AEC Tech News (#312)

5 Apr, 2012 By: Cadalyst Staff

Open BIM Aims to Overcome Collaboration Challenges of Modern AEC Workflows

New buildlingSMART initiative provides common definitions, requirements, and branding for building projects.

By Nancy Spurling Johnson

Open BIM: A universal approach to the collaborative design, realization, and operation of buildings based on open standards and workflows.

Open BIM

Announced in March, Open BIM is an initiative of the neutral, not-for-profit buildingSMART alliance and several developers of BIM (building information modeling) software. The new program aims to accelerate the adoption of BIM in the AEC industry by providing common definitions, requirements, and branding for building projects, helping to overcome the challenges that can impede the collaboration among architects, engineers, contractors, and project owners that is so vital to an effective BIM workflow.

The BIM workflow has brought tremendous change to building design and construction. Beyond the transition to 3D modeling, it requires a level of cooperation and communication among project participants that is not characteristic of the conventional 2D, paper-based, sequential workflow. "Today, processes are parallel, and stakeholders must collaborate more closely," said Akos Pfemeter, director of global marketing at Graphisoft, one of the founding members of the Open BIM program. "They need more effective communication."

Open BIM specifies that users adopt open standards such as the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) data model standard, which was developed by buildingSMART and has been accepted by ISO. But Open BIM is more than just IFC, said Pfemeter. "Open BIM is a process — and open workflow — on top of IFC common data," he explained. It is designed to facilitate better exchange of IFC data, among a variety of other benefits, including:

  • Workflow integration results in greatly reduced coordination errors compared to sheer file exchange-based coordination of the different disciplines.
  • Project members can work with their modeling software of choice without risking incompatibility that could otherwise exclude them from certain BIM projects.
  • Project members can maintain full control over software upgrades independently from their peers as they participate in various AEC projects.
  • Accessibility of BIM data is provided for the entire lifecycle of buildings including design, construction, and operation.

Read more »

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Nancy Spurling Johnson is Cadalyst's editor in chief.


Tech Trends: BIM vs. GIS

When it comes to managing facilities and infrastructure, which technology provides the information that you need in the way you need it? The answer might be: both.

By Heather Livingston

In facilities management, one question seems to be on everyone's mind these days: BIM or GIS? Without a doubt, both options have a lot to offer when it comes to wrangling all the data involved in operating a facility. BIM (building information modeling) offers detailed 3D visualization and the ability to organize huge volumes of data related to buildings. A GIS (geographic information system) is highly customizable, well equipped for analysis, and ideal for projects in a campus or multi-site environment. Which program or process is better for FM depends entirely on whom you ask. In speaking with a variety of experts, one thing became clear: You're not likely to find much consensus.

At Autodesk University 2011, one seminar explored "The Great BIM Versus GIS Debate." Hosted by Matt Ball, editor and cofounder of Vector1 Media, with cospeakers Peter Southwood and Michael Schlosser, both of Autodesk, this gathering was lively and full of strong opinions about the capabilities, strengths, and drawbacks of BIM and GIS in the FM arena.

Taking Sides

Southwood, a geospatial technical specialist, expressed his belief that BIM is best suited for managing data related to the building itself, whereas GIS is more applicable for everything outside buildings. What FM really needs, he said, is something to manage information on a large scale. He believes that CAD in a GIS system provides the single source of truth that's needed to analyze the data required for FM. Because 3D design programs such as Autodesk Revit don't yet have the ability to easily transfer data directly into a GIS model, CAD is the standard-bearer for maintaining accurate design data in a GIS system.

Schlosser wholeheartedly disagrees with Southwood. Although he, too, is a technical specialist and a geospatial subject matter expert, he is a bit of a BIM evangelist — although his appraisal of BIM is not a conventional one. "I would say the BIM model encompasses more than that," he argued during the seminar. "The BIM model can encompass an entire subdivision and not be just about an individual building, but could be about the behavior of that entire subdivision or campus. It can model vehicular traffic [and] pipes in the ground and analyze the flow of water through the ground. If I increase the density of the neighborhood, how does that impact the pipe capacity — and can the treatment facility handle it? I look at BIM as information modeling for the built environment," he said. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Heather Livingston is a Wichita, Kansas–based freelance writer specializing in design, sustainability, and architectural technology.

User Profile: Kung Fu Drafter

Curt Moreno's complex pursuits feed his simple desire to better the drafting profession.

By Nancy Spurling Johnson

Curt Moreno is many things, just a sampling of which include CAD manager at a civil engineering firm in Houston, Texas; CAD industry writer; voracious reader; and the personality behind the Kung Fu Drafter blog. Beneath all that is an uncommon devotion to drafting.

Tell us about life in Texas.

I grew up and went to school in Houston. Over the years I've had a lot of jobs — I often worked two or more jobs at once — and I've had the opportunity to travel all over the Gulf Coast to work and meet people and have adventures. But in the end, I've never known a place as diverse and beautiful as Texas. I can't think of another state where you have tropical heat conditions in the south and snow in the north or where you can drive for more than 12 hours in one direction, and still be in the same state. To me, Texas is just home.

How did you get into CAD?

It's an odd story, but when I was in the eighth grade my family moved near the end of the school year. At my new school they made a scheduling error and I had a computer science class first and last periods. So I would normally skip the second class. But one day I stayed for the second class. In that class the teacher pulled out an old four-color plot of St. Paul's Cathedral. I was fascinated by the plot and decided that I wanted to get into drafting the following year at the high school. Read more »

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Nancy Spurling Johnson is Cadalyst's editor in chief.

Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


International ARCHIBUS Users' Conference
April 29–May 2, 2012
Boston, Massachusetts
The International ARCHIBUS Users' Conference will comprise case studies, panels, technical briefings, and best practices sessions. Attendees will be introduced to the newly released version of the ARCHIBUS software, which offers more web-based applications and a new suite of environmental solutions. Read more »

May 1–2, 2012
Chicago, Illinois
This multidisciplinary design conference will present twenty world-class designers speaking on various design disciplines, including architecture, graphic design, and design visualization. Read more »

Be Together: Bentley User Conference
May 15–17, 2012
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Carrying the theme "Working Smarter, Together," this interactive learning event will give Bentley users the opportunity to enhance their skills, increase their knowledge of the latest technology, and network with peers, Bentley executives, and exhibitors. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


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About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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