LEGO Architecture meets BIM – Part 23: Mobile Part 1

Introduction

As technology advances the need to access information on mobile devices becomes increasingly important. Using mobile phones or tablets to buy products, tickets or book a holiday is common place today and being able to access Building Information Models (BIM) in the same manner is expected by an increasingly technology literate population and with the internet increasingly connected in more and more locations.

So for this ‘LEGO Architecture meets BIM’ series I wanted to share a couple of posts on how models can be shared with others on mobile devices. The model we created for this series is built around open standards which is critical for sharing structured, reusable and repeatable data. This structured data can however be shared using both ‘closed’ and ‘open’ methodologies. So in this first piece we set out a way of sharing a ‘closed’ model using GRAPHISOFT’s BIMx solution.

Closed Mobile Approach

I have heard many an ARCHICAD user describe GRAPHISOFT BIMx as an open solution. In my view it is far from an open solution as it relies on having GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD to create the files in the first place. This is definitely not what open standards are about. It is of course true to say though that an IFC can be imported from any software into ARCHICAD and a BIMx file created. So to this end it could be seen as an open workflow. In fact I know of at least one Autodesk Revit user who bought a copy of ARCHICAD just to create a BIMx output.

The LEGO model we have built is constructed around open standards but the beauty of this approach is we can use it for both ‘closed’ and ‘open’ workflows. We get the best of both worlds! Some think I am against ‘closed’ workflows, far from it. ‘Closed’ has a place but fundamentally I will always favour open as a preferred approach as it means we are free from the tools we are limited to and as technology evolves and new technologies emerge we can still open, view and use these models.

Creating The Output

In order to create the BIMx output we need to save the model from GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD. We have a number of ways of creating a model. This could be simply the model on its own or better, a model with all the drawings and schedules created within the file. In this case we have created the latter.

The BIMx File

So what can we view on the mobile device?

Well initially we can look at the model information about the file. This includes information about the Project, Site, Building and Contact information. Much of this information is the same structured data that populates our COBie output. So whilst this output uses a ‘closed’ workflow the data itself is predominantly ‘open’.

Image: Information about the model file (click to enlarge)

Once we select the file we can then see the model(s) at the top folder by either folders or layout sheets. The structure of this is really up to the user. Our approach for this file is to organise the file in the same order as the blog series (note the file is still evolving as the series unfolds!) but this could easily be in drawing series or any other structure that is appropriate.

Image: The structure of the BIMx file (click to enlarge)

So initially we can select an open the model. We do this by highlighting the model on the left and then choosing ‘Tap to view 3D’ on the right hand side. This opens the model.

Image: The model in 3D (click to enlarge)

We can also cut the model by selecting the second icon from the bottom right. This allows us to push and pull a cut plane up and down through the model allowing us to view inside the LEGO model.

Image: Using the cutting plane through the model (click to enlarge)

Of course we can do more than simply look and spin round the model. We can also view the data that is associated to these LEGO pieces. Simply by selecting the required element and choosing ‘Info’ we can see the exported information. This includes the ability to have information with Hyperlinks that can take us to other information. Lost a LEGO piece? Well you can hit the weblink under ‘OrderReplacementPart’ and it will take you to a website to order a new one!

Now of course this is only an example using LEGO but imagine being able to order new light bulbs or any other element in an asset! Equally it could be used to access documentation (ideally housed on a Common Data Environment – more of this in another post!).

Image: Viewing the data for one of the LEGO pieces (click to enlarge)

If we go back to the menu we can select any ‘drawing sheet’. Now in this case we cheated a little and used the drawing sheets to create a presentation of the blog pieces we have written. We used a schedule to create an index for this and because its a schedule of layout sheets it allows us to jump straight to any sheets within the file.

It was probably never meant for this but that’s the beauty of writing a blog because you find new ways of looking at a piece of technology that you may have not considered before! Of course we can take this approach and reverse engineer it for project use!!

Image: An index for the BIMx file that can be used to jump to certain sections or specific sheets (click to enlarge)

So below you will see how we have put various views of our model onto drawing sheets. Normally this would include a full title block but here we have simplified this purely for presentation purposes. Of course it still includes a BS1192 File Name, Status/Suitability code and Revision code!

Image: The 3D model placed on ‘drawing sheets’ (click to enlarge)

Image: A view of the 3D model with associated data (see earlier blog piece for more information) (click to enlarge)

We can of course view traditional views such as plans, sections and elevations.

Image: A plan view of the model (click to enlarge)

Now the really really clever part of GRAPHISOFT BIMx is the ability to see the 3D model in context of the 2D drawings. This leaves no room for fudging 2D drawings away from the model!!

We can view the model and drawings by either viewing a 2D view and then hitting the bottom left hand icon or by selecting one of the blue section or elevation icons in the model to see any view in context. Below are some screenshots of the models and the drawings but you may want to take a look at the video below to see how this works!

Image: The model with a 2D plan visible below (click to enlarge)

Image: The model and a section drawing (click to enlarge)

Of course these sheets can also be used to view other information. This could be anything from details, photographs through to schedules. Again like explained earlier these schedules are automatically linked to other information. So from the schedule below we can jump to any layout sheet.

Image: A schedule in GRAPHISOFT BIMx (click to enlarge)

The Video

In many ways the screenshots above don’t do BIMx justice. Its something that is better experienced rather than described. Below is a movie showing some of what I described above.

 

Movie: BIMx in action

Note: I will share the complete BIMx model later in the series so you can have a play yourselves!!

Conclusion

GRAPHISOFT BIMx is just one technology solution for accessing models on mobile devices. The main objective of this post is to show how models can be accessed anywhere, be it from a client in their office or a contractor/sub-contractor out on site. This kind of connectivity also means we can get rid of the paper drawings, improve the way we communicate and ensure that others always have access to the current version of information where and when they need it.

I love GRAPHISOFT’s BIMx and its one of my favourite pieces of software because its so intuitive for even the untrained to use without needing instructions. Many other pieces of software could take a few lessons from how this has been implemented. Simplicity is always the hardest challenge with BIM and GRAPHISOFT really have cracked it here.

I certainly haven’t covered all BIMx can do so if you want to know more go here.

In the next post we will look at how the model can be shared using an open workflow (i.e. IFC) from any authoring tool.

Rob Jackson, Associate Director, Bond Bryan Architects

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