BIM and software interoperability: The basic requirements for software interoperability, how does BIM work
Adopting the BIM methodology in professional activities means directing the working attitude towards collaborative work processes based on information tools that are capable of producing virtual models of the designed building.
The conceptual development of this new method has in past years allowed these collaborative processes to be better defined and progressively evolve into encoded regulatory standards, guide lines, academic productions, etc.
The idea of the virtual model has in time evolved from an initial stage according to which a single file could be managed by a single software engine to arrive to the concept of a federation of models able to talk to each other.
The diagram below illustrates the different levels of maturity of BIM, how it is spreading, its use and above all, exploitation of the BIM potential.
It starts from CAD, which represents the lowest level (level 0), reaching level 3 which corresponds to iBIM.
Level 2 is already shows a certain degree of data exchangability between distinct models, each relating to major professional fields.
The next step, level 3, which refers to a mature level of use, and that will be achieved through four distinct phases (as indicated in the "Digital Built Britain - Level 3 Building Information Modeling - Strategic Plan", prepared by the British Government), does not change the current idea of the virtual model as a federation of models, but relies entirely on a higher level of quality of model data exchange.
The quality of the data exchange is therefore the direction in which the greatest commitment is concentrated in terms of BIM dissemination, from both a procedural and software tools point of view.
The adoption of international standards, guidelines, instructions with the encoding of key documents for the organic performance of procedures and methods for their preparation and their minimum contents are efforts being made to adapt the BIM process to the various real life application cases.
It becomes evermore evident that the issue of being able to overlap models to evaluate their ability to dialogue without loss of information, and therefore their capability to interoperate, represents the key aspect for the effective use of a federation of models.
BIM and interoperability
By interoperability, the intent is to express the capacity to exchange data between applications (BIM software), allowing to standardize workflows and the tend to simplify automation.
This is not a new concept: since the very beginning there has always been a need for communication and dialogue between applications for specific purposes but to belong to the same production chain, has always represented a requirement; consider, for example, the widespread use of the DXF format for transferring graphics data in vector format between the applications of different software houses.
With this special need in mind, in the case of BIM methodology, there's the primary importance of integration deriving from different information sources that is the very essence of this innovation.
Furthermore, the quality of the information to be exchanged goes far beyond a simple data chart, since the use of objects allows the management and transferring of material related information, quantities, costs, execution time, energy performance and structural analysis issues, and so on.
The data exchange issue has been a subject of great attention and efforts in terms of research institutions, associations of software developers and industries, etc. and constitutes a true stand-alone technology in its own right, which has evolved with the evolution of software applications and their requirements.
The following video shows an example of how Edificius, the BIM software for architecture, interacts and exchanges information with other software.