Recent studies note the lack of growth in productivity and innovation in the construction fields. Quickly falling behind other sectors, this stagnation often leads to projects that are over-budget or over-schedule (or both). Part of this inefficiency could be combated by more effective coordination among the architects and various consultants during the design phase. Currently, an estimated 30% of project time is spent in coordination tasks within the team. A new Integrated Design tool aims to make collaboration more seamless, with the end result of more efficient communication and ultimately better buildings.
The Nemetschek Group recently announced Integrated Design, a new workflow solution which will allow seamless collaboration between architects and engineers, promoted as a paradigm shift for the industry. An upgrade in model-based coordination between architects, structural engineers, and MEP engineers utilizing a shared BIMcloud environment, Integrated Design has the potential to eliminate model duplication and redundant work. The current, most common mode of coordination is referred to as the “federated model,” whereby multiple, separate BIM models pass back and forth between the architect and engineers and are combined (federated) at various points of the process.
Where Integrated Design differs is that there’s just one collaborative cloud-based model for the architects and engineers to work on simultaneously, using Archicad 24, RISA-3D, or SCIA Engineer. The base of the technology is one BIM model in Archicad 24 with three views: architectural, structural, and analytical. When any individual view is changed, it updates the central model database as well as the other two views. For example, if the architect wants to move a column, the analytical model in Archicad 24 communicates bi-directionally with the analytical model in either SCIA or RISA engineering analysis tools.
If this sounds potentially chaotic, don’t worry - each party can independently “own” elements of the model, meaning the others cannot change them haphazardly. For example, a structural engineer has full control to recognize or even prevent an architect from modifying the thickness of the structural core. With BIM as a joint database, all disciplines work on their own tasks in a centralized model, making model duplication unnecessary. Architects and engineers can work as one integrated, multidisciplinary team with real collaboration, allowing them to present fast, informed decisions to clients.
“We must challenge the traditional processes of our industry to improve. Our vision is to help design professionals move from an asynchronous, data-protective way of working to agile, cross-disciplinary teams, where they share all essential project information in real-time,” states Viktor Várkonyi of the Nemetschek Group. “For instance, instead of perfecting collision detection, why not invent processes that avoid those collisions from happening in the first place? Our technology will enable our customers to spend the majority of their valuable time on the creative design process.”
Using the Integrated Design program, and therefore familiarizing engineering consultants with the project from the beginning, creates opportunities for better design. If the structural engineer has more time and more conversations with the architectural team about the vision for the building as early as schematics, they can work together to create more elegant, integral structural solutions for unique architectural features. If mechanical and electrical engineers are involved at the space-planning stage, they can work with the architects to locate rooms for their systems to run efficiently; simultaneously, the architect can then design accurate mechanical and electrical rooms into the program organically instead of cramming them in at the last minute.
When all parties can see the building taking shape, there are less chances for errors and omissions. Instead of the consultants receiving a mostly-complete model and then needing to manually go through and check for problems, everyone can work together seamlessly to address questions and issues as they arise. As the building evolves in complexity throughout the design phases, the engineers and architects are more easily able to remain on the same page as a truly multidisciplinary, cooperative team.
Thanks to the increase in efficiency and quality of coordination, project teams will gain a competitive edge from this integrated solution. When architects and engineers are empowered to work together, they can collaborate on each other’s decisions and thereby progress the design in the most meaningful, and well-thought out, way possible. Complete alignment and understanding of the project’s requirements, constraints, and opportunities across the team leads to better design decisions because everyone is working with the same information. Architects and engineers working together on a shared model in real-time leads to informed decision-making and, ultimately, better buildings.