15 September 2021 – The ITEA project BIMy learned how Building Information Modelling (BIM) can be used and exploited beyond its normal use, and how the integration of BIM and geographic information systems (GIS) can be improved. It created a shared space for digital representations of construction projects in their environments, enabling collaboration between multiple stakeholders within the Smart City domain and paving the road for new applications. Today, this international collaborative research project received the ITEA Award of Excellence for Innovation.

Smart city planning involves multiple players and encompasses diverse domains. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an important enabler of this task, yet modelling conventions differ and BIM models are often designed independently. Moreover, model integration within the natural/built environment (GIS) and the filtering of BIM models in terms of level of detail and time have been underdeveloped. If BIM is to reach its full potential, these roadblocks must be overcome. The international research project BIMy set out to tackle this, with success!

Enabler of collaboration between existing BIM platforms

As a generic, open intermediary, BIMy is an enabler of collaboration between existing BIM platforms. Through a unique, standardised API, it offers BIM model sharing, storing and data filtering among different stakeholders along with their integration and visualisation in the built environment. Such interoperability allows multiple designers to exchange information quickly and accurately, regardless of differences in their file formats/workflows. Additionally, BIMy provides a secure working environment and a digital marketplace for storing and sharing BIM models and model data. These enable new applications and facilitate new interactions that increase the usage and value of BIM, and thereby help develop the Smart City domain.

Netaş R&D General Manager Bülent Kemal Mutlu: “In Netaş, we use the transformative power of technology to contribute to a sustainable future by building smart cities. In this context, we implemented the Building Information Modelling project BIMy, supported by the funding agencies TÜBITAK in Turkey, and Innoviris and VLAIO in Belgium. We enable the management of digital models of buildings on a digital platform by using cloud computing, modelling, ontology, AR/VR and big data technologies. The platform helps to support the sustainability efforts by pre-calculating and taking precautions against harmful materials for the environment in the demolition process of the building as well. The resilience of buildings can be tested by simulations of earthquakes and other disaster scenarios on the platform. At the same time, all kinds of information about the real estate, like the earthquake-resistance or condition of the materials that are used in the construction, is easily accessible on the BIMy platform.”

A key technological innovation of BIMy is the filterable integration of BIM with GIS to create previously unanticipated usage scenarios. The BIMy platform allows BIM/GIS data querying and semantic filtering at various levels of detail and integrates with repositories of surrounding (GIS) environments. A data transformation layer prepares and transforms BIM and GIS data for use in new applications so that architects and city planners can download existing neighbouring constructions (BIM) and the environment (GIS) instead of having to redraw these. When uploading a BIM model to the BIMy platform, building regulations and fire safety compliance can be verified instantly. The available BIM and GIS data can be filtered and combined to train residents and emergency services for fire and earthquake scenarios, with the help of augmented and virtual reality.  A construction project can be modelled with future repurposing or demolition in mind, paving the road for urban mining and the circular economy. Annotations on (parts of) a shared model can be exchanged across stakeholders in the standardised BIM Collaboration Format (BCF).

Efficiency and safety benefits

BIMy holds the promise of technical, commercial and societal benefits through its multi-stakeholder use-cases.

  • For building permits, it allows guidelines to be modelled and applied to BIM models, accelerating lead time by avoiding the need to apply for a permit to know whether a building will fit a location and its urban regulations. In addition, fully digital access to building permit data speeds up its approval process. It facilitates reviews and updates in the building lifecycle thanks to centralised information and documentation for permits processing, automated validation and digital update during the permit process and public enquiry.
  • For fire safety, BIMy allows inspectors to ensure that a building complies with regulations, for example, by consulting a 3D model for semantic properties or by annotating a 3D model during inspection.
  • Similarly, the combined BIM/GIS data (possibly enriched with IoT data) can be used in crisis management to identify evacuation routes and train citizens by using virtual or augmented reality, e.g. to learn how to escape safely during an earthquake. Also, to ensure that the building is tested by simulating earthquake and other disaster scenarios, akin to the ‘digital twin’ paradigm.
  • For the circular economy and recycling, the project enables the modelling and mining of reusable materials within a building and the option to design buildings with future circularity in mind.
  • Proper account can be taken of hazardous materials and materials that require special attention when handling prior to repurposing, refurbishing or demolishing a building. Quantities and locations can be calculated in advance and appropriate preventative measures can be taken.

BIMy’s project partners validate the innovation power of the project:

“BIMy has opened the door for integrating BIM models in e-tendering for construction projects. It reduces information barriers and allows for better collaboration between architects, engineers, contractors and clients.” – Geert Bekaert, architect and partner at Assar Architects

“BIMy showed us that standards such as data dictionaries and model specifications will be the cornerstone for the further development of open BIM platforms and exchange of models between the construction partners, and that data extraction for compliance check is a promising trajectory” –  Bart Ingelaere, Director Information Technologies at BBRI

“BIMy paves the way towards a smart city by providing the basis for a fully digital Building Permit, thus allowing a better management of a building’s lifecycle. Improved building models, fast approval processes and increased efficiency are key Building Permit exploitation takeaways for BIMy.” – Catalin Turlica, UrbIS Data Project Analyst at CIRB / Region of Brussels

BIMy has increased our momentum, since its predecessor project C³PO,  to extend the company’s scope to more sustainable and smart cyber-physical systems for the benefit of smart buildings and cities. Now we feel more confident to reach the Green Deal goals as BIMy improved our capacity to integrate BIM, GIS, AI, and secure smart systems to address the urgent and niche needs of the stakeholders in the AEC value chain.” – Alper Kanak, PhD, Research and Innovation Director at ERARGE Co. Ltd.

“The BIMy project enabled us to design solutions to allow validation of BIM models against national and international standards during the design process and to make it easier to exchange digital 3D model data across building partners.” – Franky Declercq, manager at Geo-IT

“The seamless BIM-GIS integration developed in the BIMy project facilitates the next generation of Geo Digital Twins where 3D geodata are combined with highly detailed BIM models. This allows both the visualisation of construction projects in their urban context and to increase the level of detail, completeness and timeliness of geodata products.” –  Steven Smolders, Technology Director at GIM

Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the way we work and live our lives. Digital technologies are paving the road for novel paradigms across industry sectors. The ITEA 3 project BIMy pushed the limits of using and exploiting Building Information Modelling (BIM) and explored novel opportunities offered by integrating BIM and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). BIMy proposed ways to overcome limitations of current tools and standards, and explored ways to query and filter BIM and GIS data to create a new digital service offering. We hope that the soon to be published “BIM in the City” book will inspire others in their digital transformation.” – Olivier Biot, senior project manager at Sirris

“As a result of the BIMy project, great progress was made in managing projects according to the standards of Open BIM, constantly seeking further optimisations in terms of budget, timing, quality and sustainability.” – Dieter Froyen, head of engineering at Willemen Construct

As BIMy’s cloud-based solution lowers entry barriers for new tech adopters, the project will ultimately enable companies to set up new business cases in the European BIM and GIS markets. Seven building blocks for standardisation have also been identified; one notable innovation is a standard on data dictionaries for semantic mapping, which would greatly boost the use and value of BIM data by replacing existing free text annotations with standardised definitions, irrespective of the stakeholder’s language.

As insights and success stories will be shared in an upcoming book ‘BIM in the City’, which will be published soon, the project is set to help stakeholders maximise their use of BIM for many years to come!

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