Allan Partridge recently wrote a guest blog for us about how collaboration platforms can change the way the AEC industry works. A Principal at both Next Architecture Inc. and Group2 in Edmonton, Canada, he has been practicing architecture for over 30 years and is also currently the president of the Canada BIM Council (CanBIM). He has worked on a number of projects, ranging from large theaters and auditoriums to health centers. Working within small/medium companies there is an even greater reliance on leveraging digital design and non-conventional BIM enabled solutions to enhance the efficiency and quality of their projects. Hear what Allan has to say about the tools he finds most useful, how he collaborates, and how his business runs on A360.
What brought you to A360?
I have always been an advocate of everything that is collaborative, and things moving onto the cloud. I had seen the nascent days of A360 Drive (and before that, Buzzsaw), and it worked pretty well.
In the early 80s, I was an early adopter of AutoCAD, and then I started using Revit around 2002. Since I was already using these Autodesk products, I had an eye on what Autodesk was coming out with next. So, when I saw an announcement about A360, I got a copy, and our workflow was instantly transformed. At present we have over 150 team members and collaborators on our A360 hub and it grows daily.
What’s your favorite A360 feature?
The thing that really gets me excited is that I can draw the attention of the entire project team—no matter where they are. A360 Team allows me to invite my clients to see things, and view models as they are progressing. I can have various projects and folders, and I can access all of it on my various devices, like my mobile phone or my SurfacePro. I love that it’s highly accessible, and my clients love that too. The portability, and the ease of which I can get project information—it’s all so efficient and easy to use. Plus, centralizing everything and having all my projects and files into one specific place is very important to me.
What kind of work do you do?
I work on all kinds of projects, but I am personally involved in work in the private sector—new construction, historic, even subterranean architecture. There’s no project typology, size or budget that doesn’t fit into A360.
Since our firm is located in Edmonton where the winters are extremely cold, people like being underground and keeping warm. So, I will be working on an upcoming underground project called the Edmonton Galleria Pedway . The project will link the proposed Edmonton Downtown Academic and Cultural Center, Royal Alberta Museum and Churchill LRT. The city wants it to be more exciting than a typical pedway tunnel, so we’ll be trying all sorts of new construction.
We are just about to get scanning of the tunnel completed, so we’re using Autodesk’s Reality Capture in point cloud, as well as Revit for design. We’re also getting more and more into fabrication, so we’re increasingly using Inventor. So, this project is going to be a kind of test of all the Autodesk tools in the toolbox!
What do you find valuable in the A360 workflow?
Well, I use both A360 Team and Collaboration for Revit (C4R), and there’s a thin separation between them. For example, in A360 Team we can’t allow for a lot of downloads to go on, whereas in C4R, you can edit the models right there in the platform.
We jokingly refer to A360 Team as the bridge between the “front of house” (for the client) and “back of house” (where the AEC team really goes in and works on the nuts and bolts) in C4R.
As a workflow, it’s just really nice to have one location where everyone can go to be up-to-date about what’s going on, view project files, and see where everything fits together.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find it in the rest of the team and anything that moves us toward a more collaborative environment. Communicating more increases creativity. Just last night, one of the team members on the project was commenting that it was so helpful that I had uploaded this project file so he could see it. People love it when they can all be on the same page!
As time goes on, teams are going to be increasingly co-located, so we will continue to have to find ways to work together more collaboratively, and A360 & C4R have allowed for that. We can connect with our team members, wherever they are in the world.
What helps you “get in the zone”?
A careful balance of time by myself and time with others. When I get into taking a project at the early stages with the rudimentary tools we’ve got, the software almost scares me, anticipating where you’re going with it. But, when you dive right in, it’s almost like going into another world. I see A360 Team & C4R as tools with which I can collaborate with others and say “come along for this exploration with me.” People are amazed at the technology’s capabilities
What challenges did you and your team face that brought you to A360?
We were struggling with the ability to manage our projects—size and complexity was increasing. We needed something that was going to give us this single focus, almost a catalyst to put us all in the same place at the same time. We had an old service at the time, and we needed something that allowed us to communicate better. We were struggling with emails, meetings, etc. I’ve always been an advocate for building a unified process, not a federated process (much like in reality).
For example, in a real building, they don’t assemble the mechanical system in the parking lot and then pull it in. That’s how we in the industry are designing now. But we have to be able to design in the same holistic way that we put our buildings together—one process. We don’t solve finishes and dry wall, we solve big issues first, then we get to those smaller details. They come in at the end, not at the beginning. It’s a great way to manage the associated risk.
So, when we found A360, we loved that it catered to a very holistic process, allowing us to centrally communicate and work piece-by-piece. A360 Team allows us to live in that virtual world, where we can solve these problems virtually before we start on construction, so we can anticipate challenges and execute all in one collaborative process. It’s become a bit of a watershed and a clear path for us.
Do you use the file viewer in A360?
Huge YES. We use it once we get to about 75%, and we’ll use it more to add comments. Some clients don’t want to be bothered with drawings, so we’ll put the model in the viewer and allow them to add comments and feedback.
Then that wonderful red bell icon is up there in corner when you open your account up, so you know when someone has added comments/reviews. The challenge for us is that we’ve got this Wiki, but nobody uses it a lot yet. It has the ability to be focused on one topic, but it could be more task-driven and link directly into the calendar, so you can link to deadlines, events, etc. Then it becomes much more interactive.
This industry is the second largest in the world, but it can be very lazy and unproductive. I ask: how can we use these tools to be more efficient. I talk about being efficient more than productive. How can we be more collaborative, everything we do, we should create cylinders of excellence, not silos. In those cylinders, we have everybody. That’s what the little data tab reminds me of—a cylinder!
But overall, we love using these products as they evolve, and hopefully, the rest of the industry is going to evolve with the tools, using them to be more efficient, and we’re excited to be a part of it.