Supporting Technologies for BIM Exhibited at AIA 2007

This article provides a more detailed look at some of the supporting technologies for BIM that were being showcased at the AIA 2007 National Convention. Many of them are in the area of BIM content and content management, and they raise an interesting question of how exactly the AEC industry wants its BIM content.


4 thoughts on “Supporting Technologies for BIM Exhibited at AIA 2007

  1. I take issue with the term, “mature”, as an adjective for BIM. “Mature”, as I understand it, means that growth and development are complete. The only thing left is aging. I have been searching for that BIM product, and have not found one. All that I have seen are more like PBIM, as in PARTIAL Building Information Modeling.

    As I understand the concept of BIM, there would be a single product that contains all building information, from birth, throughout its life. I cannot find any. Even Revit, highly touted by Auodesk as a BIM product, is incomplete. Instead, there are at least three separate models for any single building, none of which are “live” interactive with the other. No progress has been made since the days of Xref connectivity.

    In my opinion, BIM is very much an adolescent concept.

  2. For building information modeling the essential content has to be words, simply because words can represent ideas. Breaking down the idea of a project into a heirarchical assembly of cells named after objects that will be required sets up a network for the various collaborators to attach and retrieve information. Such a network would underlie and exchange data with the various software applications that may be needed to develop the ideas. I don’t think Charles Graham’s quest for a single product will succeed, but a single method of working as I describe would, I am sure, develop into true interactivity.

  3. BIM as mature is not an idea that can be put forward as applicable in any of the present choices. The modeling portion of all the applications is very restrictive with object creation and customization. Interfaces for the modeling environment also need further improvement to allow for greater access to all designers and thus excludes presently the individuals that are conceiving the configurations of the buildings.

    Trelligence Affinity capability has been built into Vectorworks Architect product for quite some time in a similar but slightly more limited fashion and is not a new entry. Recent GSA data additions to this tool along with internal bi-directional enhancements in Vectorworks make it so one can do 80% of what Affinity can do at no extra cost and has been used by us in a highly configured way. IFC export and import improvements have made it so more of the information can be shared with external applications.

    ADS search type features need to incorporate IFC compatibility with the data sets created so all applications can leverage this information. Vectorworks again has had a plug-in that would link objects to any web page for quite some time, the issue being the rest of the construction industry has just now matured to a point where 80% or more have 2d dwg data online freely available and the limited choices are presently very thin for any modeling or IFC GSA compatible information.

    The quest for consistent naming with the Digital world has been the holy grail since its inception on the PC in the 80’s. Getting creative folks to agree on what to call object types should be implemented as part of an overall IFC strategy so that all application types can consistently access the object and its data. Having to buy an application to do this speaks to the lack in Revit for this management of Families to occur organically within the application.

    BimWorld also lists Vectorworks as well as the other applications you mentioned, which now makes it seem you have a bias against that particular application. Hopefully Bimworld is the first of many such sites that consolidate and offer for free the content that gives the apps the choice to grab external content and bring it in to the model. It seems like a theme here for Content management of Revit and AutoCAD which continues to point to an organic solution needed within Revit and AutoCAD.

    FormFonts looks like the best site so far in that it allows equal access by all for a fee. It still has the need for more content, but this should grow if its membership grows.

    You allude to the messiness that may prevail here if not monitored, in a highly competitive environment, messiness is the rule, not the exception. Also, with each construction industry sub-sector having different levels of profit structure and different levels of need for technology this messiness is all but assured to occur. The only binding element at this point is the Excepted National Specification notation categories and performance data. Those who seek to create this high level of order in the end are fighting the human condition.

    For proper approval of design choices by the designer and the end user / client the Model will have to replicate and represent accurately the actual object being selected. Generic will not meet this minimum requirement.

    Thanks for the overview, though I wish it were broader in commentary.

  4. The emergence of BIM-focused content providers should come as no surprise. The widespread emergence of CAD in the 70’s and 80’s created the (perceived?) need for an electronic version of the Sweets Catalogs, and numerous attempts at creating just such businesses have foundered ever since.

    The core problem with these attempts is that the shift to electronic format introduces a much-higher criticality associated with the format of the data. Under the paper-based system, there were essentially only 2 formats to choose between: 8.5×11 Color, and 8.5×11 B&W. Within those bounds, manufacturers were free to present their information in whatever format and to whatever depth they felt appropriate.

    Presenting product data electronically, however, brings along certain expectations of the useability of that data in other applications. End-users and designers don’t just want to view the same information in a different way, they want to enhance their productivity by using that data directly in their applications. They’d also like to search the data electronically, reducing the time spent searching, and improving their product selections.

    Unfortunately, this is where the data format requirement intersects (should I say collides?) with the various business models to date. Most of the attempts have either been sub-businesses of the CAD companies, or closely allied with them. These attempts have tried to use the “Sweets” business model to tie users and manufacturers to a specific CAD-based data model. In my opinion, this is the primary reason these attempts have failed. From the users’ perspective, it handcuffs them to specific applications, from the manufacturers’ perspective, it limits the audience.

    On one level, the emergence of object-oriented software and the BIM approach only notches up the expectations another level. At the same time, however, there is hope. The BIM concept itself is intertwined around interoperability, and further sharpens the concept that the model needs to be shared with a diverse set of players using a diverse set of applications. The move (albeit glacial) to IFC-based communications among BIM tools can and should serve as a model for these nascent content providers.

    I echo the call to the AEC Industry to examine the way it wants its’ BIM content delivered.

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