BIM Voice – Daan Moreels: Cloud Computing – The New Face of BIM and Real-Time Design

Credit: Cloudalize
Credit: Cloudalize

BIMcrunch has become a platform for a plethora of elite names from the Building Information Modelling sector to become guest writers on the site and share their thoughts and opinions with the entire #GlobalBIMCrew.

In today’s instalment Daan Moreels, CMO of new cloud technology start-up Cloudalize discussed cloud computing, technology he describes as “the new face of BIM”. The Belgian professional looks at the implementation of a GDaaS – or GPU/Graphical Desktop-as-a-Service. What is this new model? Daan explains all and what exactly this licensing method means for the Building Information Modelling sector.

Cloud Computing: The New Face of BIM and Real-Time Design

The State of BIM

Some architects and engineers refer to Building Information Modeling (BIM) as an evolution of existing 2D-to-3D technology. But BIM is much more than access to Revit applications or clash detection capability.

For example, a building owner recently asked one of our partners to recommend materials in his new project that would appreciate in value over the years. The reason, of course, is that he plans to sell the building 10 years from now at a much higher price.

This meant selecting the right materials in the early phase of the design by focusing on such attributes as durability and re-usability as opposed to cost alone. Today, it is possible to save this type of data in a BIM model that stores all relevant building information during the building project’s life cycle.

BIM also facilitates project collaboration. Participants in the building process can cooperate on information models that are perfectly connected with each other and are integrated in a central database. Once a project has been completed and delivered, this database can be handed to the building owner who can then use it for facility management and operation. These modern tools bring transparency and efficiency to the building’s project life cycle, and help ensure that a building can be completed on time and on budget.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

In Q2 2016, the BIM Level 2 framework will become mandatory for public projects in the United Kingdom. A recent conversation that we had with the Institution of Civil Engineers shows that their members face major challenges. For example, ICE brought up a situation where a large architecture firm from the UK recently lost a project to a competitor because it couldn’t demonstrate sufficient BIM expertise. As a result, ICE will step up its efforts to drive BIM adoption among its members.

According to the BESIX Group, less than 5% of projects are currently delivered on time and on budget. Clearly, we must find better ways of increasing project management efficiency. Interoperability and collaboration among AEC companies, in particular, is crucial, and BIM technology adoption will be essential in order to remain competitive over the next few years.

Real-Time Collaboration on 3D Models: the Cloud Advantage

Information Technology plays an important role here. Deployment speed and performance limitations, however, hinder collaboration among multidisciplinary teams.

“Deploying infrastructure and managing systems performance is a time-consuming and devious process”, says Kristof Vandenbogaerde, BIM Manager at BIMplan. A Belgian company, BIMplan works as a mediator on large BIM coordination projects, and often faces IT-related issues in the early stages of joint ventures.

Speed is always a factor in these projects. All project phases must go through a planning process. But this planning doesn’t always take into account the time that is needed for effective IT deployment. IT managers must be quickly brought together to provide project engineers with the necessary BIM tools and workstations.

Project participants also run into Revit Server collaboration issues. The participants may all use their own servers, but who will be hosting the central model, and who will assume responsibility for the database? Discussions can also quickly arise among partners about who will pay what and to whom. Systems performance during the design phase can also suffer because of poor 3D model synchronization across servers and workstations – particularly in geographically dispersed sites that end up wasting time and money.

Fortunately, cloud technology can now deliver a solution by providing easy access to Revit servers and workstations in the cloud. Revit workspaces are simply virtualized workstations that engineers can access on any device – including laptops, tablets, and thin clients – over an internet connection.

These workstations’ CPU, graphics cards, Windows OS and apps run virtually in a datacenter. Only the screens are transferred to the end-user. Both data servers and virtual workstations for computing reside on the same cloud. This makes real-time and synchronized design on the same 3D models possible. What’s more, this IT infrastructure – including virtual workstations – can be deployed in minutes instead of weeks.

This new technology is called GDaaS – where “G” stands for GPU/Graphical and “DaaS” for Desktop-as-a-Service. The result is shorter lead times for overall building projects, as collaborating teams no longer have to waste time synchronizing data and waiting for IT support.

What about Security?

The future of design may lie in the cloud, but is this technology secure? We asked Jan Festjens, Product Manager at Cloudalize and former IT Manager at a large architecture firm to respond to this concern. “I’ve seen workstations and CAD laptops stolen on construction sites”, he replied. Security on these computers is often deficient. Data and 3D models, as a result, may fall into the wrong hands.

Under the cloud model, in contrast, the Windows OS, apps and even the entire computer run in the cloud. Only the screens get transferred to the end-user device. So the disappearance of a device isn’t associated with the loss or theft of expensive hardware or data. In fact, the security-level protection associated with virtual workstations now compares favorably with that of home banking.

Opportunities for BIM Managers

Adopting a BIM collaboration model does not usually happen overnight, and BIM managers continue to face challenges. Implementing a disruptive technology on 30-year old workflows, for example, requires more than learning new software.

It is important to understand what resources, roles and responsibilities are needed to create a self-sustaining BIM ecosystem. As new countries mandate BIM adoption, however, we can expect that use of this technology will continue to expand exponentially.

Running the Numbers

BIM technology, cloud computing and real-time collaboration go hand in hand. As statistics become more available, it also becomes easier to support a business case for adopting BIM and collaboration models.

Indeed, the cost of errors/failures now ranges from 5 to 15% of a project’s total cost. This is a huge waste of resources and money that can be avoided through the use of BIM technology.

We know, for example, that detecting a potential clash or error in the design phase of a BIM project costs up to 13 times less than during the construction phase. BIM technology also reduces CAD drawings rework from 48% down to 2%. Equally important are commercial advantages: leveraging BIM technology in sales proposals, for example, can increase by a factor of six the odds that a company will win the project.

It’s Time to Consider Cloud

Not only can BIM technology assist with the bidding process, but there are other benefits as well. Among them: real-time access to project information, a reduction in the number of potential failures/mistakes, and the ability to identify potential clashes early at the design stage. The emergence of improved 4D simulation and project visualization techniques confirm these trends.

Thanks to new developments in cloud computing, such as the emergence of the GDaaS cloud platform and integration technologies, fast and efficient BIM adoption by IT is at last becoming possible.

If you’re interested in a presentation featuring the statistics that are mentioned in this article, you can download it for free here.

To learn more about Cloudalize’s GDaaS services, follow them on Twitter, or visit their official website. Daan can be found over at LinkedIn.

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