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A solution to conventional BIM workflows

By Don Strimbu, Head of Communications, Bricsys nv

Bricsys® was founded in Ghent, Belgium with a focus on building cost-effective, modern and innovative Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools. We work to help our customers achieve more, in less time, for less money. Bricsys became a part of Hexagon AB in late 2018.

The ideas behind today’s BricsCAD® BIM product existed in the mind of our founder Erik De Keyser for many years. His prior company, BRICS, was founded in 1986 to develop one of the first BIM software products – a product that was later known as Microstation Triforma. From its start in 2002, Bricsys worked to develop and deliver (the product formerly known as Vondle in 2004) — now called Bricsys® 24/7, our SaaS Common Data Environment. The 24/7 product is widely used in the Benelux region of Europe for document sharing and construction workflow management.

BricsCAD® V1 was released in 2005, and two years later we offered an AutoCAD® ARX compatible Application Programming Interface (API). Today, there are over 1,500 commercial applications developed on BRX, many of which are available on the Bricsys App Store. The development team refactored BricsCAD for re-release on the Open Design Alliance (ODA) Drawings (a.k.a. “Teigha”) platform in 2010. Today, as one of the most active ODA members, we share our expertise with the ODA to help strengthen the power of the consortium.

As an architect and the leader of a CAD software company, Erik knew that the industry-standard BIM workflow was bulky and complex. He had a vision for a simple yet robust BIM workflow that would enable architects to focus on design first. It needed to be based on industry standards like DWG, XREF, and IFC. It needed to be CAD accurate so that building products could be designed, detailed and manufactured in the same workflow. Most of all, it needed to work from concept through construction with a continuous Level Of Detail (LOD) across all stages of the process.

We believe that conventional BIM workflows are “broken”. Conceptual design is done in one set of tools, based on faceted modeling technologies, but when detailed design work begins, a BIM technician rebuilds the BIM model — from scratch. This broken workflow introduces the opportunity for misinterpretation of the architect’s intent, and adds a lot of extra work. Also, many of today’s BIM systems do not support double-precision, floating-point math in their databases — they are not “CAD accurate”. A large percentage of building products are manufactured - for example, doors, windows and hardware components. Double-precision data is required to drive computerized machine tools. The lack of CAD-accuracy in the BIM workflow forces these custom components to be designed and detailed separately, in bespoke mechanical design products.

Bricsys is challenging the BIM status quo by offering a product that starts in CAD-accurate 3D and stays in 3D throughout the design and detailing workflow. It does this by leveraging a solid modeling foundation that comes from our BricsCAD core product. You can begin design explorations in a solid massing model with the ability to freely push, pull, move, and rotate model faces & edges. BricsCAD BIM also allows architects to start with a 3D floorplan that can be modified interactively.

The ability to stay at a low LOD early in the process lets designers’ minds run freely. There’s no need to think about classifying building elements until the conceptual design is completed. When it’s time to turn the concept model into a BIM, we leverage the power of machine learning. Our auto-classifier is called BIMIFY. It detects and names building elements in the solid geometry. BIMIFY can convert a tedious task — classifying building elements — into a single click.

BIMIFY can take a design from LOD 100 to LOD 200 automatically, which is very powerful. Perhaps even more important is the fact that our machine learning tools (a.k.a. “A.I.”) operate across the entire model, raising level of detail in a continuous manner. And BIMIFY is just the first tool in the suite of A.I. features inside of BricsCAD BIM.

Once the building elements in the model are classified, information in the form of compositions and materials are added to walls, roofs and floors. Think for a moment about a timber-framed structure with gypsum-board interior cladding. While the process of adding compositions to a model is a drag-and-drop operation, individual plies in the wall need to be adjusted at corner junctures, at the ceiling and the floor, across the entire model.

Here’s an issue with conventional BIM workflows: BIM technicians often take shortcuts in making these adjustments, favouring certain areas in the model where detail drawings will be extracted. This saves time, of course, but it does not create consistency in level of detail. Why is this important if nobody will ever see a drawing made from that area of the BIM? It’s important because dis-continuous LOD does not allow quantity takeoffs and schedules to reflect the actual material quantities in the model.

And that’s disheartening, because one of the key promises of BIM is the delivery of accurate building information.

We tackle this behaviour with a powerful toolset called “PROPAGATE”. A ply adjustment to one wall section can be replicated across the entire BIM with a high level of automation. “PROPAGATE” can also replicate high LOD components across a structural framing model, or automatically drive a coping profile around the parapet of a building. Each of these “PROPAGATE” operations makes the model smarter and helps downstream users to leverage the “I” in BIM. And continuous LOD helps make better drawings and more accurate schedules.

We benchmark success by measuring the success of our current clients — architects, designers, engineers and construction professionals — and leveraging their input to improve our tools, workflows and products. Of course, we’re a business and an ongoing concern, so we can’t help but get excited over our incredible year-over-year growth numbers for both BricsCAD and BricsCAD BIM. We get great validation when our current customers recommend our products to their peers. We’re in a great space right now. The feedback from our users validates our work for the last three decades.

Prior to our acquisition by Hexagon, we had solid success in Europe and regions of Asia. Now, with the reach of Hexagon on our side, we’re telling our story to a hundred times more people each day. That’s a solid recipe for growth, and we’re excited to take advantage of it.

Being a part of Hexagon has created many synergies for us and for our sister companies. We have identified several Hexagon businesses that want to leverage the BRX APIs in BricsCAD & BricsCAD BIM to re-factor or modernize their own products. We have found kindred spirits at Leica Geosystems: we’re working on a future scan-to-BIM workflow with them and the global architecture firm HOK. And there are many more opportunities in the pipeline that can help us transform our go-to-market and help build Hexagon as a key industry player in AEC. Hexagon PPM is a leader in the plant & process design automation space. Bringing automation to the AECOO industry via a modern BIM workflow is a logical next step for us.

In terms of revenue growth, it’s been a catalyst for re-investment in the business. We’re leveraging these investments to build out development, training, support and sales organizations inside Bricsys. And probably most importantly, we have the capital to fully realize Erik’s vision of a next-generation BIM product that can change the way structures are designed, built, and maintained.

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