From pre-design all the way up through construction management, the importance of collaboration in the architecture industry is paramount. Building projects tend to involve numerous stakeholders with a wide variety of differing backgrounds and knowledge levels. That means collaboration and communication are important in making sure that everyone is on the same page as often as possible.
Here are our top recommendations for software you and your team can use to improve collaborative workflows, from creative design tools to messaging and communication platforms:
First, we’ll look at 5 tools that can help your team collaborate using BIM (building information modeling) software.
BIM Track is a collaborative issue tracking platform that connects with the BIM software that architecture teams already use everyday.
Issues that you can track in the software include questions, comments, clashes, RFIs (requests for information), and more. In addition to the issue itself, the program enables you to provide essential information to resolve it – such as who will resolve the issue or when it needs to be resolved by. BIM Track also offers real-time notifications to keep teams in the loop.
As the platform is cloud-based and connects multiple platforms, BIM Track is useful for helping teams stay in close communication, no matter where team members and other stakeholders may be located. It even works for stakeholders who don’t have or need to use BIM or CAD.
BIM Track connects with various relevant platforms, such as Revit, Navisworks, and AutoCAD.
Trimble Connect is an open collaboration tool for AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) that aims to connect “the right people to the right data at the right time.” It does so by enabling project stakeholders to share, review, and comment on data-rich building models in real time.
At the same time, Trimble Connect provides a single source of truth for data (such as construction documents) for AEC teams. In an era where your team may be distributed across various locations that aren’t physically close to the site of a building itself, this is key. When construction documents aren’t consistently updated and/or disseminated improperly, misinterpretation and rework are common.
The software also connects with in-house and third party authoring tools to collect, analyze, and interact with multidimensional drawings and models without opening multiple applications.
BIMcollab is an issue management platform based on the cloud. Accessible from various kinds of devices (including mobile), the platform was built to help teams save time, reduce rework, and create better BIM models through integrated model validation and issue tracking.
BIMcollab is divided into two tools: BIMcollab Cloud and BIMcollab ZOOM.
BIMcollab Cloud helps stakeholders communicate issues to each other from a single cloud-based platform. Built on the industry-standard IFC and BCF open standards, issues can be ones that pop up during the design phase, regulatory issues, and even issues that arise during construction. Issues on BIMcollab Cloud are data-rich, enabling strong communication during remote meetings.
BIMcollab ZOOM, on the other hand, focuses on model validation and clash detection. It brings IFC model viewing into the issue management workflow itself; this makes it useful in design review meetings.
In general, BIMcollab software offers a structured way of storing, sharing, and solving issues (including history tracking) for any building development project that involves BIM. It connects with the tools architecture firms are using today, including Revit, ArchiCAD, and more.
BIM Collaborate Pro is a cloud-based design collaboration and coordination software by Autodesk. It’s intended to help teams execute on design intent by delivering high-quality constructible models from a centralized platform.
Formerly known as BIM 360 Design, the software allows live, real-time co-authorship of BIM models in the cloud (this includes Revit Cloud Worksharing, Collaboration for Civil 3D and Collaboration for Plant 3D).
By improving the creation, storage, and sharing of models and documents, BIM Collaborate Pro aims to help teams reduce rework, RFIs, and change orders.
Revizto is an issue tracking platform that’s intended to connect architecture teams with collaborators throughout the project lifecycle. It provides access to a project’s data from both 2D and 3D workflows, allowing various stakeholders with different disciplinary expertise to utilize it.
Revizto helps architectural teams perform design review, drawing checks, coordination, and model QA exercises. By leveraging a centralized, collaborative platform like Revizto, architects look to minimize inaccurate information exchanges, eliminate manual reports, and cut down on the possibility of human error.
The software also offers a VR mode, and integrates with relevant programs including ArchiCAD, AutoCAD, Navisworks, Revit, and BIM360.
The era of remote work has shown us that it’s important to look beyond industry-specific tools (e.g. BIM collaboration tools) to more general management and business productivity software when building a collaborative software workflow for your team.
Here are 4 of our favorite management and business productivity tools for architectural firms – as well as for our own team here at The Wild:
Miro is an online 2D collaborative whiteboard platform for distributed teams. It lets users ideate and brainstorm on an infinitely zoomable web canvas, mimicking and even improving upon the in-person “whiteboarding” process that many teams know and love.
Miro offers tools for remote meetings and workshops, having recently launched a new video feature to have live conversations “inside” a whiteboard. For mapping and diagramming workflows, Miro has become the standard in a wide variety of industries.
As Kyle Chipman of Chipman Design Architecture attests to in this post on Miro’s blog, architectural firms can benefit greatly from adopting a whiteboarding tool like Miro.
