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BIM - the irreversible trend of CAD

In our context of Geo-Engineering, it is no longer novel BIM term (Building Information Modeling), which allows different real-life objects to be modeled, not only in their graphic representation but in their different life cycle stages. It means that a road, a bridge, a valve, a canal, a building, from its conception can have a file that identifies it, which contains its design, its construction process, impact on the natural environment, operation, use, concession, maintenance, modifications, monetary value over time and even its demolition.

Using the approach of theorists who are geofuming this issue, the maturation path of BIM is associated with the advancement of the inputs necessary for its development, the capabilities of the teams to capture and manage information (new and existing), the implementation of global standards, data infrastructure and modeling of the different evolutionary processes associated with land management. A challenge for BIM is that it reaches a time when it includes an intrinsic relationship with PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), where the manufacturing and services industry seeks to manage a similar cycle, although with scopes that do not necessarily include the geospatial aspect.

A point of convergence of these two routes (BIM + PLM) is the concept of Smart Cities, where most large companies are looking at both the urgent demand of the big metropolis and the irreversible The inexhaustible human ingenuity in science and technology applied to decision-making.

Below, we detail some basic aspects and advances related to BIM and its relation with technological tools of popularized use.

The BIM Levels

Bew and Richards theorize the maturation path of BIM on four levels, including Level Zero, as seen in the graph. To clarify, that this is a route from the perspective of standardization, not so much of world adoption, for which there is much to talk about.

Smart cities

BIM Level 0 (CAD).

This corresponds to Computer Aided Design, seen from the primitive optics that we saw in the 80's. For those times, the priorities were to take the technical drawing that was already done in sets of plans, to digitized layers. We recall as examples the birth of AutoCAD and Microstation in these times, which without detracting from their gigantic step, did nothing but Drawings; their extensions said so (Drawing DWG, Design DGN). Perhaps the only software that was already visualizing beyond that was ArchiCAD, which since 1987 spoke of Virtual Building, with the contempt of being of Hungarian origin in years of the cold war. Also within this stage includes the management of non-georeferenced data from other applications related to project management, for example Budgets, Planning, legal management, etc.

BIM Level 1 (2D, 3D).

This happens in the past decade, in the maturity of the workspace that can already be called 2D. Construction in 3D space also begins, although in its primitive stages, we can remember how tedious it was to do it with AutoCAD R13 and Microstation J. There was a three-dimensional visualization of the work, but they were still vectors made up of arcs, nodes, faces and groupings of these. In the case of AutoDesk, versions like SoftDesk integrated concepts such as surfaces from AutoCAD 2014, with which road designs and spatial analysis were made, but everything was behind a black box that solutions like EaglePoint did more “colorful“. Microstation already included Triforma, Geopack and AutoPlant under a similar logic, with engeneering-links-type spatial links without consensus standardization.

This decade, even though the standardized Models and Objects concept did not exist, there is in fact a somewhat forced integration with the third-party solutions acquired for AEC, which includes Architecture, Construction, Geospatial, Industry, Manufacturing and Animation.

AutoDesk didn't talk about BIM until the purchase of Revit in 2002, but integrating solutions like Civil3D takes much longer. In the case of Bentley, the entry of the XFM (Extensible Feature Modeling) scheme in Microstation 2004 is significant and during the transition known as XM, third-party platforms such as Heastad, RAM, STAAD, Optram, Speedikon, ProSteel, PlantWise, RM- LEAP Bridge and HevaComp. In 2008 Bentley launched Microstation V8i, where the XFM matures to the I-model as a collaboration standard.

BIM Level 2 (BIMs, 4D, 5 D)


The most difficult thing in this stage of BIM Level 2 has been standardization; Especially since private companies wear their bows and want to force others to use their own whims. In the case of software for the geospatial field, it has been free software that has made the force for standardization with the degree of consensus that the Open Geospatial Consortium OGC now represents. But in the CAD-BIM field, there has been no OpenSource initiative, such that to date the only free software with the potential to mature is LibreCAD, which is only at Level 1 -If it is not that leaving the 0 Level. Private companies have released free versions, but standardization towards BIM has been slow, in the voice of some because of the imperialist monopoly.

The contribution of the British is significant, that their habit of doing almost everything backwards, have led the British Standard, such as the BS1192: 2007 and BS7000: 4 codes; These are so old from paper planes to BIM Level 1. The BS8541: 2 already appears in the digital model and in this decade the BS1192: 2 and BS1192: 3.

It is understandable why BentleySystems held the annual Infrastructure Conference and its award in London, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016; as well as the acquisition of companies with high portfolios of British customers -I even dare to think about the movement of the European headquarters from Holland to Ireland-.

Finally, in the OGC framework, it has been possible to move forward with several standards of consensus acceptance that point to BIM, especially the GML, from which examples such as InfraGML, CityGML and UrbanGML advance.

Although many current efforts in this decade of BIM Level 2 try to reach the management of the life cycle of the models, they still cannot be considered comprehensive or standardized, as well as the outstanding debts with the 4D and 5D that include the Programming of the Construction and Dynamic Estimation. The trends in the convergence of disciplines are notorious both in the merger / acquisition of companies and in the holistic vision for standardization.

BIM Level 3 (Integration, Lifecycle Management, 6D)

The level of integration expected in the BIM Level 3, already after 2020 includes somewhat utopian expectations of uniformity in standards: Common Data (IFC). Common Dictionaries (IDM) and Common Processes (IFD).

Smart cities

The adaptation of the Lifecycle is expected to lead to Internet of Things (IOT), Where not only the surface of the land is modeled, but also the machinery and infrastructures that are part of the buildings, the objects used for transport (movable goods), household goods, natural resources, all in the Life that applies to the public and private law action of the Owners, Gliders, Designers and Investors.

