Issue link: http://digital.canadawide.com/i/549108
august 2015 | 51 software for aEC advanced software technologies increase efficiencies and help avoid costly mistakes by Stefan duBowSki I f you're going to start something, start right. That's how the leaders of Entuitive, a new structural engineering firm, found the best technology for their fledgling company. When planning to launch the business four years ago, the executives decided collaboration would play an important role in the firm's operations. "We have a one-company philosophy," says Ian Trudeau, Entuitive's advanced technology and research group co-leader. "We put the best people on projects regardless of where they're based." To support the one-company approach, Entuitive bought Panzura, an infor- mation-sharing system that combines data storage and the cloud. Cloud technol- ogy allows applications and information to be accessed via the web. At Entuitive, employees save their work – drawings, renderings and other information – on Panzura hardware installed at their local office. The hardware then automatically links to the Panzura boxes at Entuitive's other offices and copies the information there. Panzura also saves the data in a cloud-based drive. The technology enables Entuitive's team members to instantly share the latest information. Users can collaborate in real time from different offices as if they were working on the same local server. The technology works especially well with the firm's BIM and CAD data, Trudeau says. Clearly, technology plays a crucial role in Entuitive's operations, but the company isn't alone. Across Canada, all sorts of businesses in the building sector use advanced software and hardware to reduce costs and work more quickly. S H A R I N G R E S O U R C E S Panzura is just one example of the types of cloud systems businesses are deploying, says Michael Rotolo, industry sales representative at SolidCAD Solutions, the com- pany that installed Panzura for Entuitive. Other options include Autodesk A360 Team, which provides online storage for drawings, change notices and other proj- ect data, and Autodesk A360 Collaboration for Revit, which lets Revit users send their latest building information models to team members without leaving the Revit interface. Companies on the Terminal 3 renovation project at Toronto Pearson International Airport are using a cloud-based system to share data. Matched with Blue Beam markup software, Inktronic Technology's platform lets the architect, the general con- tractor and other decision makers consolidate and instantly update markups manu- ally via pen and paper, and digitally with computers, tablets and touchscreen devices. Inktronic president Andy Chiodo says the Greater Toronto Airports Authority project managers who oversee the renovation expect the technology will help the organization avoid common miscommunications that too often lead to costly con- struction mistakes. He believes more owners will insist that architects, engineers and construction companies use this kind of technology. C L O U D S F I N A L LY F O R M I N G A few years ago, companies seemed reluctant to use such cloud-based software for collaboration. Building firms were worried that by saving their work online and using web-based software, they would open the door to hackers intent on stealing confidential corporate data. But lately, many businesses have changed their point of view, recognizing that cloud systems are usually very secure. Just ask Gabe Authier. He's the cloud product manager at Viewpoint Construction Software, which makes Vista by Viewpoint, a construction business software suite for collaboration, project management and other applications, all available by cloud. As Authier notes, Viewpoint's cloud service resides in a data centre certified as Tier 4, one of the top levels for security. "That means we can provide better security than most companies can on their own," he says. Cloud service providers also employ dedicated network monitoring teams to ensure that the infrastructure stays online, all the time. And cloud systems are designed for reliability. If a data centre server fails, another server takes over, so cloud software users can always access their data and applications. L A S E R V I S I O N The cloud isn't the only new technology for the building sec- tor. Companies are also increas- ingly using laser scanning to help them work quickly and measure accurately. Tim Daily, manager at laser scanning firm Aero Geomatics, says light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology simplifies measurement. "Let's say you're building a new high-rise and the floors have rebar," he explains. "Before you apply the concrete, you can scan the rebar with a laser. Now you know where not to drill." LIDAR does away with mis- sed measurements, incorrect dimensions and other mistakes. And the technology is especially flexible. "It can measure curves and weird angles that are diffi- cult to do by hand," Daily says. "If you really want as-built, this is the future." What if you need to print a colour copy of a LIDAR scan? Hewlett-Packard has a cost-effective answer. The company recently launched its HP PageWide XL wide-format printers, suited for architects, engineers and construction companies. The devices produce both colour and black and white images with new PageWide technology – a cost-saver for busi- nesses that require both kinds. The PageWide portfolio includes four printers from the XL 4000 for small work teams and copy shops to the XL 8000, offering high- volume production printing. "The biggest trend we see in wide-format technical printing is the demand for colour," says Jamie Sirois, AMS DesignJet technical production segment manager, large-format design at HP. "In the past, most CAD line drawings were printed on monochrome LED devices. But as the architecture, engineering and construction community has shifted to BIM [building information modelling] and powerful 3D design software, end-users are demanding that their drawings be printed in colour," so the models are easier to analyze. Sometimes the construction industry is accused of being slow to implement new technologies. But that might be changing. Engineers, architects, contractors and others benefit from new technologies provided by companies such as SolidCAD, Viewpoint, Inktronic, Aero Geomatics and HP. As these technologies evolve, com- panies will increasingly turn to them to improve business processes, reduce costs and produce innovative solutions for clients. A The Sky's The Limit LIDAR technology from Aero Geomatics. Inktronic Technology's cloud-based platform.