Log spatial coordination

Finding and solving issues is at the heart of the spatial coordination process. But since we don’t know in advance how many issues we will have to find and solve, it is difficult to measure the result of our efforts.

Case recently presented a very interesting solution for this problem. Using Jira, an issue tracking product used in the software industry, they were able to keep track of every problems found during the design phase, and display them thought nice visualizations.

Inspired by this idea, I displayed over time the results of a general clash detection in a graph. Like so, we can see the evolution of the number of clashes in our model, and the progress of the spatial coordination.

To do so, we have to set up a general clash matrix, something like this:


  • A: Architecture
  • S: Structure
  • H: HVAC
  • P: Plumbing
  • E: Electrical

You can see that the lower-left of the matrix is left blank, we don’t need to run symmetrical tests.

We don’t include architectural elements in our detection, since resulting clashes are generally not relevant enough to add value to the report.

We test for intersections between every trades, create a report combining all clashes, and export it from Navisworks.

This report is not very useful per se. In fact, there is generally too much clashes to sort them into something useful. And if by chance you haven’t that much clashes, you probably don’t need clash detection in the first place. But this clash report do nevertheless represent the state of our coordination at a given date. The less clashes we have, the better.

Furthermore, once these tests are set up in Navisworks, it become easy to export a large clash report every day, a rather bulky summary of every problems we can find in our model.

Day after day, these reports create the raw data for a journal of our spatial coordination. Periodically, we compile them into something more visual.

To do so, we create a single table (in .csv) listing every clash reported during the project.

We use to compile them through an HTML (tabular) report from Navisworks.


Using the Data -> From Web Excel function, we create a large database of every clash, with its history.

We now have a custom application for extracting the same information from Navisworks XML reports. The process is somehow automated, but the result is the same, a large database of every clashes detected during the design.

Once we have every clash in a handy (and pretty large) .csv file, we use Tableau to create a nice visualization out of it, and let everyone in the office follow the progress of the coordination.


“What gets measured improves”, and we are now able to increase our efforts when we see the spatial coordination staggering. But with precise data about the coordination, I also hope to be able to better understand what makes a coordination process successful and how to reproduce it.

Dreaming of a new drawing table

As BIM software has greatly improved over the last few years, there is not much change  on the interface side. Since the beginning of the concept of BIM, we have not much improve  the way we are designing on our favorite CAD application. The development of powerful touch-screens has totally changed our personal devices (mobile phones and personal computers), but I haven’t seen any professional design application using them successfully.

Anyway, some new devices seem to be interesting as new way of interacting with a 3D model.

The SMART Board presents itself as a flat screen, and uses a camera on top of it to change it into a giant touch screen. Some demonstration using Navisworks shown a very impressive way for reviewing and annotating a 3D model.

Some pretty cool videos make me think I am not the only one to believe in cameras and other Kinect to change our way of designing 3D models. As an example, you can have a look on the Scott Penman’s page on the Grasshopper forum. He presents how he uses a webcam to create and control a Rhino model through Grasshopper.

One of my biggest hope in this field is the Leap Motion, a new device including some VGA camera sensors and a “little” piece of software to create a $70 gesture control system that will make the Kinect look like an outdated piece of technology.

The presentation video features an incredibly precise motion detector, which can “see” the individual position of each of your fingers in a three cubic feet workspace.

Possibilities for this kind of devices are almost endless, especially in any 3D models related domain. I already imagine myself casually sculpting a whole building with just a few intuitive hand movements.

These kind of devices may be the next step for integrating BIM in the AEC industry, when modeling a building will become as easy and intuitive as a few pen strokes on a drawing table. And make me dream of a new desktop.

4D planning

A 4D construction, or planning simulation, include everything referring to the integration of time-related data directly into a 3D building model.

One of the most broadly used functionality of this kind of model is to present the main planning. A 4D model is always a great communication tool to present the construction schedule. Clients love these animations in which they can see their future building growing. You might have seen the procedure for building the new Chernobyl cover made by Vinci  and Bouygues :

But to me, the most interesting and realistic feature of a 4D model is the analysis of specifically tricky parts of the building. Define formworks rotation and positioning in intricate areas is commonly realized with time-based clashes detection, in order to optimize casting of complex shapes. A 4D planning can also be used for creating virtual mockups of complex building system (façade elements for example) and simulate their construction procedure.

There are a lot of talks around the concept of 4D BIM these days. All project managers crave for precise schedules and quantities estimations, and linking construction planning tasks with building model objects seems the best way to achieve it.

But, with regards to my experience in the matter, carry out a trully usefull 4D model can be very challenging. Make a movie from your roughly defined 4D model is pretty easy, but divide your model cleverly enough in order to link each element to its task in the general planning can be really painful.

I am used to the TimeLiner tool in Navisworks to create a dynamic 4D model for presentation purposes. If a property like a task code is already defined in Revit, the procedure is quite easy; you just have to import your Gantt diagram from Microsoft Project and your model from Revit in Navisworks; then automatically link them together using this task code. If no properties are defined, linking objects to tasks has to be done manually, and it is a long and pretty boring process.

Virtual Environments

Virtual environments are a trending topic among our clients these days. Owners don’t want only pretty pictures of their future building anymore, but also videos, and lately, whole 3D environments.

They want to be able to walk through their future building and see everything just like the expected end user. This kind of easily accessible 3D model has endless applications: You can validate architectural and interior design choices, check the accessibility and the ergonomic of the building, present a show apartment on a web-based application accessible by anyone, and many more…

For the one who were fond of videos games in their youth, it’s pretty much like creating a level of an average first person shooter game. You create the geometry (in our case, an already existing aggregated design model), you add some textures to make it pretty and you run the whole thing in an engine for interactive 3D content, a professional name for a game engine.

I have tried two of these engines, with different results.

3dVia Studio is the solution develop by Dassault System. It’s really powerful, with a lot of features and possibilities, and can run really large models. But on the other hand, its price reserves it for visualization professionals, and finding some support and examples on the web can be dreadful.

The other solution is a broadly used game engine named Unity 3D. Its basic version is free, and you can pay for a professional version and specific features, like publication on portable devices (IOS and Android), or work in a collaborative environment.

After some trials with 3DVia Studio, we finally put all our effort to Unity. I will try to post one of my models, so in the meantime, you can have an really good example here.