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Ultimate List of CDE (Common Data Environment) Apps for Architects

The Mac platform isn’t a minority player in an AEC industry moving to the cloud with the most important new digital platform to affect industry change—the new CDE (common data environment).  This article introduces the reader to 18 different solutions and profiles 5 leaders against key CDE definition criteria.

IN THIS LIST, we have 18 CDE (common data environment) solutions available to the AEC industry. We understand there may be others we have either missed or intentionally left off this list, so feel free to send us a note. Those who do will gain an INSIDER subscription or we will extend the time on your current subscription.

CDE Solutions of Note—5 Solutions by Criteria

Similar to our other guides, we will spotlight a select number of solutions (apps) that, in this case, get high marks in meeting the minimum requirements—as listed on this article here (see, Architosh, “A Primer on CDEs (Common Data Environments) for Architects,” 14 Jan 2018)—or are simply industry-leaders that cannot be ignored. Importantly, these five apps called out are all CDE solutions

Aconex

Aconex is a giant in the making and is based out of Australia. A publicly-traded company, news broke in December of last year that US-based Oracle was going to acquire Aconex. This makes sense on many levels given the industry construction giants using the cloud-based platform.

01 – Aconex is shown on the PC with design coordination functions shown.

Aconex supports interoperability with other systems, thus supporting IFC, BCF, and COBie. AECOM and HNTB are using Aconex to build out the Boston Green Line extension.

Minimum CDE Attributes: AEC Stakeholders

Criteria Yes/No Comments
BS1192:2007 compliant Y/N  helps meet compliance but not based on 4 stages
Cloud-based Y
Tablet Access Y multiple mobile apps (iOS)
Document Mgmt. Y
Version Control Y
Change Mgmt. Y
Collaboration Y

 

Now we look at Architecture Specific Criteria. Again, the amount of CDEs that meet all these attributes will be slim. Aconex has some integration (Revit) via a plugin.

02 – Aconex Mobile is shown here on the Apple App Store.

Their API means that CAD/BIM vendors can begin to plug in based on demand by their users. Meeting the PDF integration defined here, may not be met. Also, it is not clear if BCF support runs from within its own model viewer (Aconex online).

Minimum CDE Attributes: Architects

Criteria Yes/No Comments
CAD/BIM Integration Y Revit plug helps publish models directly to Aconex
PDF Integration Y/N  not at the level we communicate in our report
Model Viewing Y  can link RFIs to model views
Model Dissection Y  sectioning
BCF Support Y  via integration
Class Detection UN not clear if there is built-in class detection

 

Autodesk BIM 360

Autodesk refers to its BIM 360 platform as “construction management software” and thus it is aiming to compete with the likes of Aconex, ProjectWise, and Procore, to name some others. It counts large US construction companies like Mortenson among its customers and in the US, where Autodesk is particularly strong within AEC, there is more likely traction for support of BIM 360 among its AE customers.

BIM 360 supports “model aggregation” a value-add to AEC teammates reviewing BIM models. CAD/BIM integration is inherent within its own tools. There is an API for document management integration.

Minimum CDE Attributes: AEC Stakeholders

Criteria Yes/No Comments
BS1192:2007 compliant N  there is no mention of this standard
Cloud-based Y
Tablet Access Y multiple mobile apps (iOS)
Document Mgmt. Y
Version Control Y
Change Mgmt. Y
Collaboration Y

There is no mention of BCF support on Autodesk’s BIM 360 page so this feature may be supported or not supported. It is likely not supported internally to BIM 360 but definitely supported with the BCF plugin for Revit on the desktop.

03 – BIM 360 can aggregate models for clash detection.

Due to the nature of BIM rivalries, though Autodesk has an API for integrations, it is unlikely that its major BIM solution rivals (eg: Bentley, Trimble, Nemetschek Group companies) will adopt its API integrations deeply. All those companies are also competing with BIM 360 with their own CDE solutions.

Minimum CDE Attributes: Architects

Criteria Yes/No Comments
CAD/BIM Integration Y Open API, Autodesk apps by default
PDF Integration Y/N  not at the level we communicate in our report
Model Viewing Y  supports model aggregation, an advanced feature
Model Dissection Y
BCF Support Y  via integration on desktop on Revit
Class Detection UN not clear if there is built-in class detection

 

Trimble Connect

Trimble Connect, which was created originally at Gehry Technologies, was one of the first integrated and fully web-based document and project management AEC tools that included a capable model viewer. Years ago, Architosh termed such online systems—which combined the functions of project collaboration and document management as PCDMs—an acronym that never gained much strength. Acronyms are often short-lived anyway and today we are referring to CDEs.

One strength that Trimble offers is that the company owns no competing major BIM platform. This should, philosophically, make it easier for the company in terms of CAD/BIM integrations if their published API is picked up by rivals. The same holds true of Aconex.

