Why I am now a bimsync fanboy

Those of you who know me know that I recently changed my employer and I am know working for a real estate developer, with a different scope of work than in my previous position. This lead me to put aside Revit and Dynamo for a while, and think more about a project-wide collaboration platform.

Alongside with the ubiquitous BIM 360 platform from Autodesk, there is a lot of more confidential solutions from various developers. Every large BIM editor has its own, and many other companies propose one. Among them, bimsync is a rather discrete application from Catenda, a Norwegian company. Having eared about it at the French Revit User Group, I had to give it a test, and I was not disappointed.

What immediately caught my attention is the web viewer, which is the best I have ever tried. They develop their own IFC web-based viewer, and it is not far from perfect. The viewer is extremely easy to use with the left mouse button and the wheel, and include every needed feature. Sectioning the model is also quite well implemented and do a very good job. My only wish here is to have a filled pattern to highlight the difference between fill and void while sectioning.

sectionnningwithdiff

The viewer is also quite powerful, I tried it with 1 Go worth of IFC files, it run “almost” smoothly on my iPad.

onipad2

bimsync does a good job at uploading, viewing and managing versions of various models, and provides a thoughtful way of managing revisions.

You start by creating a “model” which on bimsync is a placeholder where you will upload the various versions of an IFC file. Once this file is processed by the platform, it will be available for review along with the other models. The processing part can be rather slow, it takes more than one hour for a 500 Mo IFC file, but happen entirely online, you don’t even have to keep your computer open.

models

A key feature of bimsync is the ability to easily extract Excel schedules from the uploaded models. Having the ability to show data from a model in a nice spreadsheet is priceless, and this is something that is generally overlooked by their competitors.

The issue tracking solution integrated in bimsync is also very efficient and well-thought-out, with a lot of nice features.

You start by creating an issue directly on the model, can assign someone responsible for solving this issue, add a due date and write a few lines of comment.

issues

These issues are grouped by boards, and you can create as many board as you want. You can also keep track of the resolution of these issues with a few statistical tools and filters, and save reports in Excel.

statistics2

You know that I am a big fan of the BCF concept, and bimsync doesn’t disappoint me in this regard, by providing a first-class BCF 1 and 2 support. You can export your issues in BCF to display them directly in your authoring platform of choice.

Catenda was kind enough to provide me with an access to their API, and after a few tests, I found them quite easy to use and powerful. I think this enable very interesting workflows, like automatically displaying key metrics in an easy to consume Power BI dashboard.

I yet have to explore all the features, especially the libraries, but bimsync is now my top choice among the web-based BIM collaboration platforms, and I am eager to explore more workflows with it.

IfcPropertySet

A very interesting feature of the IFC model is the IfcPropertySet . According to the official IFC specification, the IfcPropertySet is “a container class that holds properties within a property tree”. This allow to add user-defined properties to IFC elements or types. To make an analogy with Revit, it is pretty much like creating shared parameter.

Since the IFC exporter for Revit is accessible as open source code, a new exporter have been developed, and offer far more control over the creation of IFC files from Revit. One of the improvement is the ability to select Revit properties to be exported as IfcPropertySet.

The default option only export common IFC properties, but you can also export the entire set of Revit properties, or just selected ones, through user-defined property sets.

IFCExportProperties

To create one, I download one of the example coming along with the source code of the new exporter.

In this example, we can see the global syntax for creating user defined property sets.

I use it to create my own PropertySet Definition File, and use it to export Creation Phase and Demolition Phase to a new PropertySet called Phases.

PropertySet:     Phases     I     IfcElement
Creation Phase     Text     Phase Created
Demolition Phase     Text     Phase Demolished

In this definition file, we set up the name of the PropertySet, its use (on instances or on types) and the list of elements were we want to apply our properties.
Then we add the mapping between IFC (left member) and Revit properties (right member), along with its data type (Text, Real, Integer or Boolean)

We add this file in the IFC Export configuration, and export our IFC file. We can now see these properties appearing under the Phases set :

Before :

Before

After :

After

If IFC export and import is still not powerfull enought in many software solutions to enable geometrical modifications directly in the IFC file, there are plenty of opportunities to add metadata to the element, directly in IFC.

