Model-Based Collaborative Design
Jerry Laiserin

Now that post-and-host document-based collaboration is moving from the leading edge for early adopters towards pacing technology for mainstream users, the race for model-based collaborative design also has moved—where document-based systems were five years ago. Our quick overview of the field helps you identify the horses* and decide where to place your bets.

Hundreds of millions of venture capital dollars were consumed in the late 1990s by abortive attempts to create post-and-host document-based collaboration services for AEC and infrastructure projects. Few credible survivors remain from the literally hundreds of hopefuls that once cluttered the landscape. Project-specific website pioneer e-Builder remains a leading AEC contender, along with Constructware, ProjectEdge, and the Web offerings of long-time off-line project software vendors Primavera Systems and Meridian Project SystemsProjectTalk and PrimeContract, respectively. Citadon, heir to some of the most wasted fortunes among the dot-comatose, now steers clear of AEC to focus on plant and process industries.

An important challenge to the established order is Causeway Technologies' Collaboration product, build on LiveLink for Construction from enterprise collaboration giant OpenText Corporation. As document-based collaboration edges toward crossing the chasm from early adopter status to the mainstream, "must have" technology category, the Causeway/LiveLink implementation is poised to learn from others' first-generation trials-and-errors and fight for significant market share in both the AEC and infrastructure design spaces. Another round of provider consolidation may ensue.

Model-based collaboration, on the other hand, is not yet ready for prime time, but several promising approaches to at least parts of the problem are available for pioneering and early adopter tryouts.

> The Bentley V8 generation of products promises broad, multi-disciplinary and multi-phase collaboration through sharing of the same Bentley model by a variety of Bentley tools. See coverage of the most recent Bentley International User Conference (BIUC) in this issue.

> Autodesk, in addition to its recently acquired Revit modeling tools, now repurposed for parametric costing, has an alliance with Las Vegas-based Tririga. Tririga's Intelligent Building System (IBS) easily creates data-intensive collaborative models from ordinary drawing and specification files, through an innovative concept of "virtual areas." This allows for remarkable flexibility and granularity in defining and sharing data about all specified items in a project, whether drawn or not. Because the Tririga IBS focuses primarily on collaborative construction procurement, it yields results that go beyond conventional as-built documentation to the more valuable level of "as-bought" component information.

> So-called 4D (three spatial dimensions plus time) construction simulation applications also are capable of supporting collaborative project decision-making. Leading proponents include VirtualStep and CommonPoint, the latter with its InviznOne technology derived from research between Walt Disney Imagineering and Stanford University's Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE). Typically these systems rely on design information from Autodesk's AutoCAD and/or Architectural Desktop products.

> The BLIS Project (Building Lifecycle Interoperability Software), with Microsoft, Graphisoft, and Timberline among its more visible members, successfully espouses "classic" interoperability, in which model data moves among multiple independent design and analytic applications, including 4D construction simulation. However, BLIS has not yet implemented Tririga-style, as-bought project procurement

> Finnish-based startup Enterprixe offers the fullest form of synchronous, on-line design collaboration—one in which the model itself embodies the shared repository of design team communications and decisions. Local copies of design software (typically Autodesk Architectural Desktop) function only as editing/viewing clients of the shared, server-based model. Enterprixe thus brings to the AEC space the same kind of true collaborative design that Infrasoft's Arenium brings to the world of transportation infrastructure design (although it should be noted that Infrasoft/Arenium is feature-complete technology from an established company, while Enterprixe is still in search of development partners).

For more discussion of these trends, join the next LaiserinLive event, a free on-line chat on Wednesday, June 19, 2002 between Noon and 2:00 PM Eastern Time, presented as part of Bentley's VirtualBIUC.

*Note: no animals were harmed during the making of this metaphor.

< back