Ok so we like headlines like that; it gets your attention and pulls you in. So is BIM really dead? No, but we think it soon may be in the form we know it. What if BIM had a rebirth and it looked at the whole life-cycle of a facility, and then where it is in relation to a campus, and then multiple campuses. Whoa, ‘slow down’, you say. That is just too much information; today’s technology just can’t handle it. Are you sure? We’ll try to point out a few things on the big picture, then sum it up. Keep in mind, these are our thoughts and we will need a lot of practitioners who normally don’t work together to think about it.
What Is BIM And How Do I Use It?
If we get past the semantics of the noun verse verb arguments, we believe it boils down to this:
BIM – A digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility.
Now we have multiple ways of characterizing what the BIM geometric and facility data involved is to include: Level of Development/Detail (LOD) to define the geometric properties of the model, although it does leave out the 2D elements of the model in most cases.
COBie and the plethora of other – Information Exchanges (ie’s) - to account for facility data in the model for asset management requirements, although there are concerns by Epic BIM and others that this is not exactly the right direction as it is only really able to be accomplished with work arounds at this point. There is a limited framework and the industry has to create a standard set of data. The “ie’s” really are not mature enough to be practically implemented. There is also lacking and contradictory information on the correct way to implement the “ie’s” there is a data framework but not a standard practice provided by NBIMS. This is getting better as the software vendors are integrating an exportable COBie format; but some items do not fully transfer into the right areas.
So we as an industry have been selling clients that BIM is the panacea they need for their facilities. We get the work done better, faster, cheaper, and we are giving clients all of this data at the end of the project. Clients are asking when we as an industry will deliver on this promise. So BIM may be in its death throes waiting to be reborn like the Phoenix. What could that be?
Rip Apart The Box And Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone!
At Autodesk University last year, 2013 we were challenged to look outside of our industry. Look what others are doing and see if there is some type of overlap. In 2008 when I was first introduced in a working capacity to COBie and BIM, at the same time mind you, I started researching. One thing kept creeping into my searches - GIS. I saw how this really looked to be what we were selling as an industry as BIM. I mentioned this to several people and was told ‘no it is completely different’. I pointed out the software I was seeing and how it handled the data, and still couldn’t get any traction. After a while, I let it go and didn’t think much about it again. Some may be wondering what is GIS.
GIS: Great Another Acronym
So what is GIS and where did it come from? Here is the definition from esri:(http://support.esri.com/en/knowledgebase/GISDictionary/term/GIS)
[GIS technology] Acronym for geographic information system. An integrated collection of computer software and data used to view and manage information about geographic places, analyze spatial relationships, and model spatial processes. A GIS provides a framework for gathering and organizing spatial data and related information so that it can be displayed and analyzed.
Is it me or is there an uncanny resemblance to what we want BIM to do? So this must be something that has come about in tandem with BIM right? Nope not even close. Here is a link to the history of GIS: http://www.ncgia.buffalo.edu/gishist/bar_harbor.html
In my simple mind, I see GIS as the main database where clients will house all the information about their properties. Some use GIS for the big picture, now we bring in BIM and we seem to disconnect that information. It’s not intentional, yet for some reason we do not speak the same language. What does GIS software have over BIM software?
Here’s a list, and yes BIM does some of these already, I know:
- Spatial Analysis
- Data Management
- Mapping and Visualization
- Map Projections
- Advanced Imagery
- Data Sharing
This list is not everything, but these lend themselves to what we want out of BIM. With BIM how do we do this? We define the LOD, then the COBie and all the other “ie’s” that might be needed, and then put the data into a semi-editable archival format called IFC. So, if GIS is already established and has been around for a generation longer than BIM, why are we trying to reinvent the wheel? Is it because we are “special” and the information we provide is complicated?
Just think of the efficiencies we could gain if:
- Items and spaces in a facility were geocoded to help track delivery, installation, maintenance, and first responders.
- Items and spaces in the facility provided data to a main dash board which could then be analyzed for performance, maintenance, and repair history across all facilities in a client’s portfolio.
- Data sharing was seamless within the database of the clients’ portfolios no matter what software created the data.
- Mapping and visualization of high risk maintenance items and spaces across a clients’ portfolio.
First responders could locate and identify potential structural risks, confined space areas, and personnel locations in
Should BIM Learn from GIS?
The answer to this question for me is a resounding yes. Where do we start? I actually think the government will be one of our best resources. They have been collecting, populating, analyzing, and leveraging GIS data for decades. I also think organizations like the AGC and AIA need to establish work groups that truly include all participants. What is the business proposition that makes it worth it for me and others? Money. You can craft it to say quality, or that I am making an impact on the world around me. The truth is, we are all in a business and making money is what business is about.
Yes, as a result of wanting to make money, we become more efficient. Ask a designer what his ROI on BIM is. Now go ask the contractor on that project. I am willing to bet the answers lead back to money. Clients get it as well - they get a high quality project better, faster, and cheaper right? I think GIS holds the key for our industry to deliver on the promise we have been selling for the past decade or more. It will not change with one blog post I know that, but are you willing to step up? Are you willing to go outside of your comfort zone and look into GIS? If we look at the M in BIM being tied to the G in GIS and the I in BIM tying to the I in GIS we may have a solution to the Big Elephant in the room; where is the I in BIM. GIS is really and information focused way to collect data that BIM can benefit from. If we look to using well established standards to capture the I in BIM like GIS we don’t have to reinvent the wheel with “ie’s” like COBie, SPie, HVACie, Sparkie, you get the picture. Here’s hoping that GIS will rise from the ashes of BIM!