ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 48 - 03/25/2010

Groups Want Standards Bodies to Help Minimize Market Confusion Over the Term 'BIM'

Allied national and international standards bodies need to do more to help minimize market confusion regarding the term "BIM" (building information modeling), BuildingSmart Alliance (BSA) and the Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. (OGC) recommended in a new report, entitled "Summary of the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner Operator Phase 1 (AECOO-1) Joint Testbed."  The report summarizes the results of a nine-month effort to increase interoperability among software used by architects, construction companies, cost estimators, and building energy analysts.


In addition to clarifying the term "BIM," standards bodies should help BSA set out in well-defined, well-coordinated, and understandable ways to define the full utility of BIM and BIM-related standards and shift provider business practices to deliver market-driven, standards-based collaboration as well as facilitate lifecycle management tools, according to the report. 


Standards for BIM exist in piece parts; there is no underlying base that serves as the foundation for information exchange, the report states. "Architecting (in the information sense) where BIM standards are needed should start with abstract concepts using well-known methods for the Reference Architecture and Reference Model. Key assumptions to be defined include resources that are distributed across ownership boundaries, people and systems interactions, security, management, and governance. Interactions between people and systems are primarily through exchange of messages with reliability that is appropriate for the intended users and purposes.


"The essence of information standards for BIM, and all of its associated data categories and attributes, is based on standards bodies organizational structures whose focus are responsibility for elements of the types of architectures listed above and development of 'successful' standardized business practices and modeled information exchanges." The groups noted that "successful" is meant to mean that the practices and exchanges are connected across a set of numerous -- but commonly defined -- data and information service levels and are shown to work in run time condition.


The board of directors for one of the AECOO-1 sponsors, the American Institute of Architects, recently approved a statement supporting the use of open standards for BIM, OGC Executive Director of Global Business Development Louis Hecht said. "The AECOO-1 Testbed is an important first step toward achieving this goal, which is one that OGC, BSA, our sponsors, and many others in the industry also support."


Jointly led by BSA and OGC, the AECOO-1 Testbed was conducted in the OGC Interoperability Program. All results were submitted to BSA for consideration as candidate specifications and best practices under the National Building Information Model Standard Rules of Governance.


OGC, BSA Officials Offer Additional Details


In an interview with CPC/BIM, OGC Executive Director of Global Business Development Louis Hecht and BSA Executive Director Deke Smith provided additional details about the report that their organizations recently released. Here is a transcript of the interview:


CPC/BIM: The report summarizes results of a nine-month effort to increase interoperability among software used by architects, construction companies, cost estimators, and building energy analysts. Briefly, in your opinion what are a couple of the more important results that were reported?


Hecht: The Testbed produced a host of ideas for improved mechanisms and practices for using the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) standard in the areas of building energy analysis and quantity take-off for cost estimation. But more importantly, it enabled participants to understand the opportunities and benefits for modernizing IFCs as well as the need for closer coordination among AEC trade organizations and standards bodies.


OGC has a role to play, partly because geospatial information is part of the AECOO picture, but also because OGC has, in operating this testbed, passed on 16 years of experience in bringing together diverse organizations that have common requirements that can be captured in a standards framework. The process focuses on bringing those requirements into a rapid prototyping environment that produces Web service-based interface and encoding specifications that vendors demonstrate can be implemented to enable industry-wide interoperability. Standards organizations can then consider these specifications for approval as consensus standards.


There remains a pressing need to gather industry requirements for BIM interoperability in the form of an industry reference architecture that accounts for all the types of interactions between people and systems in the AECOO world. The various standards organizations will then need to work together to provide standards that enable exchange of messages to support those interactions. The standards will also need to meet requirements for security and reliability. The software vendors need to be involved from beginning to end as well as users and solutions providers. All three of these groups will benefit, so it's a win-win negotiation process.


It's important to keep in mind that the future is not so much about exchanging files; it's about using the Web to publish, discover, and access information. Think about the Web companies you've come to rely on. They provide information services, not data files. That's what the service-oriented BIM vision is about.


CPC/BIM: The report recommends that national and international standards bodies clarify market confusion regarding the term 'BIM.' Which specific standards bodies should be doing this? Also, by when should this be done?


Smith: The clarification of BIM will be a continuing issue as BIM matures. While in the United States, the National BIM Standard has developed and disseminated a definition of Building Information Model, which is gaining a level of usage, the issue of building information modeling is still an open issue. Internationally, this issue has not been even addressed. Ultimately, it needs to be an ISO [International Organization for Standardization] standard; however, there are no drafts in the pipeline addressing the issue. Currently, the vendors are developing their own definitions. It would seem logical that BuildingSmart International be the natural vehicle to accomplish this because it represents all facets of the issue, and they can take the issue directly to ISO for consensus.


CPC/BIM: What will your organization be doing to promote the availability of this publication? Will you be offering it at trade shows?


Hecht: At the OGC Technical Committee meeting in March we will offer the report for approval as an official OGC Best Practice Document.... We will reference it in future publications and articles. There are no plans currently to make copies for distribution at conferences though this can easily be done if the opportunity arises.


CPC/BIM: About how many downloads of this report is your organization expecting? Roughly how many people are expected to read it?


Hecht: We don't know.


CPC/BIM: Other comments?


Hecht: Many [members of] OGC are interested in indoor location, and though this was not a focus in AECOO-1, it may be a focus in follow-on activities. Partly as a result of the rapid uptake of OGC's CityGML standard, OGC is involved in discussions about new projects that involve indoor location, including the Open Floor Plan Display/Exchange effort and the International Justice and Public Safety Network's Geospatial Service Oriented Architecture for Public Safety. These efforts involve the emergency response community, one of the communities that has a stake in BIM. Their stakeholders need some fairly basic kinds of information. The OGC Web Services effort got off to a good start with one of OGC's simplest standards, the Web Mapping Service Interface Standard. My hope for BIM is that meeting a simple requirement, such as a standard way for a fire department to get quick access to a printable pdf of a floor plan, will get the service-based BIM standardization effort moving forward.


The report is available at:




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