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Open BIM – ten years of intensive work lies ahead

Open BIM is coming, but more input is required.

Now, then, is the glass half-empty or half-full? When asked how far we are on the path in the direction of information modelling, the answer provided by an optimist is other than that of a pessimist – or, perhaps, a realist. Senior consultant, and chairman of the buildingSMART Finland (bSF) Infrastructure Business Group, Jukka Liukka is an optimist, as one would expect of a person in his position, and he has, of course, all reason for his view. “At SITO, the greater part of planning work will be carried out based on information modeling as soon as in two years’ time”, Liukas says. “But when considering the overall situation in Finland and the sectors of planning, construction and maintenance operations, there is still a great deal of unfinished work to be done”, he remarks.

According to the vision published by the bSF Infrastructure Business Group at the end of last year, the crucial year will be 2025. By that time, open data modeling independent of proprietary software should be commonly utilized in Finland in both planning and implementation operations.

Formed in January 2014 under BuildingSMART Finland, the Infrastructure Business Group is tasked with promoting and also with exporting the results delivered by the Finnish infrastructure modeling research and development work. The Infrastructure Business Group comprises about fifty infrastructure sector organizations, and about one hundred people in all are involved in the activities of the various working groups. The expertise of this infrasector group is rather impressive.

For their current term, the infrasector group has set ambitious goals: the release of the general modeling requirements and the updating of the Inframodel data exchange format and of the common InfraBIM nomenclature. Juha Liukas says that work related to the construction components nomenclature, for example, still requires rather extensive elaboration. “It provides a solid foundation for further work, but, in all respects, its details are not yet fully up to the accuracy required for modelling purposes”.

Every contribution is valuable

Any systematic work of this kind requires an enormous number of working hours, and, as it happens, eager volunteers are sometimes hard to come by. Liukas reminds us that, because normative standardization work benefits the entire construction business, one would imagine that ample resources would be readily available. “Every party’s contribution is required! At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to convey my warmest thanks for all those who have participated in the work thus far. Without your contribution we would not have accomplished all this!”

Liukas also wishes to remind us that, when new projects are launched, often with tight schedules, once economic growth has gathered momentum, there will be a lack of time in particular, but any input invested today in the standardization work will deliver its full benefits at that stage.

“Funding is also a problem in any common endeavour. Thus far we have largely operated on funding granted by the Finnish Transport Agency and a couple of major cities, but much of the work has also been based on the enthusiasm of individual volunteers, he notes.

Systematic standardization work benefiting the entire business community may not regarded as a particularly sexy trade, but after the completion of the work, all parties will derive its benefits. For example, in municipalities and the Finnish Traffic Agency work will become more efficient, when the applied methodology is based on unified practices and uniform standards. The designers can focus on more challenging planning tasks and on the assessment of alternative scenarios”, Liukas promises.

All’s well that ends well

The downturn in the global economy may have restricted the operators’ opportunities to invest in common projects designed to promote data modelling, but, on the other hand, while all is quiet on the business front, more time is available for acquiring new skills on the workplaces and various courses. “The problem, however, is that especially in urgent projects one tends to take the easy way out and employ conventional practices and technologies”, Liukas states with a certain regret. “Time pressure is an easy excuse for resorting to old, customary ways of doing things.

We have discovered that introducing data modelling to ongoing projects is rather difficult. If a project is originally decided to be implemented by means of BIM and all parties agree to that end, data modelling is a natural and straightforward process, even if some of the users may not be as familiar with the new tool as the others.

We have only ten years left till the year 2025 and, by that time, no design will any longer be made by the traditional tools. This is, after all, our shared commitment that we all have undertaken!”