Comparing functionalities and getting the best of Autodesk Navisworks and BIMcollab ZOOM

Comparing functionalities and getting the best of Autodesk Navisworks and BIMcollab ZOOM

Nowadays, the role of a BIM manager or a BIM coordinator is getting more specialised. Model checking and validating are becoming increasingly complex due to the variety of tools and specialised disciplines. In this article, we want to compare two of the most known model validation tools: Autodesk Navisworks and BIMcollab ZOOM. The goal is to compare features and workflows. Are you familiar with any of them or both? Are you curious about the other one? Let’s get started!

Spoiler alert: make sure you don't miss out on the summary matrix at the end of the article!

1.    Federating models

For a seamless validation process, it all starts with a simple compilation of the models. We can append various file formats in Autodesk Navisworks Simulate or Autodesk Navisworks Manage. Most notably *.nwc, *.nwd, and *.ifc, but there are more. However, we won't be able to compile any models if you're using Autodesk Navisworks Freedom, the free version. In this case, it’s only possible to open *.nwd files already created by someone with a paid Navisworks version.

In BIMcollab ZOOM, it’s all straightforward: whether we’re using the free or the paid version, we can create a federated model out of all your IFC files. As in Navisworks, we could add Point cloud files (*.e57, *.txt, *.xyz) and compare them directly to your IFC models. The navigation with large models is exceptionally fluid, allowing us to quickly visualize and check all the different disciplines. In comparison with Navisworks, the compilation made in *.nwd files may sometimes cause size issues in large projects.

2.    Property checking

The basics of any BIM process lies in the second letter: ‘I’ for information. Undoubtedly, it’s no wonder that Autodesk Navisworks and BIMcollab ZOOM allow us to select any element in the 3D view and check their corresponding properties.

Things become much more interesting once we want to ‘read’ this information visually. In Navisworks, the “selection tree” allows us to skim through all the elements and their properties. If we want to colorize any of these elements/models, we can override their color manually by right-clicking on each item or series of items.
This process is enhanced if we change the Selection Tree’s viewing mode to “Sets”. We can then assign colors to pre-defined sets. Hence, distinguishing visually between elements is possible, but it still doesn’t feel centralized. It’s also hard to have an overview of the colors assigned and come back to them to modify them.
Some Navisworks users would then use the Appearance Profiler to color-code the elements depending on their properties or following the “Sets” mentioned above. Even if the interface is not intuitive, it can get the color-coding done for one view. But what if we need several color-coded views to analyze the model differently? What if we want to color the elements automatically based on a specific parameter value?
These areas allow us to draw a clear comparison line with BIMcollab ZOOM. The simplicity of color-coding, its automation, and the endless possibilities are pretty apparent. And in ZOOM, we can find them all under one simple tool: Smart Views!

We choose the element type we want to visualize, filter it further if needed, and apply color to it. This doesn’t stop at one view either! We could create endless Smart Views depending on multiple parameters. For example, check the fire rating values in one Smart View, the material assignments in another, etc.

Another critical distinction would be the capacity to color-code the elements automatically depending on their parameters. There’s no need to assign them manually one by one. And to top it all off, you get an automated color legend accordingly. This color legend is dynamic and filters each series of elements in the 3D view whenever you click on a color! Oh, and did we mention that you could add a sum of values (areas, volumes, etc.) next to each series? That’s an added value to the automatic legend.

When talking about selecting elements and knowing their parameters, the next level is pretty obvious: what if I want to operate all the way around? Search by parameter value and detect elements. This is possible with both our guests in this article.


3.    Sets vs Smart Properties

We might face difficulties selecting elements and checking parameters when it’s about big models with lots of elements and information. It is handy to group them by model or a specific value for proper and more accessible model validation.

If we are used to Navisworks, we know we have the Selection tree, which allows us to select by Compact (Model name) and Standard (Model, Building Storey and Element type). Still, we also have the Properties option to select elements by their properties regardless of the model they are located in. When we already know the parameter we want to work with, we can use the “Find items” option to use advanced filtering criteria and combine models and properties. We can always use the selection and save this as a Set for later use in the Selection Tree, Clash Detective, TimeLine and Quantification.

A similar idea we can find in BIMcollab ZOOM with the newly released Smart Properties. We can use the data in the element properties and Psets. Once we find the relevant data, we can use it in several ways. We can group elements by Building Storey and group them regardless of the model. We can group different elements by discipline, so later on, your element selection is easy and direct.

Smart Properties can also map values to a “new” additional parameter, so we find several values located in different places, but now we centralised all the values in a new “parameter”. It’s also handy to “translate” parameters setting a new value for better understanding. For example, some of our stakeholders would better understand us if we used the word “Structural” instead of “LoadBearing”.