BCF Reader Update

This post is long overdue, but I finally take the time to update my BCF Reader.

BCFReader-Logo_small

First of all, I have tested it on a larger set of BCF files, and I hope these will make it more robust, especially if something is wrong within the BCF file. My experiences include files coming from Tekla BIMSight, Matteo Cominetti’s BCFier and Kubus BIM Collab.

I have to remove the support for Word 97-2003 Documents (*.doc), since the library I use does not support them. I will see how I can integrate them back in a future release.

Among the change, I add a small progress bar to allow you to pour yourself a coffee when dealing with huge quantities of notes.

I also add Status and Verbal Status to the report, just after the date. A more subtle change, the default path to save your report is now the same than the BCF file itself.

I improve the Readme file to include a small explanation on how to use the BCF Reader.

I spotted some problems with styles in the Word template. To be sure to have all of them available in the BCF Reader, you must write a few lines in your Word template, apply your styles to them, then delete them. This will ensure that you have created these styles in your Word template before using it.

Finally, I want to thank Julien Benoit and François Lahouste for their comments and their files.

As usual, you can download the BCF Reader here, and check the code here.

BIMcollab

My experiences with the BCF format lead me to discover a new solution, launch by Kubus in 2014, called BIMcollab, and imagine a new workflow for solving coordination issues within a building project.

BIMCollab present itselft as a “BCF based issue management system for BIM in the cloud”. The general idea is to manage every design problem as an issue to be solved, and publish these issues on a cloud-based platform for everyone to see.

BIMCollab become the central repository for every issue discovered in a model, and allow to measure the general progress of the project by counting issues opened and solved.

A typical workflow with such a tool can be organized like this:

Check you model in your favorite project review software. Clash detection and annotations come here in handy for creating a complete coordination report, as here in Tekla BIMSight

Tekla BIMSight

One you have a nice list of issue in your design, save them as a BCF file and upload them on BIMCollab.

Upload

Here, you can sort and dispatch these issues directly in BIMCollab. You can group them by area, assigned them to a specific user, add a priority and a deadline for solving it.

Sort Issues

Once every issues are assigned, someone responsible for solving can see them directly in his modeling software.

02---Modeling

 

I have only try the Revit plug-in, but I believe the others will look more or less the same. After connecting the plug-in to your BIMCollab account, it display every issue listed in the project, directly in the Revit interface.

Issues

You can filter these issues to display only these assigned to you, and work to solve them. Once done, you can change the status of the issue directly within Revit, add a nice picture of your work and a comment for the record.

Solved

This validation is send back to BIMCollab for everyone to see. A nice addition is the dashboard displaying the number of issue opened and solved, which create a overview of the work done and to be done.

Dashboard

 

I see this platform as a great solution for a quantified online issue management workflow, like what we can find in software development for some time now, and a new step toward a more collaborative building design.

BFC Reader

I was talking on my previous post about creating a report from a Open BIM Collaboration Format. This format can be exported from Tekla BIMSight.

I am using the Open BIM Collaboration Format on a daily basis for taking notes during coordination meetings. I am using Tekla BIMSight to create these notes, but any model review solution could do the trick, as long as you can export BCF files from it.

These notes are quite useful for addressing coordination problems, but cannot be seen outside a model.

After the proof of concept I presented to you on my last post, I finally took the time to build a packaged application in order to create a Microsoft Word document from a BCF report.

BCF Reader

Aside from minor technical problems, I was most concerned by the possibilities to edit the style of the report before creating it, and avoid the tedious task to clean it up in Word after.

I finally selected a solution mixing Word template and styles. All you have to do after selecting you BCF report is to load a Word template. The application will automatically retrieve all styles in it, and you will be able to select them for each part of your report.
These parts are described in the picture below, where every information embedded in the BCF note is written down on the report.

Report

You can then save your report in a new word document.

The application can be downloaded here, under the MIT licence.

The entire source code is also available on Bitbucket, feel free to use it for your own project.