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OpenBIM Interoperability and IFC

This is a short video I created aimed at providing an introductory awareness of BIM, from zero forwards. This particular video focus on OpenBIM and the approaches of closed and open data standards. It also goes on to look at the interoperability of systems. The video was created in 2014. The work has been supported by multiple existing research and statements made by industry and academic individuals which I’ve then collated and interpreted into my own perspective.

Links to Coventry University, where we have a selection of courses that include BIM and Construction – Coventry University – School of Energy, Construction and Environment

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Retrospective BIM Modelling of Buildings

Even with the challenges that are there in regards to retrospective modelling I feel the difficulties encountered in the process of actually attempting it emphasise the clear need for more efficient processes of data storage and access to building information, and isn’t that what BIM is all about? Having the information there, when you need it? Yes in this example I’m modelling a pretty old building with very outdated standards of data handover in the sixties, but the lack of available data has similarities to non-BIM’d buildings of today.

Over the past few months I’ve been extremely busy on some very innovative and intriguing projects which have been taking up a considerable amount of time, hence the lack of articles! I’ve finally had a few minutes to put aside to dedicate some time back into the site.

Over the past few 6 months I’ve been heavily involved in a European funded project Resseepe, which is focusing on the retrofit of large institutional buildings such as Universities, hospitals and schools. The project aims to establish informed and innovative solutions to optimise how we manage and develop refurbishment strategies for buildings.  Focusing not only on the innovative technologies that can be used and combined in refurbishment projects, but also on the processes and decision making procedures preceding retrofits.

The Building in Question

The Building in Question

Part of this project has led me to retrospectively ‘BIM’ modelling a large university building, around 5000m/2. Now having quite a bit of previous modelling experience I believed this would be a reasonably straight forward task. How wrong was I! Now modelling any building often takes a bit of technique refinement to get the software to do what you want, I’m talking a ‘new’ way to model a bespoke roof design, or massing a particular shape or form in a way that you haven’t done before. This kind of skills refinement is pretty normal as you progress through any existing or new software. I’ve always found that regardless of level of skill at any software with the commercial ‘new edition every year’ platform there is always something every year to brush up on. This process has been as usual invigorating, to keep pushing personal understanding and skills.

Now as I say, this level of skills evolution is normal, the real learning curve or hurdle has been the lack of available information on existing post war building stock. This is an issue that many Estates and asset management teams have to try to endeavour to overcome, in that much of the information on buildings is old, outdated and/or buried. For the building in question that I’ve been modelling there has been a close relationship with in house estates to try and muster up what information we can to give the best available current state and picture of the building. The challenge here is that this still leaves a lot of assumptions and estimations. For instance in a building designed in 1961, no one at the time considered the 3D modelling requirement of some BIM user when compiling the plans. The plans of the day were constructed with one criteria in mind; enough information to raise the building from the ground, in time and for the right money. Building handover or management was at best an afterthought, if that. In modern years the information being handed over to FM teams is greatly improving with initiatives like softlandings in the UK. Although, we don’t have to go too many years back’ looking at buildings where handover of data was an afterthought and still is in parts.  I’m thinking the rushed collection of building management and health and safety binder’s minutes before the impending deadline.

An early stage render showing BIPV refit option

Another key issue when retrospectively modelling existing stock is the accuracy of the details. In this case you can’t rely on existing original or CAD plans to hold accurate data because over
the years buildings evolve and often the records don’t show this in every detail. It may even be the case that when a plan reaches site, the detail was just not viable and the process or reality of the build altered slightly, this is where the need for ‘as built’ records derives, again this is key to BIM and softlandings. To counteract this there needs to be a process of model validation. Now this may differ slightly from the new build validation in that were not directly validating immediately against rule sets, such as in Solibri etc. The key here is to validate the accuracy of plans, CAD or assumptions so that the model is as close to ‘as-built’ as possible. Now what were encroaching into here is a level of detail aspect, much the same as any BIM new build, in that it needs to be established as to how accurate or refined does the model need to be. This all depends on what information will be required down the line, i.e. will the model be solely used for energy simulation or is there a desire to use the model for quantities asset management which will require far greater component and parametric data to be added. As with new builds, you can only draw off quality information when quality information goes into the model. There is a point where decisions have to be made on the practicalities of entering the detail and specification of every light fitting if that information is never going to be required.

Even with the challenges that are there in regards to retrospective modelling I feel the difficulties encountered in the process of actually attempting it emphasis the clear need for more efficient processes of data storage and access to building information, and isn’t that what BIM is all about? Having the information there, when you need it? Yes in this example I’m modelling a pretty old building with very outdated standards of data handover in the sixties, but the lack of available data has similarities to non-BIM’d buildings of today. The benefits that a BIM model can bring to new builds are very similar to those that are on offer in retrofit or building management. The challenge is to bridge that gap in retrospect. In years to come I envisage a FM process where it’s a lot more common for reasonably sized existing stock to be retrospectively modelled as the alternatives of traditional data management are far to cumbersome. In the case where a building retrofit is to take place I would go as far to say it’s crucial.   

