Modelling the future: How Graphisoft invented ‘5-D’

Dominic Gallello, CEO of Graphisoft, talks technical about the company’s revolution into ‘virtual construction’ software and his dreams of Middle East success.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  February 18, 2006

|~|109int200.gif|~|Dominic Gallello: “Our 5-D system won the Wall Street Journal Award for Technology Innovation last year.”|~|What does Graphisoft do? Headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, Graphisoft is a leader in developing virtual building solutions. Founded 22 years ago, the company is a supplier of model-based software and services for the building industry. Our clients are at the forefront of the industry, delivering well-designed projects that are more predictable to construct and less expensive to operate. What is virtual building? This means virtually constructing a building before it’s actually built. This process identifies constructability issues during design and pre-construction. Graphisoft invented 5-D, which is a very intelligent construction model. A 3-D model is used to extract accurate estimating quantities, and to analyse alternative construction sequences. Then, design (3D), schedule (4D) and cost (5D) are all interlinked, so a change to any of the three automatically updates the other two. Our 5-D system won the Wall Street Journal Award for Technology Innovation last year. I think this is the first time that a piece of software within the construction industry has won this award. How long has this technology been around for? The system for virtual construction is one year-old in the US, the UK, Scandinavia and China — it’s a very new product release. Is it easy for companies to assimilate this new technology? Since this type of technology is very sophisticated, if you just hand it over to a construction company and say good luck, use it — it may not be sufficient. To counter this, Graphisoft’s team of project managers and construction modelers work with our customers to help them assimilate new applications, from the bid stage to building commissioning to ensure they get the job done. Our services division offers additional customer support during workload bottlenecks, as well as providing on-site project information management to help smooth the transition to the new technology. What is Graphisoft Change Manager software? It is a new workflow application targeted to the needs of construction companies, architects, sub contractors and engineers, to help them improve their understanding of project changes while minimising risk of errors and saving time. An architect or engineer is supposed to do is highlight where they have made a change — sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. And then it’s up to the contractor to pick up the changes. What benefits does the program bring to construction projects? Architects, engineers and contractors have to use a light table to compare one drawing to another one to check how a wall moved etc; therefore, change management is a major issue facing all project team members. It’s very hard to keep track of all of these changes, since the document revisions often contain hundreds and even thousands of drawing files. Change Manager takes two different sets of files, and it identifies all the changes that have been found i.e. new documents and deleted documents, and then it pulls up both the drawings and uses different types of coding systems to identify changes made, or actions that need to be assigned to team members, to update the schedule. Then at the end it tracks the work that has been completed. The software therefore helps the team to identify and respond to changes in an efficient manner and avoid the cost and time-escalation risk that missing even a single change can bring. Now contractors, sub contractors, engineers and even regulatory officials can collaborate in checking changes to vast numbers of drawings in minutes instead of weeks. A project database ensures that items are logged, and a record maintained of assignments and any actions taken. This simplifies the workflow, reduces risk while creating a document and responsibility trail in the event of any dispute. How can it minimise human error? With the drawings for the air con system, for example; if the mechanical designer is really busy he or she may not change the graphics but will instead put a note to say that the size of a duct has been changed from two feet to one foot — no one will ever find those types of changes and it can turn into a US $1 million error. Have you had much interest in the Change Manager software? We showed it to people at Dubai Festival City, and they’re incorporating Change Manager into the project. The Burj Dubai and Dubai Mall projects have also expressed an interest in it. Why hasn’t this type of technology been available until now? Much of it stems from our own construction services division — it employs 60 people and is only one year old. We live the contractors’ and sub-contractors’ lives every day — these people send us the drawings, and we deal with the changes. Our people were spending a week or two weeks trying to identify differences and we would only have three weeks to do our work. We realised we were wasting too much time so we decided to put a big development team to work on this. More than the saving in time, is the saving in risk avoidance. Where will the new software be available? It will be available worldwide, and will be also available through e-commerce — this means you can use it five times at no charge, and then the software will ask if you want to buy it. It will cost $1100. How important is the Middle East market for you? We’ve made a couple of trips here and we’re starting to win business. And the fact that we don’t yet have people here on the ground and are still winning business means we have something unique. I expect business to grow very rapidly in the region. We’re looking to set up a presence here in Dubai, possibly in the spring. ||**||

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