What is BIM About?

Around the world, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is increasingly gaining the attention of organizations involved in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) as well as the owners and operators of buildings and other structures.

In this context ‘building' refers to the building process and BIM is a cumulative digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility in the built environment. BIM is a shared knowledge resource containing information about a facility. It provides a reliable basis for decisions during the facility's entire life cycle. Different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility insert, extract, update or modify information in the BIM to support and reflect the roles of that stakeholder.

Some benefits of BIM:

  • Owners, designers and engineers get lower net costs and risks
  • First responders can make buildings safer
  • Efficient monitoring lowers operating costs
  • Better views of facilities lead to better decisions
  • Realtors, appraisers, and bankers save money
  • Regulations compliance costs are lower
  • Subcontractors' costs and risks are reduced

BIM is much more than the assembled 2D or 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Facilities Management (FM) drawings created for the facility. The facility and its detailed information base needs to be linked to the land on which it is sited and made available as an effective tool for AEC, owners and operators. Hence, geospatial information becomes a key component.

US Presidential Executive Orders 12906 for Spatial Data and 13327 for Real Property Asset Management both promote creation of a common infrastructure to facilitate efficient and effective information sharing, reuse and application for a variety of needs. A BIM links to and makes use of geospatial information such as: property boundaries, zoning, soils data, elevation, jurisdictions, aerial images, land cover, land use, etc. And it includes data of interest to buyers, owners, lenders, realtors, first responders, repairers, occupants, safety inspectors, lawyers, emergency planners, and people working on neighboring facilities.

Since a BIM can support 2 and 3 dimensional structural and geographic visualizations, software can be constructed that provides extraordinary interactive capabilities, such as clicking on a floor level of a building to see who the tenants are, rendering a view of the urban landscape from a particular window of a building, or determining which vendor has installed fiber optic cables. Elements such as time (4D) and cost (5D) enhance the capability for life cycle management.

Stakeholders with access to BIM information can use it to look back or to look forward in the lifecycle of a building or facility, and to do so from a very detailed level to a summary view. Standards are now taking shape to support this approach so that stakeholders involved in the building lifecycle can access and apply information from the smallest part of a facility up to the worldview, from the beginning of a project through to the decommissioning of a structure.

BIM Standard efforts in the US, Europe and elsewhere around the world assume that this digital information is shareable, is interoperable among different stakeholders' information systems, is based on open standards, and is capable of being defined in contract language.

The Essential Elements of BIM Standards

In AEC and related domains, stakeholders with a wide range of business goals or governance goals want to bring "business process reengineering" into the world of AEC and facilities management. Old business processes no longer make sense when computers and networks can be deployed to do things better and faster. It's valuable to note, too, that new opportunities for profit or public service arise as information and communication technologies (ICT) are integrated into workflows.

BIM standard efforts involve standards from a variety of organizations, all of which are communicating with members and driven by pressure from stakeholders to improve efficiencies in virtually every commercial and public activity that involves the built environment. Their concerns encompass the planning, design, construction, management, renovation, repurposing, decommissioning and ultimate demolition of buildings, bridges, power stations, airports, highways, fuel storage facilities, refineries and ports. The stakeholders believe that BIM standards will save billions of dollars and an improved quality of life.

The global BIM standards will incorporate "business views" of information exchanged between AEC and owner / operator interests. The standards will build upon standards in use today, particularly:

  • The International Alliance for Interoperability IFCs
  • Standards of the National Institute for Building Sciences
  • ISO standards
  • Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE) standards
  • Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards
  • The FIATECH capital investment roadmap
  • Efforts like CSI OmniClass taxonomies, COBIE (Construction to Operations Building Information Exchange), etc.

In the US, the US National CAD Standard will also be one of the cornerstones as standards for 2D drawings continue to be required.
Obviously, this is a diverse and voluminous collection of documents that will take considerable effort to weave together. It would be hard to imagine how this could be done, except that:

  • The speed, storage capacity and bandwidth of digital technologies have become adequate for the job, and
  • Web technologies, particularly the eXtensible Markup Language (XML), make it possible to encode such documents in such a way that relationships, including semantic relationships, among their diverse elements can also be used across stakeholder activities.

The BIM standards effort involves considerable outreach and coordination at the institutional level to gain the participation and endorsement of stakeholder organizations.

It also involves technical standards work. The encoding schemas need to be agreed upon and software service interfaces, or application programming interfaces (APIs), need to be agreed upon so that interoperability is possible. Within application domains, application experts need to sift through the cumbersome superset of encoded information and settle on "application schemas" which are subsets tailored for the purposes of their particular application domains.

Why is the OGC Involved?

The OGC® is an international industry consortium of more than 330 companies, government agencies, research organizations, and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available interface specifications.

The OGC became involved in the BIM standards effort for two reasons:

  • Geospatial standards are an important part of the BIM picture
  • BIM requirements and proposed standards address a broad set of critical real world information interoperability demands between the as-built and geospatial domains - emergency management / response, urban planning, improvement of city services, improved retail services provision, etc.

Major CAD and GIS vendors and private and government members already engaged in the OGC consensus process realize an opportunity to accelerate the development and adoption of BIM standards with the tools and processes OGC has perfected over the past 12 years. The OGC has demonstrated its ability to rapidly develop, test and validate standards in the context of real world business requirements, while harmonizing them with other standards and stakeholder organizations. What drives the OGC process is the desire to solve the real world challenges encountered by government and business organizations when they attempt to integrate information from the AEC and geospatial disciplines to meet critical needs.

To learn more about what the OGC is doing and how your organization can benefit from participation, contact outreach [at] opengeospatial [dot] org


Visit the OGC website at http://www.opengeospatial.org.