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BIM collaboration: how BIM helps a project from concept to operations

How BIM collaboration is key and can help you achieving improved construction outcomes from planning to execution, maintenance and dismantling

Adopting BIM means establishing a continuous flow of information, as with BIM, information is collected digitally to be available when it is needed, wherever it is needed, during every phase of the building process. If you have landed on this page, perhaps you’re collaborating with your team on integrated design of a building or infrastructure or managing an asset and need to share files, documents and information or view a project carried out with a different application.

In this article, I will make an overview of how BIM collaboration tools can optimize collaborative work with your project team members, even from remote.

Specifically, I will focus on usBIM, the integrated BIM collaboration system for the digital management of constructions.

how BIM helps a project from concept to operations


The benefits of BIM collaboration

Without forgetting the numerous advantages that a BIM collaboration process can bring to your way of working, it is important to point out that there are important challenges to be faced regarding the many disciplines that comprise construction companies and how this sector is characterised by a strong multidisciplinary approach where different skills and know-hows are required.

Whereas well-structured workflows and collaborative working bring significant project benefits, on the contrary, insufficient information exchange and poor communication will lead to:

  • work delivery delays
  • higher than expected costs
  • unforeseen events poor management
  • final results that are not optimised in relation to the resources invested.

In relation to these issues, the adoption of collaboration-based BIM (Building Information Modeling) processes has represented a considerable leap in terms of quality.

In fact, BIM is based on multidisciplinary collaboration processes, defined standards, open workflows and model-centred communication.

Communication is at the heart of collaboration and must be supported and facilitated by IT systems that ensure seamless data exchange and maximum accessibility to information and documents by all subjects involved.

Thanks to the multidisciplinary approach of BIM, it is possible to manage all data and information related to the different project aspects with a single model.

Unlike the difficulties of multidisciplinary interaction, a BIM collaborative approach offers clear advantages such as:

  • possibility for each professional to use the best software solutions for their specific discipline without any risk of incompatibility or loss of data
  • workflows integration
  • reduction of errors caused by lack of coordination and updating
  • complete accessibility to data contained in the BIM model throughout the project’s lifecycle
  • process planning
  • outcomes quality control
  • interference detection and management
  • information sharing, verification, review and validation..

What is BIM Collaboration Format (BCF)?

As mentioned above, coomunication in a BIM collaboration process is based on 3D models. Consequently, it is fundamental to use an open file format to share both models and relating information.

The BCF (BIM Collaboration Format) was created with this in mind.

Developed in 2009 and maintained by buildingSMART International, it aims to simplify communication and the exchange of information between professionals collaborating on the same BIM model.

It is an open file format that allows comments, notes, reports and images to be added to a BIM model in IFC format. Everything is managed through a BCF viewer that keeps track of who and when added a note and comment during the design and construction phase. It is, therefore, an interchange format not used to communicate geometrical information, but of a graphical/descriptive nature that can illustrate and facilitate the problems to be solved, bypassing proprietary formats and workflows.

Its structure consists of:

  • model views, captured in .PNG format (image file)
  • coordinates expressing the shooting point of view  within an IFC file
  • comments relating to certain entities, referenced with respect to model elements.

Comments are in fact linked to the model elements by means of unique global IDs (GUIDs) in order to precisely locate issues within the project.

how BIM helps a project from concept to operations

BIM Collaboration Format

There are many use cases that can benefit from BCF-enabled workflows and these cases include several phases:

  • design phase
    • BIM quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC)
    • identification of design coordination issues (i.e., interferences detection)
    • annotation of different design solutions
    • bid coordination clarifications
    • information on costs and suppliers
  • construction phase
    • quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) records of installations
    • monitoring availability of items/materials and coordination of changes
    • collection of last-minute information for delivery to the owner
  • operational phase
    • annotating delivery templates and elements as changes are applied to the facility
    • notes from owners on necessary updates.

usBIM.bcf, the application to manage BCF format files

If you are looking for an application to manage BCF files, I suggest you to use usBIM.bcf, the usBIM application to manage online files in BCF format, facilitate collaboration and solve issues during BIM design.

You can operate according to two different workflows:

  • create a BCF from scratch and export the file in the .BCFZIP format
  • view or edit a file with a .BCFZIP extension generated by a different application.

