After attending Autodesk University in 2016, I noticed a growing trend in the building industry: Cloud applications that encourage collaboration. The ability to share information in a “live” environment online creates a virtual big room, where the entire design and construction team is expected to work together rather than working in disconnected silos at different phases of the project. Working in this fashion allows project information to be instantly passed between multiple firms including architects, engineers, and contractors. This workflow is changing the way project teams share information through building information models.
This information is known as the "I" in BIM and may be in the form of dimensions for spatial coordination, materials for visualization, or loads for engineering calculations. We live in exciting times.
What’s not working? Interoperability between firms.
When using Revit to collaborate, teams have the option to use Autodesk’s Collaboration for Revit (C4R) or ImaginIT’s Clarity to post their models in "the cloud" and work together in a live environment. This means that anyone on the project can view any team's Revit model live as it is being designed. The problem today is not the cloud applications themselves, it is the current method in which data is transferred between Revit models.
Shared parameters are the only way for team members to share data through Revit. Furthermore, when a large project team is comprised of several organizations who are not using the same exact parameters (with matching GUIDs), Revit inherently separates the data. More on this topic here: http://openrfa.org/blog/value-standardized-shared-parameters
At the very least, the ultimate goal of any Revit project should be to coordinate several models to represent a fully constructed building. Design coordination is typically the team's highest priority, but what about coordinating data as well? In order to achieve a single data set, we need the entire project team to speak the same language and the only way to accomplish combined data is to have the entire project team use the same shared parameter definitions.
Imagine a project consisting of several teams working on C4R. The project is running smoothly, models are all linked into one another on the same coordinates, and team members are communicating efficiently online.
The team is getting ready for a deliverable and the electrical engineer now needs to supply power to the mechanical engineer’s air handling units. Revit’s circuiting tools work great for the panel calculations, but now the electrical engineer needs to build a schedule of equipment connections. This should be an easy task since the electrical engineer already has a library of schedules that they have built internally which they use on all projects.
The electrical engineer inserts their firm’s standard Revit schedule, but lo and behold, the columns are empty. Where is the data that the mechanical engineer has so diligently input into their Revit families? Suddenly the engineer realizes that because shared parameters are unique per firm and they are now required to completely rebuild their schedule to accommodate the mechanical engineer’s data.
Fast forward a week when the same electrical engineer needs to add the plumbing engineer’s electric water heater to the same schedule. The plumbing engineer has yet another set of shared parameters developed internally by their firm. This means more work to map parameters and more work to rebuild the schedule.
In terms of data, the entire project team is not speaking the same language and this added workflow is happening on every project where teams are sharing data through Revit models.
Data Collaboration Using OpenRFA Parameters
OpenRFA is the first collaborative effort to build master shared parameters as a community. By using this single source of shared parameters, an entire project team can finally coordinate their models in regards to data within multiple Revit models. On this platform, any given user has the ability to create parameters on the fly and instantly share them with the rest of project team. Technically, they are sharing these parameters with the entire building industry.
OpenRFA parameters are not a standard developed by a centralized committee; they are an ongoing collaborative effort driven by the entire Revit community.
Ideally, all manufacturers, architects, engineers, and contractors should be using this set of parameters to ensure proper data transfer between parties. It is not going to be easy to convince large organizations to adopt a new set of parameters, especially if they already have a set of BIM standards in place. With this collaborative platform, we hope that some of the big players in our industry will lead others to bridge this gap in our current BIM practices.
Take a step back for a high-level overview at what we are building in Revit. Are we generating 3D models or are we entering data into a database? Your answer should be "yes" and "yes".
Your mission, if you choose to accept.
On your next cloud collaborated Revit project, I challenge you to implement a set of shared parameters from a single source. Push for the entire project team use the same parameters (with the same GUIDs). At minimum, mandate that any data that requires multi-trade coordination use a common set of shared parameters.
OpenRFA makes this workflow possible and your clients, consultants, trade partners, and future consumers of your models will thank you.