york bim model thumbA renaissance in the 3D visualization world is drawing new investments and creating opportunity in nontraditional markets. The construction sector, which has long used visualization to envisage proposed designs, is beginning to see the benefits of 3D visualization to share those concepts with customers and design teams. The next-generation design tools used widely by architects and engineers, BIM programs are powerful and data-rich, and their 3-D models make designers fast and accurate. The potential is vast. To understand why, it helps to take a closer look at where we are now in terms of BIM.

A renaissance in the 3D visualization world is drawing new investments and creating opportunity in nontraditional markets. The $5.8B IPO for workplace collaboration company Atlassian is a clear example of the importance investors place on faster and better teamwork within business and industry. The construction sector, which has long used visualization to envisage proposed designs, is beginning to see the benefits of 3D visualization to share those concepts with customers and design teams. An example of this is the 60,000+ professionals in 150 countries who have begun using Revizto™, a top 3D visual-collaboration product created by Vizerra for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. At its current growth rate, in just a few years Revizto could become the most ubiquitous visual-collaboration software for building design, construction and operation.

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Why is Revizto on the fast track? The answer lies partly in its 3D capabilities, a critical function in the very visual AEC field. The bigger reason is the “disruptive potential” for exploding the use of information contained within Building Information Modeling (BIM) by linking the 3D visual-collaboration tool Vizerra specifically created for the AEC industry. The next-generation design tools used widely by architects and engineers, BIM programs are powerful and data-rich, and their 3-D models make designers fast and accurate. But modern design tools also present a few barriers to collaborating: they require a lot of specific training, and complex processes are needed to use them effectively. Because they are hard to learn and costly to run, companies usually reserve this BIM technology for designers and engineers. The question becomes: how can we open BIM  to wider audiences.

Enter products like Revizto. Using gaming technology, these platforms allow the exporting of the 3D model as lightweight, fast-loading and highly detailed 3D environments that can be navigated easily on PCs, Macs, iPads and Android tablets. Comparable in speed and ease-of-use to a computer game, Revizto allows AEC teams to communicate faster and with better teamwork. This collaboration extends to contractors and trade workers in the field. They can access the 3D BIM data, 2D drawings, and other project documentation on their mobile devices to improve collaboration on measurements, material specifications, construction assemblies, potential clashes in installation, and other key information.

BIM and Visualization Value

The potential is vast. To understand why, it helps to take a closer look at where we are now in terms of BIM.

According to NBS, level 3 BIM is the “holy grail,” representing “full collaboration between all disciplines by means of using a single, shared project model which is held in a centralized repository.” Yet most of the construction world operates at level 1 BIM, where 3D is only used for early conceptual work -- or if better, at level 2 BIM, in which “all parties use their own 3D BIM models, but not necessarily working on a single, shared model.”

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For the ultimate collaboration, it’s essential to have a 3D interactive environment using a single, shared building model. This approach delivers benefits from BIM beyond just the building design phase, allowing any AEC professional to work in their own environment but communicate with everyone else on a common platform. The resulting 3D interactive environment can deliver all the needed exchange of ideas and data, boosting communication and collaboration -- but only if the BIM model’s information is not lost in key handoffs, as it often is with level 2 BIM.

Visualization has become the common denominator for authoring and design tools, and AEC teams are seeking smarter and more information-rich environments in which they can work. That’s behind the interest in products like Revizto. Revizto adds intelligence to the collaboration process by allowing feedback to authoring tools such as Autodesk’s Revit and Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD, or to BIM model aggregating tools like NavisWorks. Being natively connected to the authoring tools, Revizto provides a common view into the project file, letting collaborators automate the kinds of discussions that used to require in-person meetings in the conference room or at the job site.

Boosting Efficiency and Collaboration

Even as Revizto is adopted to natively connect the various authoring programs, a large swathe of the AEC building world has yet to adopt this valuable technology. This means there are some wildly inefficient practices out there.

One vivid example is the creation of navigable 3D visualizations to share with the building owner or developer, or for use in marketing building projects to prospective tenants and buyers. The walkthroughs are incredibly effective sales tools, especially when using large screens or Oculus VR systems. Yet their creation is often very inefficient: a renderer exports the latest design from a 3D BIM program to a visualization or 3D graphical platform then, in what can often be a drawn-out process, the renderer redraws the design into the needed format and creates an animated walkthrough of a static, rendered environment.

