With a pressing need to complete projects within a stipulated timeframe and cost while ensuring quality, CW PROPERTY TODAY discusses software that can benefit the real-estate sector.
While the use of software was never a primary need in the real-estate industry, the need to respond to statutory changes, customer expectations and growing demand at the right price has led to several real-estate companies riding the digital transformation wave.
'Customers increasingly prefer cloud-based systems to reduce cost, time and complications of software implementation,' says Ashvin Gami, Managing Director, StrategicERP.
'ERP and CRM software is becoming necessary to recognise, prioritise and respond to the disruptions expected to hit the industry in the next five years.'
Pradeep Nair, Managing Director, Autodesk India and SAARC, says, 'Core areas, that are changing the way construction happens and are set to have the greatest impact on our industry are: Industrialisation, high-definition surveying, Internet of Things (IoT) and digital collaboration.' Key offerings from Autodesk in AEC include Revit Live, a virtual reality solution for the built environment, turns Revit and Revit LT models into an immersive experience in one click, helping architects understand, explore, and share their designs; Revit, is a software for BIM that supports a multidiscipline design process for collaborative design; ReCap software converts reality into a 3D model or 2D drawing that is ready for further design; and BIM 360, a construction management software that enables access to project data almost anytime, anywhere throughout the building construction life-cycle.
Technology that reduces project cost and helps achieves timely completion with minimal errors is what the construction industry is increasingly adopting now. As Paul Wallett, Regional Director for India and Middle East, Trimble Solutions, says, 'We have seen a continual rise in the use of software across the build-design-operate life-cycle in the industry.' As buildings are becoming increasingly complex, the use of Constructible BIM process is finding relevance with the various stakeholder groups in the construction industry. Wallett adds, 'Constructible BIM can be used to make the construction process run smoothly and in a timely, cost-efficient manner. If the model is detailed enough, one can test in advance to ensure a building is actually constructible, and at a reasonable cost.' A Constructible Model is different from a vanilla BIM model, in which, 'Constructibility' is considered from the model's initial conception all the way to fabrication. Trimble Solutions owns marque 3D product brands such as Tekla, SketchUp and Vico office, all widely used in the construction ecosystem.
With the aim to reduce cost and time, 'real-estate companies are looking at BIM solutions for clash detection,' says Eric Law, Senior Director-Construction Product, Bentley System.
With projects getting increasingly complex, companies are opting for multiple software. 'There are specific software for drawings, such as AutoCAD, Micro Station, etc,' shares Abhijit Joshi, BIM Manager, Turner Project Management India. 'For scheduling, software like Primavera P6 and MS Projects are extensively used. BIM is reshaping the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry. Various software are used for this, like Archicad, Revit, Navisworks, etc. There is also a variety of document management and control systems management software's available, such as Aconex, Unifier and Procore.'
For Amar Tendulkar, President-Design, Omkar Realtors & Developers, the journey starts from the drawing board. For the architecture and engineering part, he says, 'We mainly work on AutoCAD and Revit. For more complicated projects, we adopt BIM.' He adds, 'At the planning stage, we work on MS Projects and Primavera.' And, for green buildings, different software is used for shadow analysis, wind analysis, etc.
Jay Shah, Director, Access Architects, sees a big variability in terms of what software is being adopted. 'While AutoCAD has been in use for over 20 years, it has not reached a point where something is unanimous,' he says. However, he sees potential among companies that are technologically open and are doing larger projects. 'Revit, an Autodesk software, is being used extensively in India.
We have been using it for about 12-13 years as it proves beneficial for complex or large projects.'
Virtual reality (VR) technology is storming the real-estate market, as it allows the visualisation of property in a realistic way.
'Although, original plans and architectural designs are still the basis of any project, VR goggles make it possible to view an unfinished apartment or building and assess the look and feel of the end product,' says Joshi. 'Currently, the sales segment is the first adapter of this technology. Beyond VR, Augmented Reality (a hybrid of real-world images overlaid with a digital environment) helps us verify construction accuracy and progress in real-time fashion by taking the models into the field.'
'To explain ideas, VR is extremely powerful,' says Shah. 'As you actually walk through the entire project, you get what you see.' For instance, Access Architects has built an entire model including all the buildings around a site in Mumbai. 'When you put a new building into that model, you can actually see the exact view from each and every window in the building.'
As a virtual reality solution, Autodesk Revit Live enables architects to experience in real time all design elements of an under-construction project in any built environment. VR in the AEC domain makes all aspects of a given project seem more real than just a plain 2D layout of a room, flat or an entire building,' says Nair. 'The real value of this technology is to be able to virtually design and build, keeping all alternatives in mind thereby carefully assessing several dynamics of a project even before it is actually built.'
