Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Open BIM Aims to Overcome Collaboration Challenges of Modern AEC Workflows

4 Apr, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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

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

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.


Flexible Options

Open BIM facilitates three different approaches to AEC project collaboration, which users can adopt according to their needs.

Option 1:
Reference Model Concept. In this approach, project stakeholders don’t attempt to achieve 100% binary (file) compatibility between various BIM models for full conversion; instead, BIM models of different trades are displayed together for reference.

Option 2:
Model Filtering and Classification. BIM models are created to fulfill the specific needs of particular disciplines. Workflow compatibility is achieved through filtering out irrelevant parts of models and reclassifying parts created with diverging concepts.

Option 3:Change Management. Coordination is not a one-time act, but rather an ongoing process. Support for change management helps provide a dynamic and streamlined workflow where only changed parts of the BIM model need to be subsequently coordinated.

Leading the Charge

Any AEC project participant can adopt Open BIM and use the Open BIM logo for branding. The logo is a guarantee that a software solution, a design or engineering firm, or a building project fully meets the requirements of open collaboration. All participants must agree to fully comply with program requirements, as outlined on the Open BIM FAQ page.

“Whoever joins can use Open BIM branding free of charge,” Pfemeter explained. “We hope it will become similar to the use of LEED status,” which specifies a project’s compliance with green building standards.

Any BIM software developer can join the program and use the Open BIM branding as well, regardless of competitive standing. Program participation “requires the willingness of vendors to be open,” Pfemeter said. Founding members of the program include Graphisoft, Nemetschek Allplan, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Nemetschek Scia, Tekla, and Data Design System.

Who will drive the adoption of Open BIM? “It’s too early to tell,” Pfemeter said. Initially, it won’t be project owners, he acknowledged. Promotion is currently coming from the software developers who are Open BIM participants.

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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