Expert analysis: What 2020 holds for building information modelling (BIM)

On May 6, 2020 by Frank Weiss & Léon van Berlo, buildingSMART International

Frank Weiss, senior director of new products, BIM and innovation and Léon van Berlo, technical director of buildingSMART International, examine what the future holds for BIM in the built asset industry this year.

2019 enjoyed something of a revival in building information modelling (BIM). While the methodology has never fallen out of favour, last year saw several fresh interpretations and an evolution of the concept.

These discussions pointed to an industry that was beginning to see the importance of collaboration around BIM in order to solve some of the key challenges it faces, all while offering optimism for what lies ahead in 2020.

But what has been driving this change? One of the key catalysts has been the desire to improve engagement with, and use of, specific BIM standards such as the industry-specific data model schema Industry Foundation Class (IFC), and the model-based, software-independent communication protocols of the BIM Collaboration Format (BCF). Through these examinations, it became clear that establishing standards and identifying what to create these standards on is the way forward for BIM progress.

Additionally, conversations have continued around certain terminologies associated with BIM. For example, the common data environment (CDE), digital twins, and openBIM. Over the course of 2020, it should grow clearer what these terms mean and the ways in which they overlap.

These developments will prove essential for all project types that utilise BIM, with improvements in standards helping to provide clarity and certainty across all levels of a project. And, as an industry growing increasingly reliant on technology, this is especially true when it comes to defining standards in the capturing, sharing, and accessing of data. After all, future-proofing data and how it is accessed will be a pivotal measure for project leads in order to gather learnings from previous projects and make ongoing improvements.

Key collaborations

Helping to bring these changes to life for the built asset industry is buildingSMART International. The organisation has take ownership of facilitating these important discussions, and its role as a key industry custodian has only been reinforced by the continued expansion of its global membership.

BuildingSMART’s International Standard Summit in Beijing in October last year added further fuel to this leading role, and indicated just how far the industry had come over the course of 2019. Key milestones that were highlighted included: the availability of ‘IFC Bridge’ and ‘IFC Rail’ which both reached Candidate Standard; the news that Oracle joined as a Strategic Member, providing an exciting opportunity to enhance cloud-based solutions; and the announcement of a letter of cooperation between buildingSMART and the Open Design Alliance (ODA).

These exciting developments presented an industry striving more than ever to work to together and plug existing knowledge gaps, and is a level of collaboration that has been lacking in the past. But looking forward into 2020, what else can we expect to see in the BIM space?

According to Léon van Berlo, technical director for buildingSMART, evolution of how the industry defines and understands openCDEs will continue. With Oracle leading the openCDE initiative as a working group within buildingSMART, there is now a renewed focus on smart data exchange between online data environments, authoring, and quality tools.

The standardisation of APIs remains essential in this data driven industry as we move away from a file-based exchange. This has given Oracle the goal to produce a written openCDE API document for this year. For buildingSMART, the openCDE is a vital first step towards the industry becoming more data driven.

The momentum around common standards and the expansion of IFC also looks set to continue, with BCF leading to BCF 2.2 and adoption of new standards predicted to grow across the industry. These steps will help the industry to recognise the value of data in improving processes and practices.

For example,‘IFC Rail’ and the ‘Rail Plan’ have shown a significant shift in thinking over the last year, crossing borders in order to collaborate on a joint standard. Van Berlo predicts that this will continue to evolve in 2020, with other areas of infrastructure, such as power or energy, adopting this approach.

Industry collaboration predictions

The significance of being open, neutral, and willing to work together will become a key characteristic of the built asset industry through 2020 and beyond. Van Berlo expects that  the industry will experience a greater focus on information exchange requirements as a result, which have the potential to create increased clarity over the requirements in dynamic information exchanges.

In fact, van Berlo believes that organisations will begin to request an upfront agreement on the classifications and properties that are required during data exchange in projects.

It’s also predicted that APIs will be the new way to access data, with the industry more open to accepting them in order to assist in true collaboration, as opposed to managing data through containers.

And, as BIM continues to evolve, requirements for individual BIM certification will increase as the protection of BIM methodology integrity and need for clarity becomes more important. As a result, there will likely be an increased focus on affordable training within the industry.

Finally, openBIM processes will experience greater adoption – particularly in construction – as attempts are made to close the productivity gap.

A year of growth for BIM

In summary, 2020 will prove a pivotal moment for BIM in the built asset industry with an increased focus on collaboration, openness, and neutrality. These developments will prove essential in the drive towards data-driven methodology, but the industry must look to other sectors for key learnings on the importance of data in order to truly capitalise on it.

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