Why we can no longer ignore the cloud

Alex Nicol, mobile team manager at Vectorworks, explains how working in the cloud is becoming more and more important to the contruction industry.

When it comes to embracing the cloud for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, there seems to be two particular schools of thought.

On one hand, many individuals have doubts or concerns about the safety and the reliability of the cloud. Common concerns include ensuring privacy and ownership of project information and the security of storing or sharing information on the cloud.

As human nature has long proven, some people are simply slower to adopt change, or any new technology for that matter. This may be why some professionals choose not to use the cloud to its fullest potential, or even at all.

On the other hand, those who work exclusively in the cloud embrace the efficient, collaborative workflow capabilities. These professionals desire a cost-effective means to complete real-time work and optimise their productivity, without breaking the bank for their storage needs.

Recently, an emerging market trend indicates that most AEC professionals have shifted to adopting cloud-based technology. This is because of the growing emphasis on real-time work and collaboration, plus the growing adoption of BIM that requires both of these factors.

“Buildings are now generating vast amounts of data, cities need to be sustainable, flexible and producers of resources,” wrote AECCafe editor and writer Susan Smith in a recent special report titled “AEC Collaboration Platforms and the Cloud.”

“AEC professionals must also have their eye on environmental impact and diminishing greenhouse gas emissions in design and construction as well as operations. As owner/operators get more involved in the entire lifecycle of the project, there is a greater need for convergence and collaboration of AEC teams.”

With these growing needs, adopting cloud technology is a smart decision for professionals to be successful.

It’s important for AEC professionals to be able to quickly share information through a cloud-based repository. This encourages more frequent exchanges of information among the stakeholders, which adds more depth and value to the data. Depending on the toolset of a cloud-based or cloud-enabled application, the user can act upon the data in various ways.

This supports project coordination, model coordination and project management, resulting in more efficient design, construction and operation processes.

For example, cloud usage allows for near real-time coordination of procurement of materials or calculations of costs, with the ability to use the model data directly from the creators and put it into the project pipeline immediately.

Furthermore, the changes in data needs presents another reason for the embracing of cloud services. According to IT company ADVANCE2000, data needs for an AEC firm grow from 10-20% a year.

This should come as no surprise, with the increase of project file size due to the growing trend toward increased detail, as well as the frequent need for high-resolution images. And let’s not forget the large size of renderings and animations. 

The need for flexibility in how – and most importantly, where ­– professionals work is another strength of the cloud. Due to offsite meetings with clients or colleagues, the ability to access project files or make quick updates from anywhere is no longer a wish but an expectation.

AEC professionals aren’t known for the typical nine-to-five work schedule, so having the ability to break up their work with dinner or time with family is an added benefit. This ability to work onsite, offsite or anywhere for that matter is made possible by the cloud.   

In a nod to the concerns of those professionals who remain resistant to working with cloud-based technology, it’s more vital than ever that AEC professionals seek out technologies that are robust and secure. Global design and BIM software developer Vectorworks, Inc. is dedicated to creating technologies with that in mind.

Launched in 2012, Vectorworks Cloud Services is free and available to everyone. Additionally, Vectorworks Cloud Services saves time by freeing up local computing power. Changes made to Vectorworks files on the desktop are automatically synced to private and secure cloud storage, allowing collaborators to browse and share their latest updates and information from any web-enabled device.  

Members of the software company’s maintenance programme, Vectorworks Service Select, have additional benefits. For example, they can use cloud technology to automate and decouple resource-heavy workflows, shifting calculations needed to generate sections, elevations, renderings and BIM data to the cloud.

The Vectorworks Nomad mobile app, which is a part of Vectorworks Cloud Services, allows users to access PDF documents, 2D drawings and 3D documents from a mobile device. Nomad users may view, mark up, share and sync PDFs and 3D models across devices and with colleagues – all from an iPhone, iPad or Android device. These functionalities are even available while the user is offline.

An improved version of Cloud Services was released with Vectorworks 2018 software this past September, and designers can now easily share designs, drawings and 3D models with clients and partners by using Google Drive, in addition to Dropbox, which was previously available.

The Cloud Services web portal has been updated for better file organisation, along with an easier-to-use sharing interface and the ability to generate Web View Virtual Reality links of files in the cloud.

Additionally, designers can now render a 360-degree view of a 3D model with the Panorama feature, and then export the file to cloud storage, receiving a link to view the rendered panorama on a laptop, desktop or any mobile device.

Since 2018 shipped, even more capabilities have been added, including the comments feature that allows for better collaboration in the cloud. 

Future development will include integration of Bluebeam Studio sessions, which allows architects to easily collaborate with construction professionals for an integrated and seamless workflow. Whether you’re a BIM manager, IT professional, contractor or subcontractor, you’ll be empowered with this new connection.

Looking ahead, Vectorworks will continue to develop new technologies to make AEC professionals more productive.  

To learn more about Vectorworks Cloud Services, visit

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  1. What’s next for Vectorworks cloud services?

    All that I can see is some integrations between Vectorworks products. I still have to use the Vectorworks UI to access this functionality. The cloud is not about saving on compute to produce PDFs and view 3D models (well partly), it is about automation.

    I mean, when do the developer APIs and SDKs arrive? When can I start adding value using the Vectorworks suite of tools to my custom applications?

  2. I do not mind working in the cloud for the 37½ hours that i am paid for :) all joking aside – there are serious HR issues here for stress, long hours and family life! it is called work life balance !

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