Building Information Modelling

Madeira Sculpture

Building Information Modelling (BIM) Gateway Tool

Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Makstutis
College: Central Saint Martins

The shift within the design and construction industry to Building Information Modelling (BIM) represents a tremendous opportunity for efficiency and intelligence in the construction sector. BIM, wherein a single digital model contains both the geometric description as well as extended information on materials, products, etc., allows different stakeholders within the project process to gather and act upon information more effectively. Before the BIM Gateway Tool project this information was tied to either incompatible data formats or relateed to incompatible referencing systems within the construction industry. Therefore, the intelligence of the BIM model was limited.

The BIM Gateway Tool project addressed issues of data interoperability and extension by developing enabling technologies that translate between existing disparate classification systems used in the construction industry. The project created an open infrastructure that not only integrated and enhanced the value of existing industry information, but also allows extensibility and links to relevant data sources outside of the industry thereby creating considerable enterprise opportunities for developers of applications that can exploit this complex linked data for industry benefit. 

Initial opportunities for the consortium partners were in the distribution of the Gateway Tool as a set of 'plugins' which linked existing CAD/BIM software applications to the enabling technologies. Through access to a broader range of structured data, information on the lifecycle and supply chain of any building project enabled companies to realise significant efficiencies and cost savings overall (including identifying increased cost efficiencies in 'green' building), a more holistic and informed understanding of environmental impact, and a reconfiguration of supply chains, based on more accurate and dynamic data. Access to information derived from industry use allows policy-makers and educationalists to gain a greater understanding of the global built environment sector - its activities, impacts, processes, information flows, inefficiencies, etc.

To achieve the project goals, a framework ontology was defined to act as a common 'layer' between different classification systems. Initially, the Uniclass system was mapped to the framework ontology. In addition, a 'cloud-based' datastore allowed storage and retrieval of metadata by teams working with the BIM model and associated data. 

A set of Application Programming Interfaces (API) allowed development of plugins to link existing BIM software applications to the framework ontology and datastore. The initial work developed plugins for Autodesk Revit and Bentley Architecture; as these are the two most prominent BIM applications within industry.

As proof of concept for the potential of linking structure metadata to BIM systems, a Carbon Calculator will be developed. This drew upon data from the Ordnance Survey, product information and data within the BIM model to develop carbon emissions data related to building projects. 

The impacts of the project were also disseminated through commercial channels of RIBA Enterprises. The research and educational outcomes were disseminated via conferences and journals, and were of particular interest to semantic web development researchers.