A few differences comparing Navisworks and ZOOM. In Navisworks, updating a Set means filtering, finding elements, and updating the Set. In ZOOM, it’s only about updating the Smart Property settings and will run automatically. We get the same results but in a more automated way. 


4.    Performing clash detection

On the agenda of every BIM Manager, one of the first validations we face is Clash Detection. Both Navisworks and ZOOM are great at performing accurate clash detection and getting precise and quick results. When we start managing those clashes, some main differentiating factors appear.

In Navisworks Manage, we can run specific tests in the clash detective, inspect the results individually and group them when needed. Note that Navisworks Freedom & Navisworks Simulate do not include the clash detective. This feature is only reserved for the most extensive version of Navisworks.

The results allow us a clear perception of each clash at hand. However, we might need patience if one pipe is clashing through 20 elements, for example. In this case, every clash is counted as one, whereas the problem is apparent: the pipe should move, and all 20 clashes will disappear. There should be only one issue to communicate. We can check similar clashes and group them as a single one but multiply this pipe example in real-life federated models, and you’ll quickly find yourself spending precious hours regrouping clashes manually.

BIMcollab ZOOM, on the other hand, does the work for us. The results of the clash analysis can be grouped automatically in various ways! It could be by story level, grid line, element type, material, etc. But even more, interestingly, we could group them automatically by source or target elements. And this means that one click is enough to regroup all the clashes related to that troublesome pipe!

But this doesn’t even stop here. At any time, you can reshuffle the clash results following different groupings. And those that we already reported as issues will be greyed out! It’s like having the best of three different worlds in BIMcollab ZOOM! First, we can visualize and manage the clash results in multiple ways. Second, clash detection can become real-time teamwork because your collaborators can help you. Third, this can be done without ever generating duplicate issues! Because we will know automatically if a clash has already been reported.

"If you are curious to find out how to gain precious time and add more value to the team by working with a model validation tool that really suits you, please let us know. You can easily book a date and time here!

It will be a pleasure to help you and your team." 
- Ferran Masip and Carole Dib, BIMcollab Consultants


5.    Tracking clashes

There’s no doubt that, for BIM managers and Coordinators, detecting clashes is probably the feature used most in Navisworks. And it does offer many possibilities on that front. Once our Revit model is modified, we need to update the Navisworks file and rerun the clash detection. We can run them one by one or all at once, depending on what we need at a given moment. But the fact is that new clashes will be detected (yes, unfortunately, clashes are never getting less). The already known clashes are moved to “Active”. If we mark them as “Reviewed” or “Approved”, the clashes are classified accordingly, and the clashes that are solved in the models will be moved to the last column “, Resolved”.

This Navisworks feature is handy to keep track of the clashes, and even we can export the actual status to several formats to discuss them with the team.

However, in ZOOM, the workflow is a little bit different. Clashes remain “New” until “Reported”, “Ignored”, or solved. The trick here is the “clash” definition. Navisworks detects elements and parameters, but ZOOM tracks the clash as an element. So, whatever the parameter or the grouping, clashes are identified as elements, they can never be reported twice! As an example. We track in one analysis Structural walls vs Structural Slabs. But another stakeholder tracks “In-situ Concrete” vs “Prefab Concrete”. With this definition, we can expect some clashes to appear in both analyses, right? Yes, of course! But in ZOOM, if one of our teammates reports the clash for himself to the modeler, this clash will appear as reported in our analysis. Clash reporting in ZOOM is a real collaborative team effort. When clashes are solved in the model in ZOOM, we can re-run the study and detect changes in the number of clashes found. This only represents the New and the Ignored. If a clash is solved, it’s out of our list to allow us to focus on what we need to deal with.

Then we have another powerful tool: the Smart Issues. When an issue is based on clashes, these clashes are solved in the model. ZOOM helps us and automates the checking. If all the clashes in an issue are solved, ZOOM can close the issue for us, so we clean the list and update these issues for better Project management. With a single operation, we can be back attending to the issues where we can add value. 


6.    4D + walkthrough video

If you are an expert in Navisworks, you might have used the element phases scheduled in planning (may be done by hand or imported from Microsoft Project). This leads you to impressive images, especially for explaining construction phases and planning to non-technical stakeholders.

Of course, if you are a high-level user, you have been using Viewpoints. You know, using several of them, you can create an animation. This is not for a realistic walkthrough, but it’s easy and fast to get camera movement and better understanding.

If you link these two options, and as a top Navisworks user, you can get a video output watching the construction process. It’s incredible how easy it is to create these animations.

But again, these are advanced tools that I barely need one hand to count BIM coordinators I’ve ever met using these features. You need to love Navisworks to create these outputs.

