BIM and Cross-platform Project Teams (1-2-3 Revit Tutorial)

16 Jun, 2008 By: AIA ,Rick Rundell

Autodesk NavisWorks integrates data and models from diverse sources into a Revit building information modeling workflow.

Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of Autodesk.

Pick any large building project currently "on the boards" or in the trade coordination phase, and you'll find a host of design and management tools being used on that project. A high-profile project may have 20 different design applications creating various kinds of models and design information, and reliance on multiple building models is typical of most projects.

This month's article examines how Autodesk NavisWorks is used to integrate information from a diverse family of design and modeling tools into a Revit building information modeling (BIM) workflow — enabling a more complete understanding of the overall project and expanding the benefits of BIM to cross-platform project teams.

Cross-platform Building Design
Project teams standardizing on the Revit BIM platform across the three primary design disciplines benefit from a highly coordinated and integrated project across the design phases. These teams can share meaningful building design information directly between applications. But in some cases, not all members of the design team will be on a common platform. And in many cases, inclusion of 3D models from other sources may be necessary for a complete, coordinated, and correct view of the project — especially in construction. Autodesk NavisWorks delivers the benefits of BIM across the project team, rounding out the Revit workflow by integrating model information wherever it comes from.

Most non-residential building projects are designed using a variety of software tools: design and engineering applications, analysis modules, rendering software, and so on. Key facets of the building design arise from the use of these disparate tools and are manifested in purpose-built 3D design models.

It's a large undertaking to coordinate these designs. Traditionally, cross-discipline designs were coordinated manually by groups of designers — with red pencils and highlighters in hand — gathered around large conference tables laden with blueprints or around light tables overlaid with multiple drawings sheets. The CAD age ushered in the use of "digital" light tables and layering schemes to coordinate 3D CAD models and 2D electronic backdrops.

The increase in BIM has led to an increase in the availability of information-rich, digital design models. The high-quality of these models make them valuable assets that are increasingly being shared between project members — especially with the rise of integrated project delivery (IPD) and other forms of alternate project delivery that feature collaborative, cross-discipline project teams. Autodesk NavisWorks supports project teams in a complex technology environment using open, neutral model aggregation technology to combine design information from multiple platforms, including both Autodesk and non-Autodesk solutions.

Autodesk NavisWorks
Autodesk NavisWorks enables the aggregation of Revit building information with data and geometry from other sources, regardless of file size. Autodesk NavisWorks supports a large number of design solutions, including all major native design and laser-scan file formats — providing the ability to combine the 3D design data from different disciplines in a single model. By integrating building information, data, and geometry, the Autodesk NavisWorks project model becomes the hub for all digital information — helping project stakeholders to make better design and construction decisions, some of which will impact the owner's operations.

This aggregated project model enables cross-discipline clash detection, photoreal visualizations, real-time walkthroughs, and project reviews for improved coordination and collaboration. In addition, this combined design data can be integrated with construction logistics models and project schedules, enabling "4D" time modeling for improved project sequencing and construction simulation.

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Autodesk NavisWorks is used to integrate information from a diverse family of design and modeling tools, enabling a variety of activities including the cross-discipline clash detection shown here. (Click image for a larger version)

How does Autodesk NavisWorks complement BIM-based workflows? Discipline-specific design teams (architectural, structural, etc.) use their own particular solution to create their part of the building design. At strategic junctures during the design process, the discipline-specific design models are shared — often via a collaborative project management service such as Autodesk Buzzsaw or Autodesk Constructware — and aggregated with Autodesk NavisWorks to create an integrated project model.

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Revit users can export a model to an Autodesk NavisWorks NWC file format for direct use in Autodesk NavisWorks. (Click image for a larger version)

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Autodesk NavisWorks can aggregate Revit building information with data and geometry from other sources, regardless of file size. Geometry, component attributes, and materials from the Revit model are also transferred to the Autodesk NavisWorks environment, allowing users to query or visually filter the model based on attributes. (Click image for a larger version)

The organization that actively uses the software to do this varies, depending on the project stage and delivery model. On traditional projects, the architect or design-build firm often takes a leading role in the coordination of the overall project design during the design stage. When the project moves beyond the design phase, the builder or construction manager (CM) uses the software to coordinate the specialty trades on the project and merge the building design with a construction project schedule for ongoing construction management. On projects featuring integrated project teams, the CM usually takes on design coordination from project inception and, as the project develops, folds in the 4D modeling functionality.

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Autodesk NavisWorks enables 4D time modeling for improved project sequencing and construction simulation. (Click image for a larger version)

Autodesk NavisWorks is also used for project review, enabling interactive visualization and real-time walkthroughs of large, integrated 3D models using a standard PC and free viewing software. This feature is useful for both CAD-literate designers, who are able to view the combined project model irrespective of the authoring solution they use for their own design tasks, and also lets non-CAD project stakeholders (such as project/construction managers, owners, approval groups, or marketing) gain a better understanding of the project than they would with 2D drawings. It should be noted that in addition to geometry, component attributes and materials in many native models are also transferred to the Autodesk NavisWorks environment, allowing project members to query or visually filter the model based on attributes.

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Autodesk NavisWorks enables team members to combine, review, and markup detailed 3D design models of any size or format for cross-discipline design coordination. (Click image for a larger version)

The key value proposition of the Revit platform and BIM is the delivery of more coordinated, consistent, and computable information that delivers greater reliability for analysis and other digital workflows. Autodesk NavisWorks complements BIM by enabling this building information to be combined and coordinated with geometry and data across multiple platforms — and published for use beyond the design team — a critical need in today's world of complex project teams and demands for high performance.

In a future article, I will profile two examples of how Autodesk NavisWorks is being used: by an architectural firm using the software to better coordinate their projects, and by a construction firm using the software for project coordination as well as project review and 4D modeling.

About the Author: AIA

About the Author: Rick Rundell

Rick Rundell