Earlier this summer, Solibri, developer of the leading model-checking application in the AEC industry, Solibri Model Checker (SMC), dramatically extended its scope and reach by introducing four different versions of its product, bringing its powerful model-checking, QC/QA and model based Information Take Off capabilities to different types of users across the AEC spectrum.
The solution closest to the earlier SMC application (a detailed review of which was published in AECbytes last year) is Solibri Office, which brings all the models from different disciplines together for advanced model checking and quality assurance, allowing the BIM manager, engineers, designers and other involved parties to collaborate and solve any issues that are detected.
The Enterprise version is targeted for large firms that have multiple users doing model checking and would like to standardize their BIM collaboration and checking workflows around one software—it can be customized for maximum scalability and ease of wide-spread use.
Solibri Site is intended for use at the construction site, where site managers don’t need the full array of functionalities, just the ones that provide them with the relevant information about the project such as viewing the models, quantity take-off, measurements, markups, etc.
And finally, Solibri Anywhere is a free version that allows subcontractors and other involved parties to view the model and access the information they need. Simply put, it is targeted for those who need to see what gets built, including stakeholders like owners who need to see how the models and the project evolves, or after the construction, where the once-defined information takeoffs and classifications can be used for more efficient facilities management and operation of the building.
A summary infographic of the new product family is shown in Figure 1, followed by a detailed comparison of the four configurations showing their individual capabilities in Figure 2.
In addition to the new product family to cater to different use cases of the application, several updates to the solution have been made in the last few releases. These include licensing improvements that make offline licensing easier, allowing Solibri to be used offline when an Internet connection is not available; the ability to add the same user to multiple license pools such as Office as well as Site if the company has both, allowing them to use either type of license depending on which is needed or available (Figure 3); and localization improvements with support for multiple languages (Figure 4), which also automatically chooses the correct settings for units and date formats.
Recall from my review of Solibri Model Checker published last year that one of the most critical aspects of the application are the rulesets that power its model-checking capability. You can select specific rulesets to check the model, as shown in Figure 5. With regard to the rulesets themselves, there is a dedicated Ruleset Manager interface where you can browse through the different rulesets and the individual rules comprising them, edit the parameters of individual rules, and bundle the rules into new rulesets (Figure 6). Prior to this release, all the rulesets for model-checking were developed by Solibri, and while these were being constantly enhanced with the addition of new rules for checking different aspects of the design, it was always possible that some user had a specific checking requirement that an existing rule did not cover. This will be addressed by a new Rule Template API, current in beta, that will allow users to create their own rules and rulesets, not only for their own use but also to exchange and share them with others (Figure 7). In time, there could even be a “Solibri warehouse” for rules, similar to the SketchUp’s 3D warehouse for components and textures!
In addition to the API for developing rules, Solibri is also working on a BCF (BIM Collaboration Format) API that follows the published buildingSMART standards for this API, allowing it to connect with other providers such as Aconex, bimsync, BIM Track and Trimble Connect that also following the buildingSMART standards (Figure 8). BCF is the industry recognized standard for sharing issues within the construction workflow, and by supporting the latest BCF version and creating an API for it, Solibri is cementing its use in the construction space, allows contractors to connect to more third-party platforms for a smoother workflow.
In addition to supporting the latest BCF standard, the Solibri product family also has updated support for other interoperability standards such as IFC and COBie. Being part of the Nemetschek family, Solibri does, of course, subscribe to its OpenBIM philosophy; in fact, it has been working with IFC files since it was launched, way before its acquisition by Nemetschek. In addition to the IFC format for collaborating with other applications, Solibri also has a bidirectional link with GRAPHISOFT’s ARCHICAD (Figure 9)—another brand in Nemetschek’s portfolio— and this has been updated to work with the latest version, ARCHICAD 23, which has just been released.
