ESTIMATED READING TIME 5 MINS.

Can Cloud Applications Help Solve Fragmentation In The AEC Industry? | Pt. 2

This two-part article explores how cloud applications can help solve fragmentation within the architecture, engineering & construction (AEC) industry, which has been growing at an exponential rate over past years as new technologies emerge and old ones are replaced due to obsolescence or increased costs of operations.

Go To Part One
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It is commonly known that Construction is an industry with low productivity and low margins. Yet, it is one of the largest industry sectors per percentage of GDP. How come it has not yet grown into a position of strength, such as seen in the Manufacturing Industry a few decades ago? In this two-part article, we’ll discuss some of the problems and opportunities that we see in the AEC Industry. Welcome to part 2!


AEC and its plenty stakeholders, Source: Autodesk Redshift


Previously On Part 1


As discussed in the last article, the AEC industry suffers from low-value creation - as low as below 10% which might be due to the fact of strong fragmentation within and across projects. There might be opportunities to learn from other, non-project-based industries such as the manufacturing, financial, or software sector. One stepping stone to streamline workflows in AEC is by simplifying data creation, interoperability, and storage.

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Value creation in construction, Source: Sarhan et. al.

Boosting Remote Work From The Cloud


People working in AEC are often away from the office, e.g. on construction sites or client meetings. Even more so then, it is important that their data is accessible and fully functioning. This, however, can be impacted by the lower performance of portable computers which are not necessarily capable of delivering similar power as a desktop computer. In the current global situation, many people in the AEC industry find themselves working from home, which means full-time work on portable machines, limiting productivity.


Using cloud-based digital workflows allow us to have more (design and business) options available in less time. This, in return, means we should be able to make better decisions earlier on, where the impact on savings is the highest. Following a digital workflow also allows us easily to separate work packages across several people, allowing again for more agency and faster, better decisions. In this respect, how is your company doing so far?

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Remote work and the cloud, Source: DealerSupport


Why Online Collaboration Is Here To Stay


Yet another step ahead from just digital is online, meaning on the web. Working online allows AEC professionals to be working on a document of any kind at any time, on any device and from anywhere. As if this is not yet enough, online work also allows real-time collaboration with partners, contractors and clients. There is virtually no delay other than the necessary for data to transmit from one place to another. This also helps lower the barrier of entrance for new-comers as no installation is necessary.

Bringing together the mentioned building “blocks”, teams today can already collaborate in real-time on the cloud - having full control by using parametric design software. Data import, alternation and export schemes can be automated and allow for a more fulfilling working experience, increasing overall productivity.

Donau City (embed the demo or GIF), Source: Pavol (SD)


The Rise Of The AEC Web Platforms

Because of the AEC industry’s strong needs, several specifically tailored cloud applications have appeared in recent years. They all share strong roots in being web-based platforms, streamlining across stakeholders, increasing collaboration and reducing time to make (better) decisions. Below, we are highlighting some of the better known ones:


HYPAR

Hypar: "the next-generation platform for designing, generating, and sharing building systems." Hypar allows the users to quickly add their expertise to their own processes. So that they dont have to start from square one with each project and can make better decisions, faster. Hypar is developed by AEC industry veterans and directly integrates with common softwares (including Rhinoceros3D) and data formats such as JSON and gITF, tackling the sectors of AEC, Building Products, Space Planning and Real Estate.

KitConnect

KitConnect: "a purpose-built desktop and web solution that promotes Building Product Awareness". The core processes include: Structured Design (BIM), Command & Control, Knowledge Capture & Distribution and continuous optimization to combine design, planning and manufacturing built around the Autodesk ecosystem. In short, KitConnect provides a structured exchange environment from modelling to manufacturing to drive scalable building solutions for the users utilizing industrial construction methods such as time-saving and quality-enhancing, vertically integrated Prefabrication and Modularization.

Prism App

Prism App: "an open-source app which accelerates the design process for precision-manufactured housing (PMH) for London." It is free and easy to use and helps the user to quickly determine viable options for their development on the web. Prism App uses a dashboard to visualize housing data in heatmaps, such as expansion, types, building scale, apartment, and even room size. The platform is especially unique as it is actively supported and used by the Mayor of London (UK).

Speckle

Speckle: "streamlines collaboration and automation for 3D information such as CAD & BIM". This developer-friendly and open-source solution allows you to build your custom solution using their custom SDK. Speckle achieves real-time and remote ready collaboration, integrated data curation, object-based version control and additionally includes a comprehensive toolset to automate even the most complex workflows. For users simply looking for a turnkey solution, keep in mind: Here, you will need to set up your own server.

Giraffe

Giraffe: “..works alongside you calculating areas and ratios, laying out car parking, analyzing solar and managing data.” Giraffe allows you to sketch on a map to build your narrative. It automatically converts 2D sketches into 3D data, lays out parking spots, analyzes solar radiation and views. Building costs, yield, and other planning metrics can be extracted from the web app, both for internal and external stakeholders and partners. Also, full project history and portfolio building are available.

TT Swarm x ShapeDiver


In 2018 US-firm Thornton Tomasetti introduced “Swarm” for the very purpose of sharing knowledge in AEC: “Swarm is an app store for the design community. It connects Designers who need tools with the Superusers who are building them. Swarm allows design teams to discover and share solutions that empower creatives to do their best work.” As of recently, we are happy to announce that both Swarm and ShapeDiver platforms will merge and join forces to help develop the AEC sector. It is our ambitious goal to improve every possible workflow and to transfer and retain as much domain knowledge as possible.

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TT Core Swarm and ShapeDiver merge Source: ShapeDiver

Takeaways

In this article series we discussed the sheer amount of waste generated in the AEC industry, highlighted how segmented and fragmented the stakeholders in the industry are and what can be done to learn from other, non-project-based industries.

When looking more closely at workflows, we understood that there are certain barriers in place and that moving to cloud-based applications can help to collaborate on these large projects we see in AEC. In addition, the rise of web platforms and configurator tools were discussed, highlighting a few of them, and to conclude we are proud to reiterate on the successful merge from ShapeDiver with TT Swarm.


<< Special thanks to Alex Walzer for his collaboration during the writing of this article. Alex investigates the role of entrepreneurship for and in AEC when utilizing nascent production technologies. He is a PhD researcher at the Chair of Innovative and Industrial Construction (Prof. Dr. Hall) at ETH Zürich - and can be reached at walzer.tech and @alexnikw on Twitter. >>


Using Parametric Design On The Cloud!


There are plenty of opportunities for those embracing new, collaborative digital workflows, no matter the size of the company or project. Ideally, it would mean better planning and faster building, overall better quality, and less environmental impact. As another bonus, it also entails more fun and motivation when working, less frustration for you and your team, and, possibly even shorter workdays - a perfect win-win.


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