Autodesk product alignment workflow for BIM

Autodesk produce a broad range of products and it can be difficult to understand which products fit where within a BIM (Building Information Modeling) workflow.  This article explains where you can apply a range of Autodesk technologies at different stages of your BIM workflow. 

1. Initial Concept and bidding stage.
When a company develops a concept at the bidding stage, there are a range of tools for communicating the intended design.  Organisations will often use Sketch-up for conceptual modelling, producing sketches, images and PDFs. This information is then often shared via email to communicate both internally and externally to project stakeholders.

Autodesk has conceptual design tools such as FormIt for generating conceptual models that are then compatible for import into Revit. FormIT not only allows the creation of a conceptual design the software also has tools for creating striking visualizations with materials, textures and the ability to analyse the design through sun studies and showing. The software is available on both the web and iPad app.

Communicating the design intent is also a very important part of early collaboration and getting key stakeholders involved in the conceptual design stage. Autodesk A360 is a project based collaboration tool easily adopted to sharing the design via the web. Simply create the project online and invite collaborators to share their ideas, upload multiple file formats and versions, search and view within the project. Additionally you can co-ordinate via the calendar by entering meeting dates, deliverable deadlines, email notifications and live communication feed.

2. Design Stage
Once the project has been won and the Design is started it is time to start creating the BIM model in Autodesk Revit. We can also utilise other products in the Building Design Suite such as 3DS Max Design, Revit or Showcase for visualisation, AutoCAD, Revit or Inventor for shop detailing and Navisworks Manage for clash detection and construction schedule Time lining (Navisworks also permits the collaboration of models from a many other systems in both native and IFC formats). Additionally we need to maintain compliance to our BIM plan and LOD requirements. As Revit gives us the ability to create metadata for each BIM object we can enter the required LOD for each element in the model. When you have a team of designers work on a single design with multiple file types and disciplines collaboration and synchronizing this information can be a challenge. Not only do we wish to work on the same model concurrently but we also need to start working with contractors in structural, services and civil both internally and externally. We also wish to be able to share our design across multiple sites. Autodesk Building Design Suite includes software such as Revit Server for collaboration. Revit Server is the server application for Revit Architecture, Revit Structure, Revit MEP, and Autodesk Revit. It is the foundation for server-based work-sharing for Revit projects. A work shared project is a Revit building model that multiple team members can access and modify at the same time. Although Revit server is a great start to collaboration experience has shown that there are short falls for reporting, extracting information from the design and collaboration across a more extended WAN (multiple sites) environment. IMAGINiT Technologies has developed an application for Revit Server called Clarity Connect for Revit Server to extend the functionally and address these short comings. By leveraging the information contained in Revit models, Clarity Connect allows firms to deliver better informed designs to clients faster. IMAGINiT Clarity achieves this goal in three ways. The system:

  • Automates manual tasks.
  • Liberates valuable information from the Revit model, making it available in a browser.
  • Promotes project collaboration with all stakeholders.

Extending on the theme of data management there may also be a need to manage additional information on a project such as standards, BIM guidelines and other non-cad related documents related in the project. Not only would we like to collaborate but also be able to manage the document revision status and not just the version. Autodesk Vault is a data management (PDM) solution that embraces document control for all documents. Not only does Vault have the ability to work with all file types but can also instigate intelligent workflows to assist with the approval and management of documents contained in the Vault. Additionally the Revit Server can be integrated into the Vault system to extend the collaboration and Vault also supports multi-site replication to extend this functionality across the WAN. 

