Advance2000’s Chris France highlights the benefits of BIM-VDC “in the cloud” – though it’s an opportunity already well understood by several AEC-focused SaaS vendors.
I started this blog started after publication of my book in 2005 when, looking into the future, I anticipated the emergence of building information modelling (BIM), more mobile and real-time collaboration and increased adoption of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud computing. Since then, I have monitored these converging trends, occasionally highlighting landmarks on the journey towards what I have sometimes called BIMaaS – where model-based built asset data is shared across a project team using cloud-based tools.
Virtual design and construction
Others share this vision of the future, and some of my blog posts have quoted forward-thinking contributions – for example, John Tobin’s piece on atomicBIM (October 2008) and Jos Voskuil’s prediction of Universal Unique IDs for all information (January 2009). The latest article to grab my attention is by Advance2000‘s Chris France.
In a guest contribution to Lachmi Khemlani’s AECBytes entitled VDC in the Cloud – Journey to LEAN Construction, Chris talks about virtual design and construction (VDC), where contractors “virtually construct” a building on a computer before they actually construct it on-site. He distinguishes this from what he calls “Architect’s Building Information Modeling (BIM)”, which he says is primarily focused on design and creating drawings as their product – though I think he would find many UK BIM practitioners disagreeing with this distinction. Nonetheless, if we accept his argument that BIM-VDC addresses the entire lifecycle of a structure with the processes, technology, and people to support it (means, methods, schedules, costs, safety, logistics, inventory, manufacturing, etc), then there are even more compelling benefits if we centralise BIM-VDC in the cloud. He summarises the business benefits of BIM-VDC in the cloud:
- Lean construction – eliminating waste from the construction process
- Agility and mobility – Adapt to market forces quickly from any location
- Collaboration – assemble the best team no matter where they are located
- Cost reduction – for the building and the infrastructure for construction
- Levelling the playing field – Small/medium firms can compete with the big ones
The full article is well worth reading, and ultimately highlights different options to embrace the BIM-VDC in the cloud, from implementing it within a firm to renting the technology from a cloud provider for as along as the project needs it.
Advance2000 challenging existing SaaS players
Advance2000 is not solely focused on the architecture, engineering and construction market; it is an IT business looking to provide private cloud-based infrastructures for construction project teams, among others. According to a YouTube video, its AEC proposition is built on a partnership with Dassault Systemes, and its website talks about migrating existing IT applications and systems and hosting email, IP telephony, Newforma (post), Sharepoint and other applications in the same private cloud as design projects.
However, there are, of course, many now very experienced companies who have been providing specialist Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration platforms for over a decade, and who are increasingly also tackling the data sharing, coordination, workflow, security and auditability challenges and opportunities presented by BIM. Some are well advanced in their BIM journeys – 4Projects, Asite and Unit4 Collaboration spring to mind – while others (Aconex, Conject, McLaren, etc) are still building their industry propositions. The UK Government’s BIM initiative has presented an opportunity for such vendors to provide the common data environment supporting ‘level 2’ BIM, and this expertise will – the government hopes – by highly exportable; 4Projects was acquired by Oregon-based Viewpoint partly to give it an edge over its immediate US competitors when it came to BIM and SaaS-based collaboration.
Last week I received an email from a US contractor seeking an ‘owned’ on-premise collaboration solution (and my reply mentioned Newforma, Sharepoint and McLaren’s enterprise solution), so there is – at least anecdotally – demand for internally hosted cloud solutions. Perhaps that contractor might read this post and consider Advance2000’s proposition.