Minimum CDE Attributes: AEC Stakeholders

Criteria Yes/No Comments
BS1192:2007 compliant Y/N  only in its folder setups
Cloud-based Y
Tablet Access Y multiple mobile apps (iOS)
Document Mgmt. Y
Version Control Y
Change Mgmt. Y
Collaboration Y

Regarding data structuring in Trimble Connect, folders are organized in terms of disciplines. Within each discipline, folders are then organized into (01) WIP, work in progress, (02) For Review, (03) For Construction, and (04) As Built. This is the Four Phases of the CDE but with slightly different naming.

04 – Trimble Connect offers the AEC market a CDE that is tightly focused and simplified.

One of the strengths of Trimble Connect is its simplified user-experience and UI. The tool also features desktop and mobile versions for offline access when there is no Internet solution. In Trimble Connect you can exchange To-Do tasks as BCFs. It also has clash detection. In terms of integrations, Trimble Connect from the get-go worked with SketchUp models and Revit. It also supports Tekla Structures and Vico Office. And its SDK is based on the cross-platform (.NET).

Minimum CDE Attributes: Architects

Criteria Yes/No Comments
CAD/BIM Integration Y Revit and Sketch-up integration, SDK, APIs
PDF Integration Y/N  not at the level we communicate in our report
Model Viewing Y  supports model aggregation, an advanced feature
Model Dissection Y
BCF Support Y
Class Detection Y built-into its aggregate model viewer

 

Newforma

Newform is a company Architosh has known and written about for a long time. Its solutions have been originally aimed at the CA phase of the design-build-delivery cycle. Billed as “project information management software” for the AEC industry, the company features several interrelated applications, including plugins that link AutoCAD and Revit to Newforma apps. However, the company’s newest product is Newform Project Cloud, a true cloud-based construction collaboration software. Newform includes Thorton Tomasetti and award-winning architecture firm LMN Architects as customers.

05 – Newforma Plans is a mobile app to run on your iPad connected to the Newforma system.

Newforma doesn’t make mention of the BS 1192 standard but it does support archiving features. Like Trimble Connect the BS 1192 standard could be structured via folder structures but this is not as strong as the cloud software itself having awareness of which state data exchange is happening in.

Minimum CDE Attributes: AEC Stakeholders

Criteria Yes/No Comments
BS1192:2007 compliant N  no reference to this standard
Cloud-based Y
Tablet Access Y iOS apps sync with cloud app
Document Mgmt. Y
Version Control Y  complete versioning control and history
Change Mgmt. Y
Collaboration Y  includes RFI and submittal module

A strength of Newforma Project Cloud for architects is that the user can cross-reference documents to meeting minutes. There is also a message forum to move dialog about the project into centralized forum message threads and away from email.

06 – Newforma Tasks is a mobile solution that connects into the tasks management system.

Newforma Project Cloud is stronger on the construction administration (CA) side of the delivery cycle than on the earlier phases for architects. It lacks a BIM model viewer. And therefore it lacks tools that help architects collaborate with their partner engineers in the SD-CD phases of the work.

Minimum CDE Attributes: Architects

Criteria Yes/No Comments
CAD/BIM Integration Y plugins for AutoCAD and Revit.
PDF Integration Y/N  not at the level we communicate in our report
Model Viewing N  no viewer
Model Dissection N
BCF Support N
Class Detection N built-into its aggregate model viewer

 

PlanGrid 

PlanGrid is an AEC cloud-app darling and initially had some innovative features that others have now copied. For example, detail bubbles are auto highlighted creating clickable links that take you to the sheet the detail lives on. This applies to sections or interior elevations as well.

It’s mobile version, particularly iOS in the United States, is a prime factor in its appeal, enabling easy to use tools for carrying all document plans on the job site. Architects we know here at Architosh love PlanGrid for its simplicity and attractive pricing.

07 – PlanGrid offers version control that works automatically.

In terms of meeting a CDE specification? PlanGrid doesn’t offer BS 1192 compliance mechanisms and its document management capabilities are less than other rivals. It does offer version control and Sheet Compare is a change management feature.

Minimum CDE Attributes: AEC Stakeholders

Criteria Yes/No Comments
BS1192:2007 compliant N  no reference to this standard
Cloud-based Y
Tablet Access Y iOS apps sync with cloud app
Document Mgmt. Y/N  these features are lacking
Version Control Y  complete versioning control
Change Mgmt. Y  Sheet Compare feature
Collaboration Y  but not  submittals module

Like Newforma it doesn’t have an integrated BIM model viewing environment. So there are no CAD/BIM integrations and no model section, class detection, and BCF support. On the flipside, the app products interactive as-builts, forming an “archive” for CDE BS 1192 compliance at least for that one container in the standard.

08 – PlanGrid offers markup tools via its excellent mobile app.

 

You can neatly mention teammates in comments which will automatically notify them as well as sheets or documents and these can be jumped to instantly. PlanGrid integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive and Box—large vendor cloud storage—and also to key industry players like Egnyte.

