At 644 meters in height, Merdeka 118 is the second tallest building in the world and the tallest in Malaysia (Figure 4). The project was designed, constructed, and delivered with the collaboration of several architectural partners and stakeholders, as well as structural, civil, geotechnical, and MEP engineers from different parts of the world. Archicad was used for the architectural design, to prepare the model for structural analysis and MEP engineering, and to create detailed drawings and documentation that could communicate the design to other project stakeholders and manufacturers (Figure 5). It allowed the architectural team to create their own data-driven library parts that were crucial to the design. They were also able to easily embed the engineering models within Archicad to provide a consolidated view of the project.
Graphisoft’s product portfolio also includes the BIMx mobile app, which directly addresses the communication aspect of collaboration by allowing architects to present their designs to clients and other stakeholders in the form of navigable 3D models and the associated 2D documentation on any device. The app uses streaming technology that makes viewing models very fast, even for complex projects. It includes options such as 3D cutaways for better understanding of the design (Figure 6), and it can be linked to BIMcloud, which allows any changes made to the model to be updated immediately in the app.
The OpenBIM approach enabled by the IFC open standard is the cornerstone of Graphisoft’s interoperability and multidisciplinary design strategy — it is literally part of the DNA of the company. In addition to the continued support of the IFC file format, which is always kept up to date with the latest schema, Graphisoft supports several AEC file formats in its products, including BCF for coordination and collaboration, SAF for structural models and analysis, and DWG for exchanging 2D information. An example of a project designed using Archicad and other applications like Tekla Structures using OpenBIM workflows, including the IFC and SAF file formats, is the Puskas Arena in Budapest (Figure 7).
In addition to supporting multiple file formats for multi-disciplinary interoperability, Graphisoft has two in-house applications for MEP engineering. One is the MEP Modeler built right into Archicad, which not only allows modeling MEP elements from 2D drawings as a reference, but also enables a fully BIM-oriented workflow where the MEP systems can be designed directly in 3D with dedicated tools and access to element information (Figure 8). MEP engineers can quickly get their Bill of Quantities of components and visualize their systems in integration with architectural and structural models.
In addition to the MEP Modeler, Graphisoft also has a fully-fledged Building Services application, DDScad, which, in addition to MEP modeling capabilities, provides all the highly specialized calculations and reports needed for the design and documentation of the MEP systems. In addition to integration with Archicad, DDScad also integrates fully with the collaborative platform, BIMcloud, as well the presentation and coordination app, BIMx.
Graphisoft also highlighted its broader collaboration with its sister solutions in the Nemetschek portfolio, which it is a part of. This extended integration was demonstrated in the Queen’s Wharf megaproject in Brisbane, Australia, designed by Cottee Parker Architects (Figure 9), and included Archicad for all the architectural modeling, down to the smallest detail; Solibri for QA (quality assurance); Bluebeam Revu for coordination and markup; and Drofus for space planning and management (Figure 10). This open collaboration is primarily enabled by IFC, though some applications also have a direct one-to-one integration such as a live, bidirectional link between Archicad and Solibri.
In addition to the launch of the new Archicad Collaborate product which packages Archicad with BIMcloud, Graphisoft has several capabilities that will be available soon. These include Design Options inside Archicad, which will provide a dedicated workflow for users to create design options without the need of workarounds like hotlinks, layer settings, or making copies of the model; interactive Schedule formatting to allow the creation of well-structured lists right inside Archicad; support for the industry-standard FBX format which will allow Archicad designers to connect to various VR and AR applications for immersive visualization; the ability to create issues directly from the BIMx mobile app, allowing model-based communication between the site and the office; and the ability to manually adjust the structural analytical model in addition to the automatic adjustment rules, allowing structural engineers to fine-tune the connections between structural members and create correct structural models of any complexity.
The full product roadmap, which also includes developments in progress and those being researched, is public and can be seen at: Roadmap – Graphisoft
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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