BIM Has Arrived by John Stebbins September 1 ’09

by John Stebbins

BIM has arrived? Hasn’t BIM been around for a long time?

It is true that BIM ‘authoring tools’ have been around a long time. In fact ArchiCAD has been in use world-wide for 26 years, Autodesk Revit for 10 years and Bentley’s solution has been with us a while too. I have been saying for years that BIM, in a word, means ‘Collaboration’. Historically, BIM collaboration has been based on a multitude of models and most projects have relied on several BIM models that are ‘federated’ or consolidated into one 3D environment using programs like Autodesk Navisworks or Solibri Model Checker…better than flat CAD and light tables, but still not efficient workflow.

In an open letter to the AEC vendor community, published in March 2004, the AIA Large Firm Roundtable CIO Group requested the following capabilities for “next generation” BIM technology: give project team members the capabilities of editing data simultaneously, facilitate the prevention of conflicting errors, and let changes to the project be available to users immediately. Graphisoft is the first vendor in the world to meet this challenge by bringing Next Generation BIM Technology to the marketplace.

The optimum in collaboration would be a form of real-time workflow between all project team members working IN the same model. For years, this has been the Holy Grail of BIM. With Graphisoft’s new patent pending Delta Server technology, announced as part of ArchiCAD 13, the Holy Grail of BIM – the real-time BIM Collaboration Server – has arrived.

Graphisoft has created an industry-first active server database management solution that maintains and updates the central project by passing to and from the user’s machines only the ‘delta’ or changes the users make, and in so doing, effectively achieves a real-time dynamic workflow between all members of the project team.

This execution of next generation BIM technology not only has the potential to transform how BIM projects are created and delivered, but WILL transform the way architects practice their craft. The benefits of real-time BIM Server technology can streamline the workflow of any practice, from the sole practitioner, boutique, mid-sized, or mega-firm.

Anyone on the project team can now work in real-time on a project from anywhere in the world. Team members in a remote office can work as if they were in the next cubicle. It is easy and natural to collaborate with consultants, since everyone works in the same model contributing their discipline’s building system into the model in parallel. The need for backgrounds and worries about whether you have the latest file versions disappear. FTP sites acting as ‘file depositories’ can be reduced or eliminated; any computer on the internet can now be a BIM server.

It is easy to work at home by simply logging onto the project on the office project server. There will be no need to transfer files from a desktop or file server to a laptop to work outside the office. Memory sticks and CDs are no longer needed. One can work off-line, on a plane for example and log on from one’s destination to send and receive changes. One can be in a meeting or a presentation and have access to any project, any time, via the Internet. Non-CAD users can participate directly on a project by working on the clerical sides of production like inputting project info, general notes, and other text-intensive information.

For contractors and owners, the benefits are huge. On design/build projects or Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), contractors can participate early on constructability issues. Estimating can happen on the fly. MEP and Structural Coordination can happen in real-time, starting during late schematic design and the need to do costly MEP Coordination during pre-construction by the contractor can be eliminated. Owners can participate by watching the project evolve virtually in real time via the 3D viewing capabilities built into the software. It will be easier to provide an accurate as-built BIM model during construction to hand over to the owner for operation and facilities management, since the contractor has been participating from the beginning.

A BIM Server solution the Industry has been waiting for has finally arrived from the industry veteran Graphisoft, purpose-built for real-time BIM collaboration.

Categories: BIM, Collaboration, IPD | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. [comments migrated from our old blog,]

    Name: Roger Clarke

    But have models been developed for electical systems, mechanical systems and certainly structural systems that work for consultants to participate? It all sounds good but in practice it still falls short.

    Name: Tom Pansing

    ArchiCAD has a number of structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical tools that make it possible for the model to be collaborative among the entire team.

    Name: Jamie Stitzel

    With a true BIM server- it would seem all disciplines could work simultaneously in the same file. Like Tom mentions- this includes MEPS too! That would be true BIM- and should really help with coordination.

