Wednesday, 14 December 2011


We have just completed the submission of a pretty large bid, so I thought I'd share a few of the new things that we did. Unfortunately the contents of the submission are covered by a stringent confidentiality agreement, so I can't show the actual contents, but there's enough to talk about without going into the fine details.
We have noticed that there seems to be a constant stream of 'top 10 iPad app' related tweets and blogs, and this has interested us for some time. For this bid submission, we suggested to our client that rather than the 'standard' document submission, we utilise some of the technologies available and submit the entire bid on just an iPad. We just did that - and here's how we did it...

Set Up
The iPads were standard 16gb wifi only iPad 2 models, and we couldn't rely on the end user having an internet connection. We needed them to be fairly foolproof, so we set them up with a very basic interface. As you can see in the title image above, the homescreen has been customised to show just the icons at the bottom (everything else is hidden on page 02), and a wallpaper that describes each app.
We locked down the features of the ipads so that they could only be used for the purpose intended, and included a disclaimer in the custom covers that we had made, so that they weren't mistaken for bribes - they are to be returned after the bid review process!

From the moment we were briefed to the delivery of the bid, we had just six weeks. In this period we were commissioned to create a fully coordinated BIM using Navisworks and incorporating the proposed project timeline to make the model a full 4D representation of the proposal, to be delivered as a movie. Alongside this we also created an existing site model using Autodesk 123D Catch (formerly project photofly), and rendered an animated sequence from 3D Studio Max to demonstrate our prefabrication intentions (using IFC data taken from the fabrication model). As well as a lot of imagery taken from the models, we had aerial photography (used to generate the site model) and a full set of project documentation (models and drawings) in DWF formats.
All told, the project totalled 17 coordinated models to make up the BIM, including civil, structural, electrical, mechanical, architectural and site works generated from Revit, and 3 IFC models generated by the MEP fabricator. We partnered with Gifford (part of Ramboll) to deliver the content creation, and as well as providing BIM coordination and application services, undertook and managed the creation of the models from the 2D information provided.
Also worth noting this isn't just 'hollywood BIM'. We have set up this entire process to drive value into the model, and put in place protocols and procedures to continue to use it for coordination and management throughout delivery if we are successful.

We chose to use 5 apps for the submission, based upon technology that is available today without any customisation (due to the timescales for delivery). We wanted to be able to present all of the information we had generated above to the client in a way that they would intuitively understand.

We used iBooks to contain all of the project documentation for the bid. This included the document submission, bookmarked pdfs, and a custom 'user guide' to help new users through each of the apps and the documents included.

Autodesk Design Review
The design review app was used to deliver the 3D, data rich, models to the client for their review. We delivered all of the models seperately and also as a combined model, as well as providing sets of 2D intelligent sheet sets that linked through to the elements in the 3D models. It was a useful way of providing the BIM to the client for their own interrogation.
We did experience some limitations - the mechanical model was extremely difficult to transfer to the iPad, and there is a recurrent warning that you get when opening large (for an iPad) models, which is a little disconcerting to a new user. We also had to cache all of the dwf files from the cloud so that they were available offline - given the amount of sheets and models over 5 iPads, this wasn't our favourite task!

Inventor Publisher Mobile Viewer
We used this app to show off the existing site model. It was a bit of an experiment that worked really. We were commissioning an aerial photographer to cover the site anyway, so for his brief included a link to the photofly shooting guidelines. On receipt of the photographs, we simply used the shiny new 123D Catch app to generate the ipm, which was a huge success with only minor tweaks required. Whilst I can't share that, see the attached file and image below for the test project we did first to demonstrate proof of concept.

Does what it says on the tin really - we used it to house galleries of the images that we generated from the combined BIM to illustrate our approach and some of the key areas for consideration.

Like the photo gallery, there is nothing very complex about this app, or our use. The contents were slightly more engaging though, and it's worth describing the 2 stand out sequences.
Firstly we delivered a full construction sequence 4D timeline, identifying the key elements of the proposed timeline together with associated site works and construction logistics. An interesting by-rpoduct of this process was that the phased site sequence model gave us an indication of cut and fill amounts at a very early stage in the process - great when assessing the feasibility of the financial model. Modelling all of the associated works and sequencing them into the timeline has enabled us to begin the process of analysing the proposed sequence ahead of delivery - that is a process we can now build on...
Lastly we also used the BIM to identify the opportunity for prefabrication of the majority of the MEP services. We extracted a section of the model to demonstrate this, and rendered a sequence to show how this worked in isolation for the client. This again generated an intriguing offshoot - the model we created was pushed out through our 3D printer to enable a very tactile demonstration of the same area - great to move from the digital to the analogue with very little rework.

 When we set out on this exercise, we had a lot of aspirations for our approach. We set out to build a framework for the application of BIM through the bid and right into delivery and beyond, towards FIM. We feel we achieved that, but in order to get that far we needed to make the value of that approach visible to an end user client and win the bid.
The iPad approach was initially seen as something of a 'gimmick' and we needed to show that it went beyond that, to making visible all of the data and ultimately opportunity that lies within a BIM. Visualising concepts and ideas throughout the construction process can be difficult, especially if you are on the outside looking in. I don't think we have cracked it, but I hope that what I have talked about here demonstrates how we looked at it, and how we used some commonly available tools to deliver something pretty different...


No #fluffy_kittens were harmed during this blog. Please contact us if you want to discuss anything described above.