AEC Delta Mobility

Seamless data sharing across the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry.

Last updated: 27th November 2020

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Innovation Lead: Christine Coonick
Project number: 104799
UKRI funding: £722,103

Website:
github.com/aecdeltas/aec-deltas-spec


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Summary

Buro Happold, 3D Repo, UCL and a consortium of industry collaborators have solved one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) - the ability to share data safely and securely. AEC Delta Mobility is an open-source solution that is flexible for teams to use and will improve knowledge sharing and programme management across the sector. Users can live-stream individual changes instead of having to share large design files over and over again. This more streamlined data exchange at the early design phase dramatically improves workflow. As a result, less time is wasted, the cost of person-hours is reduced and project productivity increases. AEC Delta Mobility has the potential to change collaborative working and data-sharing in the construction industry forever.

Innovation type: Digital, Process
Organisation type: ACE (Architect / Consultant Engineer), Construction tier 1 contractors, Innovative SME

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Project pioneers

Buro Happold is an independent, international engineering practice with 40 years experience, that delivers creative, value-led building and city solutions. It looks for new ways to deliver solutions that will tackle the major problems our society faces today. 3D Repo is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for Building Information Modelling (BIM) coordination. Through 3D Repo, multidisciplinary teams can communicate and access live BIM data through a web browser. It is a multi-award-winning, easy to use, encrypted digital platform for BIM data.

The problem

Most architecture, engineering & construction firms, including Buro Happold, spend large amounts of resource trying to tackle design data exchange and interoperability of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Numerous in-house tools emerge out of necessity - independent of each other but all with similar functions. Fragmented, clunky and inefficient information sharing has delayed many projects in the sector; time is wasted. On average, a single BIM design file can be exported and re-imported at least three times a week during the design coordination which would typically last no less than 25 weeks. Assuming an average of 45 minutes file processing that's over 100 hours of waiting time per designer. Across 20 such designers, this could be as much as £450,000 worth of time wasted.

Vision

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is already regarded as a critical accelerant for the construction industry as it helps coordinate, plan, design and construct with data that is precise, supporting the fast and efficient delivery of quality, sustainable infrastructure. BIM is fundamental to building with whole-life value as it ensures the building operates as it's meant to. AEC Delta Mobility makes BIM secure and scalable, encouraging greater, more widespread adoption. At its heart, AEC Delta Mobility improves efficiency of design teams working with BIM on projects. Data can move more fluidly across the industry, saving time and money almost as soon as it's deployed. The complexities of data sharing between different BIM tools and software packages would be a thing of the past - empowering teams to make timely and informed decisions and opening opportunities for better and seamless collaboration between well established firms.

Key Insight

The prospect of an effective, data sharing ecosystem was extremely exciting for Buro Happold in particular. It had estimated productivity gains of up to 15% over the next five years, representing a business saving of 2.5 million person-hours. It was a powerful prospect but, to solve it, Buro Happold knew it needed to develop a novel open-source ecosystem that could allow all BIM tools and software to talk to each other seamlessly and consistently, while only sharing the most relevant data safely and securely. And to do this it needed more expertise than was currently in its business.

First step

Buro Happold had created Building and Habitats object Model (BHoM) - an open source framework that allowed it to share code and standardise the data that its teams used in design. What they couldn't do alone was generalise this approach, to allow anyone to connect their own software to any other piece of software across the whole AEC industry. Thanks to the Transforming Construction funding and network, Buro Happold joined forces with 3D Repo and an industry-wide consortium of partners including UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management and Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group (with external support from HOK, Atkins and Arup). The team set about defining the principles of a 'delta' - that's the difference between two Building Information Models (BIM) - as well as agreeing a common language and standard definitions to describe the processes and actions that take place. For the first time the AEC sector was talking the same language and setting the ground rules for collaboration.

Barrier

Different AEC teams using different BIM systems and internal tools has slowed down collaboration and created more inefficiencies to programme delivery, not less. This has added cost not value and restricted the adoption of BIM, keeping the industry trapped using the cheapest approach not the best. The more effective sharing of data through AEC Delta Mobility has the potential to reverse this and add value not cost to programme collaborations.

Digital Innovation

The new team focused its work on tackling the inefficient, manual exchange of large files and 3D models between designers, integrators and fabricators. They've developed a novel open-source online framework that streams individual design changes across various applications, regardless of data format - avoiding having to export a whole file over and over again. Specifically, AEC Delta Mobility live-streams 'deltas' or individual changes with collaborators rather than whole files each time, allowing different architecture, engineering and construction applications to communicate easily over the cloud. It also has the ability to connect open-source Speckle Works and 3D Repo software with proprietary systems, allowing teams to continue working in their application of choice. It creates a time-stamped audit trail of authorship between Building Information Model (BIM) design file revisions across multiple teams. And the ecosystem has in-built security to ensure encrypted data transmission and authorship verification.

Whole life innovation

AEC Delta Mobility sets out efficient data exchange processes at the earliest possible stages of the design phase so that everyone involved, from consultants to manufacturers, can access the same common data and with a single versions of the truth. This supports more consistent, efficient builds, which is more satisfying for teams and more productive for the industry as a whole, and ultimately allows clients to receive their builds on time and on budget. AEC Delta Mobility is showing a significant reduction in server usage, and therefore in energy usage, due to the reduction in data shared at each iteration of the design process. Buro Happold has also been able to use the platform for Life Cycle Assessments, visualising the differences in global warming potential between different design and material options, allowing teams to make more sustainable choices for the final building, ensuring it has a lower carbon footprint.

