06 May 2019

The utilisation of 3D authoring tools enables us to be adaptive to project needs and typology. Such tools are able to hold classification data (such as Uniclass and IFC). They can communicate with database solutions (such as Codebook and NBS Chorus) to integrate with cloud-hosted common data environments (CDE) and other modelling tools, through the use of the IFC-neutral file format. They enable our vertical and linear infrastructure projects to interact with – and be further informed by – geospatial design, and asset capture and management systems.

We have the ability to carry out design option simulations, along with site analysis, to make informed decisions with our clients and other design team members. This enhances production information, and enables a final design with reduced risk and a tested brief. From this point on, the question becomes: ‘How much data is required, and what database solutions(s) are used, to host and link the data model to the graphical model? And who needs to access, view or interact with which model(s)?’

Over the last few years, the introduction of virtual reality (VR) headsets and 3D printers has enabled designers and clients to interact with our designs in new and interesting ways. Thus a greater understanding of a design is possible, generated by the graphical model being used to produce the design and construction information.

By using clearly defined datasets such as Uniclass 2015, the ability to make graphical models software-neutral means that we can work in one modelling solution, link tools such as NBS Chorus to elements within our model or host the model in data-viewing solutions (created using Autodesk Forge or the leading CDE providers’ programs).

We have moved past the idea of creating a model in a three-dimensional environment that not only represents the final design but is also used for production and handover information. We no longer look at BIM as the ‘building information model’, as a vertical built intervention. Instead, we consider ‘building’ a verb meaning ‘to create’, so we are creating information models. When you look at the process from this perspective, you are no longer looking at one technological solution to achieve your end design. Instead, you are considering which technology solution best delivers each requirement.

The reutilisation of BIM for Design and Construction information, for BIM for Lifecycle, creating a Digital Twin.

This ranges from choosing design authoring software to deciding how to manage, validate and process data. From integrating and validating specification requirements to running design options or construction programme simulations. From visualising the design, through the transition from design to construction, to making a building operational.

Throughout our journey, we have always looked at how all these different data types can inform and educate future generations, while not leaving anyone behind. The ability of solutions such as NBS Chorus to hold data that can be used as guidance enables controlled environments where others can learn before anything is published, either in a graphical model or a CDE. More and more technological items have user permissions and controls, which means that we can embed some of the cornerstones of a profession into our technology. They can therefore educate the next generation and deliver a high standard of workmanship and services. They will do so with reduced risk and in a real-time environment, with information no longer held in silos.

With the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the concept of the ‘digital twin’, it will be interesting to see how the migration to cloud services changes the ways that people work, and where information is stored and utilised. Will we be at a point where we have a true information model, where everyone feeds into one federated database, with different entities owning different datasets? This could be a graphical model, with analytical data or other data such as product data sheets.

The future ability to take and process real-time data, based on designs and how they will impact their future environment, could lead to different design decisions and inform future projects. It will be interesting to see where the recent growth of interest in parametric design leads. Which direction will it take? We believe that there are three main spheres:

  • Design options, validation and analysis.
  • Data and production efficiencies.
  • Parametric modelling.

Out of the three, which might become the default definition that will be widely recognised? Or will all three end up standing out in their own right? The other big question is: ‘Like 2D CAD and 3D modelling before them, will this become the industry norm, where it just becomes commonplace?’

Over the last few years, the introduction of virtual reality (VR) headsets and 3D printers has enabled designers and clients to interact with our designs in new and interesting ways.