Innovations to Help Futureproof AEC Businesses
From clash detection tools to cloud-based connectivity and virtual reality walk-throughs, today’s technological innovations are not only driving greater efficiencies in the AEC sector – they’re also facilitating the futureproofing of business systems in ways that would once have seemed like science fiction.
When we look at the technological advancements which have been popularised in the last five years across the AEC disciplines, three major ones are mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets, the application of Virtual Reality to create immersive virtual environments, and cloud-based connectivity. All of these intersect, and all are playing an increasingly important role in facilitating futureproofing across AEC sector businesses.
Take for example the age-old problem of ensuring that the concept in the mind of the architect is accurately translated to on-site construction. In the days of paper blueprints, it was not unheard of for site workers to be referring to an older version of the architectural plans which had since been superseded. But thanks to cloud-based communication across mobile platforms in real time, today the architects’ office and the site can remain constantly in touch, with information updates propagated across platforms as and when required.
And by combining these mobile platforms with simple VR viewers such as Google Cardboard or more complex ones as needed, all relevant information can be compiled within a virtual model to give site workers and clients alike an immersive experience, enabling them to walk through the virtual environment prior to build.
These innovations benefit all stakeholders in the design and construction process. The consultants and designers are able to ensure the client who is not always technically adept at interpreting drawings and diagrams is able to visualise the project. With the rise of ever more purpose-built mobile devices we stand on the verge of a future where design and construction problems which have existed ever since the first building was conceptualised in the first architect’s mind will soon be consigned to memory.
Through these technologies, futureproofing is no longer something which seems overly ambitious – as architects, engineers and builders are now increasingly focusing on on using technology that allows all stakeholders to share information in real time.
A couple of decades ago it was possible to count specific CAD software and related apps on one hand, but today the explosion of specialised software for our sector has led developers to focus on finding common languages to transfer data between applications and platforms. Choosing software which is compatible with open source formats goes a long way in helping to futureproof your business.
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With the emergence of digital assets and model based facilities management the use of BIM tools built on open source will be able to provide owners and managers with the digital assets they need well into the future.
Such tools are a quantum leap away from previous generation software which was designed as an analogue to a drawing board – giving architects the ability to draw in lines and dimensions, but essentially the same manual process they were familiar with, albeit transposed to a computer platform.
Consider ARCHICAD’s ability to interact with mobile apps like BIMx, BIM Cloud and BIM Server enables communication across multiple timezones and geographical regions through cloud connectivity. We can now markup data and drawings and send them through to mobile platforms when clarification is needed, and using tools such as BlueBeam Revu or BIMx this information can then be shared via VR devices like Google Cardboard, enabling virtual navigation through the model.
The quality assurance solution Solibri Model Checker (SMC) and its associated software is another example of technological innovation facilitating futureproofing. Utilising its combination of design review, compliance and code checking and BIM validation and data mining, businesses are able to reduce potential errors and design/construction deficiencies.
Quality assurance comes into its own when you have comprehensive standards you can check against and through tools which offer such extensive checking, detection and compliance functionality you can ensure your business’ output. As with ARCHICAD, Solibri can be used alongside cloud-based technologies to expedite the collaborative process, enabling greater resource allocation to other areas such as modelling quality and asset data setup.
Ever since the invention of tools, the application of them has been the key consideration – choosing the right tool for the job. In an age where there is so much software and associated technology to choose from, this is more important than ever – so take a close look at what you’re using, and consider its application in futureproofing your business systems. If your tools are falling short in this regard, it’s time to look around for better options.