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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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What is BIM? Part 2 – Building Information Modelling and BIM Maturity Levels

It’s clear that BIM’s popularity is on the rise, with an estimated 47% of the participants who took part in the NBS National BIM Survey 2013 stating that at some point they had reached Level 2 BIM. What I’m interested in hearing this week is how far down the BIM maturity levels are you today and what gains do you feel BIM tools and protocols are bringing to your design and management processes? A look at the BIM levels of maturity and BIM for Professions ;
 
How we use BIM tools can differ depending on each each party involved, whether you’re coming from an Architects point of view or whether you’re looking at it from the Facilities Management angle, what gains you take away from following BIM practices can vary. Some of you out there may see and use BIM tools purely to enhance the communication of 3D designs in an isolated design environment.  While others may be at BIM ‘Maturity Level 1’, still preferring to work in 2D yet adopting the ‘Information’ protocol aspects of BIM to enhance file based collaboration. According to the NBS National BIM Survey 2013  47% of you out there have already at some point reached BIM ‘Maturity Level 2’, which is great news for BIM. Within the same NBS National BIM Survey 2013  8% stated that they have reached the iBIM Level 3 of maturity at some point, working within a fully collaborative and integrated environment, does this mean the future is surely bright for?
 
The UK Government has mandated that all public building projects will have to be using BIM design processes at level 2, fully collaborative 3D BIM with Library Management, or higher by 2016. To briefly outline the levels of maturity to give you a general idea of what all this means here is the BIS-BIM-strategy-Reportsmaturity level definitions;

Sourced from - BIS-BIM-strategy-Report (2011) BIM maturity Level BIM task group

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

0.Unmanaged CAD probably 2D, with paper (or electronic paper) as the most likely data exchange mechanism.

 
1.Managed CAD in 2 or 3D format using BS 1192:2007 with a collaboration tool providing a common data environment, possibly some standard data structures and formats. Commercial data managed by standalone finance and cost management packages with no integration.
 
2.Managed 3D environment held in separate discipline “BIM” tools with attached data. Commercial data managed by an ERP. Integration on the basis of proprietary interfaces or bespoke middleware could be regarded as “pBIM” (proprietary). The approach may utilise 4D Programme data and 5D cost elements.
 
3.Fully open process and data integration enabled by IFC / IFD. Managed by a collaborative model server. Could be regarded as iBIM or integrated BIM potentially employing concurrent engineering processes.
 
This week additional to briefly discussing the Levels of BIM I’m going to be giving a brief outline of how BIM tools can assist a differing selection of disciplines;
 
BIM for Architectural Design and Modelling
As many are aware BIM models can be used to allow the designer to present and communicate 3D designs in a clear, easily accessible way for all to see. BIM models and information analysis packages provides a platform for multiple discipline teams to analysis, interrogate and navigate the project further, beyond the limitations of 2D design. Once the information is data dropped to the core model further clash detection analysis can take place, reducing issues and conflicts. As discussed earlier having all of the information centralised in one core model will inevitably lead to improved design and document efficiency. It is these added values that take BIM beyond that of a simple 3D visual model.
 
Sourced from- www.arupassociates.com ARUP BIM Structure Model ECB Coventry

Sourced from- www.arupassociates.com

BIM for Structural Modelling and Analysis

BIM software can assist the structural designer in their analysis of the structural performance of a structure. Employing one core structural model means that there is no need for multiple models to be created for each different structural analysis that’s needed. Time is saved through not having to continually transcribe information from one design package to another. All the related information to the project can then be easily shared and accessed by multiple project disciplines.
 
BIM for MEP Modelling, Detailing and Energy Analysis
Creating MEP details in a BIM model allows building service engineers’ and Architectural designers alike to be able to visually appreciate how the services within a design relate to the building as a whole, ensuring that clashes and issues are identified early on. Using MEP and energy analysis software many analytical programmes can be run to test the overall efficiency of the design. This should result in a circle of design – analysis – redesign, with an aim at establishing the most energy efficient design at as early stage as possible.
 
BIM for Programming and Scheduling (4D BIM)
BIM 3D models can be utilised to assist contractors in the programming and scheduling of BIM projects. This is achieved by adding programming and time data to a BIM project, once the data is married to the building project then the 4D programming schedule can be established. The 4D programme can then be used to assist contractors and designers to improve and refine the schedule of the project.
 
BIM for Quantity Schedules and Costing Information (5D BIM)
Quantity Surveyors and Designers are able to produce accurate quantity schedules and cost information for building projects. Standardised data can also be integrated into BIM models ensuring that all the building components meet the required Building Regulations. Your probably picking up on the theme here…. all of this information can then be stored and accessed within the BIM core model by all those involved in the project.
 
