What are the advantages of Connected BIM

Open BIM vs. Closed BIM

- Building Information Modeling for a digital future of the construction industry in Germany

BIM is one of the most important trends and driving force for the digitization of the construction industry. It enables more project success and massively counteracts the need for supplements. BIM is based on the continuous use of building information and data, as well as the accessibility of this for everyone involved in the construction. Open BIM applications would therefore be desirable in order to create connectivity along the value chain. In reality, however, software providers often seem to target closed BIM applications.

BIM - what is it actually?

There are numerous myths and fallacies surrounding Building Information Modeling. “Everyone understands something different by BIM. Some people still think it's software, "says Nico Schlun. Understandable, since both terms are often mentioned in the same breath and BIM needs software to be used. So what exactly is behind the term?

Building Information Modeling is a working method. Digital building models contain all the data and information of a building and are used throughout the entire life cycle, from planning through the construction phase and management to demolition. The models contain everything from basic information to the smallest details. A data model that covers all dimensions. That means that Building Information Modeling contains more than the geometry of a building and also contains information about the 4th dimension of time and the 5th dimension of costs. And this is where technological innovations don't stop for a long time. As innovation progresses, more and more dimensions are constantly being added.

In Building Information Modeling, it is not only the availability of information and data that is all-encompassing, but also the cooperative collaboration of all project participants, which in turn is decisive for the BIM methodology.

In order to make this possible, a standardized data exchange is required, which allows all parties involved to access, supplement and edit information.

(Source: https://laserscanning-experts.de/was-ist-building-information-modeling-bim/)

The 4 types of BIM

Anyone who deals with BIM will come across the terms Open BIM, Closed BIM, Little BIM and Big BIM. These are technological features that can be best explained when they are combined and laid out on two axes.

With Open BIM, data is exchanged across multiple software and planning tools using open formats. With closed BIM, on the other hand, only a single piece of software or a single planning tool can be used.

Although BIM can be used for large construction projects with countless participants, it is also possible to use the working method on a much smaller scale. This is called Little BIM, an island solution on a small scale.

In contrast, there is Big BIM - the continuous use of digital building models across various disciplines and life cycle phases.

(Source: https://planerwissen2go.com/2019/01/12/welches-bim-wird-angewendet/)

Little closed BIM: Also called lonely BIM, describes the development of an isolated solution with the BIM methodology by a single planner. The decision to use BIM is usually based on the initiative of the user, who in the little closed BIM also only uses one software or one planning tool. For example, the modeling of a building and its derivation in plans. The resulting data will not be shared with others.

Big closed BIM: Several internal and external planners work together on a project. Only manufacturer-specific software or a planning tool is used. It is a uniform system landscape within which data can be exchanged in compatible file formats.

Little open BIM: Here, too, the planner works alone and only in his area. The difference to little closed BIM is that the resulting data can be shared with others in an open format.

Big open BIM: All internal and external planners work together on a project, they are organized individually, but bring their data together centrally in one place. With the big open BIM method, you are no longer tied to a system landscape. Several software solutions and planning tools are used and all data and information are shared with one another in neutral formats and used extensively.

In order to be able to use BIM in cooperative collaboration along the entire value chain, an open BIM methodology is required. In theory, this is also what many experts and industry players want. In the implementation, however, many software manufacturers, especially the big players, prefer closed BIM. This is because many questions arise for manufacturers in this context. Would it make sense to develop an Open BIM application? Who will develop an interface? And are development resources available for this at all? This makes data exchange and connectivity in the construction industry extremely difficult. So why do many software manufacturers not follow the path of cooperative collaboration?

Open BIM - Advantages of an open file standard

For digitization to work, we need the exchange of information. Uniform data landscapes that counteract the fragmentation of the construction industry are needed. Closed BIM creates exactly the opposite and encourages fragmentation. Germany is hugely lagging behind digitization. A central approach to counteracting the whole is cooperative collaboration. Connectivity along the entire value chain should help the construction industry to achieve greater project success.

This is already working in many countries, supported by the legislature. Open BIM can thus become the standard across the country through regulations. Great Britain is seen as a pioneer in this regard. As early as 2013, the British introduced PAS 1192 and thus formalized BIM standards, which from now on were binding for all public construction projects. PAS 1192 still serves as the basis for BIM standards across Europe today. Austria in 2015, and Norway in 2016, have already pushed the digitization of the construction industry in their countries enormously. Open data formats have become the legally established standard that brings cooperation and digitization with it. The EU BIM task group was founded in 2016, whose aim is to further develop the construction industry across Europe. Open BIM has received a boost as a result, but differences in the degree of digitization of the individual European countries still exist.

(Source: https://www.geospatialworld.net/article/bim-adoption-around-the-world-how-good-are-we/)

Why is Open Bim not offered nationwide?

In Germany we are still lagging behind in the field of BIM and its applications. For the public sector, BIM has already been introduced in stages for infrastructure projects. In the private sector, however, there is no Open BIM obligation and software companies seem to continue to bring more closed BIM system landscapes onto the market. One reason for this could be that Open BIM is much less lucrative. It gives construction players the opportunity to use different providers. For software providers, this means having to share the customer pool. In contrast, closed BIM means that everyone involved in the planning must use the same tools from the same manufacturer. Customer acquisition with the aim of retaining customers permanently. The big BIM players do not leave the customer with a real choice, the numerous disadvantages of the closed BIM methodology are to be accepted as undesirable side effects when it is introduced.

