BIM News

Multi-disciplinary Interoperability Standards for the Convergence of BIM, 3D and Geospatial


November 04, 2014. Published by:

At the ISO/TC 59 Plenary Week in Toronto this week, a day long collaboration session was organized by ISO/TC 59, buildingSMART, and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).  This is a major milestone for the development of standards as a foundation for the convergence of building and civil engineering design and geospatial technology. 

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an independent, non-governmental membership organization and the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards. ISO, which is made up of 165 member countries with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, has published more than 19 500 International Standards covering almost every industry, from technology, to food safety, to agriculture and health care.

BuildingSMART International (bSi) cooperates with ISO.  Specifically it has liaisons with two ISO committees; ISO/TC 59 (Buildings and civil engineering works) and ISO/TC 59/SC 13 (Organization of information about construction works).  BuildingSMART's main standard Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), which is a standard for sharing BIM in the construction and facility management industries, was adopted as an official ISO standard in 2013 as ISO 16739:2013.

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) develops publicly available geospatial interface standards. OGC Standards enable interoperable location-aware solutions for the Web, wireless and location-based services and mainstream IT.  Over the years, the OGC has been building a network of alliance partner organisations, many of whom are standards development organizations in market domains related to the built environment.  One of these alliances is with buildingSMART which has an official memorandum of understanding (MOU) with OGC to co-operate. Recently the joint effort has focused on using BIM for Infrastructure and requirements for interoperability between BIM and Geospatial domains.

In 2012 the OGC, BuildingSMART International, ISO TC 211 and ISOTC 59/SC 13 began discussing ways of cooperating to support harmonization. A Civil Summit held in Waltham, Massachusetts (USA) and Abu Dhabi was organised cooperatively by bSi and OGC.  Since then several domain working groups (DWGs) have been formed to identify gaps and work toward cross-disciplinary standards.  For example, The OGC 3DIM Domain Working Group (DWG) works jointly with ISO TC 59 and buildingSMART to facilitate the definition and development of interface and encoding standards that enable software solutions that allow infrastructure owners, builders, emergency responders, community planners, and the traveling public to better manage and navigate complex built environments.

Leif Granholm of Trimble gave a quick but comprehensive overview of the work of the three geospatial domain working groups (DWG) in which all three standards groups are involved.  

3D Information Management (3DIM) DWG

3DIM, which used to be called CAD/GIS DWG, is involved in some areas of 3D interoperability that are creating the foundation for moving forward in the direction of modeling entire cities.  These include CityGML, which with extensions can model most of the above ground features of cities excluding inside buildings, augmented reality markup language (ARML), 3D  portrayal, and a first start at a successor to LandXML (which is an orphan right now) called InfraGML, and Indoor Geographic Markup Language (IndoorGML).


One of the most important initiatives is IndoorGML.  Leif Granholm and others foresee that this may be the "the next big thing", as important for navigating indoor spaces as GPS was for outdoors.  Anyone with a mobile phone with a GPS or a GPS in their car is familiar with how easy it is to navigate anywhere on the planet - as long as it's not in a building.

There are two dimensions to this challenge.  The first is finding a technology analogous to GPS for assigning an XYZ location to people and things in buildings.  For example, in a hospital it is often urgent to be able to determine instantly where Dr Morgan is and where the nearest "crash cart" is.  In a mall it is important for a shopper to know where he or she is at any given instant, where whatever they are looking for is, and how to navigate between the two.  Determining where you are in a building is a technical challenge that is still getting a lot of attention from researchers.
The other dimension is context, typically represented by a 3D model of the interior spaces of buildings.  This can show context for shoppers to direct them to whatever they are looking for.  For a maintenance person, it is also necessary to be able to dissolve walls, ceilings, and floors to expose the building's infrastructure, electrical, fire, water, HVAC, and so on.  IndoorGML is intended the provide a standard for modeling indoor spaces.  But it is a more complicated problem.  Compared to outdoors there is a hundred times more data indoors.  Outdoors there are a relatively small number of data providers; national mapping agencies, national space agencies, commercial data providers like Digital Globe, Microsoft, Google, Nokia, TomTom, OpenCStreetMap, and so on.  Indoors there are likely to be hundreds of thousands of data providers.  Just as every firm nowadays develops its own web site, many foresee that every firm will develop its own 3D presence and map of its space, for example, to enhance its attractiveness to customers navigating their way around the mall using a 3D map.  IndoorGML provides a standard that will enable this to happen.

The first version of IndoorGML was approved a week ago.

CityGML 3

Development of the next version of CityGML is just ramping up.  But unlike the standards development process used in the past which relied on sharing Microsoft Word documents and wikis, CityGML3 will be developed using a novel approach that was successfuly used for developing the GeoPackage standard.  One of the major innovations from an OGC perspective of the GeoPackage standard development process was achieved by putting the GeoPackage specification out on GitHub, which made it much more accessible to the developer community than if it had been made available in the traditional OGC way. 

The other innovation that CityGML3 will benefit from is a modular approach to standards development. CityGML 3 is actually comprised of 10 sub projects rather than one mega project.

Urban Planning DWG

This is a brand new DWG.  Its objective is to identify the gaps and to facilitate the development of standards to enable interoperability between smart city applications.  Technologies and trends such as Augmented Reality (AR), Smart Cities, Smart Grids, Sensor Webs, the Internet of Things (IoT), LBS (Location Based Services), Facilities Management, navigation (indoor and outdoor) and “Big Data” Analytics all can play important roles in informing urban planners.  In these technology domains, open standards can facilitate the development, publication, discovery, and use of information. The OGC Urban Planning DWG intends to discover requirements for open geospatial standards in information systems involved in the planning, design, use, maintenance and governance of publicly accessible spaces. The DWG already has plans for an OGC Smart City Testbed focused on urban resilience and in 2015 an OGC Smart City pilot.

Land and Infrastructure DWG

A major project for this DWG is to develop a standard called InfraGML for exchanging information relating to highways and roads.  By way of background, LandXML is a widely used standard supported by almost 800 members in the roads and highway transportation sector.  A number of years ago an unsuccessful attempt had been made to make LandXML compliant with the Open Geospatial Consortium's (OGC) Geography Markup Language (GML) standard for geospatial data.

The immediate issue is that LandXML, which is not associated with a recognized international standards organization, has been unsupported for over five years.  To address this issue the Land and Infrastructure DWG chartered a LandInfraSWG (Standards Working Group) for LandXML. Its first activity was to reverse-engineer a UML model and documentation (which were lacking) for LandXML 1.2 as a basis for assessing the viability of supporting LandXML as an OGC interoperability standard. A number of deficiencies relative to the OGC baseline were identified.  The LandInfraSWG has proposed developing a new standard, dubbed InfraGML, that will encompass a subset of LandXML functionality, be defined by a UML conceptual model, would incorporate GML and most importantly for the future, would be supported by the OGC.

CityGML and IFC common data model

Another very interesting project with important implication for the future of geospatial-BIM convergence is creating a conceptual model of road alignments that will be used in both OGC and buildingSMART standards for roads, railways, tunnels and bridges. This is particularly challenging, but extremely important because it is a first step in developing full lifecyle models for infrastructure from planning through design and construction to operate and maintain.  OGC focuses on planning and operation whereas design and construction are buildingSMART’s focus area.