Opinion

openBIM: “Best of Breed” Solutions pt 2

 

From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 1

continuing from pt 1...

As a whole, we see a strong level of positive backing for increased competition for software vendors, but this comes with mixed reasoning to support the arguments. Sarah Graham, Head of Global VE Sales at IESVE has as a strong voice in support of increased competition within the industry and highlights a number of key reasons to champion the cause. Nodding to the notion that competitiveness often inspires innovation and scratches the itch of a constant need to evolve.

Q: How do you see openBIM altering the landscape with relevance to small and medium enterprises as well as smaller software vendors?

A: Open BIM creates competition and that is healthy. Smaller firms can actually be more agile and respond more quickly to market demands which then accelerates change. Tech will move forward at a greater speed than in other walks of life. It is the people and process changes that take time.

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Q: In this light, what longerterm benefits will arise?

A: I think the ability to connect design with operation to continuously improve later stages (or at least more intelligently answer questions based on real data from existing buildings) is extremely powerful. Operational data to shape business outcomes is also powerful too. Especially as we move forward to the BIM Level 3/  Digital Built Britain vision.

It is akin to the concept of ‘wearable technology’ for buildings, cities and organizations, having the data to ask the right questions will only help to improve performance over time[37].

SARAH GRAHAM, HEAD OF GLOBAL VE SALES, IESVE

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Beyond the clear value of participants being able to select the software best suited for their needs this very ability takes some of the focus away from learning specific software packages brought about via closed BIM compliance, and even further away from worrying about data compatibility. Instead, participants within openBIM projects are able to focus more wholly on collaboration between specialist workflows to ensure that all aspects of the BIM project are handled in an effective and efficient manner.

To some degree this sees “people” (remember those) coming back into the fold as the core consideration and the software itself being more of a personal statement. Like choosing a meal, or even a pen, the tool itself should not matter. So while openBIM does not intrinsically divert people from these solutions popularised within a closed BIM world, the ability for individuals to sample new specialist software packages does indeed provide competition that pushes leading software vendors to focus on specialist solutions - or ensure that each of their relevant software packages are equally “leading” in their own right.

Additionally, this also addresses one of the core issues raised by Alan Muse, Global Director of the Built Environment at RICS regarding the approaches taken by software vendors in the development of their technology packages. Specifically, Muse highlights one core entity in the industry that has caused a severe disruption in terms of BIM realising its full potential for construction.

He argues how, to date, the development of leading technology platforms from software vendors has perhaps been done without the direct interaction with, and communication between, leading industry organisations and governing bodies such as RICS. Speaking candidly, this lack of communication and collaboration, he highlights, has left something of a gap between what BIM “can” offer, and what BIM “does” offer as a result.

Q: What limitations or challenges stem from collaborative workflows? Does transparency restrict relationships or improve them?

A: I think there is a general collaborative issue within the culture of the industry in terms of the way that the industry procures work, and in terms of the “one-off” clients in the industry too. The fact that we need education to come together into a team environment also plays a part.

In terms of the technical data standards in BIM, I think that is merely one side of a two sided coin. We need open and transparent data to be exchanged between the design team, the supply chain and contractors, but we also need professional standards in terms of the work processes and these standards must now interface even more with these new technologies.

We are very keen to collaborate with other professional institutions and leading technology providers to solve these problems, and to have a two-way conversation regarding what they need from us and what we need from them.

We are already members of buildingSMART, but more importantly we need to engage with software vendors and technologists themselves because we feel that this has been a one-way street so far[38].

ALAN MUSE, GLOBAL DIRECTOR OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT, RICS

Indeed, Muse puts forward the opinion that with the integration of input from key organisations in the industry, such as RICS, it is the case that leading software vendors could benefit from a better understanding of what the industry requires from BIM in the first place and how this can actually be catered for in the development of the software packages themselves.

Vendors are already producing software that is very useful of course, but instead, with regard to specific software packages, Muse explains that many of the solutions presented to the industry are done so for one specific need only. Yet highlighting the evolving nature of the industry itself, specifically with the integration of openBIM, we then see the development of far more intricate levels of collaborative working within multidisciplinary practices which in turn, will require multidisciplinary solutions, to address.

Without collaboration, questions could be raised as to just how this can be achieved. Yet with the case of Open BIM thus presented, and an argument for the opening of the market through Open BIM standards, the paradigm shift can readily be perceived.

Should Muse be correct in his point, relations between industry bodies and software vendors may not be at their strongest at present and this opens the market to smaller software vendors to develop solutions more in line with member’s needs. Beyond this, opportunity may also be available for industry associations and institutions to develop their own platforms too - easily integrating them into openBIM projects and tailoring these to the needs of their members as well (the technology of which The BIM Hub can help with).

The possibilities for overcoming communication and collaboration issues perceived in a traditionally closed BIM industry can be seen as far more manageable via the correct implementation of open standards. But at the same time, Muse highlights how increased industry competitiveness may also make communication with the industry even more difficult, with the diversification it already contains.

That said, he remains seemingly confident of market stability with a push towards openBIM standards, nodding to the very nature of markets which tend to go through cycles of entrepreneurial start-ups followed by consolidation and rationalisation.


An interesting area of debate indeed and one that affects us all. It will be interesting to see how it evolves.

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