(Picture by © Franckito | Dreamstime.com)
The future of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is arriving everyday but there are those close to the process that are looking well beyond next year.
When I spoke with Jonathan Widney, president of Solibri, LLC back in June while I was doing an article for Construction Software Review, he told me he thought BIM tools will continue to evolve toward logic.
“So if you want your building to be LEED certified the BIM tools you use will filter the object library so that if you put something into the model that doesn’t fit within the specified parameters you will be alerted. I think that is a whole new generation of tools that is yet to come.”
Widney also sees the information beyond geometry as the gold mine. Currently there are geometry-based models and building data models. Software companies that have traditionally specialized in CAD have overlaid building data models on their geometry-based models in order to achieve a significant increase in information quantity and quality. These data models that hold the information about each particular part of the building are time consuming, and challenging to create, but are worth the effort. For example, one article at Reed Construction that covers the arduous task of creating a SmartBim Object also listed the kinds of advantages that can be seen when objects carry a high level of detail.
- Detailed product and model properties
- Realistic views of the item in plans and elevations
- Correctly rendered objects in views and animations
The data available from an object can include all kinds of real-world specifics about the object. Ultimately, as a user hovers a mouse over a model on the plan it will willingly offer up the answers to questions such as:
- Who is the manufacturer of the tub that sits in that corner?
- What is the model number?
- What are the rough-in dimensions?
- What faucets are specified?
There are many who think the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) should be the dominant file format for BIM objects since it is an open standard that still manages to receive information from disparate commercial, geometry-based software applications.
By some accounts IFC has a ways to go before it reaches the point of translating information rather than just exchanging information. When I spoke with Michael Smith earlier last year, a BIM/Revit and MEP consultant at BIMWORKSINC in Lakewood, WA, and a member of the buildingSmart Alliance, he simplified the discussion this way:
IFC is like a neutral or intermediary interpretation of the BIM content. It allows us to look at it, and the BIM products can export and import IFC. However it is still in development and at this point you don’t achieve translation capabilities, you just achieve exchange capabilities.
To a degree the results of the recent AECOO-1 Testbed (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner and Operator industry) bore that out when it found that:
… areas of the IFC model are not amenable for interoperability as commonly defined and practiced by industrial communities that require collaboration and rely on network processing, cloud computing, and distributed data repositories to achieve better results faster. The IFC structure, first developed in the 1970’s, can be modernized by the community so that a more complete suite of benefits from interoperability reaches critical mass and adoption in the market. With IFC modernization, a far more open, comprehensive and intelligent life-cycle data model of buildings can be achieved. IFC modernization working in parallel with highly efficient network-based communication, process management, decision-support and performance simulation of design alternatives is the sweet spot for achieving benefit in real industry projects. IFC modernization will also tend to reduce the costs and inefficiencies that now result when builders attempt to maintain consistent and unambiguous use of original project information by all project participants and stakeholders.
Because this is open source software it is constantly evolving toward what everyone hopes is its best iteration at any given time, with the understanding that it will never be finished.
Another tricky BIM challenge, according to some, is bringing the promises of BIM to the complete range of processes associated with building a building.
“One of the tricky areas now is to migrate the information downstream to 4D (Planning), and 5D (Estimating) to ‘6D’ (scheduling, project controls, earned value – Technical BIM/Project Controls),” wrote Philip Larson, CCE CEP CPE PMP PSP FRICS and CEO/President at Project & Cost Control, in a recent post in the BIM Experts Group at LinkedIn.” Tricky, because the tool sets quickly diverge, and suffer from lack of standardization or consistency as many use spreadsheets for most aspects of Technical BIM. And politically, since although Primavera is now part of Oracle… Collaboration and/or consolidation of AutoDesk (AutoCad, Revit, etc), Microsoft (Windows OS, MS Project, MS Office), Oracle (Databases, Accounting, Primavera), to name a few of the largest, would certainly seem distant at best.”
Of course there is resistance to BIM by some groups in the AEC sector because of perceived liability and ownership issues. There are also those who don’t perceive there is a very high ROI to purchasing the tools that make BIM possible. In the McGraw Hill Construction SmartMarket Report entitled, “The Business Value of BIM,” 19 percent of architects and 32 percent of engineers believed ROI on BIM investments was negative. While 27 percent of contractors and 34 percent owners perceived there was a BIM investment ROI of between 10 and 25 percent, only 19 percent of architects and 11 percent of engineers believed that level of ROI to be possible. Some also question whether or not people resist BIM because of the transparency it brings to the building process. Jay Zallan, regional virtual design & construction manager and architectural designer at Gensler wondered in a recent comment at the BIM Experts Group just how much BIM might point out people’s deficiencies.
…it’s better than any previous system or process for creating coordinated AEC projects when done right… When done wrong BIM can lead us to finding out who (and I will try to be kind here) the “less than mindful” Designers, Architects and Engineers, etc. are… BIM processes can highlight one’s expertise or lack thereof.
Still, even as the road to BIM adoption winds through its inevitable curves, and ups and downs, it is difficult to argue with the promises it holds for the entire AEC sector.