3 Essential BIM Capabilities That Benefit AEC Companies

Mon Jan 07, 2019

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a process through which architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) companies use computer-generated 3D models to plan, manage and build building and other infrastructure projects.

To implement BIM, AEC companies software to design, simulate and document their work.

This provides the AEC industry with a range of advantages, such as ability to visualize the building or construction project -- as well as find and correct potential flaws -- before implementing it.

Moreover, BIM is also being mandated by governments and industry bodies worldwide. Notable examples of this include the UK, which began asking bidders for public infrastructure projects to abide by BIM Level 2.

For its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) made BIM a requirement.

It’s clear that BIM adoption is growing and, in tandem, as is the adoption of architecture, product lifecycle management (PLM) and documentation software.

However, because there are multiple main software vendors -- and proprietary formats -- at play, interoperability is an issue because different companies involved in one project are likely to be on different software and workflows.

This problem creates an opportunity for independent software vendors (ISV) to bridge gaps with applications that facilitate interoperability between teams using different software for BIM.

To address AEC requirements, we must examine the actual features AEC firms want:

1. BIM Visualization

3D visualization is an essential component of BIM. In addition to high-quality 3D modeling of the building, AEC firms need dynamic insights -- such as fluid dynamics -- and simulation. However, there are specific considerations as well.

Different stakeholders (and situations) require different levels of details.

For example, a building owner or manager will not be concerned about minute details, they want to see a high-level view of the project.

You can offer that level of visualization through a tablet or mobile application and, as a result, reduce the level of detail in the model.

However, a civil or structural engineer will require a considerable level of detail and, as a result, will need every bit of the project’s metadata -- and quickly.

This is where software development kits (SDK) such as HOOPS Visualize are essential.

You can build applications that provide that highly detailed, high-quality 3D visualization without investing in the time, money and developer resources to integrate (and maintain) 3D modelers and APIs such as DirectX and OpenGL.

With HOOPS Visualize and other Spatial software development kits (SDK), ISVs can develop applications that cover a diverse range of 3D visualization needs.



2. BIM Interoperability Tools to Read Non-Native File Formats

Because AEC companies are relying on multiple software vendors for BIM -- such as Autodesk Revit, Bentley MicroStation, Graphisoft ARCHICAD and others -- collaboration between them is likely to result in the need to read non-native file formats.

In other words, interoperability through the ability to read non-native files is essential.

In fact, Finland imposed regulations requiring software used for BIM to read vendor-neutral file formats such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC).

Besides making collaboration easier, IFC also allows for interoperability in a cross-functional sense.

For example, heating systems and elevators are not designed in traditional computer-aided design (CAD) software (including architecture software used for BIM), but specialized software.

This is where IFC is essential. Designs made in niche software can be written and read in IFC and, as a result, allow for project teams to view those models without the niche software.

However, for one reason or another AEC firms may need to view more than solely IFC files.

Special’s SDKs enable third-party applications to read and write files in Revit, IFC, DGN and DXF/DWG, thus ensuring that every aspect of the BIM process -- including input from teams using different software for the same task -- is addressed.

This is essential for BIM to be the single source of truth for design and project data. Furthermore, BIM data reuse across these formats and standards should be provided upon a foundation of quality that provides interoperability to mechanical CAD and PLM formats.

By providing this broad array of data sharing, your BIM application can not only support the current digitalization opportunities in AEC, but also drive new innovations and integrations with large-scale manufacturing and logistics industries.


3. Point Cloud to BIM

Point clouds usually involve 3D laser scanning. To efficiently scan large areas, data is collected as a cluster of points in a 3D space. In BIM, AEC users can import these point clouds using design software such as Revit.

The idea is to capture models of buildings in their respective ‘as-built’ conditions.

By using point clouds, you can acquire information about the building’s structure -- such as its piping -- and, in turn, use that information to plan for renovations/retrofits or analyze for risk (e.g., flooding).

You can also use this to capture a digital design image of an old building. For example, you can determine how thick the walls are without drilling and build a digital twin to examine changes.

Read More on How ISVs Can Support BIM Usage by AEC Companies:

How Do I Integrate These Features to My Software?

It’s clear that ISVs have an opportunity to bridge interoperability gaps, but doing so requires a considerable level of upfront and ongoing development work.

Your software must provide high-quality 3D visualization. You must also manage different data libraries (from Autodesk, Bentley, etc) and ensure that they are up-to-date following new build releases by the original software vendor.

There is a risk here of spending too much of your development resources on the data libraries and, as a result, not investing enough in user experience and reducing time-to-market.

Solution: Spatial SDKs

To overcome these risks, you should consider using Spatial’s SDKs for BIM.

We manage the resource-intensive task of keeping different data libraries up-to-date and our SDKs provide immediate integration with industry-standard graphics APIs and 3D modelers.

Combined, our SDKs enable for reading and writing non-native files as well as high-quality 3D visualization from the onset.

This frees you to focus on providing the best possible end-user experience and reduce your time-to-market.

We also guarantee updates for each of our SDKs and, in turn, enable you to rapidly respond to changes by the original vendor.

Spatial brings over 30 years of experience supporting ISVs with third-party software for AEC end-users. We simplify the process of equipping your applications with the capabilities AEC users want and, in turn, empower you to move swiftly and profitably. Contact us today.

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