Collaborators

This project was the result of an industry-wide consortium of partners working alongside Buro Happold and 3D Repo. UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management is a multi-disciplinary faculty that created Speckle Works, an open source, fast, web-scale base for automation in design, engineering and construction. They moved the technology from basic laboratory validation to prototype demonstration in an operational environment. Rhomberg Sersa UK is a full railway engineering service provider and offers an almost comprehensive range of railway construction, infrastructure and service products. They have investigated the barriers and opportunities for adopting the AEC Delta Mobility technology, quantifying the impact that it could have on how they deliver challenging design and construction projects.
In addition to the core partners, there is a team of external stakeholders who have supported the project in an advisory capacity, providing their extensive knowledge and experience of using BIM, along with live case studies for the team to trial their newly developed capabilities. These include AECOM, an infrastructure firm; Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, architects, consultants and technical specialists; Atkins, a design, engineering and project management consultancy and HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm. Plus Mott MacDonald, a global engineering, management and development consultancy, and the Centre for Digital Built Britain have been supporting the AEC Delta Mobility team to develop capabilities in emerging solutions, such as digital twins. The newly developed technology has been applied on a variety of pilot projects and live construction sites, ranging from building design to rail infrastructure across Europe.

  • 3D Repo
  • AECOM
  • Arup
  • Atkins
  • Buro Happold
  • Centre for Digital Built Britain
  • HOK
  • Mott MacDonald
  • Rhomberg Sersa
  • UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management

Lead support

Transforming Construction Challenge funded £722,103 towards the collaborative. It also connected the project partners to i3P, an innovation collaboration platform for large scale construction projects. The introduction led to 3D Repo presenting a webinar on the AEC Delta Mobility project and the other software services that they provide introducing them to new clients and opportunities. The successful meeting has resulted in 3D Repo becoming a part of the I3P SME Programme, which aims to unlock innovation hidden in the SME supply chain to drive adoption of new technologies, delivering impact and business growth.

Long Term Vision

The Transforming Construction programme was designed to drive innovation and collaboration in the sector and the AEC Delta Mobility project does exactly that. The project team took on one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of BIM - namely the ability to share data safely and securely in a software-agnostic ecosystem - and have developed an industry-respected open-source solution, that is available to everyone to use in a way that works best for them. Data can move more fluidly across the industry, saving time and money almost as soon as it's deployed, and it opens up more opportunities for best practice and collaboration. Buro Happold has realised its vision for an effective, data sharing ecosystem, one that promises to make productivity gains of up to 15% over the next five years, representing 2.5 million person-hours saved by its business.

Human Stories

Ultimately AEC Delta Mobility allows any teams working on large scale construction projects to work seamlessly together and not waste time on delays and inefficiencies brought about by file sharing. It also provides them with a single truth throughout the project, as all parties are sharing one single live-stream design and can see who last authored it and what changes were made. This removes frustrations for the designers, integrators and fabricators making the project more collaborative, effective and enjoyable. The client also benefits from this new technology as it increases productivity and helps guarantee the build will be delivered to time and to budget, without extra cost for wasted hours. AEC Delta Mobility can also be used for Life Cycle Assessments, visualising the differences in global warming potential between different design and material options, making the build more sustainable for the future.

Powerful Processes

AEC Delta Mobility supports wide scale adoption of BIM as it sets a common language and standard definitions to describe the processes and actions that take place, while at the same time allowing designers to continue to use their own software of choice. This platform-based technology offers a novel open-source framework that streams individual design changes across various applications, regardless of data format - avoiding having to export a whole file over and over again. It supports efficient, effective and productive process across large-scale, multi-discipline projects.

Fascinating Facts

On average, a single BIM design file can be exported and re-imported at least three times a week during the design coordination which would typically last no less than 25 weeks. Assuming an average of 45 minutes file processing that's over 100 hours of waiting time per designer. Across 20 such designers, this could be as much as £450,000 worth of time wasted. Reducing this level of wasted time could result in productivity gains of up to 15% over the next five years, representing 2.5 million person-hours saved by its business.

Benefits

Assurance
AEC Delta Mobility creates a digital signature and auditable trail of authorship so design teams can easily provide evidence of quality assurance to objects that have been added, removed or modified in BIM. And it has in-built security to ensure encrypted data transmission and authorship verification.

Collaboration
AEC Delta Mobility allows secure, streamlined data sharing that improve collaboration on multi-team / multi-disciplinary builds. The innovation allows joint, live-streamed work on single elements of a design and is compatible with the designers preferred design software package, making it easier and familiar for teams to use. This single truth across the design process, with its time-stamped author audit trail, means teams can work quickly and effectively together without losing any confidence in the data.

Cost
Lead partner Buro Happold has estimated that the AEC Delta Mobility could make productivity gains of up to 15% over the next five years, representing a possible business saving of £450,000, across an average team of 20 designers.

Emissions

Productivity
Lead partner Buro Happold has estimated productivity gains of up to 15% over the next 5 years, representing 2.5 million person-hours saved by its business.

Time
On average, a single BIM design file can be exported and re-imported at least three times a week during the design coordination which would typically last no less than 25 weeks. Assuming an average of 45 minutes file processing that's over 100 hours of waiting time per designer. Across 20 such designers, this could be as much as £450,000 worth of time wasted.

Uptake
The AEC Delta Mobility team has been extensively promoting the technology to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector for wide-scale uptake so it becomes the design platform of choice in multi-discipline tenders.