BIM File Formats You Need to Make an Interoperable BIM File Viewer

Wed Mar 06, 2019
  1. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of using 3D models for planning, managing and implementing construction projects. BIM relies on the use of software to visualize as well as simulate designs and collaborate with other project stakeholders.

Why is BIM important?

BIM improves construction efforts in numerous ways, especially in terms of controlling upfront and lifecycle costs, improving sustainability and integrating complex supply chains.

For example, a building’s maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) needs are permanent and costly. By using BIM, you can document building information to ensure cost-savings, efficiency and other gains through the building’s lifespan.

Besides BIM’s design, operational and maintenance advantages, it’s also being mandated by a growing number of governments. For example, the UK requires BIM Level 2 on all bids for state and public building and infrastructure projects.

Read More on How AEC Companies are Adopting BIM:

The Growing Push for BIM is an Opportunity for Software Makers

Growing BIM User Base

The combination of government regulations and shift in industry best practices is driving BIM growth among architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) companies.

This is driving demand for BIM file viewer software that can read different BIM file formats, including both proprietary ones and the open standard Industry Foundation Classes (.IFC).


The growth in BIM adoption is being carried by a diverse line-up of software enabling for BIM in AEC. For example, Autodesk Revit, Graphisoft ARCHICAD and Bentley MicroStation are among many BIM software suites being used for architectural design, which is an aspect of BIM.

However, because multi-party collaboration is a key facet to BIM, the growing adoption of all these different BIM software suites is posing a interoperability challenge.  

It’s here -- i.e., interoperability -- where independent software vendors (ISV) have an opportunity to benefit from the growth of BIM adoption. AEC teams need applications that will allow them to collaborate with those using different BIM software.

In other words, they need applications that can read and write in different BIM file formats such as Revit, DGN and others.

BiM FILE FORMATS You Need to Support These Workflows

In terms of BIM, the following are the most widely adopted in AEC:

Revit Files (RVT)

Autodesk Revit lets AEC teams design and document building structures, floor plans, walls and other elements. Revit also equips them to analyze building performance, visualize its structures and collaborate across different teams.

Although Revit is the industry leading program, it does have its drawbacks, namely in terms of its cost and its rigidity for designers. Regarding cost, every member of the construction team is required to have a Revit license -- a potentially infeasible ask for large teams. As for designing, while Revit offers a set of standard rules, architects might find Revit too constraining.

Nonetheless, Revit is the most widely used software in BIM. As a result, using Revit offers many AEC firms a higher capacity to collaborate because they can expect their partners to use Revit. However, there are many niche and specific parts to BIM which necessitate different software.

Tekla Structures

Tekla Structures is a BIM suite capable of generating 3D models of building structures while also incorporating their use of different materials, such as steel, concrete, glass and others.

With Tekla Structures, you can develop very large models and enable multiple, different users to simultaneously use the same project. However, its high-powered feature set is also very difficult to use and, as a result, requires operators with considerable expertise. It’s also expensive.

Bentley MicroStation (DGN)

Originally a Computer Aided Design (CAD) suite, AEC users are using Bentley MicroStation for BIM. Like Revit and Tekla, MicroStation offers 3D modeling and visualization.

However, it also has a strong emphasis on enabling for lifecycle management and has several features that are more suited for civil engineering workflows than Revit and ARCHICAD.

Graphisoft ARCHICAD

ARCHICAD follows Revit in adoption for BIM. It has similar features and capabilities to Revit and, thanks to its significant market adoption, facilitates collaboration between different AEC companies using the same software.

How to Achieve BIM Interoperability

While there are market leaders in BIM, it’s clear that there are a number of different software suites in use worldwide. Ultimately, achieving interoperability is a major concern and you can address it by providing applications that can read different file formats, be it open standards (such as IFC) or proprietary ones (e.g., Revit, DGN, etc).

Why Spatial’s SDKs?

You can use Spatial’s software development kits (SDK) to work with applications with 3D model geometry. Your applications can perform geometric operations such as clash detection as well as optimize geometry for visualization, analysis and/or collaboration. In fact, you can also offer your end-users the ability to create and manipulate new 3D models.

In terms of supporting collaboration through interoperability, Spatial’s BIM SDKs will enable your application to import 3D models from Revit, MicroStation and IFC.

Besides providing feature capabilities, Spatial also frees you from the time and resource-heavy process of supporting the data libraries and underlying code. This is a difficult task, especially since the data libraries (for interoperability) come from different vendors. Spatial will manage this work; you can focus on reducing your time to market and keeping your users satisfied.

If you would like to know how Spatial’s SDKs will help you increase your revenue, gain a first mover advantage and keep-up with evolving market demand, contact us today.

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