BIM For the Future Final Chapter or is it??????

We want to look into the future and how BIM will affect our projects. We appropriated, because that sounds better than stole, this idea from the National BIM Standard–United States 2021 Vision Task Force (VTF) of which Connor and I submitted essays to. It will help keep the holidays light and fun and give us all a chance to spend time with our families. We will start these the week of Thanksgiving in the United States, Nov 25th - Nov. 29th. We hope you enjoy them and here is a little caveat on the pieces by Connor and I.

The articles by Connor Christian & John Grady were written as part of the National BIM Standard–United States 2021 Vision Task Force (VTF). The VTF (chaired by Chris Moor ) has collected more than 30 of these visionary papers from all corners of the construction industry in an effort to build a roadmap for the industry to become more efficient. They are in the process of weaving the essays together to create a single, compelling and tangible vision of what the future may look like, along with the steps the industry may need to take in order to get there.

At Epic BIM we like to have a little fun as well as hit some of the key challenges facing our industry so Connor and I tasked the group with describing a day in the future and how they would see BIM affecting their projects.  Each feature will have the title: BIM in the Not So Distant Future. 

We encourage others to think about this and submit your submissions to and/or

This is provided by Joe Ehlers

The Future VDC Solution

As a result of the virtual design AND construction process I envision handing over to the stakeholders a database solution with the infrastructure and building information models populated with validated data from the design and build process. The VDC process should be set up with the intention of handing off accurate, validated as-built models in a database solution for operations and maintenance. The future VDC solution will be built to easily leverage and evolve information models.

Interoperability and Central Access

There are many engineering authoring applications for the infrastructure and building industry. Each company chooses the best tools for their projects. An immense amount of time and effort goes into learning the tools and becoming efficient and productive. In 2021 each tool will provide a direct mechanism for outputting to an industry open BIM standard, IFC. This will allow for each company to use their tool of choice and still be able to share and integrate their designs into one single project. Today’s industry provides us with major manufacturers who provide IFC export tools for some of their products and for some of their objects. So today we are able to implement a “work around” to getting our design data in an IFC format because some of the major engineering software developers already include IFC export in at least one of their products. In 2021 I envision full IFC export functionality for most engineering authoring applications and I also envision IFC import for the “round trip” functionality. The round trip will allow for edits in an open BIM IFC tool and export the corrected objects and import and update them in the original authoring application.

As the information models are submitted for collaboration they need to be staged in a central repository for visualization and reporting. Each project will need role based permissions to control who gets to view or even edit data.  When models are imported into the central location they will be validated against a set of rules determined prior to the start of the project. Once the models are validated they are cleared for integration and consumption within the project. If groups of models need to be shared, a merge and export function will be available to send out an IFC representation of the model(s) at that moment in time. Accompanying reports may also be bundled in the deliverable, for example stakeholders may want to review room program compliance. This export function would satisfy that need.

Feasibility Studies

Stakeholders in construction projects are demanding better returns and more functionality throughout the life of the project. A solution will be expected to facilitate LEAN concepts from the feasibility stage through to the demolition of the structure(s). During the feasibility stage sketches and crude models are built to visualize spatial requirements, costs and revenues. The 2021 solution will provide the stakeholders with means and methods to import open BIM standard IFC models and easily report on estimated costs and projected revenues for quick and accurate ROI numbers.

VDC Contract

Modeling Process
When the feasibility study is complete it is time for the stakeholders to draft the VDC Contract outlining the process for submitting the models for design development and construction of the project. Most require a different model for each stage because each model serves a different purpose. For example the MEP design engineers will submit their design development models which are typically schematic in nature and the MEP sub contractors will build their construction models so that each element is coordinated and then installed. Another process used by other stakeholders is to evolve a single model for each discipline. The model evolution process requires much more time developing standards, prototypes, libraries of elements, and a dedication to persistent collaboration. There are pros and cons for both schools of thought.

Use Cases

Use cases will also need to be agreed upon. The models can be built to help support each use case which should be determined at the before the start of the project. It is typically more difficult to implement use cases for the project models if they are implemented after the models are complete. For example, if a use case for running facility maintenance work orders is required an exchange requirement in the VDC Contract could be to include a property for the operating life for each perishable part for each piece of equipment. Preventative maintenance work-order reports could then be executed to avoid costly shutdowns because of equipment failures.

Rules and Exchange Requirements

Along with each use case will be correlating exchange requirements. Each element in each model may have a specific use at specific milestones. That means that a specific level of detail for each applicable property will need to be checked for completeness and validated for accuracy.

Certain rules will also need to be established and followed for models to be shared effectively. The properties, 3D graphics, coordinate system, naming conventions, and level of detail for each submittal would be examples of some of the guidelines to be established.

