BIM: What’s Cooking?
I attended a recent BIM Conference in DC. As an active listener at BIM conferences I am looking at how existing GIS applications that work with buildings are keeping pace with the emerging technologies and more importantly the emerging expectations of what may be called BIM.
For many BIM continues to hold the expectation of an over-arching technology where the building information models and their explicit definitions are the key to making better decisions for an ever-growing and seemingly unlimited list of applications.
I have a growing appreciation for the efforts of organizations promoting standards and starting conversations that can help put scope and context to efforts in the building industry to reduce waste and promote better practices. The standards themselves are not an information system, but they do serve as a powerful means to define the semantics of how to ask better questions and the context for new information systems applications. They challenge the building industry to consider new ways to improve how things are done.
I heard it said a number of times at this conference and at other conferences that workflows rooted in the trade guilds of antiquity, frustrate the modernization of the building industry. These hindrances are so strong that it was said productivity of designing and constructing buildings in the modern age has actually decreased rather than increased! Other industries such as manufacturing it is said have greatly increased their productivity through modernization, integration and automation. Messages directed to conference attendees suggest that if they do not heed the warnings, the building industry could be categorically replaced by what I will call “building manufactures”.
Consider a company that designs and builds airplanes or cruise ships… what software and workflows do they use to plan, design, construct, and build their structures? A cruise ship is essentially a city, with housing, shopping malls, security, restaurants, parks, sanitation systems, electrical production and distribution systems… take off the propellers and remove the requirement that it needs to float and what do you have…? Perhaps there are useful solutions that already exist in a number of places in slightly different forms.
GIS seems to be well positioned to benefit from the efforts of BIM data standards development as another well or poorly structured data source that can benefit from geospatial visualization, computing and management. If you consider a building can be a geographic feature then the GIS is a fine BIS (Building Information System) for many existing applications related to site selection, planning, operations and management of buildings. Assuming you have the tools to read/write and analyze the data for a given information system application there is nothing special about a building that disqualifies it as just another GIS system of data. As I see it right now GIS excels with geographic features to visualize, compute and manage all different types information system applications.