Before Project Atlas became an actual possibility that could revolutionize paperless construction sites, there were two Rogers O’Brien Construction employees hoping to answer a simple question.
Joe Williams and Todd Wynne were trying to answer the question for a presentation: “What does the future of software look like for our industry?” It was for a Dallas BIM forum in 2014.
“Todd had been thinking about it for years,” Project Atlas Founder and CEO Joe Williams said. “He wanted to make the Google Maps for construction.”
And right before the presentation, the two did what anyone else would do. The stayed up late the night before the forum and made a fake application out of Photoshop.
After presenting, the response was overwhelming. It was so realistic, the audience started asking how much it cost, if it integrated with other applications and when it would be available in the market.
“We had to explain that it was just an idea,” Wynne said.
From there, Project Atlas was born, which is a mapping engine for construction. Using location, it helps management teams piece together project information by converting drawings into highly detailed “zoomable” layers.
The application is currently in private beta with the hopes of launching later this year.
It’s all about the Layers
When looking at Google or Apple maps, you can layer traffic and wreck reports on top of the maps.
The same will happen with Project Atlas. The app will layer design data on top of the map. You can literally push a button and you can see architectural, plumbing, electrical, HVAC and structural overlays on the digital 2D map. Layers can be easily toggled on and off to overlay different categories of information.
“Everything is layer based,” Williams said. “It’s exposing things to us like never before.”
How will Project Atlas help?
Imagine working on a large project, like a new hospital.
You’re flipping through drawings because there’s an issue with a beam overlapping a toilet. You look up exactly where this section of the building is by looking through the architect’s index. The schema is like a different language.
Afte flipping through many pages and heading to the second floor, a subcontractor contacts you about an emergency. You check on it.
You realize the “emergency” could have waited and you really need to get to this beam to make a decision about the bathrooms on the second floor.
The project is waiting on you.
Now imagine if you had a Google Map of your project with location-based information. Imagine being able to pull the bathroom plans in question up on an iPad and overlay any other type of information, like steel beams.
You can quickly see that the plans show a beam hanging right above the toilet. You now have the information you need to make a decision.
Almost all general contractors are still using this paper system, Wynne said. It’s combersome and can take a long time to identify problems. It’s the equivalent of finding the road you are on with a paper map while driving through Chicago or Dallas.
2D isn’t Going Anywhere
It can take BIM experts years to truly learn the systems to build 3D models. And the way contractors have built buildings has always been based off 2D.
Sometimes that most expensive, complex tool is not the most efficient, Williams said.
“We need a solution that someone coming out of college can consume this information within a couple of hours… instead of years,” Williams said. “We’re trying to fill this middle space between BIM and 2D.”
In the coming “BIMtopian” world they hope Project Atlas will be the bridging tool from 2D to BIM for the construction site.
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