DebunkTheBIM: Dear building owners: we will let you know what you need to know when and how WE think you should get to know it!

DebunkTheBIM: Dear building owners: we will let you know what you need to know when and how WE think you should get to know it!

As a reaction to this post and venting some ideas on my own blog, I'd like to add some comments here.

I agree that most model viewers are very limited and only focus on 3D mesh + textures/color.
E.g. the Virtual Building Explorer (VBE) from Graphisoft (add-on for ArchiCAD) goes some way to make the design "viewable" by a user but don't expect the actual bulding information to be intact. It has gravity and collision detection (you can't walk through walls and you fall down when you pass an edge).

However, if you want, you can do a lot of that but you have to do it yourself... I happen to like Unity3D as a 3D realtime platform (and the free version goes a long way to do almost anything, apart from realtime shadows). But my remarks are not (too) software specific. Just that I will focus on things I know will work.

  • if you need north angles etc.. add some mesh objects to visualize that. This is possible with any software. In e.g. ArchiCAD, the quite flexible GDL library objects can be programmed so they orient themselves to north automatically. In an interactive environment, you could even program a small "HUD" (heads-up-display) which will draw the north angle as an overlay over your view, like the "radar" image in many shooting games does.
  • levels and spaces/zones are indeed mostly part of the 2D workflow. However, in e.g. ArchiCAD you have the option to render the spaces as 3D objects, which will enable them in any 3D model export you perform. The trick is now to ensure you can toggle spaces on and off in the viewer. In a out-of-the-box solution this is a problem, unless layers are user-togglable, but in a programmable environment you have control over this. You can even toggle an info dialog when users enter a space.
  • grids are also 2D, but with some clever 3D object, it might be viewable in 3D as well. But you have to take your audience into account, as this is not always useful information for them.
  • As far as visualizing design intent, I assume that you can get some way by making design variants and make separate visualizations or merge them in a single scene if you can toggle their visibility from within the viewer.
  • Tagging > as a flexible way to attach "any" info to "any" object, you can attach meaning to design objects. Now if viewers would have custom filters to display or hide objects based on their tags, you can get quite advanced additional visualization. I know that ArchiCAD supports markup highlights (color coding) on objects and you can create different views based on that info, but the same as with the previous remark: you have to find a way to provide this visibility to end users.
Understand that all these gripes are correct and to the point. I only wanted to point out some approaches to tackle at least some of them with current software.

I hope I can illustrate some of these points myself later on, with an interactive example...