Autodesk and Trimble Sign Agreement to Increase Interoperability
AEC Customers will Gain Greater Flexibility Throughout the BIM Project Lifecycle
Autodesk and Trimble have entered into an interoperability agreement aimed at saving customers time and reducing project costs typically associated with workflow inefficiency across different suppliers’ technologies. This will benefit architects, engineers and contractors, and importantly, project owners by enabling more freedom to optimise technology workflows needed to meet the complex requirements of today’s construction projects.
Autodesk and Trimble have a shared goal of meeting the evolving needs of the building and infrastructure industries. Reliable, fluent exchange of information among multiple stakeholders and platforms is essential to this end. The Trimble and Autodesk collaboration demonstrates their ongoing commitment to support open industry standards such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie), and can enable current and prospective Autodesk and Trimble customers working on the same projects to work together seamlessly through optimised file compatibility across applications.
Under the terms of agreement, Autodesk and Trimble will take steps to accelerate interoperability by exchanging Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and developer tools to build and market interoperable products. This allows the two companies to improve upon existing data exchanges, as well as open up new workflows between their products. Tighter product-to-product integration can enable design and construction professionals to share models, project files and other data between select Autodesk and Trimble solutions both in the office and the field, and allow for the reuse of information during design and construction throughout all phases of the project.
“The strength of a company is best measured by its willingness to do what is right for its customers and the industry at large. This interoperability agreement, like others we’ve signed, speaks to Autodesk’s commitment to openness,” said Amar Hanspal, senior vice president, Autodesk. “This collaboration with Trimble speaks to our shared dedication to making the building process more efficient and productive for all involved.”
“This collaboration demonstrates our mutual commitment to provide design and construction professionals with a seamless experience from both Autodesk and Trimble design-build-operate solutions,” said Bryn Fosburgh, vice president at Trimble. “As a result all stakeholders across the construction lifecycle can optimise their workflow efficiency.”
IFC – What It Is and Why You Should Care
Here is a great video recorded from New York City Revit User Group or NYCRUG. Presented by Christopher Zoog, he discusses ‘What is IFC and why you should care’ An excellent hour long presentation well worth watching. I’ve uploaded the video to my YouTube channel after speaking to Christopher – Thanks to Ryan Schultz for sharing the orginal recording on Dropbox.
The IFC/COBie Report 2012
“The rest of the world is in awe of the UK BIM strategy and the progress made so far.”
The IFC/COBie Report 2012 is a document created by The NBS along with the OpenBIM network with input from some of the major Tier 1 contractors and their supply chains. It is a description of a series of test run on Autodesk, Graphisoft and Vectorworks BIM authoring software to test the capability of the buildingSMART IFC file format to find out whether it is capable of supporting the creation of COBie datasets from the Building Information Model.
Although the results of the tests are not directly stated, the report still makes for a very interesting read; discussing the obstacles and the changes needed to make the IFC format an accurate and universal file format for sharing information and data between BIM authoring platforms. You can read the full report HERE or click on the image below for a direct link to the document.
- “..the IFC definition of the COBie dataset provides for an enduring format, independent of software vendors and versions”
- “The industry must do more to promote the examples (case studies) that are available in the US and the UK”
- “There is also a lack of guidance on where the information to populate the COBie should be coming from, is it coming from the IFC schema or being manually added?”
- “Data is disorganised at the moment. COBie forces us to be organised.”
Above are a few interesting quotes and important questions raised from the report: For more information about COBie and a list of resources and organisations pushing COBie to the masses, view The NBS blog.
Build Qatar Live 2012
A global 48 hour virtual BIM competition is kicking off later today, in the form of Build Qatar Live 2012, the first time the event has moved out of London (2008, 2009, 2012). An event held
earlier this year, Build London Live 2012 was a great success with many of the same teams entering again for a second time round. The competition is open for anyone and everyone who has the time and skills to take part! The main sponsor is Nemetschek Vectorworks.
If you do not have the time to enter you may also enter as an observer, like I have. Registration for competitors and observers here. You will need to download a free copy of Asite’s cBIM model viewing tool to take part. Special thanks to Asite for organising the event.
The competition is split up in to 12 teams, many teams are formed from a single AEC company, whereas others a combination of individuals and a variety of different companies forming one big coordinated team.
The basic principle of the competition is to create a interoperable BIM whilst cooperating with others from around the world. This year, the project is to design a man made island in Dohas prestigious West Bay District. This island will have to be built up with all the neccesary infastructure including roads back to the mainland. To read the full brief, click here.
The competition is broken down into 4 main awards: The openBIM BUILD QATAR LIVE 2012 Award, Best use of BIM for Design, Drama and Excitement, Best Multi-disciplinary BIM & use of Interoperability and Best use of BIM for sustainability or constructability. To see last years winners including a video of the awards ceremony, click here.
