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As a property manager/space planner you have perhaps experienced the need and importance of online floor plans for your day-to-day work. This capability has been available in some Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). However, there are issues with the traditional process of publishing drawings online in such systems.

Overall, three groups of users would benefit from accessing the floor plans online.

  • For property managers/space planners
  • For employees
  • For facility managers and service providers

Every building starts with a set of drawings which are approved for construction by the planning organizations. When a construction is completed the final drawings are provides to the owner and are called “as-built” drawings. These drawings can have a life beyond the construction phase and play an important role in the IWMS and facilities management processes for different organizations.

Property managers and space planners use the drawings to find and assign the appropriate spaces to individuals and/or departments. When viewing the drawings, they need to display the assignment person or department as appropriate. When people or departments move, the plans need to be updated automatically to reflect the current occupancy and allocation of spaces. An IWMS or facility management system which is capable of dynamically reflecting the occupant’s name on a drawing would save a lot of updating time for the related drawings.

Studying Alternative Possible Improvement Plans Using Drawings

As a property manager/space planner, to study a possible move or building improvement, you need to create one or more alternative space plans with the assignment of the individuals and departments to spaces. Such plans would be in a non-active status until one option is selected as a winning alternative. In such a case, the status of that plan and floor would be changed to “planned”. So, the statuses of the plans could be as follows:

  • Active – Floor plan is what is currently in place. There is usually only one floor plan with status of active for each floor. However, for large floors that singled floor plans may be broken up into more than one drawing.
  • Study – A floor plan and its associated database information is created to study a possible change. There could be more than one alternative study. Each plan can be given a unique name. For example, “move alternative 1” and “move alternative 2” and both are in the status of Study.
  • Other statuses such as Cancelled

Online Drawing Viewing Standards

A lot of electronic drawings these days are generated in different version of the AutoCAD program. AutoCAD drawings formats are a standard which is referred to as DWG. This is because AutoCAD’s files for its native format end with .dwg. DWG files are proprietary to Autodesk (developer of AutoCAD) and are great if you open them in AutoCAD itself. However, AutoCAD is expensive and difficult to run and maintain. Therefore, it is not suitable for online viewing. AutoCAD allows you to generate a lightweight version of DWG for online viewing which they call DWF. DWF files have the file qualifier of .dwf and hence the name. Unfortunately, DWF has its problems as well. For example, it requires a plug-in which is very finicky and mostly runs on IE (Microsoft Internet Explorer). There are other versions for Chrome and Firefox but good luck getting them to work! So, you ask what the options are otherwise. There are two other possibilities currently:

  • Vendor specific formats – There a few IWMS’ which import the DWG or DWF drawing and create their own specific online drawing format within their system. Although they would be able to view and manipulate the resulting drawing online, there are some shortcomings:
    • You would be dependent on a vendor specific format. The more you import your drawings to such a system, the more you become dependent on that vendor. So, it becomes very difficult to move away from that vendor at any point in the future.
    • None of such systems are completely portable. Some do not run on all browsers and mobile devices as well as needing to download their own specific plug-ins. Most do not work on tablets and smart phones.
  • SVG format – This is perhaps the best of all worlds! SVG (Segmented Vector Graphics) is a new ANSI standard which has a number of advantages:
    • It is supported by Google and other leading Internet providers
    • There is a free drawing editor program for it from Google called Inkpad.
    • It is based on HTML 5. There are no proprietary formats of any kind
    • It is portable and readable in any of the leading browsers without needing a plugin
    • It runs on tablets and smart phones
    • XML based format

SVG is a great alternative for displaying the online drawings and makes things much easier for the property manager/space manager and also the user.

What is the best approach for setting up SVG’s?

Once a property manager/space manager decides to use SVG drawing for online floor plan viewing, then the question is what would be the best approach for creating these drawings? There are a few options:

  • Use a program to convert the DWGs to SVGs. These are programs which are able to read a drawing in any of the popular formats and then convert them to another. A number of them generate SVG files by converting from other formats. You need to try out the programs to make sure there are no limitations and also the drawings which are converted to SVG are displayed properly. You can open them in Google Inkscape to check them out.
  • Use PDF version of the drawing as a background. This may be the easiest approach for creating online viewable drawings.
    • Open the DWG file in AutoCAD or your drawing editing program. Save the drawing as a PDF file. This may be a print to PDF option in some programs.
    • Create a new SVG file in Inkscape. Import the PDF file.
    • Draw polylines around spaces you want to connect to the database for an intelligent drawing. Polylines with a hyperlink to the space or asset are used in IWMS for connecting a drawing to a database object.SVG can display the PDF as a background drawing with the polylines on top.Please note that with this approach you are not limited to AutoCAD drawings and you can bring in any PDF files and set it as background no matter how they were generated.

There you have it! A flexible system to bring up the drawing online and allow smart connections to the database.

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