BIM for Remote Working

Helping a remote workforce remove barriers to BIM adoption during a pandemic.

Last updated: 22nd November 2020

Date uploaded:

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Innovation Lead: Ben Davies
Project number: 59966
UKRI funding: £49,990

Website:
3drepo.com/presenter-mode/


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Summary

In direct response to Covid, 3D Repo took on some of the biggest barriers to adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Within three months of the pandemic hitting, they had a solution to help firms deal with large amounts of data and massive bandwidth while working remotely. The new feature increases internet connectivity and enables smoother screen sharing to support better collaboration on projects. It helps make remote working more efficient, decision-making more democratic and programmes more cost-effective. And the new technology has been backed up by free training and BIM support to help small to medium-sized construction firms in the early days of the pandemic.

Innovation type: Digital
Organisation type: Innovative SME

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Project pioneers

3D Repo is a multi-award winning digital platform for BIM data. Using cloud technology, the team is transforming how construction projects are delivered by democratising data, mitigating risk and reducing complexity for everyone in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry. Its aim is to remove the technological barriers to collaboration in order to create a better built environment. Its open cloud-based BIM platform has been deployed on some of the most prestigious projects globally including HS2, Crossrail, Hinkley Point C NNB, and The Bund in Shanghai.

The problem

Many Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms need to share large amounts of data quickly. But sharing massive files is a very time consuming process, due to high latency (the time it takes to initiate the sharing of data) compounded with low bandwidth (the amount of data you can receive per second). This issue became acute during the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic where construction projects either stopped, or remote working was instigated. And with the workforce spread across lots of different places, issues like choppy audio and video and 3D rendering made meaningful BIM review via teleconferencing almost impossible.

Vision

Crises can often present some of the greatest opportunities. As a direct result of Covid 19, 3D Repo fast-tracked its Presenter Mode innovation to improve remote connectivity so that AEC professionals could continue working regardless of their location, computing power or internet connection. This hub for open communication helps multi-discipline teams access live data through a web browser to track progress, make informed decisions and ultimately deliver projects on time and in budget. And because the industry needs to upload and share gigabytes of BIM data daily, the ability to replace screen sharing with direct 3D model rendering will significantly improve and speed up online collaboration and, in turn, productivity - not only in the UK, but also in wider global markets. Beyond the pandemic, improved BIM for remote working is going to be critical to the success of future builds.

Key Insight

According to BarbourABI COVID-19 report, construction was hit hard at the start of the pandemic, with an estimated £68.3bn loss and over 68,000 projects delayed or cancelled. Many sites were closed or for those that remained open, non-essential staff were asked to work remotely. The challenge of sharing complex architectural and infrastructure 3D designs over the internet became a critical issue, at a time when the sector was being encouraged to adopt digital and data-driven processes by the Construction Sector Deal and the Transforming Construction Industrial Strategy Challenge fund. 3D Repo saw a chance to turn the crisis of the pandemic into an opportunity to solve a key barrier to BIM adoption.

First step

Combining its own contribution with the investment from the government's Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption fund, the team at 3D Repo were able to supercharge the technical delivery of its Presenter Mode prototype. The rapid response call came out in April, 3D Repo secured the money in July, and had completed the product in September. The open source tool would not only improve remote connectivity, but would make screen sharing a much smoother process allowing Architecture, Engineering and Construction professionals to continue working in BIM regardless of their location, computing power or internet connection. And to ensure BIM was used as effectively as possible during lockdown, 3D Repo teamed up with i3P to offer free training to the industry.

Barrier

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been a massive boon to the construction industry as it has allowed for the more intelligent use of resources, and a more streamlined optimisation of workflows which has led to more profitability and productivity for many firms. However, BIM compliance is not widespread throughout the industry. A big part of this is the investment construction companies need to make to adopt BIM - especially training and implementation. In the early days of a pandemic, with businesses struggling with income, these outlays seemed unrealistic and unimaginable. And yet never before did the sector have a more acute need to embed BIM working across its remote workforce.