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This is a boon to artists and animation programmers, but antithetical to smart business processes. Instead, why not leverage today’s best gaming technology to provide an easy, one-click visualization function that allows a fully interoperable 3D environment? And why not make the 3D environment full of smart objects that actually carry information on what they are and what they are made of? How about if you can walk through and see through the entire 3D model, changing such parameters as the lighting and sun path to see how it looks at different times of day? And by the way, how about showing the work crew where they need to install that steel beam or air handler, and pointing out any hazards they might encounter on the jobsite?

That’s the vision shared by people like Arman Gukasyan, CEO of Revizto, who saw how gaming technology could help the entire AEC team explore their 3D designs as needed and truly immerse themselves in their buildings before they’re built, which has huge value. “We are passionate believers in the power of technology as a driver for positive change in the AEC industry,” he says. “For that, we invented a way to bridge the gap between design and build, to help users collaborate more efficiently, greatly speeding up the project cycle and as a result bringing to life more sustainable projects.”

In one illustration of how a product like Revizto can boost efficiency and accuracy in the building process, Gukasyan points to the use of “change orders” and requests for information, or RFIs. These are effectively choke points in construction efficiency, where the construction team either lacks sufficient understanding (the RFI) or makes an error in planning or building (the change order). But as one study showed, using Revizto has saved up to 40% of the billable time of the whole project team only on coordination. Several users, including a multinational construction company, have reported anecdotally on comparable results.

3-D BIM Is Inevitable

In the AEC space, the BIM movement has grown from a mere acronym to a defined and government-mandated process in many countries. For example, if your company is building for the U.K.’s public sector, as of April 2016 a level 2 BIM compliance is required.

Yet people’s opinions about BIM still differ as to what it is, how it should be used, and more importantly the value to be gained from it. Here’s a basic answer for all from one national organization: BIM is a “digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility.” It’s also a “shared knowledge resource” for information about a facility “forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.

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”In today's terms, we’re talking about a common data environment to be used as the single source of information for the project. It should be the single resource used to collect, manage and disseminate documentation, graphical model and non-graphical data for the whole project team throughout the lifecycle of the asset. It’s also the basis for any 3D visualization or model created, so that each model is completely accurate, intelligent, navigable and usable -- not just a pretty rendering that moves.

This sounds great, but the AEC world is all about collaborations among multiple companies -- each with their own IP, complex software programs, data in different formats, and more. Sharing is no easy feat. How can they exploit their 3-D models and all the asset metadata into a real collaborative tool? And at the same time, how does each company protect its intellectual property and the integrity of the information it has created?

“The greatest prize, which is only now being grasped, is the opportunity for owners to harvest reliable information about their assets which can flow from a well-managed and resourced BIM project,” according to Peter Barker, Managing Director of BIM Academy and director at Ryder Architecture. “Where we have moved too slowly, as an industry, is in a collective, collaborative approach applying these smart technologies and management processes to realize substantial tangible benefits.”

This is where gaming technology comes in, and where it becomes perhaps the most important boon to the AEC industry since the dawn of CAD.

Gaming Boosts BIM Visualization Power

Using Revizto adds value to the BIM process by turning BIM data into lightweight, navigable and easy-to-use 3D environments that are still rich with the data that makes BIM effective. This makes it easy to export the model data, instantly providing it in an executable program that non-experts can interact with, even when training is minimal. Most important, it allows teams of varied workers -- from architects and BIM specialists to construction managers and site workers -- to collaborate seamlessly without having to understand or be experts in design technology.

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It also creates a new benefit for the owners and ultimate end-users of buildings. "Most of our customers are not able to really appreciate 2D drawings,” says Don McCabe, owner and chief designer of U.K.-based BIM Architectural Services, which provides animated virtual design and visualizations. “Revizto helps us to show our clients their project in 3D, as if it already exists in the world that we live in.” As a construction expert, McCabe appreciates that the navigable 3D visualizations offer more than just a truly immersive feeling of space. They provide information true to -- and native to -- the original BIM data.

Companies have described tools like Revizto in a few ways, some calling the gaming platforms an “efficiency enhancement” while others call it “a simple plug-in into our BIM workflow.” A few experts in BIM and technology, on the other hand, like TechCrunch’s Monty Munford, have called it a “disruptive product.”

Whatever it’s called, one thing is clear: It brings collaboration tools into the heart of the AEC workflow, so teams can create buildings better, easier, smarter and faster. 

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David York is UK Sales Director at 3DreamTeam Inc., which markets and licenses Revizto globally. He has spent the last eight years working in the AEC industry in Europe with Autodesk, and prior to this he worked with EMC and IBM software businesses focused on Content Management & Records Management in the construction, financial and insurance industries. 

For more information: Revizto