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Federated BIM Models, what are they?

What are federated BIM models: characteristics, advantages, and operational tools

Federated BIM models can be considered as the union of different specialized digital models of the project (structural model, MEP systems, architectural model, interior design, etc.). They also have the purpose of providing a complete model of the entire project to facilitate sharing of information, coordination between design disciplines, but above all, the interference checks and validations of any problems relating to the design.

Further on in this focus, we’ll see what BIM federated models are together with some example files that you can manage yourself using usBIM.federation, the free application of the usBIM integrated system to manage federations of BIM models of constructions, infrastructures and point clouds, completely online.

usBIM.federation | what are federated BIM models

usBIM | what are federated BIM models

Federated BIM model, definition

A Federated BIM model means a set of 3D models related to specific disciplines (architectural, structural, MEP engineering, etc.) that are integrated into a single view to create a single complete digital twin model of the building that is multidisciplinary and comprehensive.

In a federated model, all the information relating to the geometry of the building, the structure, the electrical system, plumbing, heating, renewable sources, etc. converge.

The federated model is made up of interconnected but distinct components that do not lose their identity or integrity. This means that any change to a single component of the federated model, does not imply a change to other components of the same federated model.

The components of the federated model can be created by the same professional or by distinct members of the same team or by professionals who work separately, each for their own discipline.

Generally, this process begins with the architectural modelling phase, on the basis of which the other specialists, for example the structural designer, the plant engineer, etc., develop the parts of their respective competence by importing the architectural model in IFC format. The individual parts then merge into the federated model which, once completed, constitutes the complete digital twin of the project.

The federation between the models can be managed through the use of BIM tools, able to coordinate the different disciplines involved and create a common information base for the various professionals involved. The aim is to verify and manage any problems, conflicts and inconsistencies that emerge from the comparison and overlapping of the different models.

The coordination of these processes, also provides for control, management and supervision of any conflicts between the individual parts of the federated model. This obviously means that other specific professional roles may need to be involved too. The UNI 11337 standard, in the part relating to these aspects, identifies two different management roles, the BIM Manager and the BIM Coordinator, and one with more operational training, the BIM Specialist.

Example of federated models

To understand more about what BIM federated models are from a practical point of view, you can take advantage of the federated test model with full access to ACCA’s usBIM integrated system.

To get started, just access the usBIM page and enter your ACCA account credentials.

If you don’t have an account yet

  1. go to the MyACCA page
  2. register by entering your data
  3. enter your email and password.
usBIM.federation | Cloud system Interface login page

usBIM | Cloud system Interface login page

At this point you are ready to use one of the example files available in the “Shared with me” folder to experience all the usBIM.federation features.

Available files are:

  • Federation of IFC MODELS – a federation of models in the IFC format
  • Federation of various 3D MODELS – a federation of heterogeneous models produced with Edificius, Revit to which point clouds, textured meshes, etc. are added.

Let’s also see the specific features that you can take advantage of and the characteristics of a federation of BIM models.

Federated model characteristics

Moving on to analysing the characteristics of a federated BIM model, let’s start off from the example file available in the “Shared with me” folder in our usBIM cloud BIM integrated system. If you open the same model, you can follow the step by step instructions.

To open the “Federation of IFC MODELS” file, click on the monitor icon on the right hand side of the corresponding entry.

Once the file is opened, you can manage the model with the usBIM.browser commands:

  • Use the Camera option to view the model with two different viewing options – Orbit and First Person modes
  • Camera projection to choose between an Orthographic or Perspective view
  • Annotations to associate annotations (links and videos) to the model and add useful information and data during the design, maintenance and management of the building asset.
  • Measurements to perform linear, angular and surface measurements directly on the model
  • Appearance to customize the visual style according to these modes: Show Polygons, Show Lines, Show Bounding Box and Show 2D Geometry
  • Shadows to manage the shading effects by defining date (day/month/year), time, orientation and latitude/longitude
  • reality/Real-time rendering & VR to view your model in first person and “enter” into the model using virtual reality viewers
  • Scene settings to choose whether to view the model in 2D or 3D
  • Full screen to view the 3D environment in full screen, making the most of the screen size for viewing the federated BIM model.
  • Help to get all the information for navigation both in “orbit” mode and in “first person” mode.

The model you are viewing is a view in which several models in the IFC format are overlayed:

  • architectural – with walls, doors, windows, etc.
  • structural – consisting of reinforced concrete columns, beams and floors
  • plumbing system – in which the drainage and supply pipes, terminal elements, etc. are visible.

However, you can view each model of the federation separately in its entirety by managing the visibility of each object.

In particular, you can:

  • “turn on/off” individual objects of the model by clicking on the light bulb icon in correspondence with each object
  • adjust the transparency of the model to fully display overlaid elements
  • manage the colors of the individual objects to facilitate their readability within the federation.

This feature allows you to visually analyse the model and start evaluating any design conflicts and errors, helping you with the visibility of each element.

The federated BIM model is not a simple graphical representation for 3D visualization, but a system of parametric objects that can contain an infinite amount of information, data with constantly updated and indispensable characteristics to manage the construction and maintenance of the asset itself.

By selecting any object of the model, for example an architectural window, you can read the properties in the toolbox on the right and acquire the geometric data, material characteristics, material layer compositions, etc.

Furthermore, you can also choose to add new info (datasheets, images, documents, etc.) to implement the information system and update it over time.

usBIM.federation | managing contents from usBIM.browser

usBIM | managing contents from usBIM.browser and reading the properties of a federated model object with usBIM

Advantages of the federated model

The availability of a federated model capable of integrating all the data relating to the various disciplines has an important impact on many management aspects of a BIM project.

For example, it has a very positive impact on:

  • Coordination
    • improves the understanding of the project in all its various parts
    • guarantees everyone access to information
    • facilitates informed decision making, planning coordination,
    • prevents interference detection
    • improves project approval processes
    • it constitutes an information container that can be consulted and implemented by everyone over time
  • Interference detection
    • it allows early detection of interdisciplinary conflicts that could otherwise escape during the verification phase. For example, by processing the structural model and the plant engineering model separately, in certain cases you may be unable to highlight collisions between an air conditioning duct and an emerging structural beam. This interdisciplinary clash between the structural model and the MEP model would not have emerged if the models had not been federated. All missing information, design inconsistencies, wrong decisions and inadequate use of resources emerge during the design phase, before starting the project. This methodology allows professionals to easily intervene, introduce corrective actions and continue with the design and construction process.
    • it saves time and resources that would otherwise be used to re-elaborate new design solutions, revisions and project variations in advanced stages of the design or even during construction.
  • Accurate and realistic estimates
    • provides consolidated and precise data
    • it includes all the graphical, metric, geometric data and information relating to individual components
    • it allows to obtain accurate estimates on quantities, costs and realization time schedules and allows, on the basis of the data contained in the IFC files, construction cost estimates deriving from parametric design workflows with the planning and verification of execution times and of single tasks with their relating costs.


Click here to discover the great possibilities of usBIM.federation