The new product family also comes with a new subscription option, which provides a low-cost alternative to purchasing a perpetual license. This is currently available for Solibri Office, and it allows firms to get the benefits of its model checking, quality assurance and coordination capabilities with a small upfront investment (130€ per month) with minimal obligation. This levels the playing field for smaller firms and also provides flexibility, allowing the application to be used as required for a project’s duration. An additional benefit of having a subscription is the opportunity to connect with a dynamic community of Solibri users worldwide and participate in the discussions (Figure 10).
One of the earliest implementations of Solibri’s model-checking capabilities was for automated code-compliance in Singapore over 20 years ago (see the archived article, “CORENET e-PlanCheck: Singapore's Automated Code Checking System”), and while that effort seems to have stalled, automated code compliance is still very much one of top use cases of Solibri (see the article, “Automated Code Compliance Updates, 2018”). However, a broad initiative like this has to be initiated at the government level in any country, and while we are still waiting on this, it is interesting to see the use of Solibri gaining momentum among individual firms. As I described in my article on customer stories from GRAPHISOFT’s KCC 2017, I found the use of Solibri Model Checker (which would now be Solibri Office) almost universal among all the customers who presented at the event.
More recently, some interesting customer implementation examples of Solibri include quality assurance at Laing O’Rourke, which is one of the UK’s leading construction and engineering enterprises specializing in prefabrication and offsite manufacturing. Checking the quality of digital information is an essential part of any project at the firm, beginning with initial clash checks, design iteration checks, and model revisions; it continues by checking the precast concrete products manufactured at Laing O’Rourke’s offsite manufacturing facility; and it concludes with further checks carried out at the project site itself. The firm is using Solibri for checks that previously would have been quite difficult and labor intensive to do manually (Figure 11). Also, Laing O’Rourke is not just using the standard clash detection ruleset, but also most of the advanced geometry rulesets, such as the component distance check to ensure, say for a cast-in coupling, that the corresponding parts in the other component are within a certain distance. Other examples include the alignment checks and measurements to satisfy minimum requirements for factory production, as well as tolerance and access space checks to ensure a safe assembly on site. Since Solibri is based on the open-standard IFC file format, it allows the firm to federate models from multiple platforms, ensuring they can select the platform that best suits their precast re-enforcement detailing needs; it also allows them to easily bring in models from external consultants. Solibri’s BCF support is also used to publish errors or issues to their issue-management application, BIMcollab. Essentially, the use of Solibri’s model-checking capabilities gives the firm the reassurance that when the project is actually put together on site, everything works exactly as it should.
Another example of a broader implementation also comes from the UK, where Bond Bryan Digital (BBD), part of an architectural firm that specializes in information definition and management throughout building projects with the objective of helping clients gain better value for the entire life-cycle of their built assets, is using Solibri for data validation and quality assurance on real estate projects for the UK Ministry of Justice. The task was to carry out checking not for the geometry, but instead, for the data in all the different disciplinary models that make up a project, and to do this on a regular basis as the project evolves through different stages to ensure that the requirements are aligned with the Ministry of Justice’s requirements. BBD ended up creating between 15,000 to 20,000 rules for checking different aspects of the models. For example, there were a set of rules focused on the attribute requirement of fire rating, checking whether all the elements such as doors, beams, and columns, and so on had the required fire rating, and if so, whether it was correctly specified. The process ensured that the final models for a project were fully checked, had very few errors, and were ready to be taken forward and developed further for construction.
As the adoption of BIM continues to grow in the AEC industry, slowing but surely phasing out CAD, the importance of applications that can check BIM models for quality assurance and control also increases. Just as with CAD, there are standards that need to be followed, both internally within a firm as well as locally where the project is going to be built, and an application like Solibri is indispensable for ensuring that these standards are met and that models are thoroughly vetted before proceeding to the construction phase, minimizing costly errors on site.
Over the last few years, I have seen a rapid increase in the number of firms using Solibri all over the world, and the introduction of the new product family with four different versions of the product for different use cases—in the office, on site, a free version for all stakeholders, and an enterprise version for larger firms—should help to expand the scope and reach of the application by making it more accessible across the entire AEC spectrum.
Now if we can only get governments on board and have a version of Solibri for regulatory agencies …
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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