Sitedesk is a new name in the BIM and collaboration world, marketing a mobile solution that has just been adopted for a Balfour Beatty coastal defence project.
Wyre Council in Lancashire has selected collaboration technology from a Manchester-based company Sitedesk to support Level 2 building information modelling (BIM) during a five-year contract to construct and maintain the Rossall coastal defence scheme, part of the £73 million Fylde Peninsular Coastal Programme in north west England.*
Predominately funded by the Environment agency, the £53m Rossall scheme covers approximately 2km of coastline and will protect 7500 low lying properties from flooding. The area is subjected to some of the largest waves and strongest currents on the Fylde coast. Wyre Council is one of the leaders in the UK public sector push towards BIM adoption by 2016. Balfour Beatty, the main contractor on the programme, is fully utilising BIM to deliver the project.
Sitedesk’s technology can be deployed in the office or in the field. Using it, Wyre Council’s project team will capture data about the coastal defences during construction and will then reuse it to optimise operation and maintenance throughout the defences’ working life, says Sitedesk sales director Rob Umphray.
Sitedesk is a Manchester-based company specialising in the development of software tools to support building information modelling and collaboration in construction projects. Founded in 2012 and backed by £435,000 from the North West Fund for Digital & Creative (managed by AXM Venture Capital) in April 2013, it draws on employees’ experience in the construction industry and collaboration software development.
Previous development of Sitedesk had been funded by two directors at ACS Construction Group, a regional contractor based in Cheadle Hulme, Greater Manchester (both are now non-execs and retain 27% stakes in the company). Sitedesk is chaired by former Eleco Software COO Craig Slater (Eleco’s subsidiaries include Asta Development, the developer of Asta PowerProject). Another director is former Yuuguu (web conferencing and screen-sharing software) CTO Chris Sewart.
Rob told me the company had taken a conscious decision not to market itself aggressively in its early days, wanting to be sure that the product was right and to build up some customer adoption stories. However, sources tell me Rob was at BIMShowLive in Manchester in June, talking about use of Sitedesk on a school project in Waterlooville, Hampshire, following a presentation by Allister Lewis of Hampshire County Council. Rob tells me that the school has been completed and the final accounts are in; savings of £48,000 and the achievement of zero rework on the project have been directly attributed to Sitedesk by Jon Chew, Balfour Beatty’s site manager, he says.
Sitedesk provides secure access to data stored in a remote hosted environment and is accessible from mobile platforms (Windows and Apple iOS) as well as desktops or laptops. Being app-based, Sitedesk can also be used out on site even when there is no internet connectivity, and the interface is designed to be used even when workers are encumbered by hard-hats, safety glasses and gloves and working with devices in protective cases in poor weather.
The platform supports outputs from all the common BIM authoring tools – from Autodesk’s Revit and Civil 3D to Bentley Microstation, plus the IFC format – and is able to handle large, highly detailed, federated models. Sitedesk also enables users to deploy existing ‘paper-based’ forms and templates electronically as well as an inbuilt digital forms and workflow creator that allows automation of site processes (permits, quality, method statements and health and safety) without users having to change their workflows (and the notifications stay in Sitedesk, not being pushed as email – Should construction dump email?). The platform provides access to COBie data too, and Sitedesk have developed tools that allow subcontractors to provide required information in the right format direct to the data model.
I have yet to see a live demonstration of the technology, but from what I’ve learned to date Sitedesk appears a robust and user-friendly addition to the mobile BIM market. At last week’s COMIT community day, I heard BAM Nuttall’s Victor Snook talk enthusiastically about how his company was using Autodesk’s BIM 360 Field to capture data onsite, and Sitedesk seems to compete in the same market, along with Bentley Navigator Mobile (among others). Mobile-centric BIM collaboration is also attracting UK-based start-ups – this year, for example, I’ve talked about Basestone and about Cadbeam – while I expect the existing SaaS construction collaboration vendors will be thinking about adding mobile BIM capabilities to complement their existing platforms and mobile tools. Instead of trying to develop their own solutions, perhaps working with Sitedesk might prove a quicker way to deliver such capabilities?
[* Disclosure: I was contacted by Sitedesk and provided PR consultancy services to the company including work on its news release. This blog post was not part of the deal.]