7.    Quantification vs Lists

Another handy tool in Navisworks is the ability to extract Take-offs. This means you can have a list of elements (Model elements or virtual elements) and the Quantities such as Length, Width, Height, Area and Volume. You can prepare this take-off so that when you receive a model, you assign the elements to the Quantities “Chapters” and “Lines”, and the schedule is filled with the data coming from the elements.

This is particularly handy for the Quantity Surveyors. You can create (or import) your List of definitions and elements you want to extract data from. Then, when receiving the model, you can assign elements to the Take-off lines. Or better than that, you can prepare Sets and use the elements and them to the Take-off… in a couple of seconds; you have all the element quantities in the list.

These lists can be exported so you can share the information with your team.
When using BIMcollab ZOOM, you have a similar tool but way freer and more customisable. For listing elements, you first filter them and select the data you want to include in the lists. You are not limited to geometric data but have every parameter available in a Pset. Of course, Smart Properties are beneficial here.
Having the parameters that we would like to see in the list, we can create a Property table, and all the parameters will appear in a list in columns. We can use them to filter and sort elements.  A helpful tip here is selecting elements in the list that will appear filtered in the view.

Instead, we can set the list settings as Pivot Grid. This will open a customized schedule where we can decide how to group and set up the schedule. Then, having all the parameters we want to include in the list, choose how we want to group and sort them, which ones we want in a column, and which ones in a row. This feature allows us to customize the list entirely.

These lists can be exported as XLS or CSV files. But ZOOM allows us to publish them straight to BIMcollab CLOUD, so they are immediately available for the whole team.

Additionally, we can create a Dashboard data list. Apparently will show us similar results as the Property tables but is publishing this data in a way readable for Power BI to keep analysing data and create Project Management Dashboards based on updated data from the models.


8.    Closing the loop, automating

At this point of the article, we all agree that Autodesk Navisworks and BIMcollab ZOOM are powerful for reviewing models.

The question now is: Once I detect an Issue, how do I inform the modeler or the team to solve it or add more information? Autodesk Navisworks can export clash reports and lists. Moreover, Navisworks can also save and export viewpoints to discuss them in a meeting.

In that case, BIMcollab ZOOM has a different approach. In ZOOM, every single result in a Smart View, a clash or a list can be reported as an issue, adding details and published to the CLOUD, which will be available for the team and for keeping track of the project's overall status. Issues are centralized in CLOUD but can be visible and used, through “BCF manager” plugins, to whatever tool the modelling team uses. So, an issue detected in Navisworks is shared in CLOUD and solved in Revit. And ZOOM is also adding to the team effort. Smart Views, Clashes and Lists are shared in ZOOM and visible for all the team in CLOUD itself or in Revit, Navisworks, Archicad, Tekla … the tools modellers use to improve the model.

Especially talking about clashes using Navisworks may often feel like having a beautiful new car with nowhere to go! For instance, how to follow up on the clashes once they are detected in Navisworks? How do you practically communicate them to other team members, especially if you’re not working exclusively in Autodesk’s environment?

If we observe the workflow adopted in the post-detection phase, we can re-run the test in Navisworks and modify the clash status accordingly. But then again, we still face the same dilemma. How do we communicate the findings successfully? To answer this, a range of workarounds popped up. The degree of (in)efficiency depends on the method that’s put in place. It could be sharing emails, Excel sheets, PDF reports, manual annotations, XML viewpoint files, offline BCFs, connecting to third-party issue management platforms, etc. All of them may eventually get the work done. But the real question is: at what cost?

On the other hand, since clash detection and tracking are part of one ecosystem with BIMcollab ZOOM and BIMcollab Cloud, the Smart Issues were born! When the models are updated, the Smart Issues allow you to detect automatically which issues have been solved, close them if needed and link them back instantly to the central issue management platform BIMcollab Cloud. All in one click! No workaround would beat a clear, streamlined workflow in the same environment.

9.    The power of a collaborative ecosystem

Regarding work-sharing, in Navisworks, we often see the BIM manager as the sole person responsible for detecting clashes and reporting them back to their team. But what if this responsibility could be more easily shared with other team members validating different parts of the model? What if some power is given back to architects and engineers who can discover clashes from their modelling tools?

The whole game is different with BIMcollab because BIMcollab ZOOM is only part of one large ecosystem, which includes BIMcollab Cloud and the BCF Managers! So, what does it mean when the same company has created a model validation tool, an advanced issue management platform, and connected plug-ins for native modelling software? Yes, you guessed it right! This means a unique opportunity to leverage the power of a complete ecosystem and utilize a unique BIM workflow!

In this article, we are facing Autodesk Navisworks and BIMcollab ZOOM. We have no doubt when choosing ZOOM, but if there are other members still using Navisworks: they are welcome in the team! Using the “BCF Manager” Plugin, they can still use Navisworks and are very welcome to the team! Let’s push together to keep moving BIM quality forward.

10.    Summary Matrix


Would you like to know more?

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