I am looking forward to a great competition and seeing a lot of fantastic ideas and projects being developed. If you are not taking part, sign up for a observer as I have. Thanks to all the sponsors and organisers for putting on a great event.
Asite and Tech Soft 3D join forces
Asite have joined forces with Tech Soft 3D to enhance their current cBIM platform with the addition of the HOOPS software development toolkits, into a visual 3D coordination tool with IFC visualisation. In short this means that the current real-time open sharing and model management platform will be transformed and upgraded into a real time model sharing platform with instant IFC visualisation. – A very powerful tool for collaboration.
“cBIM centralizes information, knowledge and design in a collaborative online environment, allowing all stakeholders in a project to coordinate design in real-time from anywhere in the world. HOOPS Exchange enables cBIM to quickly and accurately visualize the popular IFC file format, creating a shared Building Information Model to coordinate design components before construction is even started. The Large Model Visualization (LMV) capability of HOOPS Visualize works within Asite to allow real-time 3D viewing of extremely large datasets. cBIM users are thus able to visualize their design within the context of the overall model, reducing the risk of onsite problems.”
Tony Ryan, Asite CEO – “Tech Soft 3D was able to work with our software-as-a-service model to help us provide an immersive 3D experience to our cBIM users. HOOPS Visualize and HOOPS Exchange had the functionality and reliability we needed to ensure the highest level of performance within cBIM.”
Tech Soft 3D’s Gavin Bridgeman – “We’re happy our technology is being used in an efficient, customer-centric way that emphasizes collaboration in engineering,”
Geometry Gym Revit Addon
I recently discovered a new blog – Geometry Gym, which is run by Jon Mirtschin. In case you have not seen his blog, I suggest you head over and take a look at the projects he is working on. He has and continues to work on some exciting projects involving IFC interoperability as well as the newly added Grasshopper to Revit via IFC add-on. The video which you can see on the right hand side gives a small explanation of his plugin.
“Here’s some sample models and an explanation/demonstration of the work I’m advancing to import IFC models into Revit.
You can test for yourself. Here’s the grasshopper files used in the demonstration and some example IFC output.. You need to download the latest plugins from http://www.geometrygym.com/downloads
Note I’ve only been working on the Revit addon over a period of 3 months compared to 22 months for the Rhino plugin (although I can reuse 80 to 90% of the same code) so I still need to enable many aspects of IFC file importing. But I will prioritize any example models and requests that come from users, so please don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to hearing from you.”
The above post is from the Geometry Gym blog posted on the 13th April 2012 and I would advise you to keep an eye on the site for future updates. Many thanks to Jon for his hard work on these great projects.
Creating 3D .PDFs from .IFC files
Here is a small tutorial showing how to turn your 3D Revit models into the .PDF format. This could be useful for collaborating on ideas, and showing potential clients your 3D model in a program they may have installed on their computers. I have read about various ways to open your Revit models with Adobe reader, but until now, none of them have worked as I wanted.
The first thing you need to make sure of, is that you have Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended installed. A 30 day free trial is available here. This was the original problem I had when trying to create 3D .PDFs in the past. Unfortunately Adobe have removed the functionality from the newest version, but I’m sure it’s still possible to get a copy of the software somewhere.
Once you have all the correct software installed, open up your .RVT file and follow these simple steps:
Click on the Revit icon and select Export > IFC – Here you will be given a number of different options, as shown in the image below. Make sure you select which levels you want visible as well as other options such as splitting walls and columns by story. Finally select the .IFC export type.
After you have exported your .RVT file into the .IFC format, you will need to open up Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended. Next you will want to create a blank page PDF as shown in the image below. File > Create PDF > From Blank page.
After you have done this you will need to use some of the tools in Acrobat pro insert your 3D .IFC file. To do this, simply click on the ‘Multimedia’ icon on the ribbon as shown below. Select the 3D Tool, and sketch a box on the blank page where you want to add your model. I would recommend drawing a large box covering the whole page, depending on the size and detail required.
Now a pop up box will appear asking for the location of your 3D file as shown in the image below. Simply locate your .IFC file which you saved earlier from your Revit model on your hard drive and select ‘Open’.
Once you have selected your .IFC file you will be able to set some custom conversion options. In this window just consider what you want shown in your model. I have choosen to remove the wireframe option as it will only be for visualisation purposes. It is also possible to increase or decrease the quality of your 3D .PDF here. This will of course influence the size of the file.
Once you have set up your conversion options, you will see your 3D model as a still image on your .PDF document. You are now able to save your original 3D Revit model as a .PDF file. Once you have saved your file, there are also other options which you can play around with. As you can see in the image below, I have selected an ‘Illustration’ option, and selected a background colour. For a default 3D view, it is best to select the Solid option. You will now be able to zoom, in and out of the model, as well as panning and rotating.