Like other usBIM applications, usBIM.bcf works online and is integrated in cloud to be able to use it anytime and anywhere, with any device without having to install additional software.

In practice, with the BIM coordination software usBIM.bcf:

  • improve communication between the different subjects working on a project by allowing them to raise issues/observations and send messages, comments and links in one environment without the need for emails, images, spreadsheets etc.
  • keep track of reviews made to issues generated with all clash detection and model checking software through a “history” of comments, notes and images
  • manage, report, assign and resolve co-working project interferences/issues
  • speed up the review process by identifying and resolving critical issues in real time before construction.

BIM collaboration platform and tools

Collaboration between professionals is definitely the key to achieving good levels of competitiveness and quality results.

The construction sector is often very challenging and complex. Interdisciplinarity is definitely the best solution to tackle every aspect of design with the right expertise and professionalism, although we are often unprepared when dealing with new ways of working and new technologies.

In reality, it’s just a matter of using the right tools.

Specifically, a BIM collaboration platform provides a number of functionalities and technical requirements, such as:

  • mobility – accessibility from mobile devices and desktop applications, as well as from browser
  • simplicity – use of intuitive interface and optimised interactions
  • data access – easy access to documents, data synchronisation and sharing
  • collaboration – create working environments for editing team documents and activities tracking
  • content management – classify metadata, simplify search tools
  • workflow management – creating processes to describe file actions, activity notifications and user permission management
  • data security and protection – in relation to connected devices, documents in transit and stored documents
  • integration – compatibility with software and design tools
  • data storage – cloud space for storing and exchanging documents, accessible by all users and with any device.

These requirements will impact the productivity levels of the design team bringing the following benefits:

  • dynamic information coordination
  • data and information availability over time
  • processes information transparency
  • automated management of project revisions (versioning) and data updates
  • reduction of redundancy and risks associated with data duplication
  • optimisation of communication between the subjects involved.

Among the various BIM collaboration platforms and tools available on the market, I will now focus on usBIM.

With usBIM you can take advantage of a free, online and above all easy-to-use application that allows you to manage all the aspects of a BIM process.

usBIM: the integrated collaboration system

usBIM.bcf, is one of the applications integrated in the usBIM ecosystem for managing a BCF file. Let’s have a look at other functionalities and free applications within usBIM.

usBIM: the integrated collaboration system

The usBIM integrated system applications

When using usBIM, you have an all-in-one solution for all your BIM collaboration needs to:

  • view and collaborate from remote with your colleagues on the same digital models and documents
  • manage and share BIM projects online in different proprietary formats, files (PDF, DWG, DXF, etc.), data, documents and 2D/3D construction drawings (360° panoramic photos, textured meshes, point clouds, etc)
  • share data in cloud and access them from anywhere
  • produce cost estimates directly online and collaboratively
  • you can access a BIM document management solution to edit and manage your documents collaboratively and in real time
  • create chats and discussion groups on specific projects and tasks
  • arrange online meetings and conference calls without leaving usBIM and participate in dynamic chats with advanced team working features.

You have a wide range of free applications (and many others available by subscription) with which you can manage every aspect of a construction project lifecycle, from conception to dismantling and beyond:

  • usBIM.browser – to view and manage BIM models, documents and data online, with any device, at maximum speed and without size limits
  • usBIM.pointcloud – to view, federate, manage and share point clouds online and in real time
  • usBIM.federation – to manage federations of BIM models (buildings and infrastructures) and large point clouds with maximum power and speed
  • usBIM.chat – the messaging application for communicating with your team and sharing files, models, data and the integrated usBIM system applications without having to transfer file copies
  • usBIM.meet – the video meeting and desktop sharing application to collaborate with your team and share data and applications without leaving usBIM
  • usBIM.gis – the GIS cloud service for creating GIS thematic maps integrated with BIM models
  • usBIM.bcf -to manage BCF files, simplify collaboration and solve critical issues during BIM design
  • usBIM.writer – the word processor for writing and sharing minutes, reports, notes and all BIM project documents directly from the browser, without needing additional software and with any device
  • usBIM.office – for viewing, creating and editing Microsoft Office® documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) directly online
  • usBIM.media – play videos and multimedia content in usBIM, directly from your browser
  • PriMus on-line – to generate online cost estimates and work collaboratively on the same document, from anywhere and with any device.