Being able to deliver an ambitious or challenging project efficiently and successfully relies on close collaboration and communication between the entire project team. In our increasingly digital world, this means being able to exchange digital project information between all parties reliably and easily. openBIM has evolved to meet this need, enabling the cross-platform exchange of data.
Why Use openBIM?
There are two types of information exchange – openBIM and closedBIM. The main difference is how each system talks to each other: openBIM is intended for exchanging information irrespective of the 3D CAD software platform used, while closedBIM allows data sharing amongst one software family or manufacturer. closedBIM is useful because the data loss during the exchange of information is negligible and there are no compatibility issues between 3D CAD software programs of the same version. This may suit some processes, such as in framework or steel construction. However, the downfall is that the data only has value within the closedBIM process, as data silos are created. As a result, sharing information with parties who use different BIM software is difficult. Hence, openBIM and the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) – an international data exchange format – were developed in order to address this problem.
Of course, sharing project information must be carried out in a controlled way. The BIM coordinator is responsible for this, allowing access to relevant information or models to the parties that require it. They also maintain an overview of the project as a whole, ensuring model quality, and incorporat specialist sub-models into the central structured model as they become available. The BIM coordinator is therefore an information manager and is a key role within the BIM process.
For example, mechanical and electrical (M&E) sub-models can be created from the central building model, which are returned to the BIM coordinator who incorporates them into the final building model. The value of this method of working is that the M&E engineer is responsible only for their own sub-model, and not liable for the design errors of any third parties. The M&E design information therefore has value wherever the sub-model is used in the openBIM process, while also protecting the engineer from potential issues caused by others.
There are times when exchanging entire sub-models isn’t always necessary, such as when there are minor revisions. In this case, the BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) was created, which allows changes within the model to be highlighted and additional information passed on. No model data is exchanged, just the revision details. For example, BCF is suitable for rectifying collisions between models without slowing down the design process or sharing partially complete information.
Protecting Your Data
As with any project, the key to successfully implementing BIM while protecting your data is to have a comprehensive BIM Execution Plan (BEP) from the start. The BEP should thoroughly define the BIM standards and usage requirements, who the BIM coordinator is, and the responsibility of each of the parties involved in the project with respect to BIM. It will also state the required Level of Development (LOD) of the sub-models at each project milestone. This not only helps define the amount of effort required at each stage, but also ensures that the right level of information is shared at the right time. Even after considerable periods of time or when projects are concluded, your data needs to be protected to keep its value. Through openBIM and IFC as an open standard, your data should be readable in the long lifecycle of the building. The ability to use the data without proprietary software will protect the value of the data in many different ways.
Designing for Long-Term Success
Digital design and information management are rapidly becoming an increasingly critical part of designing, constructing, and operating buildings. To remain successful and profitable in the long-term requires designers to be able to share and manage information using BIM software and understanding the openBIM process. To learn more about openBIM and how it contributes to the success of projects, download our white paper: openBIM as the Future Standard for Digital Data Exchange.