This article written by Autodesk's Sander Lijbers, first appeared in the Dutch CAD Magazine in October last year. It provides a useful viewpoint on interoperability and we think it is worth publishing in English for a wider audience:
Effective new technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), can change the way we organise both project data and the way project teams work. We are experiencing some of these effects today in the AEC marketplace. As the AEC industry becomes increasingly comfortable with BIM, construction documents may be replaced by 3D models as the new standard. These cultural and technical changes will occur only if BIM gives all parties a more accurate picture of design and construction projects. The work Autodesk is doing on data exchange is in support of this goal. Over time, and if implemented effectively, BIM and improved data sharing can increase trust among partnering organisations on a job and may contribute to delivering AEC projects more effectively.
Autodesk understands that sharing data among project team members is of critical importance for quality execution on projects. Government agencies around the world are increasingly mandating the IFC (Industry Foundation Class) standard file format. At the same time, Autodesk continues to work on the quality of IFC data exchange. Examples of our support for the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) include 2x3 coordination model view, the U.S General Services Administration (GSA) IFC model view, The Building Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA) IFC model view, as well as work on IFC 2x4 certification and by releasing IFC Export for Revit (currently available for Autodesk® Revit® 2012 and 2013 products) as an Autodesk-sponsored open source project at: http://sourceforge.net/p/ifcexporter/home/Home/
Open source availability of the Autodesk IFC technology provides opportunities to meet the demands for data sharing in the AEC industry more effectively.
Autodesk® Architectural Desktop (now AutoCAD® Architecture) software has a long history of support for IFC; starting in 2006 through a plug-in provided by G.E.M. Team Solutions GbR. Starting from AutoCAD Architecture 2008, IFC export and import based on the buildingSMART IFC 2x3 data exchange standard are implemented directly into the product. AutoCAD Architecture 2008 received stage-1 certification by the IAI in November 2006 and full stage-2 certification for the IFC 2X3 Coordination View for both import and export in May 2007.
There is an instructive paper discussing IFC files in the execution of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) : Collaborative engineering with IFC: new insights and technology. L.A.H.M. van Berlo, J. Beetz, P. Bos, H. Hendriks, R.C.J. van Tongeren. This research discusses project team collaboration in relation to an IFC reference model. The paper outlines an effective application of IFC information for project teams using either a wide variety of BIM software applications or where one BIM platform is predominantly being used. In either circumstance the IFC information proved effective as a reference and collaboration verifying data source. Sharing this IFC information between team members facilitates the workflows demanded in an integrated project delivery scenario. Using IFC files in this way is an effective application of the IFC technology today and provides a framework for more aggressive application of IFC information in the future. The described IFC reference model approach fits the fluid project team demands on today’s AEC projects and this paper provides an effective description of how IFC data exchange technologies can positively impact the AEC industry.
In addition to IFC data exchange, Autodesk provides support for other data file types and file translations to assist project teams based on the specific need of the project: Autodesk BIM applications create and export COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) building handover information, directly to .xlsx or via an IFC path. Autodesk applications write CIS/2 data for structural steel collaboration as well as standard ACIS Text (SAT) for transporting geometry from one 3D application to another, and by sponsoring and providing active support for the gbXML open schema, http://www.gbxml.org/, Autodesk supports a data exchange protocol for energy analysis.
Autodesk entered into an agreement with Bentley to exchange DWG and DGN software libraries in order to make it easier for Autodesk and Bentley customers to read and write both file types with greater fidelity. Autodesk Navisworks, as well Autodesk BIM 360 Glue, also play a role by supporting the overlay, clash detection and referencing of dozens of 3D file formats for project teams to work more effectively. These are some of the data and workflow exchanges we are working on at Autodesk.
Autodesk has cooperated in defining many standards for digital information exchange, including Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data, ISO 10303 (STEP), Initial Graphics Exchange Specification (IGES), LandXML, the Open Source Geospatial Foundation™ (OSGeo™). Autodesk is a founding member of LandXML.org and buildingSMART International (formerly the International Alliance for Interoperability). Additionally, Autodesk has been a ―Principal member of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGS) since 2002.
This wide variety of participation is necessary because the AEC industry has many contributing disciplines generating information for the various demands of an AEC project. For instance, professionals participating in a project may include:
Civil Engineer, Owner, Architect, Contractor, Structural Engineer, MEP Engineer, Interior Designer, Planner, LEED/BREEAM Consultant, Cost Estimator, Fabricator, Product Manufacturer, Specification Expert, Sub-Contractors, Project Managers, Specialist Consultant.
Each of these professionals creates specific data products and each demand specific and sometime unique data inputs. In the execution of a project these professionals create specific deliverables including:
Master Plan, Architectural Design, Structural Analysis, MEP Fabrication Instructions, Civil Engineering Plan, Zoning Compliance, Permitting Documents, Building System Model, Site Survey, Energy Analysis, Specification Documents, Scheduling Documents, Space Plan, Visualisation Model, Cost Estimates, Project Plan.
These project artefacts evolve and iterate at increasing levels of detail through the project phases (Concepts, Detailed Design, Contract Documents, Construction, Handover and Facilities Maintenance). This creates a complex environment of multiple exchanges between people, disciplines and project phases, each activity is built for a specific purpose to complete the project. To complete these activities many software applications may be used. A limited sample of data types (not at all comprehensive) used on projects may include:
Project Function:File Type Extension
Structural Model:IFC,CIS 2
COBie Data:IFC, xlsx
IFC data exchanges play a vitally important role in AEC project team collaboration and will increasingly do so as more IFC model view definitions are introduced, but many different types of data are also used on projects. Autodesk supports and is continually working on IFC data exchange methods and we also support these additional exchanges for AEC project execution. In this way Autodesk is working to meet the needs of project team members today and in the future.
Sander Lijbers, Autodesk AEC Industry Manager