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Tips to Streamline the Collaboration Process

Articles Central Innovation 20 October 2017

Tips to Streamline the Collaboration Process

Collaborating between various authoring software solutions can be tricky, but by implementing a few simple procedures you can streamline the practice not only for your team members, but also for the wider group of external stakeholders working on your project.

We always suggest creating a BIM Handbook to outline the file-sharing and collaboration procedures across your team – this will help staff and vendors understand their role in the collaborative process. If you haven’t yet developed a BIM Handbook, here are some tips to help guide you through the Collaboration process – and perhaps form the basis of your own BIM Handbook in the future:

Team Set up

  • Assign Responsibilities: Agree what parts of the project are each stakeholders’ responsibility (for example, we don’t want the architect moving the structural columns to make the foyer seem more spacious; and similarly we don’t want the engineers moving other components so their steel, or ductwork can move through a space).


Project File Standards

  • Agree on the Reference File and who owns it: The Reference File should belong to one person who sends it to stakeholders. The file is sent in IFC format for the stakeholders to use in their own authoring software and it usually defines the basics of the project’s Local Origin and Geographical Coordinates, Levels or Stories and Gridlines. Sometimes these file or files can contain any type of reference information n, graphical or not that needs to be shared across stakeholders. Examples of this could include: Project Information, Boundary Lines for the site and other fixed landmarks.
  • Agree the project origin:  Generally you should set the project origin close to the building to help file coordination.
  • Agree Building Stories:  Limit the stories (levels) to actual floor levels – not irregular named floors such as ‘Top of Parapet’
  • Agree on the Gridlines: Usually by having a single set at Ground Level, avoid duplication and/or having different sets at other levels.

TIP: Consider creating a template file that includes the above ideas. This standardised file can be sent to all stakeholders and used as the basis for all future models throughout the collaboration process.

Create a Map of the Software Ecology

The Software Ecology Map should describes the software applications and services used in the project, versions, what is going to be used for and by whom, in a visual way. This will then define the protocols for data transferring.

Data Transfer Standards

Transferring files is not just about the model geometry – it is also about transferring additional data (such as room names, wall types, fire ratings etc). Here are some tips to help ensure all this data is correctly exported:

  • Limit what you export: Create saved IFC Export Views to limit what you export – this will help reduce file size too. As an example, Structural Engineers won’t need to see furniture in the IFC file that is issued to them.
  • Do a dummy run first: Create a test file, and place within it all your objects/families. Save this file as an IFC file, and then open it in an IFC viewer (such as the free SMC) to check both the geometry and metadata has come through successfully.


Export Standards

  • Export using Authoring Software-issued plugins where possible (for example, Revit users should use the GRAPHISOFT IFC Plugin when importing an ARCHICAD-created IFC file)
  • Validate the file and check your Export: Once you have exported an IFC file for collaboration, open it using an IFC viewer and check the geometry (Tip: Check that the building isn’t too far from the project origin).
  • Double check your Export: To be sure your export has worked correctly, try using an IFC Checking Tool to make sure you are following project protocol (for example, correct room naming/metadata/story levels etc).
  • Agree on accepted file formats: This does not have to be IFC – other formats can include DWG, PDF, XLS, XML and BCF among others.
  • Exchange schedules: Set the expectations on when and by what means the information will be exchanged, how is going to be registered and controlled.
  • Fail protocols: Outline what to do when something goes wrong. This may include a procedure to rollback to previous shared files, criteria for validation and Quality Check protocols.

Tip: Revit Grids can be difficult to Export to IFC. However if you use the GRAPHISOFT IFC Plugin to export to IFC, the Grid will export as part of your IFC file.
View popular collaborative software tools

File Size

IFC files contain a lot of data, so they can get quite large. Keep file sizes down to help speed up the export as well as improve the transfer of the files, using these tips:

  • Use Views to limit what you export
  • Compress the IFC file: Programs such as Solibri Model Optimiser can take a 560mb file and optimise it down to around 95mb in IFCzip format.


Receiving IFC files within ARCHICAD

Whenever including IFC files in your ARCHICAD projects, consider the following:

  1. Are you going to combine all models in the project Working File or are you setting up a separate Coordination File?
  2. Will you use the Consultants’ IFC models (Structural, Mechanical, Electrical or Plumbing) to produce your drawings, or will you have your own version of those models to produce your drawings and control the design intention?

Whichever strategy you choose, find here are some tips for bringing IFC files into ARCHICAD projects:

  • Find the IFC file received and do a quick Visual Validation by opening the file on a IFC viewer (Solibri Model Viewer is Free and quite powerful)
  • Once you have visually checked the file and found no errors or unexpected content proceed to Hotlink the IFC into your Project File. Tip: consistency in choosing the same IFC Translator for the same IFC files is usually more important than finding the perfect settings for the translation
  • On the Place Hotlink Dialog Box, Choose “Keep Elevation as in Story Structure of Hotlink Source” in the Element’s Elevation Option, and save the IFC Library Parts as an External Library, not Embedded Library.
  • After placement, add the IFC Library from the Library Manager.
  • When an updated IFC model is provided, use the Detect IFC Model Changes (in a separate ARCHICAD session), check for changes and modifications and once ready, update the Hotlink in the Working Model by simply Relinking the old IFC file with the newest IFC file and remember to do the changes in Libraries accordingly.
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