Digital Innovation

One of the main challenges for the industry with BIM is that it requires too much processing load to support 3D rendering and teleconferencing at the same time. The fast-tracked Presenter Mode feature, developed with Covid 19 'rapid response' funding, increases internet connectivity so that screen sharing became a much smoother process. Instead of sending a stream of images (as is typical of screen sharing), the new solution will use domain-specific remote rendering. Navigation updates in a 3D space are exchanged in real-time via a web socket publisher-subscriber notification server. In addition, each user can instantly become a presenter in a 3D space, with avatars representing who is working on what at any given location creating visibility and accountability in the workflow.

Whole life innovation

3D Repo developed the Presenter Mode feature as an open source solution for the industry at a time when businesses were struggling with remote working solutions and couldn't invest in BIM implementation or training. 3D Repo matched the investment from the government's Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption fund, and worked with i3P to run a series of SME-driven webinars targeting remote working support. The training demonstrated how, despite lockdown, teams could manage and access BIM data in the cloud regardless of location; identify and resolve issues and project risk in real-time or asynchronously amongst team members; and ensure team members are kept up to date with live reporting. It also reassured companies that they could maintain high levels of security on projects and potentially improve IT costs at a time when businesses were having to make significant decisions around their overheads.

Collaborators

3D Repo worked with i3P on a unique series of SME-driven webinars targeting remote working support for the AEC industry. The training was part of the existing i3P SME Programme Launch.

  • 3D Repo
  • i3P

Lead support

The investment came from the government's Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption fund, a direct and rapid response to the Covid 19 pandemic. 3D Repo matched this to the value of 50% of the funding, as a contribution in kind. The connection to i3P via Innovate UK allowed the team to encourage greater BIM adoption to support remote working, and roll-out much-needed training to SMEs during Covid 19.

Long Term Vision

Despite being one of the main contributors to the UK economy, most construction output was stopped entirely due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Those projects that were still operational ordered all their non-essential staff to work from home wherever possible. However attempting to work on complex architectural and infrastructure designs over the internet, while trying to collaborate with colleagues remotely, poses unique challenges not seen in other industries. 3D Repo used Innovate UK's Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption fund to fast-track the development of its Presenter Mode feature as an open source solution for the industry, at a time when businesses were struggling with remote working solutions and couldn't invest in BIM implementation or training.

Human Stories

Unlike most in the AEC industry, 3D Repo decided not to furlough any of their staff. Instead, they were able to put their time and money to good use and part-matched investment from Innovate UK's Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption fund to support SME construction firms trough the pandemic. By fast-tracking its Presenter Mode feature on its digital platform for BIM, 3D Repo was able to improve the remote working for many construction teams. And its training delivered with i3P has given business owners the support and reassurance they needed during Covid 19 to implement BIM effectively to keep their companies - and client projects - running smoothly, while protecting the health and safety of their employees.

Powerful Processes

3D Repo invested in the technical development of its Presenter Mode prototype so it could become a production-ready, open-source solution for the industry during the Covid 19 pandemic. The Presenter Mode feature increases internet connectivity and enables smoother screen sharing to support better collaboration on projects. It helps make remote working more efficient, decision-making more democratic and programmes more cost-effective. The new solution uses domain-specific remote rendering, real-time exchange of updates, and turns users into presenters in a 3D space, creating visibility and accountability in the workflow. The series of SME-focused webinars helped teams manage and access BIM data in the cloud during lockdown and identify and resolve issues in real-time or asynchronously amongst team members. The training helped companies understand how they could continue to run projects effectively, despite the pandemic, and without compromising on security or increasing costs.

Fascinating Facts

According to BarbourABI COVID-19 report, construction was hit hard at the start of the pandemic, with an estimated £68.3bn loss and over 68,000 projects delayed or cancelled. 3D Repo matched 50% of the £49,990 investment from Innovate UK's Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption fund. According to a report by PwC, who in 2018 developed a methodology quantifying the financial benefits of BIM for the first time, the application of BIM level 2 could save the government £400m a year.

Benefits

Collaboration
The 3D Repo solution improves online sharing and collaboration of complex 3D models so that design and project management work can continue remotely without interruption even during site closures and working from home.

Health
Improved virtual collaboration will help with social distancing longer term, should that become a necessary part of working conditions, and reduce construction workers exposure to Covid 19 where possible.

Productivity
According to 3D Repo's estimates, this solution will reduce bandwidth load ~million-times in a session resulting in significantly improved latency, which gives back valuable time to AEC professionals to get on with other work.