Building the Construction Cloud

Autodesk Construction Cloud brings integrated construction management for entire project teams several steps forward, towards a totally unified software solution

The trend in all industries has always been towards greater integration of processes, data and resources, governed mainly by the rate of technology required to support it. Nowhere is this more evident than the latest releases from the main players in the construction industry, bringing together all elements involved in a project from its design, right through to operation, and throwing in an element of AI to finesses the result.

The latest release from Autodesk introduces the Autodesk Construction Cloud, which combines advanced technology, a unique builder's network to connect people and data throughout a building's lifecycle, bringing together Autodesk's construction solutions Assemble, BuildingConnected, BIM 360 and PlanGrid. Collaboration and productivity is increased by connecting head and site offices and field teams through the cloud.

Besides greater integration of products providing access to critical data by all project members, Autodesk has also included 50 new product enhancements, and introduced artificial intelligence functionality aimed at identifying and mitigating design risks earlier in the construction process, which will reduce delays and reworks, as well as costs.

Focusing on three core elements - Technology, Network and Insights - Autodesk believes that Autodesk Construction Cloud will give its users a competitive advantage in the industry. With the quality of the software and the latest collaboration tools as a given, I would prefer to use this article to highlight Construction Cloud's builder's network and predictive tools as the most important elements of the release. The former brings the industry's largest network of owners, designers, builders and trades into a data and process sharing environment - that's one million subcontractors using BuildingConnect - while predictive insights are being used by AI to analyse current and previous projects to predict outcomes, establish causes and reduce risks.

The challenge within the industry has been to handle the massive increase in information that BIM and collaborative data sharing has unleashed. The problem is exacerbated by attempting to provide access to that data by widening its availability to all project members without complicating working processes and overloading teams with unnecessary information. Autodesk believes it has now addressed that particular problem.

"Despite the tremendous challenges construction companies face to connect huge volumes of data and people, no one has delivered on the promise of unified construction from design to operations - until now," said Jim Lynch, vice president and general manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions. "With Autodesk Construction Cloud, we're introducing a new era of connected construction and offering unrivaled integration between headquarters, office and field teams. We've never been more dedicated nor clearer in our mission to empower designers, contractors and owners to meet the world's rapidly expanding construction needs, while helping to make building more predictable, safe and sustainable." Predictive insights are also seen by Autodesk users as a critical element of the new release. The current global situation provides a stark reminder of a failure to learn from previous mistakes. The containment of the SARS virus outbreak some years ago within the Asian continent should have encouraged the rest of the world to ask a few 'what ifs' and planned accordingly. I take no pleasure in mentioning the current crisis in this article, but I live within the Hinckley Point catchment area, and have noticed that their bus service is still picking up locally housed contractors - the construction industry is still working despite the lockdown.

Emphasising that point, Jenny Moshea, head of technology at Sellen Construcion in America, said, "We need to be able to measure ourselves, look to the future and anticipate project risk. This insight is what's missing today, and is a key driver in moving the industry forward." Jenny continued, "Autodesk Construction Cloud brings together advanced technology, underpinned by predictive insights. This is the next evolution, the connected tissue that brings it all together so the construction lifecycle is no longer disjointed."

As part of the launch of Autodesk Construction Cloud, the company is unveiling more than 50 new product enhancements that span the entire building lifecycle from design through operations. Some of these are already available, but the rest will be rolled out over the next few months.

They include an extension of the support within Assemble for the latest versions of Autodesk design tools AutoCAD, Revit and Navisworks. Assemble is, as the name suggests, a tool for bringing together BIM data and assigning it to workflows - design reviews, take-offs, change management, estimating etc. It's a web based 3D application that allows users to extract metadata, or to add their own coding to enhance the information they are getting, improve decision making and forward planning. It empowers subcontractors to immediately quantify 2D views in BuildingConnected Bid Board Pro, the automated online tool for responding to bid invites, saving hours a week for estimators. It also enables bids to be grouped together for easy tracking.

Enabling greater collaboration, field teams can now take videos directly within PlanGrid, construction productivity software that enables contractors and project managers to collaborate on civil engineering, infrastructure and other projects more effectively. Along with improved photo management, teams are able to provide richer commentary from the jobsite.

Autodesk has also enhanced all BIM 360 modules, along with deeper feature integrations, such as between Construction IQ and BIM 360's design review capabilities - Design Risk Management - which helps reduce the likelihood of RFIs and change orders originating from design issues.

Construction IQ is a set of machine learning algorithms that take data from Classic BIM 360 Field and the Next Generation Field Management and Account Admin modules, and applies analytical techniques and machine learning to transform that data into simple and actionable insights. It already has a wealth of data behind it, having been trained with data from 30,000 building projects. Construction IQ uses its algorithms to prioritise the highest risk projects, subcontractors and issues that need attention during the build phase, and gives teams the insight and confidence to make informed decisions and build right the first time.

For example, according to Autodesk's data science team, more than 70 percent of RFIs in construction are attributed to design issues or documentation errors, which often escalate into costly change orders and even larger litigation disputes. Design Risk Management applies Construction IQ's machine learning capabilities to the design review process within BIM 360's Document Management module, enabling GCs to easily identify and predict the design and constructability issues that may turn into costly RFI's.

Further AI enhancements, helping construction teams identify and mitigate risks before problems occur, are provided by TradeTapp, which arms general contractors with subcontractor risk analysis during the planning phase. It's a SaaS platform that assists general contractors in collecting, analyaing, and vetting the companies they hire to do the actual building.

Autodesk Construction Cloud and its comprehensive range of integrations empowers construction teams to work together in a totally collaborative environment that provides the entire construction team with access to crucial data whenever it's needed.

The final word is provided by Michael Murphy, digital construction operations manager at BAM Ireland. "Autodesk's end-to-end system for the entire building lifecycle - from design through to long-term maintenance - is giving us a competitive advantage. Using the advanced technology and predictive insights of Autodesk Construction Cloud, we achieved a 20 percent gain in quality and safety on a high profile project. Autodesk Construction Cloud is bringing us one step closer to a unified solution with all our data in the same platform, so that information is no longer in a silo or lost. We're strongly aligned with Autodesk in pursuit of better construction across the globe."