Finally, an additional option which I thought was pretty smart, is the option to change the view. As default, Acrobat 9 Pro will set cross sections on levels which you created in your Revit model. It is also possible to create new sections of the model, which could come in useful if you wanted to show furnishings or even single building elements. The image below shows the ‘cross section properties’ where you can modify and create new cross sections in your model.
All in all I think this is a cool, and unexpected task to be able to perform for a .PDF file. Most of the time these kind of files are associated with text and images, but this more interactive 3D version would be very useful, if only Adobe released it as standard on all their .PDF readers. I hope this post has helped someone trying to create a .PDF file from their Revit model. Any questions, just leave a comment.
RVT, the future of interoperable BIM?
A post by Rob Clark on his BIM Implementation blog followed up by my response:
So, I want to put a thought out there. I’m sure it’s not original, but I’ve never heard anybody suggest it and I am beginning to wonder why.
Is the Revit RVT database the future of interoperable BIM in the design phase?
I know, I know, I can hear the screams already! It’s under the control of a massive commercial outfit. It’s not an open format. Why RVT over other formats? Why not IFC? It purely serves the interests of Autodesk, everybody else has to put the effort in to make their data fit. Wouldn’t it harm competition?
All reasonable points, if I do say so myself.
Can we all agree at least that the requirement for a person working with Autodesk Revit Structure wanting to work intelligently and collaboratively with somebody using Bentley Architecture in a standard UK AEC model sharing arrangement (i.e. without having to go via 3rd party formats which debatably don’t work) is a reasonable one?
What we have seen over the last year especially in the UK is Autodesk Revit establishing a major dominance. According to the recent NBS BIM Survey (Link), Revit is used by 55% of all those using object orientated software – the other major titles, Vectorworks, ArchiCAD and Bentley Building Suite each have 15%. Personal opinion, I expect that market share to rise over the next couple of years.
When we looks at the Sony Blu-Ray and the Toshiba HD DVD, we see how capitalism solved that issue. Blu-ray won out because it was more popular. Toshiba and other DVD player makers now all produce their players to play Blu-Ray, but they do it to their own design, with their own features and they do so in an openly competitive market. Indeed, it could reasonably be said that the death of HD DVD helped Toshiba and the whole industry move forward.
So, and this is a open question, is selecting a dominant format the answer for BIM in Design?
If Bentley, Graphisoft and Nemetschek worked with Autodesk to overcome some of the issues I list above and become complimentnatively with the RVT format, perhaps even with RFA becoming the standard content holder, wouldn’t we all be better off? Wouldn’t it allow for more and fairer competition between the software developers while allowing us all to move forward into truly interoperable Building Information Modelling instead of messing around with flaky middle men file formats?
In anticipation of the shouts of technical nativity – the technical challenges are of course there. There will be things the Bentley software will want to put into the database that isn’t present in RVT. Autodesk would need to make RVT more flexible and of course open. Why would they do that? Best I can come up with is that an open market is one with much more opportunity.
Nice article. In a community where the programming and development of new software is created and utilised internally, it is difficult to say that one company i.e. Autodesk should have complete ownership and control of the whole process. Those who are working hard on developing IFC, COBie etc. will have a hard time agreeing with this article and understandably so.
In my personal opinion as a Revit user, what you are suggesting seems like the ideal solution, (we make no sacrifice, and keep working on what we love, and everyone else is forced to jump on board.) But for those who are pro Bentley, ArchiCAD etc, this will be a tough one to swallow I think!
The only way that this could work in my opinion, is if Autodesk (as you say) begin to develop the .RVT file format with the input of their main competitors to become more open and compatible with rival software packages. At the end of the day, these users are not going to want to change their primary work tools to suit us Revit lovers! Can’t see it happening in the near future anyway unless Autodesk buys out their competitors!
Head over to the BIM Implementation blog to let you’re opinions be heard!
The next generation of BIM
One of the biggest challenges with embracing BIM (building information modeling) throughout concept through completion on a construction project is often the lack of interoperability among the various software platforms used by the different companies. But this challenge is beginning to be addressed by new initiatives and technology developments aimed at helping improve BIM in the construction industry.
This week, at Ecobuild in London, NBS, www.thenbs.com, London, England, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Royal Institute of British Architects, is unveiling a new National BIM Library, which is a platform-neutral database with generic BIM objects. The library is accessible online and free of charge for architects, contractors, interior designs, and other construction professionals in the U.K.
The models will initially be available in IFC, but will be delivered in a number of proprietary formats in the future. The library will offer manufacturers the opportunity to have objects authored to the new standard and hosted in the National BIM Library. According to NBS, in the U.K., 75% of construction professionals currently aware of BIM predict they will be using BIM on some projects by the end of this year, and 95% expect to be using BIM within five years.
