AEC Delta Mobility: open source ‘differencing’

AEC Delta Mobility consortium backed by UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to tackle AEC data exchange using open source approach.

The UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has backed an industry-wide consortium aiming to improve manufacture involvement and flows of data between architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) project partners. The group includes BuroHappold, 3D Repo, Speckle Works, UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management and Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group, with external support from HOK, Atkins and Arup.

The £1m Innovate UK-funded project (one of an £18m tranche of projects announced in February 2019; another funded project looks at use of AI – 21 February 2019 post) aims to increase construction productivity, performance and quality. The consortium is aiming to address two industrial issues in project entitled “AEC Delta Mobility”. First, it wants engage better with manufacturers in the early design stages and increase pre-manufactured value of built assets; second, it aims to increase construction project productivity by over 15%.

AEC Delta Mobility aims for open ‘differencing’ standard

The team will be focused on the inefficient processes whereby software users exchange large files and 3D models to communicate design changes – called ‘deltas’ – between designers, integrators and fabricators.

The notion of exchanging just the differences between files is not new. I blogged about the idea in February 2007 (it had been something that BIW Technologies experimented with c. 2003-04); in October 2009 (post), Graphisoft’s Archicad 13 incorporated ‘differencing’ technologies into its BIM server component; and I returned to the topic in April 2014 in connection with an ECM solution called M-Files (post). However, making such an approach ‘open’ is a significant step forward.

AEC Delta

Dr Al Fisher, technical director and head of computational development at BuroHappold, said:

“As a result of this new standard, users will be able to live-stream individual changes with collaborators, instead of sharing large files over and over again, using their own choice of any application conformant with the newly proposed AEC Delta Mobility specification.”

Commenting on the project, 3D Repo founder and CEO, Dr Jozef Dobos, said:

“While open standards such as IFC and BCF paved the way for collaboration, they are neither suitable for infrastructure and manufacturing, nor scalable to large construction projects. IFC [a popular open file format in building information modelling, BIM] can take several hours and enormous amounts of memory to process, making the current workflows extremely inefficient.”

The project will take 18 months and will see the newly proposed AEC Delta specification tested on live construction projects in the UK with project partners BuroHappold, Rhomberg, HOK and Atkins.

Tony Kearns, COO at Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group (UK & Ireland), said:

“The ongoing development and utilisation of BIM on major projects has seen a significant step forward in recent years, however, the design and management of data from multiple sources is cumbersome and inefficient. By streamlining the transfer of data to one open source will provide efficiencies in the design and construction phases whilst increasing confidence that the design is the most relevant and shared by all stakeholders.”

AEC Delta Mobility (Github site) will aim to iron out the data exchange processes at the earliest possible stages of the design phase by streamlining the data workflow so that everyone involved, from consultants to manufacturers, can access the same common data and with consistent versions of the truth.

The UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is committing £170 million – matched by £250 million from industry – to modernise construction processes and techniques (more information on the UKRI “Transforming Construction” website).

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