CPD 3: Open BIM

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This module provides an introduction to the ‘Open’ approach to BIM, which makes use of a range of compatible software. It is sponsored by Vectorworks

How to take this module



To take this module read the technical article below and click through to a multiple-choice questionnaire, once taken you will receive your results and if you successfully pass you will be issued automatically with a certificate to print for your records.

CPD Buton

Introduction to Open BIM

By 2016, all centrally procured government construction projects, no matter their size, must be delivered using Building Information Modelling, or BIM. A building information model contains not only the design of a building but data concerning the properties of its components, its construction and ongoing maintenance. The way that information is developed and shared throughout the project team is therefore of vital importance.

The Open BIM programme is a global initiative that was created by non-profit organisation buildingSMART International and software companies, and is open to designers, engineers and contractors. Open BIM focuses on using BIM data with different software solutions, thereby allowing the different trades to use the best tools for their own purpose, without losing the benefits of model-based data or risking incompatibility.

This CPD module is a case study of a project that exchanged digital smart models using the file format IFC Projects. IFC is an open file format that is not controlled by a single vendor but is supported by more than 95 international vendors/developers and over 145 individual BIM applications and utilities to date.

The comprehensive BIM model is shared with the consultant project team via IFC and supporting PDFs showing vector-based information. The consultants are then able to proceed with their scopes of work using IFC-compatible software. Their work is shared with the architectural team using the same IFC and PDF exchange.

From this, a comprehensive model is created, and validated by the BIM manager. After everything is coordinated correctly, the updated model is distributed again, going through the same process until completion.


The combined model in Solibri Model Checker

Case study: Arboleda building, Dominican Republic

The Arboleda building is a multistorey apartment building in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, designed by Moda Forma, a small local practice. Moda Forma used the BIM design tool Vectorworks Architect, which is compatible with a wide range of software via IFC, the Open BIM file format.

Conceptual model

The design process began with a concept sketch, which identified the major programmatic components. This was imported directly into Vectorworks as an image file. It was then traced, filled, extruded to the correct height and refined by using the push/pull tool to produce a massing model. Vectorworks exported the model to Google Earth so the client could view it virtually on site.

At this point, the BIM was broken down into storeys, with each storey comprising three “layers”: ceilings, floor objects and slabs. The organisational structure also included “classes” - other elements such as walls, furniture, columns, doors and windows. Organising the building into storeys in this way at this stage had important benefits later in the process, when the model was exported to different software packages.

These architectural elements were developed into a programme for the living units through a series of spatial diagrams. The units were composed entirely of “native” BIM objects in Vectorworks, each of which was supplemented with data specific to the individual items. This data was available to the whole team via the IFC format.
The layouts of the 11 levels of living units were standardised to provide simplicity in building systems and reduce construction costs. Separate models were added to the cumulative BIM model for the parking and basement levels, the community roof garden and the building skin.

At this stage, the BIM model was combined with a site model, which had been produced in Vectorworks using GIS data from the municipality.

Presentations and communication

Visualisations were presented to the client through the use of augmented reality plug-in AR-Works and the creation of an animation in Cinema 4D. Cinema 4D can be used easily with Vectorworks as it has direct import/export functionality and shares the layer and class system (see above). The movie, which was given a “sketchy” style, showed the building being assembled from bottom to top. Communication software also became increasingly important at this stage of the project, as the client and other team members became more closely involved.


External view of the Arboleda Building

BIM validation

At this stage, the BIM model was exported via the IFC format. Like a BIM model, an IFC model is composed of a collection of smart objects, each of which is defined by its geometry, spatial relationships and other specific data.

The IFC model was imported into Solibri Model Checker, the “bridge” between all of the consultants and team members. The programme identified and corrected a number of flaws within the architectural model. These included:

  • Redundant column locations
  • Redundant slab locations
  • Beam and slab clashes
  • Wall and beam clashes

The whole team could use Solibri Model Checker, in addition to the discipline-specific software outlined below.

Energy analysis

Energy consultant IES used its own IES VE software to analyse the energy performance and provide data on all aspects of energy control. The project summary was completed in VE Pro and documentation and files were exchanged via IFC.

Structural collaboration

The structural engineering application for the project was Nemetschek Scia. The structural engineer requested a model that contained only the necessary structural elements, such as beams, slabs, and columns. The model was prepared within Vectorworks for export to IFC. The structural engineer then conducted some
clean-up and alignment of the model in Scia before analysing the structure under different loads. The structural model was then completed in Scia, ready for export back to the architect via IFC. It included a schematic level plan sheet, containing section and plan views along with some initial analysis results and a rough bill
of materials.

Mechanical, electrical and plumbing

The MEP teams all used DDS-CAD MEP software, which enabled easy communication between the disciplines. The project exchanges also required extensive clash detection at each step. The use of Solibri Model Checker via the IFC format meant that the architectural and MEP teams could work together to resolve these issues.

Construction phase

The collaboration between the various teams via the IFC format eventually led to a far more developed BIM model. This could then be used as a comprehensive model for all activities related to the construction programme. The model was distributed to the project team, and all drawings and schedules were derived directly from it.

Synchro Professional project management software was used, into which the BIM model was imported via IFC. Synchro added time sequencing to the construction process, enabling highly sophisticated scheduling: from the information in the BIM model, it could provide a completion time, to the minute, of each element of work. It also created a movie of the construction process with a rolling timeline.

Facilities management

The last critical part of the BIM project lifecycle was facilities management. The software package used here is EcoDomus. Again, this can import IFC information directly from the composited BIM model, thereby creating a complete FM model and database to improve daily building operations.

Several presentations will focus on the Arboleda project at Ecobuild:

Tuesday 5 March 11.00, stand N430; 14.00, stand N320
Wednesday 6 March 13.30, stand N430; 15.00, stand N320
Thursday 7 March 12.30, stand N320


How to take this module
To take this module read the technical article below and click through to a multiple-choice questionnaire, once taken you will receive your results and if you successfully pass you will be issued automatically with a certificate to print for your records.

CPD Buton

Closing Date: 5 April 2013.
CPD Hours: 1 hour





Readers' comments (1)

  • Hello,

    I have passed four cpd modules and printed the certificates but for some reason they failed to print correctly. Could I please have these emailed to me or is there another way i can re print them.


    Lloyd Bickle

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