Social BIM: co-creation with shared situational awareness

A common data environment (CDE) is a specific requirement for Level 2 BIM in the UK in accordance with BS1192-2007 and PAS1192-2 standards. It is a central repository of BIM data and examples include 4BIM and Autodesk 360. These repositories have some disadvantages:(i) it is after synchronisation or file upload that changes between local and cloud versions of BIM models can be appreciated by remote teams; (ii) there is a cost associated with subscribing to these servers, which could marginalise SMEs wanting to adopt BIM; and (iii) during the design phase, these systems do not permit real-time co-creation capabilities or audio- visual consensus amongst designers. So although these repositories are helpful technologies, it is people who collaborate (not systems) and in the design phase, audio-visual feedback and consensus can augment the collaboration experience and outcomes. With socio-technical input, the quality of BIM data/models generated by team members can be enhanced (and clashes minimised) if visual isolation is eliminated. This research presents a framework and proof-of-concept which redefines Social BIM (SBIM) as a socio- technical mode of BIM that enriches the co-creation process for Levels 2 and 3 BIM. It enables ‘shared situational awareness’ by empowering remote participants with visual and remote control of BIM models using GoToMeeting as a ‘groupware’. The BIM data was hosted by surrogate servers linked to cloud-based storage. A quasi-experiment through a desktop sharing and communication system enabled 14 globally dispersed participants to control the graphical user interface (GUI) of a host PC in the UK running Autodesk Revit. Four audio-visual collaboration protocols were developed and three were tested. Participants interacted via the host PC remotely using computers (which acted as nomadic servers) and with mobile devices. Remote desktop/laptop users had unlimited control of the data in host PC, while real-time audio-visual communication improved the collaboration and co-creation of 3D BIM models. The experience of participants in editing BIM models was a function of internet bandwidth, hardware and operating systems. Unitary optimisation of modelling efforts/outcomes was possible on shared/coordination models. Divisible optimisation of industry-specific tasks (i.e. architectural, engineering and management) by participants was enhanced by feedback which was either on-demand (requested) or just-in-time (spontaneous).