Clearbox BIMXtra starts with BIM

The BIM Common Data Environment, CDE, market in the UK remains very competitive. Its players include vendors previously active in what was sometimes termed document management, file collaboration or project extranets, but there are also newer players for whom BIM was the starting point.

BIMXtra is a BIM platform that originated in-house at UK contractor Kier, in its process and engineering division. In 2013, the technology division that developed it was spun out as a separate business called Clearbox, which is now based in Basingstoke in Hampshire, and headed by former Kier director Graham Forbes (with Kier as a “supportive investor”). I understand that the system has also been marketed in the Netherlands.

BIMXtra provides a cloud-based common data environment, CDE, where project information can be consolidated, viewed, edited and compiled into intelligent, revision-controlled information, which can be accessed through a standard web browser. The information may be drawn from different software programs, and is then combined in BIMXtra for use by different members of a project team. At the end of a project, BIMXtra can also be used to create COBie outputs from data collected through the job and linked O&M manual.

Clearbox also offers a related mobile product called Insight.

In a recent Building magazine webinar, a major civil engineering project – refurbishment of the Chelsea Railway Bridge (also known as the Grosvenor Bridge) across the River Thames in London – was used as a case study for the two products, where it was claimed it delivered a £865,000 saving and cut 36 days from the project programme for Kier. The case study I later received after the webinar described part of the process gain on the project:

“…to establish a benchmark, spans 1 and 2 were surveyed using traditional paper-based methods. It took two engineers three weeks to record data, go back to the office and then enter it manually into the database. After the first span, the team had identified that it would need another 8 heads to complete the work on time.

In BIMXtra, historical 2D drawings were drafted into a 3D model, containing some 7,900 uniquely identified structure elements. 2D views from the model were loaded to OnSite, our mobile application, so that individual elements could be selected to allow site survey work to be recorded against each element.

When they got to Span 3 the team used both methods as comparison. Using BIMXtra, it took two engineers just 4 days to complete the survey of the span. Data was recorded and stored within BIMXtra, ensuring consolidated information could be retrieved by multiple users, either on site or in the office. With the BIM process fully functional, it at least halved the length of time to process.

My view

The BIM and SaaS startup market is fast-moving, but – regardless of the merits or otherwise of an application – its history and ownership structure will still be a factor in potential customers’ buying decisions. Some construction contractors (and subcontractors and other supply chain members) may be wary of a company that is strongly aligned with a major contractor (I recall how BuildOnline on its various related businesses had shareholders from across a range of UK and German contractors, for example – post; UK-based iSite has a similar issue due to its ultimate ownership by Styles & Wood). Contractor backing can provide some impressive case studies (and deliver some good results from cross-selling – post), but the acid test is whether that SaaS business can also compete with other businesses where there is no corporate mandate (the Building webinar heard that Kier mandates use of BIMXtra as its standard default tool).


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