Due to the lack of guidelines for the import and export of third-party formats, a functioning exchange of information cannot be guaranteed. Existing data will be lost. This can only be counteracted if there is a smooth exchange of information along the entire value chain. Data must therefore be able to be passed on through every software and life cycle phase. This required open and standardized data formats.

Conversely, closed BIM applications lead to extreme restrictions and inflexible transfer of models and information to or from external specialist planners. So there can be no talk of connectivity here. You actually stand in the way of your own success. Part of the construction process may also be made more efficient through closed BIM applications. The goal of sustainable and comprehensive digitization will not be achieved in this way.

Furthermore, BIM is a future-oriented working method. The big players in the field of BIM today may not exist in 100 years, but the buildings will. Where should the data and information come from then? In a closed BIM software, these would be lost sooner or later. If we proceed in closed system landscapes, decades later we could still lag massively behind in terms of digitization of building management and renovation. Because where would the lost information come from? Just imagine: 50 years in the future, the holistic digitization of our lives has advanced enormously, but the building is still struggling with the digitization problems of the present.

An efficient future therefore already requires the use of neutral file and coordination forms today. An open approach to planning processes, also with regard to international developments, would be a massive service provider for the successful digitization of the German construction industry when it comes to BIM. A plea for open BIM. But aren't there also reasons for Closed BIM?

Closed BIM - What are the advantages of closed processes?

Open BIM means a significantly increased effort in the development of guidelines, instructions and handover routines. This is a major obstacle. The guidelines should be as comprehensive as possible in order to ensure a loss-free exchange of information. But who is it? Which interfaces have to be created across software? Who ensures that everything works without a hitch? It is not as simple and connectivity as one might imagine Open BIM to be.

As an example, one could think of Apple's Pages and Microsoft Word here. Pure text formats that may contain a graphic or an image. But if you try to convert a Pages document into a Word document, massive problems arise. The fonts do not match and the graphics only appear as gray boxes. How should something similar, with enormous amounts of data and many small details, work for Open BIM. The slightest formatting error could have devastating consequences for the entire planning and construction process.

The user should not be pushed towards a special software manufacturer, but the use of a manufacturer's software landscape for the planning process still promises more project success. Only in this way can information loss and misinterpretation of data be largely ruled out. Closed BIM ensures the uncomplicated coordination of specialist models. This is done by using an identical file format for planning.

A common use case when it comes to BIM is collision checking. BIM model elements are checked for geometric conflicts, i.e. collisions. The method is used in the context of BIM coordination (overall or at the specialist planning level) and aims to avoid collisions. Collisions inevitably arise when several specialist disciplines work on numerous different models and deal with different aspects of the planning task. Solving collisions in a closed BIM environment already requires enormous coordination processes, so that open BIM leads to even more collisions, which can be easily accessed.

The more complex a construction project, the more complex the required models and the higher the probability of collisions. A good example to illustrate this would be the architecture from the oeuvre of Zaha Hahid. Their buildings in different heights and curved shapes lead to fascination. In the planning process, these, not everyday forms, but also mean a lot more effort. A large number of complex models must be made and coordinated with one another. Only if collisions are discovered and rectified in the planning phase can the building project be completed technically flawlessly and in accordance with the architectural model. Building information modeling can massively simplify the complex planning phase. Otherwise undiscovered discrepancies in the planning process result in higher costs and late completion in the construction process. Coordinated data standards that simplify collision management are essential. Just as essential is the availability of all the necessary data.

'New Moscow'

(Source: https://inhabitat.com/zaha-hadid-unveils-futuristic-designs-for-new-moscow/)

Collisions due to lack of data

Open BIM is often criticized for the fact that data is lost in the planning process and that there is therefore an increased number of collisions. The planner or user of the BIM method is neglected as a factor. The lack of data is often the reason for collisions, but this does not necessarily mean that they are lost in the exchange of information from one system landscape to another. The modeling of buildings is still an extremely complex undertaking and is supported by technological progress. However, human inaccuracy when entering data remains a source of error. The human factor is an equally large component in the Open BIM and the Closed BIM methodology. Where no data has been entered, no data can have been lost. Whether or not models were passed on from one system landscape to the other does not play a role in this cause of the error. Conversely, in the future, BIM applications should increasingly point out the lack of data in the model in order to eliminate this source of error.

The importance of BIM

Building information modeling is unlikely to be an indispensable part of the construction industry in the future. The technological developments brought us numerous innovations. Applications were developed that significantly optimize the processes in the planning, execution and maintenance phase.

To make this possible, however, it will be necessary to rethink the construction industry towards cooperative collaboration, real connectivity along the entire value chain and holistic digitization. Even if Closed BIM avoids the acute problem of a lack of uniform guidelines for BIM, it is not a permanent solution. Because digitization aims to cover the entire life cycle of a building. This challenge has to be faced sooner or later. The experts agree that Open BIM is the future. The question now is whether we are switching to Open BIM today and support young software companies that are striving for this, or whether we are using the currently seemingly simpler and cheaper Closed BIM methodology and switching at a later point in time. How much data will be lost by then is difficult to estimate. Continuous innovation brings Open BIM. Through cooperative collaboration, the gaps along the entire value chain are finally closed. Only through open file standards can we achieve this and digitize the German construction industry sustainably and comprehensively.