Decisions taken during the conception phases in huge architectural projects influence a lot the cost and the schedule of the building construction. To ease this decision-making, many mock-ups have been used as a project prototype. This prototyping is useful to test and to improve the conception of projects. Nowadays, collaborative sites that appear on the Web greatly improve the flexibility of the framework’s actors of a distant project [Aliakseyeu, Martens, Subramanian, Vrouble, & Wesselink, 2001; Balaguer & DeGennaro, 1996; Klinker, Dutoit, Bauer, Bayes, Novak, & Matzke, 2002). Digital mock-ups are used to represent future 3D elements of the final product. Digital mock-ups are known to be often employed in the architectural field. Indeed, the visualization of the future buildings in 3D by architects and engineers is a way to facilitate the testing of the choices, the scheduling of costs and processes, and the completion dates. In the architectural field, all types of activities have developed tools for special prototyping: structural analysis, thermal and fluidic networks, and so forth. Unfortunately, this development is completely chaotic. Sometimes existing tools in the same type of activity cannot exchange information. Moreover, information stored by tools is in most cases bound by a set of files that contain only geometrical descriptions of the building. Not every actor of a project has necessarily the same knowledge as the other actors to understand and to interpret information. Thus, the collaboration between the actors as well as the data interoperability seems to be difficult to evolve without a new kind of tool. The following section presents two examples of platforms using digital mock-ups to handle conception data. The section “Collaborative Web Platform” focuses on our solution through the presentation of the Active3D collaborative platform. The section “Interoperability Demonstration” presents the Active3D platform as a central point of collaboration with the help of use-cases examples. The last section concludes on the work being undertaken.
The collaborative work between distant actors on the same project improves the conception of a prototype by reducing the time between each update. A lot of CAD software packages were modified to allow virtual prototyping, but this was done independently of specific project requirements. Unfortunately, most of these solutions do not join together the essential capabilities of interaction and collaboration for the completion of an engineer project. To avoid this problem many projects were suggested. The project Cavalcade (Cavalcade, n.d.) is based on a distributed architecture, allowing several distant teams to collaborate on a conception, to test, to validate, and to exchange documents. Cavalcade provides a visual system of 3D visualization. Contrary to classical ideas on simulation tools, the virtual representation of a prototype concerns only the visual aspect of attributes of which the objects of the building are composed. These attributes are functions like “is a part of a subsystem” and documents like technical files or Web links. The 3D model becomes then a visual interface of information requests. Cavalcade aims to manage conception data. To exchange the models created with the help of CAD software, the developers of this software use specific format files for their requirements. The set of files that forms the conception of the project constitutes the digital mock-up. The 3D model of the conception object is generally integrated in this mock-up and a set of information allows management of the project by itself.
In addition, the organization of the engineering and design department must be reconsidered. To facilitate the pooling of data, a digital mock-up should be installed. The conception work is then immediately possible from the mock-up. Access to the last updated data avoids expensive errors related to the use of data not up to date. The sharing of conception data is obviously a requirement in order to accelerate the conception cycle. Several problems must be taken into account in the conception of a 3D collaborative platform.
Key Terms in this Chapter
IAI: The International Alliance for Interoperability founded in 1995 is an organization representing widely diverse constituencies from architects to software companies and building product manufacturers. The members promote effective means of exchanging information among all software platforms and applications serving the AEC+FM community by adopting a single Building Information Model (BIM).
ISO: “International Organization for Standardization” is a network of the national standards institutes of 148 countries, on the basis of one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a non-governmental organization. http://www.iso.org
Building Lifecycle: The lifecycle of a building is articulated in two parts. The first part is about the construction into a civil engineering project. The second part concerns the “use of the building” which deals with facilities management. Currently, these two parts are dissociated in the building management processes. The Teams which are concerned with the processes facilities management are rarely those who have participated in the construction of the building. The facilities management step often begins with a physical analysis of the building to obtain a numerical representation of this building in CAD software. To avoid information loss acquired during the construction of the building, it is necessary to develop a building information system at the beginning of its lifecycle.
CAD: (Computer Aided Design) The use of computer programs and systems to design detailed two- or three-dimensional models of physical objects, such as mechanical parts, buildings, and molecules.
Civil Engineering: Includes the planning, the designing, the construction, and the maintenance of structures and altering geography to suit human needs. Some of the numerous subdivisions are transportation; for instance railroad facilities and highways, hydraulics; like river control, irrigation, swamp draining, water supply, and sewage disposal’ and structures by example buildings, bridges, and tunnels.
Mock-Up: A mock-up is usually a full-sized scale model of a structure which is used for demonstration, study or testing. A digital mockup is a 3D graphical model.
Interoperability: It is the ability of several systems, identical or completely different, to communicate without any ambiguity and to operate together.