In order to extend the collaboration experience externally and give other interested parties access to the current version documents at all times both on a PC and on mobile devices virtually anywhere in the world we need to implement another piece of Autodesk technology into the BIM workflow. We can achieve this by extending the Revit Server and Vault environment to incorporate Buzzsaw. Buzzsaw is data management software as a service (SaaS) that helps enable BIM workflows. It includes tools for documentation, modelling, and data management, and it is integrated with the Autodesk portfolio of design and data management solutions. Access Buzzsaw securely from your desktop, the web, or your mobile device. 
The image below depicts the completed workflow:-

BIM workflow

3. Building Performance Analysis, Energy Analysis, FEA, CFD and Structural Analysis
Once the design is mature enough there may be some interest in still benefiting from the BIM (Model) in understanding the building performance or adding some Facilities Management (FM) information. Again by utilising integrated solutions from Autodesk we can leverage from having the one source of truth to enable extended workflows. Autodesk Revit has the ability to perform energy Analysis. This allows the comparison of estimated energy and lifecycle costs. Energy Analysis for Revit software is a cloud-based energy simulation service powered by Green Building Studio that supports sustainable design. This service is available with the purchase of a perpetual licence with Maintenance Subscription or a Desktop Subscription for select products. Extending further on building performance is a completely web based application called Green Building Studio. Energy-analysis software enables architects and designers to perform whole-building analysis, optimize energy consumption, and work toward carbon-neutral building designs earlier in the process. The software is completely cloud based and supports the GBXML format for loading models into the system. 

Autodesk also supply tools for conducting FEA (Finite Element / Stress Analysis), CFD for Computational Fluid Dynamics (flow analysis) and Structural Analysis. Autodesk Simulation Flex solution provides seamless integration of these disciplines on Building Design. Simulation Flex comprises Autodesk Simulation Mechanical, Simulation CFD and Robot Structural Analysis. As an example the Robot Structural Analysis application is included in the Building Design Suite Ultimate and can accept a structural model directly from Revit, perform Building Analysis to common code checking standards and maintain a bi-directional link with the Revit Structure. Additionally if structural design is done in another system such as Tekla the product is also able to read these models and other IFC formats.

4. Construction
When the time comes to handover the design for construction there are significant benefits associated with providing project management tools and information to the field. Typically drawings are provided to the builder and usually there is no access to the actual 3D model. When RFI’s are issued, the architect is contacted and the builder has to wait for information to be sourced and then sent to the site for work on the particular issue to proceed. Again this raises the need for more collaboration between architects, designers and builders. Autodesk extends the collaboration to the field by offering BIM360 

Similar to products such as Aconnex, BIM360 enables project management in the field with detailed construction schedules, building time lining and collaboration for the builders and sub-contractors. Additionally BIM360 can be synchronised with the Buzzsaw building models and supports viewing of the model for fewer RFI’s in the field. Incorporated with BIM 360 is BIM 360 Glue for clash detection can also be engaged in the application and extended to the iPad for live concurrent viewing of the exact model at any time. The iPad application allows the builder to take images of as built and ask for RFI’s graphical information to compare the as built to site.

Further considerations.

Please note the information contained in this document only includes alignment to Autodesk solutions, to go further and to start considering other aspects such as costing, estimating, compliance with Government standards and the facilities management to name a few we would need to consider other applications that are integrated with Revit and the Building Design Suite in order to extract additional information. You could start by introducing certain Levels of Detail into the BIM plan that can be addressed in Revit.  LOD is a measure of how seriously you take the information represented by a BIM element. For Example: LOD levels for a chair might be:
LOD 100 = there is a chair
LOD 200 = there is a chair that has nominal space requirement of 500x500
LOD 300 = there is a chair with arm rests and wheels
LOD 400 = manufacturer and model number.
LOD 500 = manufacturer and model number, supplier, date purchased (in some cases GPS information for moveable objects)

Part families with supplier details would need to be incorporated and the BIM plan, guidelines and Level of Detail would need to be defined prior to starting the design.

Project teams can use the BIM Deployment Workbook as a collaborative, working template for establishing project standards and alignment early in a project. The BIM Deployment Plan will also help your teams define roles and responsibilities for each team member, determine what types of information are needed to create and share, what kind of software systems to use and how to use them. Your project teams will be able to streamline communications and plan more effectively—helping to reduce costs as well as concerns about quality, scope, and schedules across all phases of construction.

Contact us for more information. 


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