Thursday, 13 August 2015

AEC Hackathon - London

At NBS, we recently supported and took part in the first ever AEC Hackathon in the UK.

NBS Labs Manager Alan Smith (@AlanSmithNBS), who has led software development projects for over ten years at NBS writes this guest blog on the event below.

Alan writes...
NBS Alan

I was really excited to be invited to the first AEC Hackathon outside of the US, held at the Future Cities Catapult’s Urban Innovation Centre in London. I was invited to the event to present the BIM Toolkit along with my NBS colleagues Chris and Matthew. NBS also set a challenge for the event. Having never been to a hackathon before I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Day one: Friday 17th July – 6-10PM
After registering we were well fed and given time to look around the fantastic venue that would be our home for the next 48 hours. The hosts for the Hackathon were Paul Doherty (AEC Hackathon co-founder) and Simon Hart (InnovateUK). Paul went over the structure of the next few days and then Damon Hernandez (AEC Hackathon co-founder) appeared on a video wall from his home in San Francisco to explain the purpose of the AEC Hackathons.

At the end of his introduction, Damon donned a construction hard hat and so began the “Lighting rounds”. The lighting rounds were an opportunity for people to introduce themselves, their skill set and challenges they want to work on. There was a real mix of backgrounds – software development, architecture, mechanical engineering etc.

Paul Dougherty kicks of the first AEC Hackathon outside of the US
Day two: Saturday 18th July – 8AM-11PM
The NBS Team wanted to see what they could do with Autodesk’s Large Model Viewer API and data from the BIM Toolkit, so we set about planning our development work. Other teams started forming and hacking commenced.
NBS team hard at work
For those not taking part in the Hack challenges, there were some fantastic presentations throughout the day from Simon Hart, Rick Holland and Jonny Voon of InnovateUK, Damon Hernandez, George Stevenson and Tim Aikin of ActivePlan, Su Butcher of Just Practising Ltd, Grzegorz Klimaszewski of AssetMapping and more.
Rich Holland predicts the future of Smart Cities and IoT
And of course, I gave a presentation on the BIM Toolkit.
BIM Toolkit presentation
Meanwhile, the NBS team had made steps forward in exporting data from the BIM Toolkit in to our NBS Cost Tracking tool to show how toolkit data can be used to help with tendering and cost tracking. We’d also looked at using the  Large Model Viewer API from Autodesk to render National BIM Library objects in the web browser to help users inspect and review an object prior to downloading it.
Deliverables in the BIM Toolkit
Transferring the data into another software application
The BIM Toolkit data now being used in a cost tracking package
Experimenting with APIs that were available over the weekend from other software vendors

Interrogating IFC through the webbrowser
The day ended with everyone looking very bleary eyed but there was a huge buzz in the room and expectations were high for the presentations on Sunday.

Day three: Sunday 19th July – 8AM-1PM
Final hours of hacking were frantic running up to the presentations at lunchtime. I was blown away by the quality (and amount of work) of the work that had been achieved in such a short time. 

The first team to present were Optioneers, who focused on the challenge to help clients make better choices when they buy a house – so they can see the cost and carbon impact of having a flat vs a raised roof etc. Optioneers won the prize for the best use of open source.

Next up were Gapath0n, who created an open API to improve analysis of an Innovate UK and Energy Savings Trust dataset evaluating the performance of dozens of buildings. The team won three awards for their efforts: the Innovate UK Hack challenge, the Energy Saving Trust Challenge and the Future Cities Catapult Challenge.

Next to present were GhostBIMSquad. The team started with a demonstration of using Autodesk’s Large Model Viewer API to view a hospital. Then team then unleased feature after feature of additional things they had worked on from asset tagging to suggest suitable substitute products from a product selection database, Bluetooth navigation to locate assets within the building and finishing with a “hacked” together Perspex box that could display a hologram of the building. The team won Best Overall Project and the Autodesk VR and 3D Challenge.

Trying to top the last presentation were, team Massive. Massive created an impressive 3D app using ordinance survey data to identify potential redevelopment in London, with a view to creating more space in the city by identifying buildings that could be raised in height based on planning permission granted to surrounding buildings. Massive won the NBS prize for the best use of BIM.

The presentations were concluded by team Concur, who created an app using Autodesk’s Large Model Viewer API to provide project teams and clients with a method of commenting and feeding back on designs.

I entered the AEC Hackathon in London not knowing what to expect – the image I had in my head was like a scene from the movie Social Network. Fortunately this wasn’t quite how it panned out. Simon Hart and Paul Doherty did an excellent job organising the event in London and there were some really impressive hacks and some brilliant presentations and inspiring speakers that you’d pay a lot of more to see at a conference. It was also an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people within the AEC Sector. The event was such a success that it tended #3 in the UK on twitter and Damon Hernandez has confirmed there will be another AEC Hackathon in London summer 2016.

This review of the AEC Hackathon was written by Alan Smith, NBS Labs Manager

Other reviews of the event (as kindly collated by Simon from Innovate UK) are below:

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