Document Exchange and Review Made Easy

16 May, 2004 By: Ákos Pfemeter

ArchiCAD’s Publisher/Reviewer tool provides Web-based collaboration for designers and clients

Throughout a building design project, easy and seamless communication between designers and their clients is vital. This is especially relevant early in the design process. What point is there to carrying out work on a project that will later be rejected by the client due to poor communication? It's far better to involve clients in the process at every stage. Not only does this eliminate unnecessary work, but it also personalizes the process, allowing the client's ideas to be worked into a design.

ArchiCAD's Virtual Building functions facilitate all this. Project Publisher enables you, the designer, to continually deliver updated versions of a design to your client. You can post the latest design iteration on the Internet or send it via e-mail to everyone involved in the process. Clients and even consultants can then use Project Reviewer to examine and approve the plans or add comments and return their feedback to you.

Project Publisher simplifies the design process whether your client is across town or across the country. It lets you present plans in a format clients can use and understand, so they don't need to run CAD software in their office or even understand architectural plans.

Using the Publisher/Reviewer tool, you can compile a set of views custom-tailored to the needs of the client. The set can include 2D plans, sections, and elevation drawings as well as basic area calculation lists. Display options, layer visibility, and scale- and zoom-level settings can be customized for each view. You can create convincing, enticing 3D renderings of the project from the beginning of the design phase.

Tip: Early in the design phase, you can use sketch-style renderings to present mass models of the buildings (figure 1). This style gives an artistic and elegant look to even the most simple 3D model.

Figure 1. Sketch-style renderings are an artistic way to present your design.

When the set is ready to be published, click on the Upload to Internet option to display a dialog box where you can set up the FTP connection (figure 2) After you define the host name, user name, and password, you can log in to test the connection.

Figure 2. Setting up Publisher to upload documents to the Internet.

Note: Another option notifies partners by e-mail when you publish new drawings. You can select addressees from a personalized contact list, automatically include login details that are necessary to reach the server, and attach the published files to the e-mail, if you wish.

By selecting the Include Project Reviewer Environment checkbox, you provide the client with easy-to-use tools for viewing, managing, and redlining the drawings. Project Reviewer is a Java-based tool that runs in most commonly used Web browsers. Styles help customize the appearance of the Reviewer window to an individual user's tastes.

In the Project Reviewer window that the client sees, the system groups drawings using the same hierarchy as in ArchiCAD. Zoom and Pan tools aid navigation in the drawing area. You can turn layers on and off to customize the view. The client uses redlining tools -- line, text, and label tools and basic geometric shapes -- to add comments or sketches to each drawing and can group, move, or delete these drawing elements (figure 3). If several people want to add comments to the same drawing, each can use a separate color to indicate his or her feedback.

Figure 3: Redlining in the Reviewer environment.

When clients finish redlining documents, they can then use the Upload Redlines button to save comments to the server (figure 4). They can also save the redlined document to hard disk to be sent later. You can import the redline elements into ArchiCAD and attach them to the original project file, then adjust the design based on that feedback.

Figure 4. Uploading changes to an FTP site.

Because all views are just different representations of the Virtual Building, changes you make to any of the views are automatically updated throughout the project. After yet another round of design iteration, you can publish the set again. The publishing documentation is already set up, so this time creating and sharing the documentation set is just a matter of a few clicks. All this streamlining of the documentation process leaves you more time to focus on designing.

Project Reviewer supports e-mail communication, so your client can respond to you in this format or forward a drawing to a coworker, for example. The client does not have to search for files on an FTP server. Instead, simply select the appropriate view in the Project Reviewer window, click on the e-mail tab, compose the message, and send the e-mail (figure 5). The system automatically attaches the file to the e-mail in DWF format.

Figure 5: Clients use Project Reviewer to compose e-mail messages to accompany a design file.

All parties benefit when they incorporate ArchiCAD's automated document creation and sharing into the design process. Architects gain time to develop close working relationships with their clients. Clients become more involved in the design process because they can share their ideas more easily. The overall design process is faster, better coordinated, better documented -- and much more inclusive.

About the Author: Ákos Pfemeter

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