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Archives for April 2013

What does openBIM, IFC’s and COBie actually mean for BIM?

This weeks article looks at giving a brief explanation of OpenBIM, COBie and IFC’s whilst also asking a few questions on what all this means for the future of software vendors. What does openBIM, IFC’s and COBie actually mean for BIM?. With Autodesk holding a 63% (NBS National BIM Survey) share of the CAD drawing market what affect will this have on open BIM for the future? What does open BIM actually mean and what are these COBie files that we keep hearing about? With these points in mind this week’s article will focus on open and closed BIM and the interoperability of BIM software as well as asking one or two questions about what all this means for the future of an open BIM collaborative working environment.

Closed BIM generally refers to when BIM processes are carried out on a single platform whereas open BIM refers to when the BIM environment crosses multiple platforms regardless of the software vendor, in essence an ‘open’ shareable design environment using open standard data.

To achieve an open BIM project environment information needs to be shared/exported to a non-proprietary format, such as IFC’s. Currently there are strong opinions and voices behind the drive towards open BIM with the Government specifying in the BIS-BIM-strategy-Reports that Maturity Level 4 BIM should achieve “Fully open process and data integration enabled by IFC/IFD.” Many individual BIM experts are also pushing for the drive towards an open standard BIM future.
Sourced from - BIS-BIM-strategy-Report (2011) BIM Data integration COBie IFC

Sourced from – BIS-BIM-strategy-Report (2011)

To briefly explain what IFC data formats are, they are in essence an ‘open’ and neutral data format which set a data standard which if utilised can assist in the ‘interoperability’ between software packages. As stated by BuildingSMART  “Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) are the open and neutral data format for openBIM.” The data standard which has been developed by Building SMART international, if adhered to enables for the exchange of models and information between multiple software types, in essence achieving interoperability.

Interoperability is a significant word which if involved in BIM already you will be more than familiar with, if not it’s something that you will begin to understand the significance as you progress further into the world of BIM. For files and models to be shared and merged amongst multiple analysis tools and offices they need to be ‘interoperable’. If software packages have the ability to be interoperable then it means that time can be saved through not having to continually redevelop new building geometry for each tool that you wish to utilise to carry out your various analysis.  The importance of this interoperability of files and models across all the teams involved within a BIM project is a pressing concern within BIM which is continually being intensely developed.  Interoperability is a key factor that needs to be drummed home when considering BIM and is seen as being a key component in the future success of BIM projects and needs to be carefully considered at every step.

If the work produced by varying teams is carried out and outputted in an interoperable manner then it allows for multiple teams to work collaboratively on a project without necessarily holding the same software skills and licences. When reading and encountering BIM these are key words that you will soon become familiar with; interoperability, collaborative working, shareable data, data integration, IFC’s, data sharing protocols to name a few….all of these words and terms hope to lead the construction industry to one place, a ‘fully open process’ and working environment.

COBie is another tool that is also vastly becoming synonymous with BIM. COBie is a tool which allows for a multitude of non-graphical data and information to be stored in an organised manner, in essence a spreadsheet. All of this data can then be handed over to the client/facilities management department allowing for easy access to a multitude of details post-completion without having the unenviable task of sifting through a mass of fragmented documentation looking for specific details such as the manufacturer’s contact details of a door handle! With COBie the intention is that all of this information can be kept in an up-datable database which can be easily accessed and kept up to date throughout the whole life cycle of a building, from concept through to demolition. Interesting further reading on COBie can be found at NBS by Stephen Hamil.

Sourced from http://www.bimtaskgroup.org/cobie-uk-2012/ BIM COBie Spreadsheet

Sourced from http://www.bimtaskgroup.org/cobie-uk-2012/

It is argued that this topic of interoperability of file formats and software packages will be a major factor in determining BIM’s success and whether it’s a smooth transition from isolated design practices to a truly collaborative BIM environment. Software programmes such as REVIT can sometimes be referred to as closed BIM, but I feel this is not a clear defined point as REVIT does have the capability to export file types in the ‘open’ BIM IFC format which allows for interoperability between designs and models. For instance REVIT can export all of the information and modal data from REVIT in the IFC data format which can then be imported into various other software packages, beyond the Autodesk circle of software.  So with this in mind you have to be careful when considering what is truly open BIM and what is closed BIM as the boundaries are not always clear.

The voices behind ‘open’ BIM are actively encouraging BIM practitioners to utilise the IFC data formats and open BIM standards, with part of the hope that no one software vendor will have a monopoly on the market. According to the recent NBS NationalBIM Survey 2013, within the scope of their research pool Autodesk currently hold a 63% share of the CAD drawing market so clearly they have a large proportional share of the market. What will be interesting over the years to come will be to see how this large market share affects the progression and evolution of BIM in the coming years. Will Autodesk’s share open up or close down the interoperability of BIM? Are Autodesk going to be happy to push forward with open BIM or is it in their interest to actually tie practitioners into their product package? This is something that will be interesting to see how it pans out and how far down the open BIM road BIM can progress with Autodesk and the other software contenders a clear defining factor in how ‘open’ BIM becomes.

 

To collaborate efficiently with a goal at reducing cost, time and carbon central to the ethos of BIM then in my opinion surely we need to push forward with an open approach to BIM sharing standards. I feel that with the research being continually progressed by the likes of BuildingSMART, NBS and the OPEN BIM Network as well as many others a collaborative open BIM future is possible and with the likes of the big guns within the software industry supposedly on board than surely it’s just a case of how do we get there rather than should we head in that direction?

