When you are planning for the use of BIM on any project, the stakeholders involved may not all use the same software applications. To ensure that project data is not lost in translation between applications, all team members should be knowledgeable about interoperability.

From “BIM Handbook” – Eastman, Teicholz, Sacks, Liston; published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011:

“Interoperability is the ability to pass data between applications, and for multiple applications to jointly contribute to the work at hand. Interoperability, at the minimum, eliminates the need to manually copy data already generated in another application.”

One of the best methods for ensuring interoperability is to understand and implement openBIM standards – developed and maintained by an international consortium known as buildingSMART (www.buildingsmart.org).

From the buildingSMART International website: www.buildingsmart.org/standards/

openBIM is a universal approach to the collaborative design, realization and operation of buildings based on open standards and workflows. openBIM is an initiative of buildingSMART and several leading software vendors using the open buildingSMART Data Model.

buildingSMART’s purpose is to allow the sharing of information throughout the lifecycle of any built environment asset, between all the participants, regardless of which software application they are using.

The buildingSMART standards are file-based exchange schemas developed specifically for building projects. The current standards that most BIM software applications can use are IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) and BCF (BIM Collaboration Format).

IFC is the common data schema that makes it possible to hold and exchange relevant data about the built environment. It is also a standard that is recognized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 16739:  www.iso.org/standard/51622.html). The software applications that have been certified for IFC import and/or export are listed here: buildingsmart.org/compliance/certified-software/

BCF stands for “BIM Collaboration Format” and is a subset of IFC designed to support clash detection and 3D coordination. It is a much lighter and more portable format because it only uses the IDs of model elements, virtual camera positions and other textual information about the affected model elements.


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