    Name: Willard Williams

    Very well put John.

    For me it is a little frustrating to see our team, our alliance of people who haven’t bowed down to elephant in the room (Revit), yet don’t really understand what Graphisoft has truly accomplished in this release. I suspect that it is because most users don’t full use Archicad and all of it’s technological wonders. Even when I worked for one of the largest and best firms in the Southwest, when I started, they hadn’t fully implemented the use of teamwork across the production line. Teamwork is vital even for sole pratictioners with 1-10 employees. In many ways it has been the designers digital revolution that has quietly moved through it’s paces. Similar in many ways to when Ford introduced the production line, and even later “lean” production, though in many ways much more robust. Archicad has always been about “lean” production. Lean production and lean construction are coming closer and closer in todays age. Lean is a term that means no waste. Whether that be time, paper, or ideas, nothing is wasted or duplicated.

    We are at a time when a production team could literally create, document and deliver a product in a record breaking amount of time. This is however different for all other times in many ways, because we can simulate different conditions, such as, environmental, structural, mechanical, lighting, and a host of others.

    The “delta server” is no putting before us a new set of possibilities, a new set of rules, a new horizon has been given to us. For me, the excitement is barely containable. There is much more than possibility that I will one of the first in the history of the profession to never have a store front office that contains tons of equipment and overhead. I have definitely been among some of the first people to never meet their clients, their team, or their support groups face to face.

    For a lot I can see the fear in their eyes even today, when the mention of “freelance” or “remote,” even though it is fundamentally more efficient. If my team is a set of freelancers that means a lot, because I can reduce all of my overhead, my carbon foot print, the office politics, everything that is negative about working in a office day in and day out, the time schedule that is set in stone, and on and on.

    Graphisoft has always in my mind looked out for it’s supporters, it’s team, and it’s software in ways that is unheard of. I know they always have our best interest at heart, not only that, they know what we want and listen. The “delta server” has been something that I have wanted, needed, and dreaming of, since I was a novice Archicad’er and it is finally here. I am tempted to truly walk away from the paradigm and make the shift once that box has arrived. I personally don’t need to come into the office. I don’t need to travel across the world because people are afraid of freelancers. I have been a freelancer since 2001, a truly remote and clandestine agent. My philosophy is if it can’t fit in a back-pack then leave it behind. Archicad has always supported my true nature. I rode a world superbike for 2 years, only carrying my mac book pro, my laser measuring device, my camera, my iphone, and a notebook. All I needed was a good connection. Now all I need a wifi spot and I have entered my office.

    We are lucky to be apart of such a great and wonderful company such as Graphisoft, in such a truly unique time. Thanks John for your passion in Archicad and technology.

    Name: M Brown

    Are there any good BIM training programs/courses within the UK ? Anyone ?

    Name: E. Davis Chauviere, AIA

    The open letter to the AEC Community was authored by the AIA Large Firm Roundtable CIO Group and did not involve the AIA Technology in Practice (TAP) committee in any way. Viktor Varkonyi, CEO of Graphisoft, specifically referenced our Open Letter in correspondence to our group dated June 2, 2009. Please check your sources and correct your blog.

    Name: Caitlin Leal

    Thank you for pointing out this error, Davis. We have corrected the original post and acknowledged the Large Firm Roundtable CIO Group as the source for the recommendations cited.

    Name: John Stebbins

    RE Training programs in the UK…ArchiCAD University Europe has been going on for over 10 years now. The ArchiCAD Summer School 2009 is coming up Sept. 10-12, held at the University of Nottingham, and their Winter School, held at a ski resort in Austria, is every January. These schools are organized by my friend and colleague David Nicholson-Cole, long time ArchiMeister and instructor of architecture at the University of Nottingham. To find out more, visit: You will enjoy David’s knowledge, enthusiasm, and whit and folks converge on Nottingham for this event from all over the world.

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