Matthew Wash is a structural engineer in Australia. Matthew spent the last 10 years at Arup working on solutions for interoperability among modeling and analysis tools. We caught up with Matthew when we learned that he had recently left Arup and is about to become a Design Technology Coordinator at BVN Architecture in Brisbane. During his 10 years of investigating interoperability solutions for Arup, Matthew gained a significant understanding about all the software solutions that have come and gone in the engineering space. We asked Matthew to share his experiences with all the solutions he’s tried over the years. Thank you, Matthew Wash, for discussing your ups and downs with our audience!
Commercially Available Solutions
Until now we have only been able to import/export files between individual packages. We have not been able to track changes between software and have a common web based interface to interrogate these changes. We have been using other cloud based solutions but they are limited when it comes to interoperability between structural analysis packages and BIM/parametric tools. Having a common web-based data and geometry hub is something I have been anticipating for a long time.
So Then We Tried Konstru
Early this year, we heard about Konstru during their free beta testing period. We gave it a run. Now that we’ve been using Konstru for a few months, I see Konstru as the best option. It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t expect it to be this early on because of all the different interpretations on how “interoperability” should work. Also, Konstru is limited by the available APIs of all the other tools that need to be interoperable.
We expected some issues because we understand that this is how such a new product grows. Honestly I doubt there ever will be such thing as a perfect “seamless interoperability”, but right now Konstru is the solution closest thing to it.
What We Really Like About Konstru
Here’s a list of some things I am especially happy with or what I call “the major advantages of Konstru”:
- Web viewer for BIM Models with Version Control, which is really the recording of things that have been changed from the beginning of the model. We could achieve similar with other platforms but the other software packages require huge efforts to get there. Konstru does it by itself.
- Quick Proactive Responses & immediate fixes. For example, a few weeks back, there were rotation issues in RAM and they (the Konstru engineers) fixed it the next day.
- The overabundance of 2-3 Minute Video Snippets of how to do things in Konstru. They need to keep making more and more of these.
- Element justification settings. Design Link (the internal Arup application) was purely centerline driven, which works at early stages, but having simple justification settings for beams like Top, Center, Bottom is a huge time-saver. We really need to see more Documentation on those little things.
- Comparing Geometry across Platforms: At Arup we wrote our own Geometry Comparing Engine, but it did not come with an online viewer. Comparing geometry is essential.
Konstru Has Some Challenges Though
The Konstru team’s biggest challenge will mostly be convincing people to think differently. I don’t think Konstru will struggle with features or implementation. The real problem is the process: engineers are not aware of what it means to have a Revit model that won’t be interoperable with ETABS or RAM natively (for example). Most engineers are not aware of this “BIM interop” issue at all. So they don’t understand what the Konstru marketers are talking about. Wording might play a huge role, so I think they should avoid using difficult terms like “BIM”, “interoperability”, etc., because everyone has a different idea about what those terms mean.
Also, since we’re working completely in the cloud here with Konstru, we need some assurances that nobody else is able to see, download or manipulate our data. It’s not obvious for users where to find this privacy assurance at the moment.
What I Would Do If I Were King at Konstru
I’m going to take this opportunity to offer the Konstru team a little advice on how to market Konstru. Here are some really big problems that Konstru solves really well, but the Konstru team doesn’t talk about much.
- Currently Drawings take a huge amount of time in the engineering process. With Konstru you can focus on engineering and data. Drawings should be a small step at the end of the project. But some technicians may feel endangered in their position as draftsmen, because they might think Konstru could take away their job. Currently most of their job is to translate models from software A to software B.
- Konstru should explain two things very clear on their webpage: “This is what engineers are doing today” (eg. redrawing models all the time) and “this is what they could be doing.” For example, Timesaving Workflow with Konstru.
And while I’m at it, here are a few future features and suggestions for the Konstru software:
- Don’t spend time developing issue tracking and communication tools, but connect to existing ones. The Konstru team should focus on their expertise: Interoperability.
- I’d like to see a connectivity repair tool. It’s always a huge issue when translating Models from one software to another.
- And we need more documentation!!
I will definitely continue using Konstru in my new firm. It would be awesome to broaden the capabilities of Konstru. Integrating Konstru with Sketch-Up and other Architectural software would offer a fully collaborative solution. Perhaps the folks at Konstru will let me post again about our experiences using Konstru here as well. Cheers!
Join us this Thursday at 12 noon EDT as Lead Engineer, Jonatan Schumacher, demonstrates using Konstru to create file backups, model comparison using geometry and element ID settings, and reverting to an earlier version of a model. Click here to attend the webinar.