The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management is contributing to an industry-wide consortium tackling data exchange in the building industry through open source frameworks.
The AEC Delta Mobility project has received funding from Innovate UK under the competition Increase Productivity, Performance and Quality in UK Construction (proj. no. 104799), and runs from February 2019 to July 2020.
At the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, the AEC Delta Mobility project is investigated by Dr Eleni Papadonikolaki, Principal Investigator and Lecturer in Building Information Modelling (BIM), Dimitrie Stefanescu, Co-Investigator and initiator of the open-source platform Speckle, and Paul Poinet, Research Fellow in web-based collaboration in construction.
With a £1m grant, the AEC Delta Mobility projects aims to improve productivity, performance and quality in the construction industry. The consortium sets out to address two industrial issues:
- to help engage manufacturers in the early design stages resulting in the increased pre-manufactured value of build assets across the construction sector, and
- to increase the productivity of construction projects by over 15%.
Even though open standards such as the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) or the BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) paved the way for collaboration, they are neither suitable for manufacturing nor scalable for large architectural and infrastructure projects. To address such shortcomings, the consortium proposes a novel open source micro-services web framework that will enable the industry to exchange individual object-level changes across various applications regardless of the underlying data format.
Instead of exporting a whole file, the aim is to stream individual design changes (a.k.a. deltas) to whichever application is conformant with our newly proposed AEC Delta Mobility specification. The project aims to deliver open specifications and an open source reference implementation to streamline the design processes for manufacturing, reduce delays and thus directly increase productivity on a wide variety of projects.
As a result of this new standard, users will be able to live-stream individual changes with collaborators." - Dr Al Fisher, BuroHappold Engineering
AEC Delta Mobility will aim to iron out the data exchange processes at the earliest possible stages of the design phase by streamlining the data workflow so that everyone involved, from consultants to manufacturers, can access the same common data with consistent versions of the truth. Success will be measured through adoption, trial testing, dissemination and standardisation to ensure positive impacts and longevity. The project plans to impact the AEC industry on five different levels:
1. Improve current processes
On average, a single design file is exported and reimported at least three times a week over a period of design coordination which would typically last no less than 25 weeks (assuming an average 45 minutes file processing = 112.5 hours of waiting time per designer). At an average cost of £200/h and 20 such designers this equates to £450,000 being wasted. Reducing this waste on a £3m design results in 15% process improvements. Nevertheless, not included are further reductions in errors and omissions which normally lead to yet more delays, incomplete installations, knock-on effects, etc. Thus, the potential process and cost improvements are enormous, and this is where AEC Delta Mobility plans to make its main impact.
2. Early supply chain engagement
Early information exchange between designers and manufacturers will lead to material reduction and multi-optimisation since more design iterations are possible during the same time period. Therefore, this will lead to higher construction product quality due to more effective and efficient collaboration, environmental impact reduction due to improved operational efficiencies and reduced carbon emissions.
3. Wider economic benefits
By simplifying data access, the proposed framework will reduce overheads associated with fabrication that often prevent its application due to higher costs of unnecessary overheads. This cost saving will provide direct benefits to the designers as well as contractors resulting in faster project delivery, reduction of risk and overall reduction of cost to the client.
4. Social impact
This project has the ability to promote increased operational reliability via cloud-based data access and visualisation, and improved decision making since information will be available to all relevant project stakeholders without the need for specialist tools. This is because the result of the proposed solution and platform will be a web-based data delivery system. This platform can also provide information and progress reports to the wider public in an interactive way which would certainly improve public relations.
5. General public
This project will have a strong outreach component towards the general public, including a project web presence on the project partner’s respective websites, and regular social media updates. The project’s investigators will use their network of professional connections abroad to promote the work around the world and disseminate the research through targeted key conferences. The research project will also outreach more specifically industry-based end-users who perform on a daily basis complex modelling tasks within wide collaborative workflows involving external stakeholders.
- Poinet, P., M. Tamke, M. Ramsgaard Thomsen, F. Scheurer, and A. Fisher (2018) Schema-Based Workflows and Inter-Scalar Search Interfaces for Building Design. In eWork and eBusiness in Architecture, Engineering and Construction: Proceedings of the 11th European Conference on Product and Process Modelling (ECPPM 2018).
- Doboš, J., C. Fan, P. Knapo, C. Wong (2018) Applications of Web3D Technology in Architecture, Engineering and Construction. In Web3D 2018: The 23rd International ACM Conference on 3D Web Technology.
- UCL, United Kingdom (Lead Research Organisation, Project Partner)
- BuroHappold Engineering, United Kingdom (Project Lead and Partner)
- 3D Repo, United Kingdom (Project Lead and Partner)
- Speckle Works, Open Source – MIT License (Project Partner)
- Arup Group Ltd, United Kingdom (Collaboration)
- Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group, United Kingdom (Collaboration)
- Atkins (SNC Lavalin), United Kingdom (Collaboration)
- HOK, United Kingdom (Collaboration)