New Challenges for the AEC Industry
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic many construction projects stopped working on sites altogether while those that did remain open asked all
non-essential staff to work from home. The subsequent lockdown in the UK uncovered new problems for remote working and building information modelling (BIM) coordination, with choppy audio and video during teleconferencing becoming the new norm for many people working from home.
Adding 3D rendering into the mix makes screen sharing
near impossible for many architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals. The combined load of 3D rendering with screen sharing can cause serious connectivity issues resulting in jittering, loss of audio and eventual network throttling at both the sending and receiving end.
Moving to Remote Working
Leveraging the 3D Repo cloud-based digital construction platform, a novel remote 3D rendering solution called Presenter Mode was developed to
allow multiple people to collaborate using large 3D BIM models while teleconferencing.
Using Presenter Mode in combination with advanced model caching can reduce bandwidth and latency requirements to significantly improve performance and remote working potential for AEC professionals. The new solution replaces screen sharing with 3D rendering and navigation sharing where each user is able to instantly become a presenter in 3D space.
Using Microsoft Teams as a test example of the new Presenter Mode feature, we compared sound + 3D Repo versus sound + screen sharing to measure network load during a 60-minute teleconference.
Though the first three minutes of the session are taken up by loading the 3D BIM assets, their network load and therefore transmission is still considerably lower in comparison to the sustained screen sharing. Over the 60-minute teleconference, the amount of data transmitted is much lower with 3D Repo in comparison to screen sharing which shows the efficiency of the new Presenter Mode solution for remote collaboration.
To further improve performance of remote collaboration, enabling 3D Repo’s advanced model caching feature will speed up the loading time of a
model. When enabled in 3D Repo, the model caching feature uses local storage (a browser feature called IndexedDB) to keep the downloaded models available for faster access.
To illustrate the benefits, here is an example using a federation of structural and MEP 3D models from the Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf development project. The baseline federation resulted in 75 independent requests being made from the client to the server as shown in the image inside the 3D Repo platform and takes just over 3 minutes to download the model. However, with additional caching enabled, each subsequent load is only ~14 seconds which is a considerable speed improvement especially as BIM professionals regularly review existing models over multiple sessions a day/week.
Presenter Mode has been kindly sponsored by Innovate UK through the COVID-19 business-led innovation in response to global disruption (de
minimis) grant No. 59966.
“Heavy 3D models combined with screen sharing become unusable due to bandwidth and latency limitations specific to AEC. Thus, we came up with a unique technical solution that overcomes these limitations via remote 3D rendering and advanced caching to support real-time collaboration while removing the need for screen sharing altogether.”
Case Study: The Forge, by Bryden Wood
In 2020, Bryden Wood, an international company of creative technologists, architects, engineers, designers and analysts, announced that it is working on The Forge, a landmark project with commercial property and investment company, Landsec. It aims to be the UK’s first commercial development that achieves net zero carbon both in construction and operation, in line with the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) net zero
carbon buildings framework and energy performance targets.
The Forge is a 139,000 sq ft office development in central London. It will deliver these impressive results (and more) because it is the first major commercial development to be designed and built entirely using the Platforms approach to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (P-DfMA).
As with many other companies in their sector, COVID-19 restrictions caused Bryden Wood to change the way they work. They moved their entire workforce from office-based to remote working.
Unfortunately, all cloud-based BIM suffers from the same inherent problem: too much processing load to support simultaneous 3D rendering and
teleconferencing. This created issues that Bryden Wood had not seen before, as poor and variable internet connectivity caused disruption of online
meetings, with consequent frustration and loss of time.
As pioneers of new technology and digital delivery, Bryden Wood engaged with 3D Repo and our new Presenter Mode feature to help facilitate effective remote collaboration using 3D models all from within the cloud.
Model image of the Forge below provided by Bryden Wood.
“Moving to remote working was necessary to keep our teams and clients safe, while our capacity to continue to work on new and current projects came from our ability to adapt using smart technology. 3D Repo’s Presenter Mode improves the online sharing and collaboration of complex 3D models so that design and project management work could continue. Presenter Mode is easily accessible, highly intuitive and simple to use.”
Case Study: Tramway, by Stageport
In 2019, Glasgow’s internationally renowned multi-arts space, Tramway, began working closely with Stageport, providers of digital surveying and pre-visualisation services to the UK performing arts and entertainment industry, to develop a set of digital assets to exploit the benefits of increased connectivity including:
- Access and share detailed facilities information.
- Share enhanced access information.
- Visualise designs in 3D to assist with planning.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in government restrictions temporarily closing the Tramway performing arts centre in an effort to lower
the risk of virus transmission and keep people safe.
To help plan the safe reopening of Tramway, Stageport sought to use the 3D models of the centre in 3D Repo’s digital platform for BIM data so that all stakeholders could collaborate on the model together in the cloud.
However, with many people now working from home, screen sharing while navigating a 3D model posed new challenges including slow internet which often resulted disconnections from a meeting or broken audio which made it difficult to communicate. To address these challenges, Stageport used 3D Repo’s Presenter Mode feature to help them with:
Instead of screen sharing, Stageport were able to access their models in the 3D Repo cloud with presenters each taking turns to navigate the model and updates in 3D space happening in real-time.
Using a 3D model meant that Stageport could plan and collaborate without the need to visit the physical site and adhere to social distancing and work from home rules.
Planning in 3D
Visualise and discuss installations, staff deployment, audience flow and queuing all while navigating the 3D model in real-time.
“The challenge facing venues and producers working on complex cultural restart events during the pandemic is to ensure venue staff, audiences and visiting artists are safe. Collaborating with colleagues remotely, using 3D environments brings additional challenges, especially with varying internet speeds and computing power. The 3D Repo presenter mode reduced bandwidth requirements and made communicating with our team a lot easier and meant we could continue to identify issues and make plans for the reopening of Tramway even though we could not hold meetings person”
Case Study: Wood Wharf, by Canary Wharf Contractors
Collaboration is key for the Canary Wharf Contractors’ (CWCL) Wood Wharf project where multiple different firms have been appointed to work on the new development in London. Through parts of the development, the 3D Repo platform has helped Allies & Morrison, Adamson Associates, Aicon, and Sweco among others to coordinate clashes, design changes, health and safety, and progress tracking and analysis.
During in-person design coordination meetings at CWCL, project managers, BIM coordinators, and designers work collaboratively with their models in 3D Repo to track and manage issues in the cloud which provides them with a single source of truth for communication and a full audit trail.
With much of UK construction put on hold due to the global pandemic and work from home orders for all non-essential staff in place, CWCL looked to move many of their internal teams from an office environment to remote working. Where previously, teams could hold collaborative meetings in-person daily, CWCL now found themselves working with disparate teams trying to redesign the way they work.
With a new way of working, CWCL has been internally testing the new 3D Repo presenter mode solution to evaluate its benefits and potential use on future phases of construction.
Some of the key benefits identified by CWCL include:
- Remote teams join design coordination meetings.
- Improved performance during teleconferencing
- Faster loading and access to 3D models
As shown in the image below, users take turns navigating the model in 3D Repo and those updates are mirrored on the machines of other collaborators.
“With a project of this scale and complexity, there are a large number of different contractors and teams all trying to collaborate using 3D BIM
models. The 3D Repo Presenter Mode will allow remote teams, including our international offices, to join design coordination meetings while the remote rendering solution will improve connectivity issues and create a smoother and more collaborative meeting.”