The 2023 version of Allplan, one of the leading BIM applications for buildings and infrastructure, has just been released. In addition to its core BIM capabilities for architecture and engineering which have been honed over decades of development (Figure 1), Allplan continues to expand its BIM for infrastructure capabilities that it had started with the launch of the dedicated Allplan Bridge application four years ago. It is now also a full-fledged “BIM for Precast” solution, with the complete integration of the dedicated precast application, Planbar, into Allplan, differentiating it from most other BIM solutions which don’t have precast capabilities built in. And finally, its BIM for construction capabilities — in particular, for 3D site planning — have also been enhanced in this release.
Let’s look at each of these disciplinary capabilities, starting with the enhancements that are applicable to all disciplines.
The use of point clouds in design and construction, both for buildings and infrastructure, is continuing to increase, making Allplan’s new point cloud support very timely. A significant technology innovation here is that the processing of the point cloud, once it is imported into Allplan, is automatically handled by the graphics card of the computer and therefore does not impact the performance of the application. There are Allplan customers, for example, who are importing point clouds comprising millions of points on projects with no issues. Figure 2 demonstrates working with a point cloud in Allplan, which is brought into it via a dedicated point cloud application called Scalypso. It shows a part of a point cloud being selected in Scalypso and imported into Allplan via a plug-in. Once the point cloud is in Allplan, you can use it as a reference for modeling, take measurements, slice through it, etc. (Figure 2).
Another significant enhancement in Allplan 2023 is the introduction of a live link with Solibri for model checking and issue management, useful for both intra-disciplinary as well as multi-disciplinary collaboration and model coordination. Up until now, issue management in Allplan happened through its cloud-based collaboration and project management platform, Bimplus. The introduction of the Solibri BCF Live Connector allows users not familiar with the Bimplus environment to still leverage the intelligence of Solibri to do automated model checking and clash detection. Figure 3 shows the workflow, where an issue with the model that is detected in Solibri is directly communicated to the Allplan model through a BCF API connection between Solibri and Bimplus/Allplan issue management. The elements involved are highlighted in Allplan and the view is zoomed into them, allowing the necessary revisions to be conveniently made to address the issue.
Additional enhancements in Allplan 2023 that would be helpful to users from all disciplines include the ability to view and create expanded property set templates to better capture and communicate BIM data for improved usability and to promote OpenBIM workflows; IFC exchange improvements including IFC 4.3 support for roads and certification of Allplan’s IFC4 Reference View export; strengthening of its Python API; and support for monitors with 4K displays.
Allplan 2023 builds upon the substantial visualization enhancements that had been introduced in Allplan 2022 with a new navigation mode called Fly mode, which allows walking through the model, making it easier to present the project to clients (Figure 4). Additionally, the quality of the visualization in this mode is quite high, without any jerkiness caused by time lag, enabled in part by the ability to adjust the settings of the materials used for this kind of walk-through visualization internally in Allplan.
Additional visualization enhancements, shown in Figure 5, including a new Image Depth setting which allows the focus area of a rendering to be adjusted as required; the ability to Live Sync with the visualization application, Lumion, so that you can see the corresponding rendered view in Lumion side-by-side as you are navigating the model in Allplan; and the incorporation of the Intel Open Image Denoiser for renderings directly within Allplan.
On the engineering front, Allplan is continuing to build on its steel detailing capabilities by expanding the scope and functionality of its Connection Toolbox. The integration between elements such as bolts, plates, welds, and stiffeners has been improved, making it easier and less tedious to model the connections between structural elements like beams and columns (Figure 6). The future goal is to have a close integration between Allplan and the SDS2 steel detailing and fabrication product within the ALLPLAN portfolio, so that ALLPLAN has the full range of BIM capabilities needed for steel construction.
The other engineering-specific enhancements are in the area of reinforcement detailing. The automated reinforcement of structural elements that had been introduced in Allplan 2022 has been improved so that you can now select multiple elements and apply automated reinforcement to them. The reinforcement adjusts intelligently based on how these multiple elements are related. An example is shown in Figure 7, where automatic reinforcement is applied to a set of adjoining walls, and the reinforcement adjusts based on whether the walls are continuous or not.
Additionally, more reinforcement design options for structural elements have been introduced, for example, adding more configuration options with S-hooks and stirrups in the design of a column, shown in Figure 8. This provides more design options for detailers that can comply with local standards for projects around the world.
