Software developments and the latest technological trends

by Ofentse Sefolo
Software developments and the latest technological trends

Simon Bromfield Territory Manager at Autodesk Africa participated in the following question-and-answer session to explain how BIM not just a software, but is an intelligent 3D model-based process, that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.

Architects feel like they are being left behind in terms of technology used in South Africa versus the world. What is your opinion?

I don’t necessarily agree. I think that many South African architects are leading in terms of technology and processes, what we are lacking in, is the use of BIM, which is a combination of software and processes. Locally architects need to start applying the continuity of information, i.e. they should be sharing their model with the structural engineer, helping them cut down the workload substantially.

So, it’s not in the use or type of technology, but more in the process of getting all the disciplines working together?

There are two issues – the use of 2D versus 3D modelling, many architects are still work using 2D tech. Our clients that use 3D have witnessed for themselves the real power of this software, and how it has helped them to saves on costs. Unfortunately for firms that still haven’t adopted the new technology, they are in danger of being left behind by their competition.

Is cost a huge prohibitor locally?

The cost of this product is highly scalable – companies can buy licences from a single user right up to 2 000 people. We offer light version of some of our software that give access to technology at an affordable price. The issue is usually when companies want to calculate their return on investment (ROI) and what they compare it against. If an organisation continues to use software the same way that they did five years ago, they definitely are not going to see and ROI.

They must adopt the new processes and start looking at BIM and sharing data which will ultimately drive their profits.

So where are the savings?

What architects need to look at, is how they are going to save by implementing the software and what costs they are going to cut out of their businesses. If a company has 100 clashes on an average project, which will for example cost them R22 000/ per clash to resolve, by adopting the 3D and BIM model they should be able to cut down clashes by 80% -90% in software, resulting in an immediate saving on that project. Companies can’t just look at the software costs; they need to look at the nett effect as well.

What other technologies are driving design and architecture today?

One of the emerging technologies is Generative Design. It allows designers /engineers / architects to input design goals along with parameters such as materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. The software then explores all the possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating hundreds to thousands of design alternatives.

For example, if an architect wants to perform Optioneering on a roof of a building, and they want to look at 10 different options, historically, they would have had to draw multiple options. But now, with Generative Design, they only need to input the data into the software with the varying options and generate models for testing.

Not only has this approach taken the world of architecture and design by storm, but it has also revolutionised it.

In terms of generative design, what software would you use?

This would be part of the AEC collection, our clients use Solar Analysis and Dynamo, it can also help them with repetitive tasks. For example, if they put light fittings in a building, traditionally they would have had to draw the light fittings repeatedly. With regenerative design, all they need to do is input the data into the software and it will automatically place 500 light fittings in the building.

How does BIM fit into this?

BIM is not a technology; it is a process which enables our clients to ‘do more, better, with less negative impact on the world’. People make it very complex but simply put; BIM is a collaborative process that allows different stakeholders and AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) professionals to collaborate on the planning, design, and construction of a building within one 3D model.

So information like – the kind of data do they would need, how they the share the data between people and the standards that they would collectively want to work towards? Easily explained – if an architect is working with a structural or civil engineer, it is the BIM processes that we put in place that would define the information they will be sharing with each other.

You are one of the leaders when it comes to BIM and you do quite a bit of work around it. Can you tell us more?

It’s a very exciting space. We have been building a lot of technologies, one of which is called BIM 360. This is a Cloud based tool that allows our clients to take their BIM processes and automated them; meaning that they can avoid the paper system and BIM 360 will carry out all the processes along with everything else they would like to track.

We are seeing the adoption of the BIM 360 grow globally on a bi-weekly rate.

Can you tell us a bit more about the BIM levels and how it works?

BIM goes right from level 1 all the way up to level 7, BIM just defines these levels. The difference between 3D and 4D is just the representation. The level of detail just links back to a BIM level. You have a level 1 to 6, then you just define which level of detail you want on your project and you work on these standards. There are BIM levels and then there are levels of detail.

BIM levels define what you’re going to put in your model. For example, if I’m working on a BIM level 2, then the level of detail it requires is a level 1 of detail.

A company’s level of detail is defined by their requirements. Most software applications can give a client as many levels of detail as they desire. They just need to be aware of the implications of their desired level; it is very easy to provide too much detail for a model, causing complications later. By Establishing a BIM Standard for projects clients can ensure that the project teams work towards the same level of detail and work that gives the most optimum outcome.

If a client wishes to go into a complete BIM workload, the product mix becomes very important. This is because some products can’t share data, as they work on a proprietary system. Therefore, the basket of products chosen is critical.

Don’t be scared of BIM, BIM is not that difficult!

What concerns do architects have to implement BIM?

BIM is a change management process, which means we must change the way people work, and this is sometimes very difficult. Companies know and understand that in the long run BIM allows them to improve and speed up their processes; however, initially it might make things slower as they are laying the groundwork.

There is a strong temptation for companies to revert to their old ways, irrespective of the fact that they may lose data simply because it is what they know.

Another concern is the protection of data and intellectual property (IP). The whole concept around BIM is sharing data. It is important to know and remember that companies are not sharing their IP but rather their models with other stakeholders, which requires an element of trust. Our BIM 360 platform uses the latest Cloud security and is compliant this the laws regarding this. BIM gives organisations the ability to have a live working document which they can collaborate with each other on.

Instead of focusing on the cost objections, organisations need to look at the ROI and how much they are going to save when implementing this process.

Any other trends you want to highlight?

Another trend that’s interesting is Prefabrication – it is the concept of how we speed up our building processes. Autodesk has been working on taking the Revit model and looking at common components, and then starting to model out what we can prefabricate. There are some exciting developments taking place, such as prefabrication and generative design. It will be interesting to see how many architectural firms embrace these opportunities, which will further enhance their product offerings to their potential clients.

We would like to thank Simon Bromfield from Autodesk Africa for the information contained in this article.

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