E-blueprints

At NIH,Tom Myers says a 40-inch LCD monitor focuses his attention on the big picture of campus architectural plans.

Henrik G. de Gyor

NIH makes online bluelines

A National Institutes of Health office has bought records management software so that architects and agency officials can trade their blueprint comments on a Web drawing board.

The Public Works Branch of NIH's Office of Research Facilities paid about $130,000 for the WD3 system from Bamboo Solutions Corp. of Reston, Va., which lets anyone with a browser and assigned log-in and password view the drawings online.

For two years, the office has informally beta tested the system. Soon it plans to begin doling out passwords to dozens of architectural and engineering firms that design hundreds of construction and renovation projects for NIH.

WD3 will eventually store millions of floor plans and blueprints on a server hosted by the Public Works Branch. NIH administrators will control access through management software also provided by Bamboo Solutions.

'You basically assign permission by person or group,' said Beth Watson, solutions project manager at Bamboo.

NIH can grant access to a single room or an entire campus of buildings. It can designate which users can only view the documents, and which ones can make changes.

'We can give them just the floor plans for the 8-foot gas line coming into Building 10,' said Thomas Myers, the operations and maintenance systems information technician at NIH's Business Support Branch.

With WD3, '99 percent of everything that needs to be done can be done on the Web,' from inspecting to amending, Myers said.

Architects can send markups or comments within seconds, instead of rolling up and shipping or hand-delivering drawings, then waiting for the agency to ship or hand-deliver them back with suggested changes.

That will eliminate possible security breaches, Myers said, because the blueprints and electrical wiring plans, some of them 60 or more years old, could fall into the wrong hands.

'Now you don't have all these files rolling around in the back of a UPS truck,' he said.

The Web service uses Extensible Markup Language and Extensible Stylesheet Language over HTTP and another protocol similar to Simple Object Access Protocol.

Microsoft Transaction Server provides the document management, collaboration and search services.

Myers said the system makes it easy to communicate with architectural firms scattered around the country because their users need only a browser, not downloaded software. But another version of WD3 runs in a client-server environment, installed on servers by CD-ROM and then distributed to each client. Still another version can be transmitted to wireless devices.

In an incarnation called iReview, a Web version that shares information residing on Bamboo's servers, the system recently won a nod from the National Library of Medicine for a building addition.

After evaluating iReview's performance during the springtime design phase for the building in Bethesda, Md., the NLM design team selected the software in August.

Within two weeks, the building designers and contractors had traded 2,700 comments and corrections online.

'I talked to NLM' before buying the software for NIH, Myers said, 'and they said it was working really well for them.'

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