New BIM standard prevents costly construction errors

By Paul Scarponcini

All too often, when different parts of a construction project, or separately managed but geographically adjacent projects, require careful vertical and horizontal alignment, slight differences in construction documents result in misalignment. 

In this photo, released by Interesting Earth, different companies’ engineering designs resulted in a humorous but costly mistake. (

Design software that implements IFC Alignment greatly reduces the risk of such costly mistakes. Recently announced by buildingSMART International, IFC Alignment is their first open Building Information Model standard for infrastructure such as roads, bridges and tunnels. It paves the way for exchanging alignment information between different software systems, from planning through management of the constructed asset.

This figure is the bSI overview of different infrastructure components and their dependencies. (Courtesy of buildingSMART International)

BIM technology provides a common, single, coordinated source of structured information for the companies, government offices and individuals involved with a construction project, from planning and design through construction, occupancy and asset management. buildingSMART International is the standards organization focused on developing BIM standards.

BIM is not only for buildings; it's also for major capital projects like bridges, roads and tunnels. Big projects like these link indoor spaces and outdoor spaces, so BIM for infrastructure requires integration of the building information technologies that bSI focuses on, as well as geospatial information technologies that the Open Geospatial Consortium focuses on — IFC Alignment was therefore developed in close collaboration with the OGC.

OGC and buildingSmart International signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2014; since then, collaborative progress has been good. IFC Alignment is the first product of their joint efforts. The two organizations are also collaborating on a Future Cities pilot that will demonstrate how cities can benefit from diverse software solutions that implement open spatial standards.

"With IFC Alignment being finished, buildingSMART now concentrates on the next steps to cover main infrastructure construction works,” explained Dr. Thomas Liebich, AEC3, who serves as Model Support Group Chair for buildingSMART International. “The upcoming projects on IFC Bridge, IFC Road and IFC Rail are already drafted and will be decided upon at the next international summit in Singapore, mid-October."

A full list of the next stage activities is available online; search or filter by Infrastructure. bSI and the OGC are encouraging interested parties to contact either organization for information on how they can be involved.

The OGC’s main liaison with bSI is the OGC Land and Infrastructure Domain Working Group. The LandInfraDWG was chartered in 2013 to “focus on determining how best to integrate and support the independently developed and widely used LandXML schema within the OGC framework, as well as how to better manage and integrate CAD-based land information with other OGC standards.” The group ultimately chose to start fresh and develop a new candidate standard – the OGC InfraGML Encoding Standard – that provides a use case driven subset of LandXML functionality, but that is implemented with the OGC Geography Markup Language and supported by a Unified Modeling Language conceptual model. The OGC LandInfra SWG has been working on this in collaboration with bSI.

Another recent OGC development that helps integrate interior and exterior information systems is the OGC IndoorGML Encoding Standard. IndoorGML provides an open data model and XML schema for the exchange of indoor spatial information. It is defined as an application schema of the OGC Geographic Markup Language 3.2.1, so it provides interoperability with other OGC standards. Though it is focused on navigation, an extension is being developed for asset management, such as tracking supplies in hospital complexes. See the recent OGC blog post about i-locate, an open source reference implementation of IndoorGML, and the OGC blog post about the i-locate project’s OpenStreetMap editor for indoor navigation graph editing.

Published Friday, September 11th, 2015

Written by Paul Scarponcini

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