BIM for Facilities and Asset Management (6D BIM)
The management processes and time that it takes for a facilities management team to continually assess and maintain their asset stock can be considerable.  For instance if you think of a University estates team, with tens of buildings to manage trying to find a detail specification of a fixture or fitting in a building that was built 40 years previous you can imagine, it can be a tough task. Having all of the information available within one core model could be invaluable, at the click of a button the details, manufacturer, performance criteria and cost could be accessed almost instantaneously.

How far down the road of the BIM maturity levels do you feel you or your offices are at today? What gains if any, do you feel that BIM tools and protocols are bringing to your design and management processes within your working environment?
 
Feel free to comment and discuss the topic 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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What is BIM? (Part 1 – Building Information Modelling)



In the context of ArchitectureBuilding Information Modelling,  BIM is a design methodology, which enables all of the design details, decisions and characteristics to be held within a collaborative digital model and information package. Having all of the information centralised in one core model will inevitably lead to improved design and document efficiency. It is this added value that takes BIM beyond that of a simple 3D visual model.
Designed by and Property of Danny McGough  BIM Model

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough

I’m going to open with a few statistics but don’t be too frightened, 4 stats and I’m done!

The knowledge of BIM within the construction industry is on the rise, the recent NBS National BIM Report 2013 states that only ‘6% of the industry were neither aware nor using BIM’ in 2012, compare this to previous years of 21% and 43% in 2011 and 2010 respectively it is clear that the awareness of BIM amongst construction professionals is rising. Looking at these particular statistics it does paint a promising future for BIM.
 
Designed by and Property of Danny McGough BIM model

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough

However following on from this, in the same NBS BIM Report 2013, the statistic that ‘74% of the industry is not clear enough on what BIM is yet’ does mean that we’re not completely past the ‘What’ stage just yet for all construction professionals. It’s with this in mind that has led me to write this week’s blog, ‘What is BIM?’ In the context of Architecture Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a design methodology, which enables all of the design details, decisions and characteristics to be held within a collaborative digital model and information package. All of the design and project information can then be shared, accessed and even altered live, facilitating an efficient and fluid collaborative design and asset management process across the whole life cycle of a building. For the wider range of parties involved the concentration may be more on the ‘Information’ sharing aspects of BIM.  A predominate aspect of BIM which continually needs to be expressed and driven home is that the ‘Information’ side of BIM is just as important as any design model. Working within a BIM environment, adopting BIM information sharing protocols, collating the data in an interoperable format, and utilising documents such as BuildingSMART’s ‘Project Execution Plan’ into a project aims to improve how information is shared amongst all varying parties involved in an efficient interoperable manner, regardless of whether you’re the Architect or the contractor.


A core feature of working within a BIM environment is the drive towards encouraging multi-disciplinary collaboration from the very outset of a project. The benefits of all disciplines working together within one core BIM environment are multiple. A major issue that is experienced within non BIM design processes is the matter of conflicting design issues; the ethos of having a core central BIM model is to facilitate a smoother transition through these issues by identifying conflicts earlier on in the project stages thus reducing the negative effects on schedule and costs. From an early stage projects can be visualised allowing the client and designer alike to gain an appreciation of how the design is going to materialise, this allows for important design decisions and alterations to be made at an early stage where the cost repercussions are little cost or even zero. The efficiency of the effects of changes within documentation or design is greatly improved as any changes made which are linked to the main BIM package will be carried through and updated to all corresponding linked documents and models automatically.
 

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough  Independent silo separated design BIM Closed

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough

To the right you can see a graphical example of an ‘Independent Separated Design Environment’. This simple graphical representation expresses the chaos when all parties are working independently of the others.  Having the design process completed within a BIM environment using 3D BIM models with a core 3D BIM model at the centre of the project leads to multiple benefits post model creation. The models can be analysed allowing for a multitude of model interrogations to take place including; energy analysis, structural analysis, accurate schedules and quantity take-offs to name a few. It is argued that by using BIM processes for building projects it will improve the energy efficiency, improve the scheduling, facilitate a reduction of waste and possibly paramount to this, a reduction in costs.

Below is another graphical representation , of a  ‘BIM Collaborative Design Environment’ showing how a BIM core model and digital information package can assist the project team to deliver a fluid fully collaborative project.

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough OpenBIM BIM collaborative integrated design

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough


In summary, through carrying out all of this pre-construction design analysis and interrogation the result will be a reduction in conflicts and changes made during the construction phase which usually will have a detrimental effect on a project in terms of wastage, quality, time and costs. At the same time the stringent energy analysis that can take place in the early stages of a BIM project aims to improve the performance of a project in regards to low impact design. And finally post project completion the BIM model can continue to be utilised by the FM team to assist in the management of their assets in an environmentally conscious manner.What are your thoughts and experiences on BIM today? Is BIM something that is completely new to you, a foreign confusing topic or are you in the, we love it and were flying with it category?

I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts below in the comments as it would be great to hear where you are all coming from so we can keep the discussions and articles moving.
 
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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