BIM made great strides in 2019 – where is it heading in 2020?

Frank Weiss and Léon van Berlo look at how standards and greater collaboration across the industry are propelling BIM’s growth.

BIM has gone through something of a renaissance in 2019. Not that as a methodology it was outdated, but the interpretations and discussions around it have evolved over the last year. There is a clear sign that the industry has started to come together and collaborate around BIM to solve some of the key issues and challenges it faces. This also provides optimism for what might happen in the BIM arena in 2020.

There have been a few catalysts for the transition, such as a drive to progress the engagement with, and use of, specific BIM standards, including the Industry Foundation Class (IFC), an industry-specific data model schema; and BIM Collaboration Format (BCF), or model-based, software-independent communication protocols. The way forward for the industry is in establishing standards but also identifying what to create a standard on.

Frank Weiss, Oracle Construction & Engineering

Léon van Berlo, buildingSMART International

There has also been an ongoing discussion about how to define industry terminology associated with BIM, such as the common data environment (CDE), digital twins, and openBIM. What a CDE and digital twin are, as well as where they intertwine, should start to become much clearer in the coming year.

These changes are critical for teams across all levels of a project and for all project types where BIM is used. Standards provide clarity and certainty. Establishing standards focused on capturing, sharing and accessing data is key for an industry that is becoming much more reliant on technology, but it also considers how to future proof data and the access to it. This is essential for project leads to be able to learn from past projects in order to continually improve.

To achieve all of this, the built asset industry has relied on buildingSMART International to take ownership of facilitating these essential discussions – and this industry custodian role has grown stronger as buildingSMART continued to expand its global membership in 2019.

BuildingSMART’s International Standard Summit in Beijing in October 2019 was an interesting milestone in terms of how far the industry had come over the past year, and it provided a lot of exciting news to take into 2020, including:

  • The availability of “IFC Bridge” and “IFC Rail” which have both reached Candidate Standard. (Candidate Standard status is an important achievement when the work moves from development to implementation and testing.)
  • News that Oracle joined as a Strategic Member, providing an exciting opportunity to enhance cloud-based solutions.
  • The announcement of a letter of cooperation between buildingSMART and the Open Design Alliance (ODA) highlighting the crossover between open standards (from buildingSMART) and open standards implementation from the ODA to benefit the common users of all tools and solutions.

All of these contribute to a view that the industry is trying harder than ever to bridge previous gaps to come together to collaborate. This greater collaboration is something we haven’t experienced enough in previous years and something we look set to see more of in 2020. But as we look ahead to the coming year, what else are we likely to see in the BIM space?

Enhancements to standards/buildingSMART activity

We anticipate further evolution of how the industry defines and understands openCDEs. Oracle leads the openCDE initiative as a working group within buildingSMART focusing on smart data exchange between online data environments, authoring, and quality tools.

The aim is to produce a written openCDE API document in 2020, because the standardisation of APIs is key to move towards a data-driven industry, instead of a file-based exchange only. For buildingSMART, the openCDE is a vital first step towards the industry becoming more data driven in 2020 and beyond.

There will be further momentum around common standards, such as BCF leading to BCF 2.2 at some point this year, as well as an expansion of IFC as greater adoption of this standard continues across the industry. This is going to help the industry recognise and realise the value of data in order to continually improve processes and working practices.

For example, in the past year there has been a huge shift around “IFC Rail” and the “Rail Plan” in general. It’s the first time something of this scale has crossed borders to collaborate on a joint standard. The “Rail Plan” is owner driven and has been developed to Candidate Standard which is a significant achievement. That will continue to evolve in 2020, and we will see other areas of infrastructure looking at this and considering how to adopt it such as power/energy.

Predictions for industry collaboration

Over the coming year, the importance of being open, neutral, and willing to collaborate will continue to proliferate across the built asset industry. As a result, we expect to see a much stronger focus on information exchange requirements such as Exchange Information Requirements (EIR) in 2020, and this will lead to much more definition about what should be captured in dynamic information exchanges.

This year will see more organisations/people within the industry realise that there has to be agreement upfront about what classifications and properties are required during data exchange in projects.

APIs are set for a big year for the industry, and we will see much greater acceptance for and use of APIs to help the industry truly collaborate instead of managing data through containers which tend to be closed. APIs will be the new way to access data.

As BIM continues to evolve, there will be more need for BIM certification for individuals to protect the integrity of the BIM methodology and ensure clarity and transparency of its use is maintained. There will be an increased focus on training the industry through affordable means in 2020 as a result.

Finally, openBIM processes will gain adoption across the industry as we try to close the productivity gap particularly in construction.

2020 – a year of growth for BIM in the built asset industries

Overall, the next year will be incredibly important to continue the drive toward collaboration, openness, and neutrality across the industry’s use of BIM. This progess will be key if we’re going to continue to make the methodology more data-driven. We need to learn from other industry sectors about the importance of data and set ourselves up to be able to capitalise on that.

Frank Weiss is senior director of new products, BIM and innovation, Oracle Construction & Engineering, Léon van Berlo is technical director of buildingSMART International

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