Minimum CDE Attributes: Architects

Criteria Yes/No Comments
CAD/BIM Integration Y
PDF Integration Y/N  not at the level we communicate in our report
Model Viewing N  no viewer
Model Dissection N
BCF Support N
Class Detection N

 

While these five have been selected for special attention, please read the full list below to learn about other CDEs. Also to understand CDE’s more deeply and the developed standard, read our feature here (see, Architosh, “A Primer on CDEs (Common Data Environments) for Architects,” 14 January 2018).

 


INDEX 06: Ultimate List of CDE Apps for Architects

This is a complete list of CDEs—or apps that are close to meeting the definition of a CDE. The five apps highlighted above are all already popular with architects but they are not the only ones in this CDE list that are popular with architects. Key larger CDE solutions popular with architects include Bentley’s ProjectWise, Asite, and Bluebeam Revu Studio. On this last mention, please see our exclusive feature on the evolving CDE story on Bluebeam technology. (see, “Architosh Exclusive—Nemetschek Group Unveils Its CDE Strategy with Bluebeam Technology at its Core,” 13 Dec 2017)


  • AEC Hub — one of the only CDE solutions that boasts of its BS 1192 compliance features. Like Aconex, the company is based out of Australia. It is based on Autodesk Forge, meaning it is relatively young.
  • Aconex — the global leader in CDEs for the AEC industry. See our profile of it above.
  • Asite — the Adoddle platform is a major rival to Aconex in some parts of the world. The CDE features native BIM model viewer, document viewer,  project and document management. Asite counts SKANSKA, one of the world’s largest builders, as one of its customers.
  • Autodesk BIM 360 — the design software giant has a very solid CDE developing in BIM 360, with favorable features for AE pros who are, especially, on Autodesk platforms. See profile above.
  • Bentley ProjectWise — ProjectWise is a global leader in CDE space, particularly for the largest construction projects in the world. For architects, there are essentially four projects to be aware of, ProjectWise Design Integration, ProjectWise Connection Services, ProjectWise ProcureWare, and ProjectWise Construction Management.
  • Bluebeam Revu Studio — Bluebeam Revu is the most popular war room and document review software in the AEC industry and only recently has its parent company, the Nemetschek Group, communicated its CDE ambitions, which are discussed here in this exclusive Architosh feature.
  • Bricsys 24/7 — formerly known as Chapoo, 24/7 is a robust CDE offering with integrated BIM model viewing, document management, workflow automation, collaboration markup tools and more.
  • conjectPM — this CDE from Germany was a major competitor to Aconex until the latter acquired the company recently. Its sister app is conjectFM for facilities management.
  • GroupBC — one of the UK’s biggest BIM leaders has been at the forefront and has a next-generation CDE called BC Enterprise for the AEC industry. BS 1192 compliance features.
  • Newforma — The Manchester, New Hampshire based tech company has offices all over the world and is one of the global AEC software leaders. We profile the company above.
  • PlanGrid — a cloud or SaaS darling in the AEC software space, PlanGrid as a CDE is growing despite stiff competition from the likes of Procore in particular. It will be hosting its first PlanGrid Construction Summit this coming June. PlanGrid’s appeal is its simplicity and UI/UX, which are considered superb. PlanGrid counts Granger and DPR amount is contractor customers.
  • Procore — touted as a “Construction OS,” Procore is growing at an incredible pace, though it is small much smaller than Aconex. Procore has taken a lower-market first strategy, targeting initially contractors doing high-end residential (the founder’s core problem) and light commercial. Procore has a robust market-place of integration apps, including big names like QuickBooks, Bluebeam and Asta Powerproject.
  • ProjectMates — a cloud-based CDE solution for owners in particular. While it supports the viewing of drawings online, like others on this list, it doesn’t include BIM model viewing for BIM collaboration.
  • StratusVue — a cloud-based CDE solution that includes an integration of three apps, BidVue, PlansandSpecs, and BIMfx. StratusVue is headquartered in Chicago. The award-winning Aqua Building in Chicago, by Studio Gang, was a project that went through its system.
  • ThinkProject — this CDE is from Germany and services the building, infrastructure and civil markets, along with engineering and industrial construction. Customers include SIGNA.
  • Trimble Connect — Trimble’s innovative online CDE was an early system with an integrated BIM and model viewer with sectioning and clash detection. See our profile above.
  • Viewpoint — the UK based company is a leader with an enterprise-class CDE with fully integrated ERP (enterprise resource planning). They have five products just for contractors, including estimation software.

Growing This List

Have we missed a key software package? If you think so please email us at [email protected] and tell us about it. We will be sure to add it to the list at the next update AND we will give you a complimentary annual subscription to Architosh INSIDER premium membership.

Architosh will be reviewing and updating all our App Lists on a regular basis. See the dates below.


Listing of Updates by Date

15 Jan 2018 — Last update of this page

15 Jan 2018 — Page created on this date


 

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