The Virtual Building™ model or BIM (Building Information Model) has long proved itself on the market. Yet alongside all the advantages of designing within a central 3D model, this technology has also raised a question: How can several people work on a single project simultaneously without getting in each other's way?
This issue arises frequently in practice, but until now, no architectural software could provide a fully satisfactory solution. And so it seemed that cumbersome regulation of access rights and long wait times for synchronizing data (that is, updating the central model file) were unavoidable side effects of working on a team project.
With Teamwork 2.0, GRAPHISOFT has launched a new technology that promises a solution to these problems. The world's first BIM Server, three years in development, opens entirely new horizons for cooperation within a project team, making hitherto unavoidable limitations a thing of the past: such was the conclusion of participants in the second GRAPHISOFT TeamBuilding, a live demonstration of the new technology that took place on October 7, 2010.
The TeamBuilding event involved 22 offices in Germany, Austria and Switzerland working simultaneously on a single common project, a multiple-story office and shopping complex. Organizers distributed 22 different design tasks to the offices, which carried them out live and simultaneously as part of the demonstration. It immediately became clear that the reserve and release of model elements are extremely flexible in the new Teamwork, which also offers a remarkable degree of transparency in communication.
All reservations are immediately visible to all users. In addition, the BIM Server offers a central management- and task-oriented messaging system. Using the messenger function, users can communicate as they work; messages appear directly on the screen.
These features alone represent a significant breakthrough. But what else does Teamwork 2.0 have to offer? Things began to get really interesting as each office completed its task, and all the changes had to be merged into the central building model. Up to now, synchronizing data from team members was a time-consuming process, since the entire project file had to be sent back and forth. In contrast, the BIM Server – which replaces the file server in the office, and which can be managed over the internet - updates the central project model by transmitting only the "delta" (that is, the latest changes from the client machines) rather than the entire project file. This considerably reduces data traffic, which in turn speeds up the synchronization process enormously. And the approximately 200 viewers of the TeamBuilding demonstration were impressed indeed as they saw the BIM Server combine all the changes from the local project copies into the central building model within seconds.
What does this mean for an architectural practice? Regardless of the size of the team or the size of the project, all team members can work together in real time. In addition, they can work from anywhere: since the BIM Server can be managed over the Internet, cooperation among team members is possible regardless of their geographical location. This is a plus, not just for international offices, but also for small and medium-sized projects: this technology allows external consultants to join the project off-site, and even for employees to work from home.
Participants and observers of the TeamBuilding exercise unanimously agreed: with Teamwork 2.0, an integral feature of ArchiCAD 14, GRAPHISOFT has achieved a technological leap forward that allows for much more efficient and smoother teamwork.