Improving the Construction Process with openBIM pt 2


From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 1

continuing from pt 1...

A severe disconnect can be seen in the passing of information from one party to another in this way. Data is not so much “lost” but without a common and open standard underpinning the workflow mistakes can, and often are made -  which starts to challenge the very purpose of BIM itself. Communication is the key and it pays to get it right.


Q: Where are we now and what limitations or challenges might you also see stemming from more collaborative and open workflows?

A: The construction industry is in the midst of a transition for sure, moving from 2D design to virtual 3D design which is where BIM was born. In the design of a building however many companies still believe that sharing the model, by passing compatible versions of their design in the same format to each other is enough, which isn’t the case any more.

Closed BIM means that only people well versed in these heavy design tools are able to make use of the information 100% and it does not improve the construction process at all where the largest amounts of money are spent and the risks still exist.

Just look at the issue of tracking the original budget and actual cost of a project – can anyone track where the cost overrun began?This is generally because we don’t have the ability to link information together effectively.

With an openBIM standard in place we could estimate, model and track actual costs against RFI’s and changes which would help to identify where issues occur and allow them to be addressed earlier, before they become a major disaster. Which is exactly what the HxGN SMART build platform addresses.



In addition to base costings savings, Holmes also presents the argument as to how openBIM can create further benefits by looking at the communication of information between the model and the machinery itself; arguing how this level of communication could be utilised to automate systems, optimise workflows and, as a byproduct of automation, even remove many of the manual human errors which can be seen to delay schedules and increase additional costs.

Indeed through the development of formal, rigid and precise standards (specifically when considering the industry-specific applications being put forward by buildingSMART), human error is the very element that can ultimately be removed from the equation with openBIM.

As a transparent workflow, and with communication all but autonomised each participant is more readily able to pinpoint errors, mistakes, concerns or challenges within the BIM which may otherwise have a negative impact on the building process itself[5]. This collaboration, specifically, allows for individuals to work together in the management of the intelligent data within the BIM and, by extension, maximise the potential utilisation of that data as well as bolster its very depth and accuracy as well[9].

As one might imagine, these aspects help to reinforce many of the core principles surrounding BIM, whereby the quality of data can be translated into meaningful real-world results.

This concept is well understood by Pete Mills, Commercial Technical Operations Manager at Bosch Commercial & Industrial where the management of a collaborative workflow is key. However, he also notes with interest a concern as to how this very same collaboration could actually create a cause for concern within the BIM as well.

Namely that looking at the interactions between disciplines, openBIM (if not properly managed), also poses something of a security risk with the handling of complete design data by other participants if care is not taken.


Q: What limitations or challenges might stem from collaborative workflows in an openBIM environment?

A: As with traditional BIM everybody has a different interpretation of openBIM and a different concern. My main concern would be with the security and protection of data with openBIM and Intellectual Property issues, as you are handing over control of  your design data.

The concept of a collaborative workflow is great but it needs to be managed thoroughly so that when a certain discipline goes in and works within a model, other disciplines can’t go in and change that around. This could result in significant costs later on in a project if an amendment was made in error[26].



This isn’t to say that openBIM cannot be managed effectively and securely right now. Improved checks and balances are emerging all the time, but moreso the management of interactions within the BIM may very well become an increasingly-more important area of focus for organisations wishing to maintain a degree of creative and technical control over the data itself. Indeed, the theory calls into question many of the benefits attributed to openBIM if the process is not fully managed, should the process involve parties less responsible and professional in their relative handling of the information itself. Which is a risk of closed BIM also, it should be said.

Trust aside, a lack of education (which we will address later) may very well hold the key. Education relates to the proper management of openBIM between organisations which are less versed in the day-to-day world of BIM. An understanding of the data, the importance of communication and also the ownership of data within the BIM will become increasingly key. This is because education represents one of the core entities in ensuring that those participating within BIM are also fit for handling the data made available through it, in either a closed or open workflow.

In this light it is on all our shoulders to ensure that our openBIM knowledge is carefully considered and shared accordingly.


I think one of the biggest problems of BIM is that most of the companies when searching for BIM software neglect to look for software in general and focus on software which involves 3D. BIM is more than this and we should try to educate our industry in this regard.



Read both parts (and more) in BIM Journal