This announcement follows last week’s news about the official launch of buildingSMART’s, www.buildingsmart.com, Washington, D.C., Open BIM initiative for the AEC industry. Open BIM is a universal approach to collaborative design based on open standards and workflows, and many software providers are already using the open buildingSMART data model. With an Open BIM Certification from buildingSMART, AEC software vendors can test and certify their data connections to work with other Open BIM solutions.
For the construction industry, initiatives such as this will improve workflow from one discipline to the next, which means team members can continue working in their native solution without risking incompatibility with other pieces of software.
The national BIM library launches!
The NBS along with BIM academy and other involved parties, today launched the new National BIM Library at Ecobuild 2012. The new website which was also announced contains pre-made standard object configurations which are compatible with Revit, ArchiCAD, Tekla, Vectorworks and Bentley. The site also has links to manufacturer specific content and other useful documents and videos.
“The National BIM Library contains over 200 pre-configured generic objects covering all major building fabric systems such as walls, ceilings, roofs and floors. And this list is set to expand even further, with new content added every few weeks, to make the National BIM Library the primary source of free-to-use platform neutral UK BIM Objects.
Also, it will soon be home to a wide range of NBS standard proprietary objects. A number of manufacturers are currently working with us to convert their products to BIM objects.”
Click here to view the NBS National BIM Library website.
Industry Foundation Classes
So, I’m sure most of us know by now what IFC are, if not, this post may be for you! I just wanted to make a small post to anyone who was still in the dark. IFC or Industry Foundation Classes are a data modeling standard which are complete and fully stable, open and international standards for exchanging BIM data. buildingSMART developed the idea and the certification process.
In basic terms, this means that IFC can be used to exchange and share BIM data between applications developed by different software vendors without the software having to support numerous native formats. As an example, your .IFC model which you created in Revit, can be opened and edited in ArchiCAD by your Architect and the same applies for your structural engineer using Tekla. This interoperability further promotes and makes the process of collaboration easier between different parties on a building project.
“We say that our organisation – buildingSMART – is ‘the home of open BIM’. Every implementation of an IFC exchange should follow what is known as an ‘exchange requirement’. This requirement specifies the information that needs to be present in an exchange or sharing of data at a certain stage in a project. It is important to be specific about the information needed. The exchange requirement prevents woolliness and uncertainty.
How can designers and other software users be sure that the software in use is compliant with the open IFC standard and truly interoperable? At buildingSMART we run a certification scheme that tests software products to check that they meet the IFC standard and clarifies the scope of their interoperability. The scheme was revamped in 2010 to make it more stringent and indicates precisely what parts of the product work interoperably.”
This IFC certification 2.0 process – more information about this can be found here.
Importance to user, supported software and other specific enquiries can be found here.
There are also case studies which have been released by buildingSMART using their technology. These can be found here.
As I have posted about on a previous blog, The NBS are creating a ‘national BIM library’. This is a library which can be used by everyone in the construction industry, with pre-made families and objects. All of these objects will be available in the IFC format. The NBS plan to have their library as “the primary source of standard and proprietary BIM objects.” With the upcoming release of the library at Ecobuild this month, I can imagine the use of IFC files and ceritifcation process becoming a standard practice in all AEC firms.
Please visit the buildingSMART website here for more information about Industry Foundation Classes
The national BIM library
The NBS are at in again, in collaboration with BIM academy in compiling the first open BIM library. This library will be launched in March 2012 and will be open, online for anyone to use for free. This has been a huge project in development, and the teams have been working hard with it over the past 6 months, in various forms, to get the library up to scratch and to get the right legislation sorted for the standards used.
In short, the National BIM library will be a library of building objects, for example: walls, floors, ceilings, foundations etc. They will have a large list of objects which will be in an IFC format (Industry Foundation Classes). The main difference with the IFC file format is that it is an “open-BIM” format, which means it is not locked to any particular software vendor, and should be compatible with any of the “BIM software packages” available. The IFC format is in the process of an official international standard – ISO/IS 16739. BuildingSMART / IFC and the national BIM library should be thanked for helping push forward the interoperability and collaborative means of BIM.
“The National BIM Library, from NBS, is a platform-neutral free to use library of high quality generic and proprietary BIM objects, designed for use in the UK. The library will be revealed on the joint RIBA / NBS stand at Ecobuild (Stands S1630 and S1640) with the first batch of generic BIM objects in IFC, plus native formats from some of the leading CAD software vendors.
The library will build up to become the leading source of free-to-use BIM objects, and over time will also incorporate proprietary manufacturer objects.”
I am looking forward to the release of the library and again would like to thank all of those who are working hard on the project to make it a success. The National BIM Library will be launched at Ecobuild, 20-22 March 2012, they urge you to come by their stall and say hello! More information can be found on the links below:
Construction Code blog – Behind the scenes
The NBS – National BIM library
buildingSMART – IFC format