GBD Architects:  Designing Buildings that Work Hard, While Making It Easy to Find BIM Data


GBD Architects has earned a national reputation as a leader in sustainable design, blending architecture, urban design, space planning and interior design.  GBD Architects (GBD) create buildings that work hard and solve real human problems.  Yet, GBD had a problem with how its architects were able to access the design information necessary to create these buildings.

One Big Sandbox of Files

Prior to UNIFI, GBD stored its building information in folders within folders, and users needed to rely on file names to find content which ranged from home grown content to manufacturer objects.  Naming conventions varied depending upon who added information to the folder, which made it incredibly difficult for the users to find the right information and its intended use.  Since the solution was server-based, users could only log on from the office, limiting mobility.  Chris Ridder, GBD’s BIM Manager, said that all of the content ended being in “one big sandbox of files stored on the server.”

UNIFI Eliminates the Guesswork

Moving GBD’s information into UNIFI was seamless.  Chris Ridder assigned a naming convention to the files used across the company, then batch uploaded the 10,000 design files into UNIFI.  Immediately, GBD was up and running with its building content located in a single, UNIFIed source.  Setting up UNIFI was a breeze and it freed up IT resources within GBD to focus on other high value activities.

With UNIFI, GBD architects and designers can easily and quickly access proven content to create thoughtful designs.  UNIFI eliminates the guesswork and endless searches of trying to find the right BIM data.  UNIFI features including saved searches, tags and favorites streamline the search and insertion task, so that a process that used to take several minutes is now done in seconds.   Thanks to the cloud, GBD architects and designers are able to access design information from anywhere – in the office, at a site or at home.  This further enhances their productivity and taps into their creativity where and when they are most inspired.

Chris Ridder is a well-respected BIM expert and over the past 8 years, he’s evaluated and implemented several other BIM content products.  He says that “UNIFI is the best.  It provides the easiest access to content and makes searches better.”  UNIFI allows Chris to provide the best BIM management to the GBD architects and designers he serves, so that they can focus on the hard work of designing buildings rather than searching for information.

View the pdf of the GBD Success Story and read how other UNIFI customers are achieving success in our Success Stories area.


A Real Estate Management Firm Invests in Innovation & Content Creation…Realizes the Return through a High Quality, Well-Integrated Building Lifecycle

The Problem: Reinventing the Wheel

UNIFI has a customer that has built cities, literally.  The diversified real estate firm constructs, owns and operates a portfolio of properties that span residential, commercial and master-planned communities. Many of their buildings share the same design elements, or “building blocks”, that are rearranged in different ways for each project.  Yet, there was little to no knowledge sharing between projects, meaning the wheel was reinvented for each new project which became highly inefficient.

This firm saw an opportunity to invest in data-consistent content across all of its buildings.  They needed a library of these building blocks that could be leveraged across multiple projects & easily accessed by various partners throughout the building lifecycle – including architects, designers, engineers, contractors and facility managers.  This would not only ensure that everyone was working from the same set of information, but also streamline the building process and help maintain the high level of quality expected from every project.

The Solution: Create the Objects Once, Store in the Cloud and Use Repeatedly

The firm reached out to UNIFI to create custom building information models (BIM) unique to their buildings and house this information in UNIFI’s cloud-based content management solution.  First, UNIFI created the objects with custom parameters to meet their design, construction and maintenance standards.  Then, the building content was placed into UNIFI’s cloud-based structured library to ensure proper organization, data consistency and access throughout the construction and operation lifecycles of the building.  By working with UNIFI, the organization is now able have concurrent projects use the same content, as well as reuse that very content for future properties, enabling them to realize significant benefits, including:

  • Data Consistency: Onboard everyone with the same set of information – one library and use the content as building blocks across all projects.
    • Single source of content for multiple projects easily accessible in the field or the office via the cloud.
    • Naming conventions are standard across the building lifecycle recognizing significant time efficiencies for all stakeholders involved.
    • Parameter data consistency providing valuable information that can be mined and analyzed across a portfolio of projects.
  • Content Creation: UNIFI’s dedicated team creates unique BIM content based upon the firm’s unique specifications.
    • By leveraging UNIFI’s content services, the firm can efficiently meet the cyclical demand for content without having to staff a team of their own.
    • A common content format for building objects yields high time saving and quality returns across the building lifecycle.
    • Building content parameters are customized to “match” the firm’s standards for design, construction, operation and maintenance of assets.
  • Improved Efficiency: UNIFI streamlines the building process by making the model work together and thereby realize significant efficiencies.  Now, all areas of the firm – construction, property management and ownership groups – speak the same language thanks to standard content.
    • Design Efficiency: Easily re-use the same building blocks across multiple projects. Financial Efficiency:  Reduce the risk of budget overages by using specific, well-defined content in plans.
    • Construction Efficiency: Raise coordination with field personnel by embedded geospatial points in content that can be leveraged by GPS powered total point stations during construction.
    • Operational Efficiency: Files pushed out to field technicians are delivered in a format that allows them to maintain and service buildings.

View the pdf of this Property Owner Success Story and read how other UNIFI customers are achieving success in our Success Stories area.

How Do You Define SUCCESS?

Success is a relative term.  Broadly speaking, it means that a goal has been achieved or a milestone has been met. But, when you get down to the details – the definition is really specific to the individual, or in UNIFI’s case, unique to the goals and workflows of the organizations & end users of our content management software and creation services.  Architects design structures, manufacturers build products – but how each individual approaches their craft is unique.  The same applies to how our varied group of customers define success by using UNIFI.