In the case of Bentley Systems, I remember seeing from the 2013 presentations in London, the integration of the two processes of the Project Definition Cycle:

  • PIM (Project Information Model) Breef - Concept - Definition - Design - Construction / Commission - Delivery / Closing
  • AIM (Asset Information Model) Operation - Use

It is an interesting vision, considering that these aspects are from the next decade, but since they are advanced they allow standardization to materialize. Despite having many vertical solutions, the service orientation of CONNECT Edition creates the Hub conditions within a single environment for which Microstation is the modeling tool, ProjectWise the project management tool and AssetWise the operation management tool. , thus closing the two important moments, Opex and Capex of BS1192: 3.

It is also expected that at this stage the data will be considered as an infrastructure, which requires channels to be distributed, standardization to be fully usable, and of course that it is available in real time conditions with greater consumer participation.

Smart Cities is the incentive of BIM

Smart citiesThe challenge of BIM Level 3 is that the disciplines converge no longer through file formats but through services from BIM-Hubs. An interesting exercise of that will be Smart Cities, of which already use cases such as Copenhagen, Singapoore, Johannesburg make interesting attempts to merge e-government with g-government, if we allow ourselves those terms. But it is also an interesting challenge, that in that environment of BIM Level 3, all human activity is modeled. This implies that aspects such as finance, education, health, and the environment are included in a cycle linked to spatial management. Of course, we will not see functional exercises of these in this decade, it is even questionable if they really happen in the medium term, if we consider that the aspirations are to ensure the improvement in the quality of life of the inhabitants of this planet -or at least from those cities- and the recovery of damages to the global ecosystem -Which does not depend on a few cities-.

Although the Smart Cities are not just around the corner, it is notorious what is happening with the big companies that control the technology.

HEXAGON, with the acquisition of companies like Leica can control data capture in the field, with the acquisition of Erdas + Intergraph can control spatial modeling, now recently it is making a suspicious approach with AutoDesk to control design, manufacturing and animation. Not to mention all the companies that that emporium includes, which are all aimed at the same object.


On the other hand, Bentley controls the design, operation and cycle of a wide range of the Construction, Architecture, Civil and Industrial Engineering industries. However, Bentley does not seem to be interested in stealing space from others, and we see how it makes an alliance with Trimble that bought almost all the competitors related to field management and modeling, SIEMENS that has a high control of the manufacturing industry and Microsoft that intends to move towards the data infrastructure -Not to be left out, because in this visionary environment has been lost with its Windows + Office-

Wherever we see it, large companies are betting on BIM for its imminent potential in the three axes that will move the operation of Smart Cities: Means of Production, Infrastructure Supply and Innovation to the new demands for products / services. Sure, there are giant monsters left to align with blocs, like ESRI, IBM, Oracle, Amazon, Google, to name a few that we know are interested in their own Smart Cities initiatives.

It is clear that the next business is Smart Cities, under a BIM + PLM integration where there will not be a Microsoft that seizes 95% of the market. This is a much more complex model, it is also foreseeable that companies that do not bet on that business will be left out doing CAD, Excel sheets and closed CRM systems. The businesses to integrate are those that are not within the traditional life cycle of Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operation (AECO); those that control the other activities of the human being under a georeferenced socioeconomic approach, such as manufacturing, electronic government, social services, agricultural production and above all the management of energy and natural resources.

The GIS will be integrated into the BIM under the vision of Smart Cities. Currently they are almost fused in data capture and modeling, but it seems that they still have different views; For example, infrastructure modeling is not the responsibility of the GIS, but it is highly specialized in the analysis and modeling of spatial objects, in the projection of scenarios, in the management of natural resources and the whole range of earth sciences. If we consider the Sixth dimension (6D) that in the times of smart cities, quantifying, using, recycling and generating energy will be important, then it will be necessary capabilities that the GIS now does with great specialty. But when analyzing the water-generating capacity of a basin, to know how much yield is necessary for a cubic meter of concrete, there is a tremendous gap; which will be filled to the extent that the operation is included as a shared cycle of these two disciplines.

In conclusion.

GeophysicalThere is much more to talk about, and I look forward to continuing to bring this up. For now, Geo-Engineering professionals are left with the challenge of aligning ourselves with the irreversible and learning from the technical level, because it is still questionable whether the Roadmap to implement BIM can be done without dependence on the Working Group that is leading. Above all, because BIM has to be seen from two perspectives: One is that of things that must be done at the technical, academic, operational level, with a view to sustainability and then from the perspective of governments, who have too short-term expectations , forgetting that their regulatory capacities are often extremely slow. Additionally, for those who are in cities that can already think of Smart Cities, it is urgent that there be a focus on citizens, rather than technology.

🙂 If this scenario is fulfilled, the dream of one of my mentors, who hopes to plant 3,000 hectares of mahogany forest, with a certified life cycle associated with its growth, would come true; so I could go to the bank a year and mortgage the first parcel to gradually finance the rest. In 20 years, you will have a million cubic meters of an asset with which you can resolve not only your retirement, but even your country's foreign debt.

Golgi Alvarez

Writer, researcher, specialist in Land Management Models. He has participated in the conceptualization and implementation of models such as: National Property Administration System SINAP in Honduras, Management Model of Joint Municipalities in Honduras, Integrated Cadastre-Registry Management Model in Nicaragua, Territory Administration System SAT in Colombia . Editor of the Geofumadas knowledge blog since 2007 and creator of the AulaGEO Academy that includes more than 100 courses on GIS - CAD - BIM - Digital Twins topics.

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