The next generation of SaaS BIM ‘common data environments’ could include constellations of CDEs around a core CDE.
Viewpoint’s UK subsidiary, SaaS construction collaboration technology specialist 4Projects, is to develop a new platform to support building information modelling (BIM) collaboration down the supply chain, reports BIM+. The project is one of ten beneficiaries of a recent Innovate UK competition, ‘Digitising the Construction Industry’ (read Elaine Knutt’s report), with Vinci construction, NG Bailey, the Specialist Engineering Contractors group and Northumbria University also involved in the 18-month “Tier2Tier” project.
John Adams, BIM project manager at 4Projects, says the aim is to address the “considerable difficulties in getting information down the supply chain. Usually the main contractor has the model, and everyone else passes information around via email and FTP sites.” The cloud-based service, due to be commercially available in autumn 2016, would allow key subcontractors to operate a satellite ‘common data environment’ (CDE), which would only host data from the main model relevant to their package. The Tier 2 subcontractors would then be able to invite Tier 3/4 suppliers and manufacturers to access the slimmed-down design files, and submit their own estimates, designs and COBie data.
Distantly echoing early 2000s efforts by the leading UK collaboration vendors to create a common information exchange standard between their various SaaS platforms, John continues:
“The whole supply chain is unlikely to buy 4Projects, so the point of our bid is to create an inter-CDE language, so we should be able to pass data from CDE to CDE. So we want to create an open-source language, so that the CDE could align with Asite, for instance.”
Asked if this dilutes the value of a CDE as a collaborative/interoperable tool to be used by all parties involved with a project, he responded:
The model of a single CDE for the whole project where everyone has access is still in play, as per the B555 Roadmap. But the master CDE is ultimately controlled by a Tier 1 project participant. This has meant the tools within modern CDEs like task management, workflow processes and libraries of objects and literature are beyond the use of the supply chain who revert to using their C: drive and email. The concept of a hierarchical structure of cloud based environments will enable every business to align their business procedures with BIM execution plans whilst creating reusable lean processes.
These are interlinked CDEs which are intended to add speed, clarity and accountability to the project supply chain for processes such as return of tender and submission of model objects. In my mind this looks like a project ‘nervous system’ with the master CDE as the ‘brain’.
StickyWorld also funded
Also funded in the same Innovate UK competition is a project led by Michael Kohn’s London-based StickyWorld [Disclosure: like 4Projects, a former pwcom.co.uk client], with the National Self Build Association, who have won £330,000 for a project called Digitising Custom Build. I understand the project will also involve HTA Design, FACIT Homes, Rob Annable’s Axis Design, Slider Studio, Commusoft and Igloo Regeneration.