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Spinoff Of Gehry Architecture Meshes 3-D, Social Collaboration

Frank Gehry architecture practice spinoff creates Web-based office for sharing computer models for building design and construction, bridging multiple 3-D authoring tools.

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To create a collaboration environment for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, Gehry Technologies wound up creating something that looks a lot like the current crop of cloud-based social file-sharing products, where you can browse a remote file repository or scan an activity stream of notifications about recent changes.

The difference in GTeam shows up when you preview the more complicated documents in this workspace--not mere PDFs but layered 3-D drawings with associated metadata on the window or wallboard materials, or the electrical wiring characteristics. GTeam can display a browser-based renderings of these documents in a format that allows exploration of different layers of a drawing and the related metadata, showing them in a common format even though they may have been composed with multiple authoring tools.

Because the files involved can be very large, GTeam uses sync software to replicate files from the desktop to the cloud, and that preview capability makes it possible to view the essential details of a model without the need to download the whole file and open it in a tool such as AutoCAD.

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"Having a tool that reads all of those documents, and I don't have to download and install anything, is really useful," said Timothy Porter, building information modeling manager at The Pike Company, a construction management firm based in Rochester, N.Y. Pike provides guest accounts on the system for the subcontractors it works with, and in some cases the building owners also have accounts so they can monitor a project's progress.

Pike became an early user of the technology during its private beta test phase and was also featured in an Oracle case study on the integration between GTeam and Oracle's Primavera P6 Enterprise Project Portfolio Management software. GTeam has just been released as a commercially available cloud service.

Beyond the convenience of cloud-based file sharing and previewing, Porter said GTeam saves a lot of time that would otherwise be spent rebuilding models when documents related to the overall building model were updated. "We're trimming a lot of time out related to going through and doing all these re-integrations. With this, it's just hitting a sync button, and you're getting everyone's latest changes," he said.

Without the cloud service, gathering information was a much more cumbersome process, using file transfer protocol servers or portable hard drives to transport the data, Porter said. "This eliminates all that hassle, by allowing all the people we're working with to contribute to a project database online.

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