Copenhagen-based Dalux has capitalised upon Denmark’s early BIM adoption and the smartphone explosion to provide user-friendly BIM working, including augmented reality, on mobile devices.
In late 2017, I met up with Torben Dalgaard, in 2005 one of the two cofounders of Copenhagen, Denmark-based Dalux, a 40-strong developer of mobile BIM and related Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration technologies.
From the outset, he said, the company’s focus has been on building information modelling, capitalising initially upon Denmark’s early BIM adoption. The country’s first BIM mandate was in 2008, and since 2013 all public projects valued at €2m or more have to be delivered using BIM – more than half of Denmark’s projects are public-sponsored – and Dalgaard estimated the larger Danish contractors’ projects are now about 90% BIM. The company now has customers in a dozen other countries, both in the Nordic region (Norway’s first BIM mandate in 2010 made it Dalux’s second market) and further afield, including the UK – where the growing adoption of BIM Level 2 is providing opportunities for Dalux, particularly in relation to mobile working among contractors (Northampton-based structural steelwork contractor Fusion is among Dalux’s first UK customers). Germany is another target market.
“We believe our mobile app is the most user-friendly BIM app on the market,” he said. Dalux’s BIM application has been used in the delivery of over 55 million square metres of building projects, and the company has over 10,000 users, including people in 13 of the 50 biggest contractors in Europe.
Free BIM viewer
Dalux’s product suite includes a free BIM viewer for Apple iOS and Android devices (“gaining 50 new BIM projects a day”, mainly on the basis of word-of-mouth), allowing users to view IFC models (Dalgaard is a BuildingSMART enthusiast). This has proved successful in attracting interest, after which prospective customers can invest in the wider product set, which includes a mobile quality control (snagging or defects management) tool, Dalux Field, and a document management system, ‘Box’. Dalux also has an FM solution which may be rolled out more widely than its current Denmark-focused usage.
Demonstrating the Dalux Field application, Dalgaard showed a 2D floorplan and workflow view that is reminiscent of other snagging applications, but the BIM viewer allows users to navigate rapidly around even a substantial federated 3D model (which might be locally stored on the device, or streamed over the internet if connectivity allows); the example I was shown combined no fewer than 43 models.
Workflow tasks are automatically associated with relevant drawings, models, photographs and other data accessible to the user. Dalgaard says he aims to make the application as user-friendly as Google Maps might be to a 60-year-old site worker, and not just as a tablet-based device but on the smartphones often more accessible to workers onsite – unlike some other systems, the user experience is the same regardless of the device used. The usability of the app has also meant high levels of user adoption beyond the initial contractor/subcontractor relationships, he said.
The platform is typically licensed per-project to encourage adoption and collaboration across a multi-company, multi-disciplinary project team. Dalux also has an API that would allow it to be integrated with client systems and with common data environments (CDEs) provided by other vendors (Germany’s think project! was mentioned) that might be used by the project team. Mobile app data is hosted in a highly secure facility in Germany, while Dalux also has a hosting environment in Denmark.
Dalux has also been working with the Google Tango (now ARCore) augmented reality toolkit to create an augmented reality BIM tool on smartphones. Dalux TwinBIM allows users to see elements of a 3D model superimposed on live video imagery created by the device’s camera, and the application can then be used to create issue workflows where, for example, there might be discrepancies between the model and the constructed components.
Dalgaard said the AR technology was proving helpful to non-construction professionals in client organisations who wanted to compare what was being built with what had been included in the latest designs.