By Jean-Pierre Oudenhove, CDO @ GenieVision
Late last year, the GenieVision team and I had the chance to attend the BIMLux event in Luxemburg. The event brought together an international group of key players in the field of BIM and construction technology. As you would expect, BIM was a central topic throughout the event. More specifically, attendees were heavily debating if Open BIM or closed BIM would shape the industry’s future. The answer – for now! – is that both Open BIM and closed BIM have a role in connecting today’s building ecosystems.
If this confuses you, you are not alone. Read on to learn the current state of play in BIM technology, the advantages and disadvantages of both solutions, and where we are heading in the future.
What are Open and Closed BIMs?
The duality of open formats vs. closed formats has existed in nearly every discipline. In construction, this duality represents a fundamental question. What is the best way to manage the exchange and collaboration of building information and related data?
- Open BIM means that the BIM enables software interoperability in a “free” digital model framework. Open BIM promotes non-proprietary, “open” standards and processes such as the International Foundation Class (IFC) and BIM Collaboration Format (BCF).
- The closed BIM, on the other hand, ensures that all parties use a standard, proprietary data environment. Closed BIMs channel information to a single platform such as a Document Management System (DMS), an Issue Management System (IMS), and a Model Management System.
Open BIM or Closed BIM – what to choose?
Each BIM approach has its advantages and disadvantages. It depends on your selection parameters.
Cost, of course, plays a crucial role in deciding between an open or closed BIM investment. And we’re not just talking about the purchase cost, but also the operational cost in the long haul.
A Closed BIM can enhance communications and result in improved project execution. Speakers at the BIMLux event reported that while the cost of a closed BIM is higher than an Open BIM, its return on investment and positive impact on the bottom line makes the initial outlay worthwhile.
The closed BIM format also guarantees interoperability within its ecosystem. However, this interoperability comes at a supplementary cost as the closed BIM also forces users to adopt a specific tool and limits compatibility with competing solutions.
Open BIM, on the other hand, allows users to collaborate using non-proprietary, neutral file formats irrespective of the BIM tools and applications used by the builder. Each actor chooses their tool based on their need and the BIM maturity of the project. It will involve a lower overall cost but will be more dependent on overall accountability of each user.
Proponents of Open BIM argue that closed BIM runs the risk of hegemony where certain suppliers could, in time, impose their own standards. Access to data is also a point of concern. Open formats offer a guarantee that you can access data despite a potential change of tool. With a closed BIM, once the proprietary format is no longer supported, the use of the data becomes impossible.
The Open BIM also stimulates innovation and initiatives that, in the end, help solve interoperability problems and enable better collaboration. This innovation and connection are critical because while each actor on a construction project has different roles, they all share a common interest: the profit margin and success of the project.
In the end, there is no right or wrong choice; it comes down to the needs of the builder and the project. Demand for efficiency and immediacy push the case for the guaranteed access of the closed BIM, while the reality of what is happening in the field often makes the argument for open choices.
For example, suppose the builder can mandate their subcontractors and collaborators use the closed tools of a single platform. In that case, they can ensure the best possible integration of information exchanges between the various trades.
But as soon as it becomes necessary to deal with specialists who use platforms and solutions that are not compatible with the choices made by the main contractor, there will often be no other choice than to use open formats to ensure information exchanges.
What BIM innovation will contribute most to the future of construction?
At GenieVision, we’re firm believers in the quintessential and ever-increasing importance of bringing your BIM to the construction site. That means we are lowering the barriers to interoperability by supporting both the proprietary formats of the most significant players in the market and the open formats that are still relevant in many situations.
The architecture on which the GenieVision BIM AR app solution is based, is “open” because we do not want to force the client to adapt. Instead, we want to integrate into its entire ecosystem. Still, thanks to the management of Open BIM standard formats (IFC/BCF), we still ensure operability in closed platforms.
Moving forward, this will be the model for success: new, innovative solutions powering the digitilisation of the construction process will use “OpenBIM” as a wise choice, as long as the technology also adheres to the exchange formats structures inherent in these formats.
What do you think? What are you using and why?
- This blog is based on the conversations Jean-Pierre had at the BIMlux event. Want in on all things BIM talked about at the show? Check the BIM-themed show issue of the event’s media partner NeoMag
Want to learn more about the advantages of BIM and the use of technology in construction? Download our free guide: Construction technology to watch in 2022 and beyond.
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