Open BIM? Who really has a vested interest in the care and feeding of an open platform?

So straight out of Budapest….and Boston comes the PR Release of Open BIM.    I am for Open BIM, I love the idea of working in a platform agnostic environment and make the building all about the data not the platform, however, when Open BIM is made up of a consortium of companies that have a vested interest in the process, such as Nemetshek, Tekla and Trimble  at least the antennae are going to go up.

Open BIM Programme is a marketing campaign initiated by GRAPHISOFT®, Tekla® and other members of buildingSMART® to urge and facilitate globally coordinated promotion of the Open BIM concept throughout the AEC industry, with aligned communication and common branding available to programme participants.”  This is taken right from the buildingSMART website.    Now buidlingSMART appears to be the outgrowth of the IFC initiative which was started by Autodesk in 1994, however, Autodesk now does not appear to be a part of this?  Why not?

I think fighting against the hegemony of the Autodesk dreadnaught is okay but one has to a question an open standard in this space.  As far as I know there is no open source BIM authoring tool, which would be super cool; so then who has a vested interest in the ‘open’ standard and supporting it?  I know if I have an ancient CAD file I can still open it in AutoCAD because you have a for profit company investing in itself and it’s long tail, open standard?  Not sure if it works.  Would I be able to open a file that was saved in an IFC format twenty years from now?  I can still open a Revit file that is 7 years old.  Is this a capitalism vs. socialism equation?  I would not go that far but there is a whole lot invested in software to design/manage buildings digitally so what does Open really mean in this case besides just a ‘marketing campaign initiated from Graphisoft…”  As my dad always says, usually when you want to know the motivation for something, “follow the money.”

I’ve written about this before and I think in the ideal world the building, the BIM, is open and people just write apps for the model, as current apps put a nice wrapper around open data so can BIM apps.  Need energy analysis, buy the app, space management, buy the app but the initial creation and file formatting lies in the BIM authoring tool, Revit, Archicad, etc.  How does the centralized BIM server model work when changes are made, etc. and what file format is it kept in that will have the legacy to support it?  Perhaps after the building is designed or existing building is captured in a BIM platform it can be translated into the IFC, whathave you, open platform and then becomes the defacto standard for existing buildings (EB), but during the design process?  There are a lot of people with a vested interest to keep it in their ecosystem.  Who will invest, support and nurture an Open BIM standard and to what end?


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  1. #1 by Gertjan on March 16, 2012 - 1:01 am

    Just one question for the author!: When opening a Revit file that is 7 years old, do you need to have Revit installed? In other words are the Project stakeholders NOT free in their choice of tools to view the information in the “BIM”?

    I Rest My Case

  2. #2 by Jim Foster on March 16, 2012 - 9:08 am

    Not sure I understand the point. Do you need archicad installed to view archicad files? You need a program to read/interpret data, and that program whatever it is needs to have a business model behind it for it to be viable, counting on the goodness of volunteers to keep something current is not a business model. Wikipedia asks for donations. Open Office asks for donations. So either they sell it out right with subsciption/maintenance or have an ad based model so you get it for free but another company is subsidizing/paying for it. So who is going to create an open standard? and to what end? collobration is great, but if there is not an economic incentive, it ends. and even if someone creates an open standard (ifc) engine that can be digested by every program in the world, you will get customized products with for profit companies (a la Linux/Red Hat) that will support the standard and make a profit so firms can count on the support and skill of a ‘real’ company. rest all you want.

  3. #3 by Jared Banks on March 17, 2012 - 8:45 am

    I see one of the goals of open BIM would be that a file built in 2014 could be opened by any BIM platform in 2024. You could work in revit now but sketchup 15 years from now. Who’s this good for? Us. Architects.

    Any program worth its salt can open an old autocad file. It’s crazy that we don’t demand the same of BIM. And better to make it an open file than a .rvt or. Pln. But really if it wassup one or the other I’d be just as happy.

  4. #4 by Gertjan on March 17, 2012 - 9:04 am

    A BuildingSMART Data Model (IFC) can be opened without the need for the programm in which it was inital created. It is even readable, by opening with a simple text editor.

    It is not about opensource but about open information, the “I” of BIM. The economic value of Information is already known for years.

  5. #5 by Shevek on March 18, 2012 - 1:52 am

    It’s not about being able to open a file 20 years later. It’s about being able to open a file 20 years later with you own choice of software.

  6. #6 by H on March 19, 2012 - 7:56 am

    We may want to broaden our understanding of how some of the tools on the market work if we haven’t seen an IFC modeling and server tool. This one works entirely with IFC: (although I am not a fan of it) Not sure if the reasons presented here are weighty enough to be suspicious of the OpenBIM arrangement, especially in light of the fact that Autodesk can join the initiative anytime they want to. In harmony with the preceding comments, you will, in fact, be able to open an IFC file 20 years from now (if we are still using files) as it is text. However, I am not sure that is true of a Revit model. I can’t even open an AutoCAD file from version 12, can I?

  7. #7 by Tim West on April 11, 2012 - 3:40 pm

    IFC is a comprehensive standard, and as mentioned above, a simple text based xml schema. Now open an IFC file from an ‘IFC compliant’ Modeller (in this case ArchiCAD14) and open it in various ‘IFC compliant’ viewers (in this case Revit, Tekla BIMsight, Navisworks, Solibri Model Viewer) and you will get different geometric representations of the model. This is concerning, when the standard becomes more complex, will these interpretations magically come into line, or become more disparate. Another concern is that the list of ‘Partners’ ( is missing Solibri who have lead the IFC charge for some time?

    IFC as a published format for a milestone may work, however, a ‘BIM’ model is never finished. If you are choosing to follow the idea that BIM is a lifecycle process, then the model needs to incorporate both the geometry and attribute data through all phases. Let’s forget the changes that happen through construction, and the hurdles of accurately documenting the actual built environment and ask what happens when some plant gets replaced, or partitions get moved, or usage changes. Does the building owner/operator need to engage the original designer as they own the original proprietary model, or does someone use the ‘IFC adjuster’ software that is open to make these changes.

  8. #8 by Jim Foster on May 21, 2012 - 7:12 pm

    sorry for the long time to approve this…got caught in the wrong filter.

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