Sure, a few common themes emerge across many of our customer success stories – including a single source of content that can be accessed from anywhere, streamlined workflow of searching and inserting content into Revit models, scalable & secure content administration, & high quality BIM content built to end user needs.  But, when you work with firms as diverse as Stantec, SSOE, KTGY, Interior Architects, Legrand, Harvey’s Plumbing – you really get a sense of how success is defined by each firm, its BIM leaders and all of its users.  For example:

  • Stantec made content security and access its #1 priority.
  • Harvey’s Plumbing, a small contracting firm with a huge content library, needed a speedy & scalable solution with anywhere access.
  • Interior Architects relied on UNIFI’s content on demand services to meet its clients’ demands.
  • KTGY wanted to have a single source of content to present a unified face across all of its offices.
  • SSOE applied its value-based culture on getting the biggest bank for its click.
  • Legrand wanted to “WOW” its customers with its manufacturer content.

One of our favorite moments of working with customers is sitting down with them after their initial rollout of UNIFI is complete, or after they’ve completed a content project and walking through the challenges each firm faced and then overcame to ultimately achieve success in their own unique way.  As you think about your own content management challenges, we encourage you to read through these case studies in our Success Story area – we bet you’ll see a bit of your own firm in them, as well as some differences.  We look forward to starting a conversation about your content needs and how UNIFI can help you achieve the same levels of success – on your terms.  

Custom Preview Images

So, you’re plugging away at work and your best Revit user submits the best door family they have to Unifi.  Awesome!  The system is working, the users get it!  But then you see the preview image!  Oh yeah, they are one of those who like a black background in Revit!  Sigh!  At least it’s not magenta!You could reject it and have it fixed, but you still need to validate it.  Best option: approve the content and fix the image yourself!

Unifi can help with this due to its ability to capture custom images.  Yep, any image shown on your monitor can be assigned as an elements preview image.  Editing the image is totally optional, but there may be times it needs to be done.  You definitely do not have to edit every image on every piece of content.  Steps for this are outlined below or check out this quick video!  No sound in the video, sorry!

  1. Start up a test project or open content.
  2. Modify view.
  3. From an item’s detail view, select “Edit File” from the buttons in the top right corner.
  4. Make sure the image you wish to capture is open on your screen.
  5. Click on the “Capture Image” button that appears below the item’s image. At this point, Unifi will hide and your monitor(s) will be blued out except for a small clear square near the center of the main monitor. A “Save Image” and “Cancel” button will appear at the top of the same monitor.
  6. Click on the clear square and hold the mouse button down as you move this square over the desired image.
  7. Click on one of the corners to resize the square if you desire. The square defaults to the minimum allowed size. The image you select will be resized to fit into the item’s icon.
  8. Click on the “Save Image” button to import the image into the item detail. After a moment, your image will replace the one that was previously shown.
  9. Click the green “Finished” button to save the changes.

Thanks for your time.

Chris Ridder – BIM Manager – GBD – LinkedIn – @cridder_

This is a post by a guest contributor not affiliated with INVIEWlabs. The opinions expressed are that of the contributor not INVIEWlabs. 

UNIFI Implementation – First Steps

The purpose of this post is to outline some first steps for implementing Unifi.  If you are a new customer or using the trial to justify the use of Unifi to leadership these steps should help.  The organization, state and quality of content varies firm to firm, read on and make a plan.

Collect your content.

Your firm probably already has one standard location and naming convention for content, so you are already halfway there, good job!  If that is not the case, then you got some work to do 🙁.  One way to collect content is to create a project from your standardized company template.  Load all the standardized content that you can find scattered across the network (Loadable families of all categories, system families, anything and everything you can get your hands on).

Once content is loaded, use the out of the box Save As -> Library -> Family to export your content.  This exports the content to one folder.  There are several free add-ins to export content to folders base on categories, which Unifi will use as tags.  Since you can upload content to Unifi from the project and already have a naming convention, exporting content may not be necessary.  If there is content that uses Type Catalogs, export those and don’t forget to find all of the Type Catalogs and place them beside the family!  You will drag and drop that content to Unifi to upload the Type Catalog.

Standard naming convention.

I highly recommend a standard naming convention.  It can be as simple as adding your abbreviated firm name as a prefix or suffix: #ADSK-Overhead-Rolling.rfa or Overhead-Rolling-ADSK.rfa.  I prefer a convention similar to this: < Identifier >_< Units >_< Category >_< Type >_< Manufacturer >_< Descriptor> _< Host/Size >   There are several benefits to a naming convention and I will assign that as homework.

Content can be renamed with free software.  I prefer this bulkrenameutility (don’t forget to donate).  Yep, new software to learn!  It won’t take long, maybe 30 minutes of practice on practice files on your C drive.  Don’t practice on critical production files!  Renaming 11,000 files in 7 seconds is pretty darn cool!

Upload content.

Here is the easy part.  After content organization is complete; loadable families, system families, model groups and drafting views can be uploaded from the project with the Unifi add-in.  Content stored in folders can be dropped into Unifi where it will store them in the libraries that you setup.  Tags are created from the folder names and you can add any tags you want.  For more details on uploading, the help file and tutorials are great!

You can do it!

In between all other responsibilities and duties, I was able to collect, organize, rename, upload and train users in a lunch and learn in less than a month.  Make a plan and implement it!  You will be glad you did.  Your users will be as fast as mine, 2.1 times to be exact.

Thanks for your time.

Chris Ridder – BIM Manager – GBD – LinkedIn – @cridder_

This is a post by a guest contributor not affiliated with INVIEWlabs. The opinions expressed are that of the contributor not INVIEWlabs.