The team behind a two-year project to deliver “Level 3” cloud-based file synching says it has established “proof of concept” and is now hoping to develop a commercial service to give clients cutting-edge BIM technology.
The Cloud4Coordination (C4C) project was backed by IBM, BRE, Costain, and the University of Cardiff, plus the AEC3 consultancy and QS firm Lee Wakemans, and was funded by Innovate UK.
Under the C4C system, each party involved continues to create and be responsible for its own BIM data, but instead of uploading it to a central electronic document management system, the project team stores it on servers or in the cloud.
Costain apparently used the C4C system on a “live” trial on one of its Highways England contracts.
BRE associate director Andrew Sutton said: “It boils down to the principle that the right people need the right data at the right time. C4C is our attempt, using cloud computing, to try to do that within the restrictions of the legal framework and rights of ownership.”
The project resolves the problem of liability and ownership issues with settings that can turn on or off data in a document or drawing according to who has the permission to view it. Users set a profile that determines the level of data they share with the rest of the team, and the C4C system automates the process.
In a press release, David Owens, a design and BIM manager at Costain, and an adviser to Highways England on BIM, explained: “BIM Level 3 presents challenges around who owns the data (and is therefore liable if part of the model is wrong) and trust in the data. The BIM Level 3 process will need an evolution in the way we share data in construction and how contracts view these transactions.”
"C4C retrieves the shared/published data, merges the files and distributes an IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) file to the project partners.
“C4C tracked that process, and once data (including 3D) met the clients’ criteria and only that criteria, those objects/data were instantly shared with other project participants’ servers,” added Owens. “This can then be used as a reference model for the other disciplines – for example the architects can share the building envelope with the structural engineers. Key to this was to ‘tag’ each and every object with a ‘suitability’, at present we only declare suitability at a file level.
“C4C has helped us take a significant step towards full collaboration between all disciplines using a single, shared model.”
According to Sutton, IBM and Costain are now collaborating on further steps, in a project called ALIM – Asset Life Information Management.
Sutton told BIM+: “We have more hope than we have with some research projects that there will be a commercial application. But we are looking for a suitable partner who can see the benefit and would be willing to wait six months for delivery.”
The C4C project utilised servers at the University of Cardiff, but the next stage of the project would involve a “bullet-proof” platform using IBM’s cloud technology.
If the project reaches fruition commercially, Sutton suggested it could be offered to the industry on a subscription basis, and/or a public sector client could buy access to the system for the entire project.
The project team is also producing a report on the project, to be funded by the BRE Trust, entitled Challenges for Level 3 BIM, in April.
It boils down to the principle that the right people need the right data at the right time. C4C is our attempt, using cloud computing, to try to do that within the restrictions of the legal framework and rights of ownership.– Andrew Sutton, BRE