“Whenever a new client or account kicks off, one of the first steps I take with both leadership and project managers is to map out the basic platform infrastructure and workflow,” Kyle explains. “Before Miro, these sessions would be scattershot, based only on the past work experience of the people in the room. Whole swaths of workflow could be omitted if none of the players had dealt with it before.”
Asana is a web-based teamwork management platform that’s become popular across a wide range of industries. It gives teams the tools they need to visualize the necessary steps to achieve goals, whether they’re internal or client-driven.
The platform offers various views for different collaborative styles, including Kanban, Agile, Calendar, and so on. No matter what views you choose to utilize, the core power of the tool is that it helps you assign the necessary people to projects to get tasks in the right hands, track the progress of a project, and attach necessary materials to projects.
Asana is currently being used by many teams across the architectural industry, such as Marketlink AEC.
“We at Marketlink love using [Asana] for our clients because we can fully visualize all necessary steps to getting to our end goal,” the Marketlink team explains in this blog post. “With color-coded priority levels, a visual timeline, calendar, and an integrated Kanban task progress field, everyone will always be on the same page.”
Jira is an issue and project tracking software developed by Atlassian. Optimized for agile workflows, the web-based software helps teams plan, track, and report on projects.
As detailed in this blog post hosted by Autodesk Forge, AEC teams can utilize Jira to organize projects on the issue level.
European architecture and engineering consulting firm Sweco links Jira to Navisworks using Forge APIs, enabling them to track project development within Jira. This solution lets the team access Jira issues that display within the context of the 3D project model, while filtering issues by location within the model to speed reviews and issue resolution.
According to Sweco, the firm has been able to save as much as 150 hours per week across the project team thanks to cloud-based visibility into project models and data.
Slack is a popular platform for teamwork and communication with many integrations and use cases. Its core functionality is as a messaging platform – almost like an iMessage or Facebook Messenger aimed at professional communication.
Slack offers channels within organizations for keeping communications separated and organized; for example, an architectural firm could create a dedicated channel for communications around each specific building project that they’re working on. The software also allows teams to connect with collaborators outside of the organization, such as external project stakeholders, clients, or freelancers.
The AEC industry is utilizing Slack with increasing frequency, especially in the era of distributed teams. SMPS Boston recommends the software as a key tool for remote work in this blog post.
One feature of Slack that the SMPS team has found especially useful is screen-sharing.
“If you are collaborating on a project and need to review documents, plans, photos, websites, or really anything online, together, you can click the screen share icon and your colleagues will be able to see whatever is on your monitor screen,” says Vanessa Schaefer of SMPS in the blog post. “At our studio, we use this regularly to brainstorm design ideas and work through UI/UX solutions.”
VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) software tools are increasingly being used by architectural firms because they provide the top tier of collaboration and communication. VR makes it possible for you and your collaborators to literally visualize projects in a shared, 3D space. It’s the closest you can get to stepping into a project before it’s built.
Here are 2 of the top VR tools for AEC collaboration:
The Wild is a VR/AR collaboration platform for AEC teams. The software enables architectural firms to meet with colleagues and stakeholders in real-time, from anywhere, to present, review, and collaborate on projects.
The Wild offers various features to further heighten the productivity of VR-based collaboration, including the ability to annotate objects with speech-to-text comments and native, inspectable object BIM data. It also provides users with powerful, three-dimensional sketching tools to express ideas spatially.
All in all, The Wild is a strong platform for architectural firms looking to communicate design intent in three dimensions – whether you’re looking to collaborate with teammates or ideate with external stakeholders and clients.
The Wild integrates with each of the top BIM programs architectural firms are already using – such as Revit, SketchUp, and BIM 360 – making it easy to integrate VR into pre-existing design workflows.
Prospect is a VR platform for BIM coordination and issue tracking developed by IrisVR. Built to handle the complexities of engineering and construction, Prospect allows teams to bring complex BIM to VR.
With Prospect, teams can catch costly coordination issues early and often, avoiding any degree of rework by testing and iterating on spaces in three dimensions before construction.
Prospect imports native BIM data and automatically optimizes BIM geometry for VR, so that teams can be sure they’re getting an accurate picture of even the most complex BIM models. The software even integrates with programs like Navisworks and Plant 3D for projects in infrastructure, oil & gas, and other enterprise industries.
Today, software collaboration tools are more important than ever as they may be the primary way teams communicate.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become the standard for companies in every industry, with over 1 in 4 Americans continuing to work remotely today. Architecture is no different; today, in-person collaboration sessions can be few and far between for many building projects.