 

Do you feel an open BIM future is or should be the only way forward for BIM or do you think one software vendor will end up ruling the roost and lock down the market? Please feel free to add to the discussion further.

 

Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

 

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Why should we bother with Renewable Technologies?

This week’s article is a guest article from Gary O’Neill BSc(Hons) MRICS, Chartered Building Surveyor, Senior University Lecturer and RICS APC Assessor

If you are hoping that in the future fuel costs will reach a peak and then start to reduce then I am afraid you are going to be bitterly disappointed.  There may well be short term reductions, however  it is inevitable that fuel cost will not only continue to rise, but rise significantly.
 
http://www.kilmacenergy.co.uk/Environmental+Impact+Assessment/

http://www.kilmacenergy.co.uk/Environmental+Impact+Assessment/

There is no shortage of media coverage in respect of the impact of global warming, climate change, energy conservation, sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions an so on…….. An individual’s understanding and concern about these issues will vary significantly from those who have a genuine concern about protecting our planet for future generations to those who’s work may be directly related to these issues, right through to those who know very little and even those who make a conscious choice to ignore them!   The problem is however that even if you are one of those who fall into the latter categories, it does not change the fact that you are effected in exactly the same way as everyone else.  This is no more starkly demonstrated than in the increased cost of energy over recent years, which have soared to record levels.

Over the last two hundred years we have become dependent on fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal, which have allowed us to develop our world at a staggering pace.  All of this development in terms of infrastructure, buildings and the like requires large amount of energy, to heat, cool, ventilate, provide light and power etc.  If we are to maintain or more than likely going to increase the rate of development around the world then we also need to consider alternative ways of creating this energy.  The problem with fossil fuels is that it is a depleting resource and at some point in the future it will run out.  Now this is unlikely to be in our generation or possibly even a number of generations in the future, but one thing is for certain in that it will actually run out.  If you are under the impression that we should not be concerned about this now, as it will not have any major impact on us in our lifetime then think again!
 
The problem with anything that is in short supply is that basic economical principles come into play.  Fossil fuels are a prime example of this.  Remember they are a depleting resource and therefore a commodity in short supply.  The impact of this is that when demand is high (which it always is) and supply is limited (which it is), then market conditions allow energy providers to increase costs as they know that they are providing something that people actually need.  The market then adjusts to these increased costs.  The graph below demonstrates the cost increase of oil, gas and electricity over the next twenty years:
 

www.castlecover.co.uk

www.castlecover.co.uk


Rather unsurprisingly, all four demonstrate price hikes over the period, though some are more dramatic than others. Electricity and gas – the two most-used household energies – have nearly doubled over the last seven years of the index, owing to their ties with oil prices, as well as a number of other factors. The industrialisation of foreign nations, plus growing international prices for the commodity, has forced coal costs higher for UK citizen’ 
If you are hoping that in the future fuel costs will reach a peak and then start to reduce then I am afraid you are going to be bitterly disappointed.  There may well be short term reductions, however due to the economical principles described above it is inevitable that fuel cost will not only continue to rise, but rise significantly. Of course, the majority of articles that you will see in the media focus on the damage to the environment caused by greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon, from the burning of fossil fuels.  This is something that we need to deal with immediately, however I would suggest that if you were to talk to most people on the high street they would be more concerned about the increase in fuel cost rather than the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The positive thing however, is that if we can create energy by using alternative renewable technologies then we can deal with both issues at the same time!
 

http://www.link2portal.com/no-more-pv-subsidy-energy-inefficient-buildings-greg-barker

http://www.link2portal.com/no-more-pv-subsidy-energy-inefficient-buildings-greg-barker


For the remainder of this article I will continue to demonstrate the financial effect of creating and using energy from fossil fuels, which is happening and impacting on us all right now!  The Fuel Property Advisory Group’s 2011-12 annual report, in its executive summary states (link): ‘The average domestic dual fuel bill is now at a record high of £1,365 per annum creating severe additional hardship for some six million UK fuel poor households. The problem is even more acute for many living off the gas grid using Oil or LPG, where average fuel bills are circa £2,100 per annum. The reference to ‘fuel poor’ is more widely described as fuel poverty, which is defined by Poverty.org.uk (Link) as: ‘Households are considered by the Government to be in ‘fuel poverty’ if they would have to spend more than 10% of their household income on fuel to keep their home in a ‘satisfactory’ condition.  It is thus a measure which compares income with what the fuel costs ‘should be’ rather than what they actually are.  Whether a household is in fuel poverty or not is determined by the interaction of a number of factors, but the three obvious ones are: The cost of energy, The energy efficiency of the property (and therefore, the energy required to heat and power the home) and Household income’
It is abundantly clear that many in the UK are already suffering financial hardship as a result of increasing energy costs, and unless we can find alternative ways of creating our energy, then this situation is likely to become critical.  Increased demand of a depleting resource is a recipe for disaster.  We therefore have to introduce alternatives, which is now a necessity not a choice.  If you are in one of those categories described at the beginning of this article who have not really paid much attention to these global issues, perhaps it is now time to think very carefully about how you individually and all of us collectively can save energy and also be open new technologies. This will not only provide benefits from a financial viewpoint, which may not be immediate (although costs associated with enhancements is an article in its own right!), but also from an environmental viewpoint, where we can start to have a real impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 
 
Danny McGough– A big thank you this week to Gary O’Neill for this guest article. You can follow Gary over at his personal blog ‘Surveying Property’ where he posts articles on a weekly basis on topical issues in Surveying and Property related areas and also within the wider Construction Industry at – http://surveyingproperty.blogspot.co.uk/
Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

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