Understanding BIM Collaboration and C4R Using A360 Team
Posted: Nov 29, 2016
An integral element of BIM workflow includes BIM collaboration and sharing of data in Revit with multiple design partners and stakeholders across the globe. However with various sites working on a project as well as different time zones this has never been easy, that is until the introduction of new features in Revit A360, which have made collaboration simpler.
Exchange of files and data during Revit 3D BIM modeling among team members has historically been difficult and has usually meant that models were kept in one location and shared infrequently. This causes problems if, for a particular team member fails to communicate important changes made to their model to other, for example, an architect may reduce the ceiling space of an area but fail to make the MEP engineer aware of the change. The MEP engineer will spend a fair amount of time planning HVAC, pipework and electrical trays in the ceiling space. When he is advised of a change in the ceiling space size he will then realize that he does not have as much room as he had originally expected due to the reduced size in the new architectural model. This will require rework by the MEP engineer to re-plan his services in the ceiling space. Assuming he has time and is made aware of the changed model early enough then this will be additional work and may result in design delays. However if the changes are not communicated to the engineer, the design team (architect and engineer) may well end up being responsible for costly clashes identified during the installation phase simply because they did not share design updates and collaborate.
The introduction of Collaboration for Revit (C4R) has allowed design partners to share files during the design phase as the entire model is being uploaded to the cloud during the design process. The opportunity to collaborate in this way provides many advantages to the design team and the chances of project success, start to increase exponentially. For example if the architectural design team in one location (could be a different floor, different city or different country) is working on one part of building and uploading the changes to the cloud on a daily basis and notifies the other team members, the MEP team which may well be at a different location will see updated changes and be able to respond and amend their models as they see the changes made by the architect team. C4R allows the MEP team and the architectural team to collaborate and share the model for common areas of interest, even if not an element directly within their design mandate. Collectively this allows streamlined delivery of projects and the ability to forecast and meet project deadlines. Indeed, with new features in Revit such as A360 Team, it is easy to have a shared model among architects, MEP designers and structural engineers operating from different locations.
So what is A360 and how does it function? Cloud technology has made A360 possible and it helps to share the model online and view any Autodesk format files on the user’s PC or viewing deviceThis alone encourages collaboration.
A new feature in Revit 2017, A360 Team, provides a platform for C4R. C4R allows the Revit model to be shared and updated on the cloud using the A360 Team platform. An entire model can be shared over the cloud using A360 Team. So, for example, a single model that is being shared among architects, MEP designers and structural engineers can be changed by any party that has access to a pre-defined element of the project and the changes can be viewed instantly by the other parties as soon as they refresh their models with data from the cloud.
Of course, sharing models does bring about many other challenges and the need for controlled changes to models. For example, an architect would only upload a model that he/she was happy with other parties to rely on for their design elements. He/she would not upload a model that may be work in progress and which he/she may change the following week. Additionally, once a model is uploaded and shared, and therefore relied upon by other parties such as MEP engineers, the architect may still wish to make a change. Such a change would then require communication and be clearly indicated on the model so that engineers and other users could then assess and determine the extent of a change to a live model on their own design. All in all, a fair amount of control and plenty of communication would be needed to ensure that the costs of design changes and the timescales for the project do not spiral out of control.
Communication within the construction industry has been a challenge historically as there are multiple design partners usually in different locations. Each project has a different delivery schedule, its own model and vast elements of information. Aside from design models, there can be hundreds of files that are shared for a project, including specification documents and spreadsheets. Through the introduction of Communicator in A360 Team, Autodesk has made communication easier. A360 Team allows users to maintain a time line, chat with team members and review and preview the changes within the team during the project. This allows team members to help and understand which part of the drawing or model has been changed or altered. Whilst it may not solve all of the communication needs of the industry, it does mean that when using A360 Team, users can rely on the use of this self-contained communication tool.
C4R does provide a great platform for BIM Collaboration and it certainly provides a means for controlling BIM Models from different locations or even different countries, which is how design teams are increasingly organised. It is true that the introduction of such technology will have a cost impact, certainly adding to the costs of design in the interim years, however the real benefit from improved and more accurate design is realized during the construction phase and it is for that reason that C4R and other BIM Modeling Services tools have made a positive impact. The ability to manage BIM Services more effectively will no doubt speed up the overall construction lead times and reduce construction costs.