What OpenBIM Does For You (and the life cycle of BIM)

Have you and all your collaborators watched the OpenBIM video by buildingSMART Norway about why the AEC industry needs to change? I’m going to guess no, since—as of me writing this—the video has only about 5,100 views. It’s a great explanation of the benefits of BIM and OpenBIM (which really should just be BIM, because really is there any reason NOT to be open?).

The video goes through how each key player uses BIM, from client to design team to building authority to contractor (and subs/product vendors) to property caretaker. Design team is such a better term than architect, engineer, etc. as it’s a good reminder that during the design phase the owner/author of the BIM isn’t one individual or entity, but a group. Likewise I think if we say that it’s design team, construction team, etc. then we can remember that within each of those groups are often all the players. So the design team, which might be led by the architect, includes the architect, the contractor, interior designers, the owner, etc. Likewise the construction team might have all those same players but be led by a different individual/company. This seems pretty critical to success when trying to get the most out of BIM. All these individuals need to be involved throughout the life cycle of BIM and the project, but over time the leader needs to change.  I know we’ve all been in situations where the wrong entity has been running the wrong phase of the project. It’s never fun when the contractor, client, or architect is calling the shots when they should really be listening and advising.

In addition to loving the concept of design team, construction team, etc. I really like that the above video starts with the client/owner and ends with the operator/owner. Essentially the life cycle of BIM starts and ends with the same entity. Well not ends, because buildings continue to exist and therefor so should the BIM. Thus it’s not so much as starting and ending with the owner, but just RETURNING to the owner before the cycle starts again—for renovations, additions, repairs, demolition, etc. It requires a bit of simplification and ignores the serpentine nature of getting buildings built, but all of what I just wrote brings me to this diagram:

Imagine a BIM file (perhaps a simple spreadsheet or basic model exported as an IFC file) that starts with the owner and continues to get handed-off, developed, and expanded by all the subsequent teams. By embracing OpenBIM it could travel between software packages, depending on the needs and skills of the various team members over the life of the BIM. How great and beneficial would that be? I just love the concept of the actual data starting with the client—the details of that though need a post unto itself.

We Are the Wrong Line on this Graph

So what? Why does BIM matter? Why does OpenBIM matter more? Why does the building industry need to work harder to become more efficient, collaborative, and supportive (all benefits of OpenBIM)?

This image, which is a screen capture from the video, should scare us all. We haven’t been doing enough to improve our situation over the past couple of decades. We are the inefficient laggards.

I wrote about another vision of the life cycle of BIM in early 2013. Reread that post and remember that I end with a leap towards augmented reality and the Internet of Things. Think about how much closer we are to that future than we were a mere 20-24 months ago. Remember Smart Things? They are now owned by Samsung. We need to get serious about the life cycle of BIM described above because our buildings need it. Now. We BIM-enabled AEC participants need it. Now. Otherwise we’ll just be cut out and the dream of our work continuing in digital form post-construction will wither and die.

Do you have thoughts about the future of our built environment? Want to share your ideas as a guest blogger? E-mail me! Subscribe to my blog to read more about the tricky world of being an Architect in the 21st century: Shoegnome on FacebookTwitter, and RSS feed. And now you can join the LinkedIN group too.


  1. muneeb November 11, 2014
  2. muneeb November 11, 2014

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