The 2021 solution will provide an intuitive way to create the rules against a defined corporate element catalog and a way to easily validate the models that come in as they are imported. After the validation is done a report will be sent to the parties involved so that necessary corrections can be made.

Room Program

The room program will need to be documented at the start of the project and cross checked throughout the VDC process for compliance. The industry standard reports like COBie or even custom defined reports with the correlating models may be submitted at several milestones to various code agencies and stakeholders for validation.

Include Related Reference Files

Regardless of the file type, project files will need to be embedded into correlating elements in a project for quick and easy reference. For example construction documents will need to be embedded at the correlating levels. The shop drawings, spec sheets, and product manuals may need to be embedded at the element level in the model. Pre-existing photographs may also need to be included in a space element. All pertinent reference materials for the VDC project may now all be embedded into the applicable elements in a project.

Access to the Models

In our world today we need to access our information models from our desks and out on the job site. The need to go mobile will only increase. The 2021 solution will provide both desktop and mobile access to the models and reports.

Versions and Design Iterations

Producing the best and most sustainable design with the given budget is an important aspect to most stakeholders. The 2021 solution will provide the means to version designs and review design options. Each version and design option will have cost estimates and even potentially have projected revenues attached. This will provide a cost analysis tool so that design decisions can be made quickly and effectively.

ERP Links

In the evolution of big data the 2021 VDC solution will definitely need to access applicable data across all of the ERP solutions. Some examples would include project management scheduling systems, estimating application data, procurement systems, asset management, facility management programs and CRM systems. The point is that the information will need to be accessible and visualized in a 3D through 7D environment. The user interface will provide for 3D visualization, 4 scheduling and sequencing, 5D cost analysis tools, 6D sustainable design functions and 7D facility management and operations functionality.

Progressing Elements in the VDC Process

Elements can progress individually within a defined installation area. The 2021 solution will need to be able to identify the defined stages/milestones as each evolves through the VDC process. This way a project can be managed effectively with dependable and accurate reporting and analysis. When a report is built a conditional statement may be used to flag data as incomplete and even highlight the elements in noncompliance in the 3D viewer.

Merge Models

Merging models would be possible but not be necessary in my vision. I envision a single repository with one or multiple projects. Each model and each version or iteration of each model may be separate and accessible with a simple visibility toggle. So if the VDC team wants to visualize all of the most current models in a project together the toggle for each model may be toggled on. Reports can then be executed at the project level to surface cumulative information across all of the selected models.  If the team wants to revert back to a prior version of the electrical model to visualize the impact of subsequent changes the team can simply select which version to view and toggle it on.

The school of thought for some still involves the integration and merging models into one federated model. My vision also includes satisfying this requirement. Theoretically an empty model can reside in the central repository and the vendor models can be checked into the repository and merged into one single model. Then the model could easily be exported as one IFC file and accompanied with applicable reports and distributed to the stakeholders and data consumers.

Design Review and Coordination Meetings

Running meetings will include clash detection, conflict resolution, RFI’s, scheduling, cost analysis and evaluating design iterations from a single repository. During the meetings the changes could be made in the 2021 solution and then pushed out to the authoring applications for updates (round trip functionality). Another option for updates to the models could include a BCF type functionality where the BCF file is created and exported from the 2021 solution and then read into the authoring application for updates.

Graphical Reports

A picture is worth a thousand words. The VDC solution I am envisioning will have 3D graphics of each design element with all applicable information linked to it. Then reports can be built and configured to set colors, visibility, and transparency based on conditional statements. So for example all of the fire rated walls can be configured to be set to a different color based on the rating or all of the elements with an over 30 day delivery would be set to red and isolated. Another function would be to select the record in the report and zoom to the element in the 3D viewer. Other custom graphical reports could include cost analysis such as showing spaces not showing a positive return as red and break even spaces as blue and spaces showing more than a 10% return as green. To summarize the reporting functionality would have access to all of the design, construction, and ERP information and graphically report on the information.


I have no doubts that IFC will be an integral part of the major engineering authoring applications well before 2021. So much work has already been done with IFC export in the major engineering authoring applications. The full support of IFC export will certainly be implemented in the applications in the near future. The round trip of IFC data could cut costs and improve efficiency in a design build VDC project if properly managed. So I think IFC import into authoring applications will follow shortly after the export is fully supported. Today there are good tools and processes for getting geometry and correlating data into IFC. Watch for Jotne BIM Solutions because they will provide the future VDC solution I have outlined in this article in the very near future. By 2021 a central database IFC solution will be the standard in the infrastructure and building industry not the exception.

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