Allplan’s dedicated bridge modeling application, Allplan Bridge, that was developed from the ground up and launched in 2018, has been gaining traction and is now used in over 40 countries around the world. Allplan was one of the key applications used to create the BIM model of the Köhlbrand Bridge in Hamburg, Germany, which formed the basis of the “smartBRIDGE Hamburg” digital twin project. (See the article, SmartBRIDGE Hamburg: A Digital Twin in Action.”)
The key enhancement in the 2023 version of Allplan Bridge is the ability to apply freeform parametric modeling to design the individual components of the overall bridge superstructure that has been generated based on the bridge axis (Figure 9). You can define profiles, create sweeps, apply push/pull and Boolean operations, etc., at the local level to create the individual foundations, abutments, etc. This would allow Allplan to be able to efficiently model basic “bread and butter” bridges in addition to designing “signature” bridges.
Also new are design checks for AASHTO and several national Eurocodes annexes, which should allow bridges to be designed in compliance with these standards more easily.
One of the most significant advancements in the 2023 release of Allplan is the completion of its integration with Planbar, the dedicated precast design and detailing software that it acquired in 2021. The integration of the companies had been achieved in 2021, but Planbar was still a separate application. Now, all of its functionality has been fully integrated into Allplan, so users do not have to install and learn another application for precast design and construction — they can do it end-to-end in Allplan.
In addition to the integration with Planbar, Allplan 2023 has added some new functionality for precast concrete design, including the ability to convert any geometry that has been brought in, for example through the IFC, into fully detailed precast elements. Each individual precast element comes with its individual shop drawings, section, elevation, and schedule (Figure 10). There is also automatic dimensioning, section cuts, and lists of fixtures and reinforcements summarizing the total number and types of each. This allows shop drawings to be produced easily and quickly, and also helps with the overall precast workflow, including planning and getting the machines ready for manufacturing the components.
Additional enhancements include smarter planning of precast stairs and the integration of precast fixtures from Schöck —the largest German manufacturer of fixtures — in the Allplan library (Figure 11). The direct connection to the Schöck database of fixtures ensures that they are always up-to-date in Allplan. The plan is to roll out this kind of integration with other precast fixture manufacturers as well.
With its expanded precast capabilities, Allplan 2023 has also incorporated construction knowhow for precast elements in its site planning. For example, the location of the crane and its lifting capacity will influence the size and weight of the precast elements selected for the project. In other words, the construction will adapt to the site equipment if there is the flexibility to do so.
In addition to the cranes that were introduced for 3D site planning in Allplan 2022, the new version includes excavation shoring tools and additional site equipment such as road barriers, dumpsters, trailers, material storage containers, even site offices. All of this equipment can be parametrically modeled and positioned on the site in the desired location (Figure 12). The rendering capabilities of Allplan allow these site elements to be visualized in 3D, making it easier to plan the construction.
Another significant construction planning enhancement in Allplan 2023 is the integration of content from equipment manufacturers such as Bauer and Liebherr. Figure 13 shows an extensive database of cranes that the site planner can choose from. The crane objects have also been made more intelligent, providing visual cues on whether a crane can be placed in a certain location or not, whether it might collide with another object when moved or rotated, and so on. This should also be helpful in guiding the site planning of the project.
With most eyes glued to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar at the moment, the controversy behind the construction of its stadiums — in which over 6,500 migrant workers have reportedly died — brings forth the question of whether these deaths could have been avoided if more of the construction was precast and prefabricated rather than being painstakingly built on site. While this is primarily a social, political, economic, and human-rights problem, it seems to me that the AEC industry, which is responsible for building these stadiums, can step up to offer some solutions that are within its purview.
Prefabrication would seem to be one of these. It is already trending in Europe and North America (see https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/modular-and-prefabricated-construction-market), as it enables better efficiency, quality, and precision of the construction, and above all, the safety of the construction workers on site.
From that perspective, the incorporation of full “BIM for Precast” capabilities in Allplan stands out as the signature feature of the 2023 release. It is now a “multi-material” solution, with the ability to work with a wide range of materials including masonry, cast-in place concrete, precast concrete, steel, timber, wood framing, etc. With this as well as its focus on buildability — including its unique 3D site planning capabilities — Allplan seems well positioned to serve the BIM needs of AEC firms worldwide.
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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