Trimble has partnered
with Microsoft to bring Microsoft HoloLens wearable holographic technology to the AEC-O industry. 'This collaboration allows us to explore ways to augment today's technology with solutions that allow individuals to more effectively interpret and interact with physical and digital information and their spatial relationships, transforming how architects, engineers, contractors and owners work,' says Rajan Aiyer, Managing Director, Trimble Navigation-India & Saarc. Together, Trimble and Microsoft are also working to develop a new generation of solutions - integrated with the HoloLens holographic platform on Windows 10 - to improve quality, transparency and collaboration across the design-build-operate life-cycle of buildings. Trimble SketchUp is widely used for 3D modelling and design.
SketchUp Viewer on HoloLens allows people to inhabit their designs in the most natural way possible - either as a holographic scale model on a tabletop, or through an immersive experience from within a digital building model.
New technologies have made their presence felt in the construction industry and will continue to do so.
According to Wallet, 'New technologies, such as telematics, have been growing in the construction industry for some time now, leading to better performing systems and decreased downtime.' Further, Wallet adds, 'Easy remote access enabled by the Cloud reduces wastage of time, resources and funds.' He mentions Tekla Model Sharing, which allows each user to have a local version of the BIM model on their computer or a network drive, enabling them to collaborate without being limited by geographical boundaries or internet availability. Further, Trimble has made available a company-agnostic collaboration platform - Trimble Connect, which is a powerful cloud-based collaboration platform that empowers teams involved in design, construction and operation to come together under one umbrella, irrespective of the software they use. 'Cloud makes information available at any time and place and can be afforded even by small companies to implement ERP in their organisation,' says Gami. 'The scope is huge and will completely transform the way we do our business in the next four to five years.'
'Through IoT devices, we get continuous streams of data from the field, which helps us learn how the building will react,' says Law. 'This also gives us a better exponential in the next project because we have more information to learn from. With every new project, the data will get richer, increase in volume, and get better and faster.' 'On any given project, we have multiple consultants involved and in many cases one or several consultants may be located internationally,' says Joshi. Multiple applications can help manage this process such as Aconex, SharePoint, Box, Unifier, etc. 'With these tools, we can help collaborate in real time and ensure all project stakeholders receive the latest information.'
Benefits for users
The use of construction software brings several benefits to builders, architects and contractors.
Wallett shares the top five benefits that accrue to concrete contractors by using constructible models created by Tekla as: 'Job estimating (estimates can be quickly generated with a high degree of accuracy and confidence); preconstruction planning (preventing expensive, schedule-delaying fixes at site; communication (invaluable tools for communication, both internally and with other stakeholders); project drawings (accurate 2D drawings and updated drawings can be automatically generated from the model as needed); and construction (used for pour planning and scheduling as well as managing rebar and formwork).' L&T chose Tekla's BIM software for modelling and detail drawing preparation for its Sinter plant in Odisha. L&T did the entire rebar detailing, including conflict check, by using Tekla software and managed to complete the structure 40 days ahead of schedule; with a saving of 21.6 per cent on reinforcing materials versus what was originally budgeted.
Meanwhile, speaking of StrategicERP, Gami says, 'We help customers convert their processes into digital, giving them the actual picture of the business to architect their future strategy for growth. The second benefit comes from cloud and mobility software û to improve company uptime and control its digital business from anywhere. The third is identifying routine non-productive work and design logic to automate the same. The fourth, with artificial intelligence to learn key aspects of business and monitor them to achieve project completion on cost and time every time. And, the fifth benefit involves using specialised techniques in project management like critical chain and stage gate process.' Recently, one of the company's customers remarked that they saved about 20 per cent of process time in 15 construction projects with the help of StrategicERP.
India is famous for exporting software to the whole world; now, people have started realising the benefits it can bring to our own country.
In Gami's view, construction and real estate are dynamic industries that require software specifically designed for every project. 'We are seeing a 200 per cent rise in software enquiries in the past six months,' he says. 'Even small companies are keen to learn the complete cycle of ERP with a few extra trained resources.'
Meanwhile Trimble believes that across tasks, roles and project phases, the need for construction software is apparent and imminent. Aiyer believes that the Indian construction market has warmed up to construction software a lot more than earlier. 'A number of organisations have the misconception that once a 3D design model is made, they have realised BIM. But they need to understand that BIM is not a product or software but a process that enables Constructibility and encapsulates the entire construction workflow. The sooner the industry realises it, the quicker it will address some of its problems.'
Certainly, several recent announcements by the government have changed the dynamics for the real-estate sector. With RERA, for instance, developers have a significant responsibility to complete projects on time. To this, Joshi comments, 'Software alone is not the answer; you need thoughtful implementation of software and processes to help drive successful project outcomes.' That said, he sees a continued shift from manual and paper-based processes to digital solutions that facilitate seamless collaboration between stakeholders and improved project tracking, further helping to meet stringent deadlines.
Considering RERA is all about transparency and honouring commitments, Tendulkar says, 'Through the use of software, data is available for any authorised person to view. Software brings in transparency and accuracy and makes the business more customer-centric.' He adds that while software companies are introducing products, they should also conduct awareness programmes to help users understand the effective ways in which the software can be used. We agree!
- SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN