This week I had the chance to take part in BrisBIMx and present as part of the quick two-minute snippet presentations. I decided to present on a topic that I believe is critical to the success of BIM moving forward. I discussed the benefits of investment in OPENBIM. The purpose for the presentation was due to the majority of the audience being users of a particular software and their tendency to prefer to exchange native format files. I really think that they will benefit by being more open to OPENBIM, hence the presentation. Below are my thoughts on OPENBIM.

I believe that everyone that utilizes BIM as part of their workflows should seriously consider making a strategic investment in OPENBIM on top of their native format processes. Recognizing that there are still some minor technical constraints in exchanges, IFC will be the universal file format of the future. Something to note here is that I have been collaborating for a number of years using IFC and honestly the myths really are over the top. You just have to sit down and understand the constraints and develop a workflow to overcome them. My top 4 reasons for OPENBIM processes are as follows.

No. 4 - Protection of your Intellectual Property

Sending out elements in native format families or GDL objects is giving away all of the smarts you have invested in to give yourself a competitive advantage. Why should you give away more than you need too? By collaborating in IFC format it provides only the geometry and data you want to share, keeping the addition information safe in your own environment.

No. 3 – No need to be in the same Software and Release

If IFC is a deliverable you will have to select IFC2x3 or in the coming years IFC4. If you collaborate in native format each member of the team has to use the same software and same release. The whole team would almost need to all upgrade on the same day. Imagine you work in a reasonable sized office and have projects all started at different times. It just isn’t feasible to have to manage all of the different releases on different computers to match the project deliverables. Working in IFC removes this problem. It takes the requirement out of the BIM Management / Execution Plan. In fact it removes this component completely. Although it is ideal that everyone upgrades ASAP to obtain the benefits of better IFC development.

No. 2 – Longevity

Think of trying to say to someone here is a cassette from 20 years ago, I need you to play it for me. Building Owners are putting themselves in Jeopardy by requesting native file format, they haven’t thought whether the file will be accessible in the future. They expect it to be. But it just isn’t that simple. Old IFC files can be opened in new release software and old native files can’t ‘easily’. What happens when you need to access your model 15 years down the track? Your current software release will not open the file and your old release of software that can read the file will not run on your computer’s operating system. I admit there are ways to bring an old file up from the past but it isn’t as easy as clicking on it and opening it.

No. 1 – Full Collaboration

The top reason for having an OPENBIM strategy is that you will be able to collaborate with everyone in the BIM process. IFC files can be opened by all BIM software, native format files unfortunately can’t. Creators of BIM need to consider the whole picture past their immediate use of the files they are working with. There will be a need to access the data in the future and they all don’t work on the same platform. The same platform doesn’t provide a full solution.

The final take away is that all of the BIM Software developers are all making big progress in making OPENBIM collaboration easier. I would like you to ask yourself a question, when you complete a project, consider mitigating risk and save an IFC copy to accompany your native file archive. You never know when you might need it.