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Enriching 3D model data with construction & commissioning level detail

Building Information Modeling (BIM) realm is expanding with the advent of new technologies, processes and software for AEC/FM industry. The importance of robust knowledge sharing between different stakeholders (systems, people, and processes) in a project is of highest priority in such scenarios. The problem of interoperability in BIM landscape is well documented and is estimated to be costing the industry 15.8 billion dollars every year (Source: NIST). Eight in ten users of BIM software tools in the United States consider interoperability or lack of it between software applications to be the limiting factor in achieving the full potential of BIM (Source: McGraw Hill Report). Having spent almost a decade in data interoperability research, I would say this is the biggest hindrance to BIM adoption (Read about How Semantics can improve data exchanges?). 

What this means to the project teams is a loss of information when they move from one phase to another due to digital information that is incomplete or not carried forward, etc. Here we can see how information is lost at every phase of the plan, design, build, operate lifecycle. 


BIM, Coordination, Commissioning, Hand Over, Facility Management, IFC, COBie. So many buzzwords that everyone is grappling with in the building and construction industry. What does the industry really need - a simple and effective way to collect information, maintain it and pass it on to the next user!

This leads to the question that many industry practitioners and researchers have been trying to find an answer to:    How to maintain a single source of project information and continue to add more info or semantic layers during downstream stages of the project?

BIM 360 platform provides a means for connecting the various sources of data and feeding to the right user in a project, similar to the circulatory system serving the human body. Call it data integration, or semantics, but this is the true power of BIM! