If you’re in the design and construction industry, then you might have heard of openBIM – but what actually is openBIM? And more importantly, why should you care? This article introduces 10 things you must know about openBIM! 😃
1. What exactly is openBIM, and how does it work?
OpenBIM basically means working with Building Information Modeling (BIM) using open software, processes, and standards.
Open BIM seeks to increase integration and efficiencies for all design and construction professionals by making it easier to exchange information.
Can you tell from my T-Shirt how much I like openBIM – or maybe it’s my mug that gives it away? 😁
I’m a big fan of simplicity therefore I appreciate the analogy from Mark Baldwin, who compares it to when we write documents in Word but send them as a PDF (an open standard supported by many free tools) so that anyone – even without Word software – can open and review it.
One clarification that I provide below is about the updating of an IFC file – can you modify an IFC file?
Spoiler alert, YES, you CAN edit an IFC file! Continue reading through point 5 for more information 😃
As Dion Moult states, OpenBIM is similar to the Open Document Format as it promotes interoperability and allows updates.
For BIM, this allows all project stakeholders to access and use a single BIM model rather than recreating geometry and data in multiple tools.
This allows for better coordination between architects, engineers, and contractors and improved communication with clients.
Open BIM data has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate in the design and construction industry, and I believe that it is something that you should be paying attention to!
2. Where did openBIM standards come from?
OpenBIM originated from the buildingSMART alliance, a consortium of construction companies, software developers, and other interested parties.
The goal of the buildingSMART alliance is to develop open standards for information management in the construction industry.
The first open BIM standard was released in 2006, and since then, open BIM has been on an upward trajectory.
There are now several open BIM software tools available, each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.
buildingSMART provides a list of certified IFC applications – there are now over 200 openBIM-compliant software products on the market.
Plannerly (The BIM Management Platform) is proud to be one of these openBIM-compliant software products!
Check out the complete list of openBIM software here.
3. OpenBIM software leads IFC, so what’s IFC in BIM?!!?
Well, when a project requires multiple designers to collaborate on files in various formats and exchange information rapidly and accurately, BIM interoperability is put to the test.
This is where openBIM IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) steps in!
IFC is a standard that helps define how BIM data should be structured.
This data can be the geometry, information about the objects, and more!
To put it simply, it means that you can confidently exchange information between two BIM software programs that use IFC.
This is a massive advantage because it allows you to use the best software for each task without worrying about compatibility issues.
What does this all mean for you?
It means that if you want to be part of the future of design and construction, you need to start learning about IFC BIM and openBIM!
4. Your Brief IFC Timeline/History
- In 1996 the first version of Industry Foundation Classes was published – aptly called “IFC 1.0”
- 2006 still marks the most well-known version of IFC – it’s called “IFC 2×3” – yeah I know the IFC naming convention just got weird 😅
- In 2013 IFC 4.0 debuted with modifications and updates
- and in 2022 IFC4.3 was submitted to ISO with additions for Rail and Infrastructure
The future of IFC is IFC 5.0 – the IFC data schema must develop with industry trends towards digital twins and be less focussed on file-based approaches – read more about this development in Future of the Industry Foundation Classes: towards IFC 5.
5. Can you edit an IFC BIM file?
It’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed by all of these IFC versions and IFC terminology, isn’t it?
It sounds very official, probably inflexible, non-proprietary (which is good), and likely also uneditable – right?
Well, let’s debunk a widespread misconception that I frequently hear questions or statements about if you can edit an IFC file.
So if IFC is like a PDF – it’s NOT editable – right?
IFC files can not be modified; thus, they’re completely useless! Right?
This is FALSE. IFC files can be modified if desired.
The IFC standard defines a BIM data model, not a user interface.
This means that different openBIM software programs can present and use the same IFC data in different ways – and edit it!
For example, one program might show an IFC file as a set of objects in a three-dimensional space, while another program might show the same IFC file as a set of numbers and equations.
However, both programs would be able to edit the IFC BIM data because they both understand the openBIM standard.
So if you want to edit an IFC file, you need to use openBIM compatible software.
What software is that, I hear you ask? 😁
An excellent option for this is BlenderBIM – it allows users to create, edit, and export IFC files.
BlenderBIM has been gaining in popularity, and we believe that it has a lot of potential!
BlenderBIM is free and open-source, and it runs on the popular open-source Blender software.
BlenderBIM is still in development, so it might lack some features found in other BIM software.
However, we think BlenderBIM is developing more quickly than many other popular tools on the market today, and we are looking forward to seeing how it progresses.
We believe that open-source software like BlenderBIM will play a significant role in the future of openBIM!
But openBIM is not just all about software…
7. Coordination of People, Processes, and Tools
One of the goals of openBIM is to promote collaboration between different disciplines, such as architects, engineers, and construction managers.
OpenBIM is not just about software or standards.
It is also about people and processes.
To do this, openBIM promotes a collaborative model-based coordination workflow.
This is where all disciplines work together to create a single BIM model – that fits together without errors, omissions, and clashes.
This model can then be used by everyone involved in the project to coordinate their work and avoid conflicts.
Model-based coordination is a huge advantage because it reduces errors and saves time.
It also promotes communication and collaboration between different disciplines, which can only be a good thing!
But how does OpenBIM help use here specifically?
Well, that’s where BCF comes in…
8. What is BCF?
The BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) is a structured XML file (or server setup) primarily used for issue tracking.
The BCF BIM format captures contextualized information about an issue or problem directly referencing a 3D view, captured via PNG and IFC coordinates.
What does this mean?
Well, it’s primarily a picture of the BIM issue along with a description of what’s wrong.
The views of a building model and associated information on collisions and errors are then transferred to another software to help with more speedy resolution.
BCF is used with both authoring and coordination software:
- The authoring software generates and distributes BCF issues, which are problems with the model. Vectorworks, ArchiCAD, Tekla Structures, Quadri, DDS CAD are some of the authoring software that has native BCF support – some others have add-ons too to support BCF.
- The coordination software provides a user interface for the management and tracking of concerns. Coordination software that includes issue tracking with BCF includes BIMcollab ZOOM, BIMTrack, Trimble Connect, Solibri, and Bimsync.
BCF was initially designed as a file-based transfer, but there are now many server-based collaborative workflows based on the bcfAPI.
The use of the BCF format to coordinate BIM changes is also an essential aspect of OpenBIM.
9. What are some of the challenges with openBIM formats and IFC?
While many in the industry believe that openBIM is revolutionary and essential, some skeptics still exist.
A few years ago, this song about IFC being useful for “absolutely nothing” was shared!
This skepticism is generally based on a history of complexity and the need for workarounds.
Many people are also intimidated by learning new terms like openBIM, IFC, and BCF.
Many teams also fear data loss when transferring files between different applications.
For example, exporting IFC from a modeling software such as Revit to import it into other software such as Archicad can cause the loss of information created natively.
It should be noted that IFC was not intended to roundtrip proprietary data formats to IFC and back again.
And sometimes, not all software supports the latest IFC version you might need.
As you learn more about BIM workflows and interoperability, it becomes evident that IFC can be pretty helpful if we are familiar with its limits.
For this, tests must be carried out to ensure that the IFC format can be used in each specific case.
10. How can openBIM benefit my company and me?
We all know that collaboration is essential, especially for design and construction projects, and openBIM can help your company play nicely with others!
There are many benefits of using openBIM, including:
- Reduced costs: openBIM software is often free or very affordable. This can save your company a lot of money in the long run.
- Increased efficiency: openBIM allows team members to work together more efficiently, leading to shorter project timelines and reduced costs.
- Improved communication: with openBIM, all stakeholders have access to the same information, which leads to better communication and fewer misunderstandings.
So there you have it! These are just a few things that you need to know about openBIM.
While openBIM certainly has a lot of benefits, some challenges need to be considered.
We believe that openBIM has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry, and we encourage you to learn more about it!
Can you work with an openBIM interoperability flow, or do you prefer native options?
What is openBIM?
OpenBIM is a term used to describe the use of open software, processes, and standards to increase integration and efficiencies for Building Information Modeling (BIM).
What is buildingSMART?
buildingSMART is the international home of openBIM. Open BIM originated from the buildingSMART alliance, a consortium of construction companies, software developers, and other interested parties. The goal of the buildingSMART alliance is to develop open standards for information management in the construction industry. buildingSMART also provides a list of certified IFC applications – there are now over 200 openBIM-compliant software products on the market. Plannerly (The BIM Management Platform) is proud to be one of these openBIM-compliant software products! Check out the complete list of openBIM software here.
What is IFC?
The IFC or Industry Foundation Classes is a data structure standard that governs how BIM information should be organized. It’s a defined data model that includes elements of the design, build, and operate process to allow logical data transfer between AEC software applications.
What is BCF?
BCF is the BIM Collaboration Format used to share contextualized information about an issue or problem directly referencing a 3D view, captured as a PNG image combined with IFC viewpoint coordinates.
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