International design firm, RKD, has a rich legacy dating back to its formation in Dublin, Ireland, in 1913. Since then, it has established itself as one of the most diverse and effective architecture firms in Europe.
The company’s 200+ creative professionals service a wide range of projects across the EMEA region from office bases in Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, and Italy. Sustainable design connects and unifies RKD’s multi-service, multi-sector approach. In addition to specialist high tech design consultancy, RKD provides comprehensive architectural, interior design, master-planning, and urban design services to meet the needs of its diverse range of clients. RKD’s project typologies include data centres, mission-critical infrastructure, pharmaceutical facilities, commercial offices, residential and mixed-use development, healthcare, and higher education buildings.
RKD has designed and delivered high-profile projects for major multinational clients such as the LinkedIn EMEA headquarters in Dublin, the social media giant’s first purpose-built office development outside the US; the Guinness Storehouse, Ireland’s most popular visitor attraction; and One Microsoft Place, the EMEA Headquarters of technology giant, Microsoft.
The common threads tying together RKD’s work across all these project areas are the design process it undertakes and the software it uses to support it. Almost every new project that RKD undertakes today is carried out using the 3D design modelling solution Revit and Autodesk’s Construction Cloud’s BIM 360 platform.
Diatec, Ireland’s leading Autodesk Training, Consulting and ICT technology partner to the Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) sector has worked with RKD for around 20 years now and supports RKD with the ongoing implementation of its digital transformation roadmap, incorporating multiple different areas of ICT and networking. As part of this broad role, Diatec was instrumental in implementing Autodesk’s design and collaboration software for RKD, supporting it and providing training, workshop courses and consultancy.
RKD began using BIM 360 in 2018 to enhance workflows across its international office network. When the company moved to a remote work set-up at the start of the pandemic, it was therefore well prepared already to move all its projects into the cloud. By eliminating any need to overburden the corporate network with data, that decision took a huge amount of pressure away from RKD’s IT systems and its VPN, just at the time that the whole business started working remotely.
The use of BIM 360 also ensures that RKD can share models and other project information with consultants, partners, and clients across any architectural project. Using BIM workflows, which are certified to BS EN ISO 19650-2:2018, means that all projects are set up using the same core principles for folder structure, file naming, and information sharing.
The main challenge that RKD faced through this process was around ensuring that its teams remained agile while adopting both the technology itself and the correct building information modelling (BIM) procedures. In the past, many staff, especially those from the management tier, would have spent less time using the technology hands-on, and more on continued use of traditional workflows such as the manual mark up of drawings.
Driving the Productivity of Design Teams
Through a mix of one-to-one sessions, small project group training, and wider office continuous process development courses (CPDs), delivered by RKD’s BIM Manager, the organisation has overcome many of the challenges that come with changing long-established workflows and integrating them into a different environment.
Deborah Moynihan, BIM Manager RKD said: “We tend to work in large project teams where there is a focus on staying creative and collaborative despite potentially being many hundreds of kilometres apart. That is something that the Autodesk products have allowed us to do. It has enabled us to continue to work efficiently and productively through the pandemic and the removal of geographic obstacles through digital transformation is a key component of our international growth strategy.”
RKD estimates that using BIM 360 achieves an average 75% of timesavings when opening models from the cloud versus opening across a VPN. For RKD, this equates to practical timesavings of approximately 3,870 billable hours.
By moving its models to the cloud using BIM 360, RKD increased productivity by 4% across its project teams. Being able to rapidly restore project data from a cloud back-up means RKD have been able to protect their projects and data from information-loss and the associated risk of this.
Reaping the Rewards
By moving Revit-based projects into the cloud, RKD can now resource a project from anywhere. This means that with geographic location no longer a limiting factor, they can always ensure the right people are working on the right project at the right time. And, in today’s current labour-market, finding the skills and talent needed in the industry isn’t always easy.
For their team members who are not familiar with using digital technology as part of their day-to-day activity, they can view the project in a model environment. For team leaders this is very useful as they can view models and drawings in real time after each one is published. They can also create mark-ups and highlight issues, which are then sent back to the production team to be addressed. This has streamlined a workflow, which used to involve a lot of printing, and manual mark-ups, in an office environment, and converted it into a largely paper-free process. RKD can see how all previous mark-ups and issues have been tracked, significantly reducing dependency on paper-based reviews.
Collaboration with RKD’s project partners and consultants has also improved as a result of using BIM 360. The traditional way of sharing models was to send work packages over email and via weblinks for partners to work on in isolation on their own servers. But now, project collaborators can save time and bandwidth accessing the live information they need from anywhere.
Focusing on embedding collaborative design software has enhanced the flexibility of RKD’s people and processes. Deborah Moynihan, Associate BIM Manager for RKD says: “BIM 360 empowered our design teams during a time of unprecedented challenges in our industry, resulting in work productivity that was not affected by IT downtime and / or VPN connectivity issues. Even prior to the pandemic, this software changed the way we worked, as we could collaborate with people located at multiple different locations and add different staff as and when we needed to for each project. That in turn is enabling us to expand our operations more seamlessly across EMEA and latterly the LATAM countries of Central and South America. Already our international business accounts for more than a quarter of our total turnover by infrastructure.”
Deborah continues: “But wherever we are located, having the ability to demonstrate our own Common Data Environment, whose workflows align with BS EN ISO 19650-2:2018, provides us with a competitive advantage and is a compelling reason for new clients to choose RKD to undertake the design and delivery of their built environment projects.”
Moving Boldly Forward into the Future
RKD considers BIM 360 to be a critical component in its international growth strategy. The platform has enabled RKD to remove geographic barriers to project team collaboration and in doing so has helped the organisation to grow its international business to represent 26% of total turnover by infrastructure.
For RKD, using the model collaboration offerings from Autodesk will be the next step in the process of streamlining its project coordination and clash detection process.
“We have always used Navisworks for our clash detection process and generated clash reports straight from the native software,” said Deborah. “Our next ambition, however, is to link the Navisworks model with the BIM 360 model coordination space and use BIM 360 insight to automate the publishing of our clash reports from all the issues that will be generated using the BIM 360 issues plug-in for Navisworks.”
RKD has come a long way in project design terms over the past few years from a time when its project portfolio was predominantly CAD-based to one where it is approximately 90% Building Information Modelling (BIM) first. Both Autodesk software and the help and support of Diatec have been key to their successful digital transformation journey.