Collaborative BIM in the cloud and the communication tools to support it

Process in the AEC industry is characterised by the distributed and temporary nature of project teams; discipline specific teams engage in a highly collaborative process with not yet fully standardised requirements for information exchange which often results in chaotic communication patterns. This collaborative process makes communication and coordination challenging and intensifies the need for sophisticated software tools. Efforts to address some of the UK construction industry’s problems have seen rapid acceleration of BIM adoption in recent years. The exchange of interoperable building information models across teams provides the opportunity for an improved communication paradigm, where the “structured model” rather than the “document” acts as the focal unit of communication. Since collaborators are geographically distributed, this communication type finds its natural environment in online collaboration platforms hosting building information models. Effective collaboration requires coordinated communication and communicated coordination. BIM can be expressed as the “language of construction” and requires structure and standardization even on the human communication level. The life-cycle approach will pose additional collaboration requirements. Integrated, intuitive communication tools for BIM should replace e-mail. A preliminary analysis of data from the usage of online collaboration software, including network graph representations, provides some insight into usage patterns and serves as a basis for similar analyses as more of project data becomes available. Improved results would come from a better designed analysis of more projects.