Revit Up! Collaborate In Real Time With New Cloud-based Sharing Solution

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For architects, designers, and their IT support, working on shared Revit® models outside of the office can create costly and time-consuming headaches. Previous work-around solutions like VPNs with virtual desktops open up security vulnerabilities, add expensive hardware, and create long wait times for changes to save and update on the central server — minutes that are not only frustrating, but add up to significant time lost. These are the problems that Autodesk can help solve with its A360 Collaboration for Revit® service, a cloud-based solution that brings a real-time, digital conference room to distributed project teams.

Kal Houhou of Martinez + Johnson Architecture ran into collaboration issues with his firm’s historically sensitive renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. Budget constraints prevented them from creating a current-conditions model through 3D scanning. Instead, the job required full foot surveys covering every inch of the 400,000-square-foot library. For Houhou and his local team members, this meant walking a few blocks from their D.C. office, but their project partners in other locations didn’t have that luxury.

Keeping their remote collaborators up to date on the model’s progress and enabling them to work on the same models at the same time was going to require considerable hardware and software investments.

“I maxed out on our side of the virtual servers, so we needed to purchase new boxes, or new licenses, and so on,” says Houhou. “We had to find a collaborative platform to share the existing condition of the building in order to start the design area efficiently.” While looking for such a solution, Houhou attended a conference and heard about the pending release of A360 Collaboration for Revit.

Designed to offer mobile, but still truly central access to Revit models, the cloud-based service removes hardware barriers while also being scalable to specific projects. With a subscription to Collaboration for Revit, neither firm would need to buy additional hardware or open up their internal networks. Additionally, the ability to add or subtract users as needed on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis meant that investment could grow or shrink to meet the demands of the long-term library project without putting a strain on either firm’s resources. “So, of course, I jumped on it,” Houhou says.

As one of six project teams invited for early testing, Houhou found that housing the complex and growing model in the cloud was the perfect solution — and more. “It’s not only about collaborating and being able to have the Revit model on the cloud,” he says. “It’s also the outcome around it … and how our staff and our users can be more motivated and engaged in the collaboration process.” Even external contributors without usual access to Revit software can enjoy this benefit since integration with Autodesk’s A360 Team project communication platform allows for anyone to follow a model’s development, while also adding their own thoughts and comments.

Collaboration for Revit facilitates these instant discussions through its substantial Communicator functions. An integrated activity feed clearly displays updates by team members as they happen, and chat capabilities mean that questions, comments, and suggestions on those updates get relayed in real-time. “You don’t need to leave Revit to go to your email,” says Houhou. “It’s able to extract information right away from the model and show it to someone 1,000 miles away.”

These functions not only alleviate IT constraints affecting joint ventures, but they also allow for new mobility within the firm. Architects at Martinez + Johnson can now be on location for a different project, but then consult directly on the D.C. library’s model without needing PDFs or VPN access — something that hotel Wi-Fi connections often made impossible. With this new software, Houhou found that all the architects needed was a stable bandwidth to have the model in front of them and work on the project.

As a scalable solution, A360 Collaboration for Revit offers a more cost-effective way to exchange ideas and push projects forward. For Houhou, this meant it was not just a solution to a single IT problem, but a way to bring a new level of simplicity into how his firm executes projects. “It’s not only about connecting point A to point B,” he says. “It brings to the table real-time collaboration, so that means exchanging ideas around a common project.”

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