ISO 19650: A step closer to one world, one standard?

Dan Rossiter

Dan Rossiter, senior BIM communicator at BRE, outlines his top three international standards to get familiar with when using BIM internationally

Following the public consultation and recent press releases about ISO 19650, the upcoming international standard on information management using building information modelling (BIM), many organisations have the internationalisation of their processes in mind. 

As the author of There’s No BIM Like Home, I realised early on that the blog was going to attract international attention and wanted to ensure that my information was as internationally friendly as possible. To do so, I turned to ISO standards.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), from the Greek Isos (not an abbreviation), has published more than 22,000 standards. These standards act as a passport for trade, allowing organisations in different countries to align their information using neutral documentation, agreed by consensus. 

When ISO 19650 is published, it will give organisations a golden opportunity to update their processes around information management. When doing so, why not aim for better internationalisation by following my top three ISO standards to use which support BIM?

ISO 80000 – Quantities and units

Ultimately, BIM is about using information to inform decisions. To ensure that the best decisions are made information needs to be as clear as possible. ISO 80000 on quantities and units helps achieve this. Published in 14 parts, the standard is quite comprehensive and two elements stick out for me:

Very big or very small numbers are not ideal. It is pointless talking about paint thickness or road lengths in metres. Select the unit that provides sensible numbers to make it easier on the person who will be using your information.

Never put a comma in numbers. With half of the world using the comma as a decimal point large numbers, if they must be used, should be separated by nothing or a small space. Otherwise if asked to order 1,234 tonnes of concrete, a British person would order over 1200 tonnes while a European would order less than two. Luckily most software already has the ability to display numbers in an internationally friendly way.

ISO 4157 – Designation systems

In the same vein, while ISO 80000 is concerned with numbers, ISO 4157 is concerned with names.  Published in three parts, ISO 4157 specifies how to name buildings, storeys, floors, spaces, element types, element occurrences and lead-bearing structural elements. 

With a need to deliver information for asset management, parts of each facility should be named logically and be consistent across documents. ISO 4157 supports doing this in a manner that is both logical and human-readable.

ISO 16739 – Industry foundation classes

Finally, with your numbers and names in order this information needs to be exchanged with the rest of the project team and ISO 16739 can help. Industry foundation classes (IFC) is a data schema, represented using EXPRESS, that allows information to be exchanged in a consistent data format regardless of which software was used to create the original information. 

By using an appropriate model view definition, your information will not only be internationally consistent, but also based on open standards. BuildingSMART maintains IFC, and keeps a schedule of software that has been certified to import or export IFC data files. The IFC data schema is also viewable online.

While I have only listed three standards above, there are countless others on classification systems, data dictionaries, object libraries, document management, meta data, line weights, title blocks, drawing borders, fonts and many others that can provide value to an organisation.

I have tried to apply as many as possible to my blog and have added references to countless British, European and International standards within BRE Academy’s BIM course to ensure that our education and training material reflects industry good practice.

ISO is looking to achieve a “one world; one standard” approach. When trying to ensure that countless organisations collaborate during design, construction and operation surely this is exactly what we need, and what ISO 19650 is helping to provide. One world; one standard.

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