||It is all too common for technology companies to seek a new route to solving the same problem but for the most part the solutions address the effect and not the cause. The good old-fashioned pencil is the perfect example where inventors have sought to design-out the effect of the inherent brittleness of lead. Traditionally different methods of sharpening were suggested and more recently the propelling pencil has reigned king, the lead being supported by the dispensing sleeve thus reducing the likelihood of breakage. Developers convinced by the Single Building Model approach to design development have each embarked on a difficult journey to create an easy to use feature packed application. Unfortunately it seems that the two are not mutually compatible if we are to believe what we see emanating from Technology giants Autodesk in the guise of Architectural Desktop 3. The effect of their development is a feature rich environment but the cost and in this case the cause is a tool which is far from easy to use. However, this is only a small part of a much bigger problem, Interoperability. You see when one designer develops a model with one tool the information is typically locked in that environment. Of course the geometry can be distributed and shared amongst the team for use with their tools but the properties, or as often misquoted, the intelligence is lost along the way. The effect is the technological version of rubble; the cause is the low quality of data-translation available to us. Fortunately there is one company, which is making rapid advancements on the whole issue of collaboration, and data sharing. An old timer (Graphisoft - famous for ArchiCAD) has just donned a smart new suit, set up a new company called GDL Technology and stepped into the ring to do battle, with a difference. The difference is that GDL Technology does not rely on conquering the competition, quite the opposite in fact their success relies upon the continued success of all the major CAD platforms including AutoCAD, MicroStation and ArchiCAD (of course). GDL Technology have created a standard data format for manufacturers called GDL Objects. Product manufacturers such as Velux are now able to develop product libraries using GDL Objects, which can then be placed in a CAD model, or drawing using almost any CAD tool. The product libraries can be stored on the web or on CD giving easy download access to any building industry professional. These objects are created using scripts which makes them tiny for downloading from the web. Each object contains 3 important types of information: · Parametric scale dependant 2d plan symbols · Full 3d geometric data · Manufacturers information such as material, colour and price Whilst manufacturers are racing to GDL Technologies door to sign up, developers and clients are quick to see the benefit too. Porsche are using GDL Objects to manage their brand identity as they build over 300 new showrooms worldwide. Having defined the building style and interior Porsche, in conjunction with the product suppliers, have produced a CD-ROM with all of the selected building components such as cladding, doors, furniture, and finishes. Designing and detailing the various schemes will therefore be as straightforward as using Lego. To ease the process of accessing, sizing and placing the product libraries GDL Technology have developed a product called GDL Object Explorer, a free-standing application which can be placed on the CD with the product libraries. Furthermore, whilst the Object Explorer gives access to the GDL Objects it also enables the user to save the object in one of many file formats including DWG, DGN, DXF, 3DS and even the IAI's IFC. However, if you are an AutoCAD user there is another tool, which has been designed especially for you, it is called the Object Adapter and it works inside of AutoCAD 14 and 2000. The Object Adapter will dynamically convert all GDL Objects to AutoCAD Blocks during placement, which means that they can be controlled with standard AutoCAD commands. Furthermore, each object can be linked to an online document from the manufacturer web site, which is ideal for more extensive product information. Other tools, which have been developed to make the most of the objects, are the Web Plug-in and SalesCAD. The Plug-in enables objects to be dynamically modified and displayed on web pages and Sales CAD is an easy to learn and use design tool for sales teams to explore, develop and cost designs on a Notebook PC whilst sitting in the architects office. All sales quotations are directly extracted from the model and presented in HTML format as a mixture of product images, product descriptions and tables identifying quantities and costs. With full lifecycle information stored in each GDL Object it is no surprise that GDL Technology see their objects as the future for building design. Indeed they are not alone, the IAI have already said that they are going to explore the possibility of associating GDL Objects with their own data sharing format the IFC. So down to the dirty stuff, money and how much it costs? Well, at the risk of sounding like a market trader in Petticoat Lane, "To you guv? Nuffin". That's right as a user of this technology it will cost you nothing! Not a penny, it is gratis, free. The product manufacturer pays for the license to host their libraries on the web or on CD and even then their costs are small costing from as little as 50p for each CD filled with objects. GDL Technology has come up trumps with their GDL Objects. They have developed a new way to solve old problems. If CAD were a pencil then GDL Objects would be ballistic lead, which would never break or loose its point. A much better alternative to the strategy used by many of their competitors who seek to avoid breaking the pencil by persuading the artist not to press down so hard. If you are still reading and you have not already dropped the magazine and run off to find out if your favorite product supplier has already signed up then I suggest you check out the following web sites www.gdlcentral.com and www.gdltechnology.com. If you do not see them there, pick up the phone and ask them why.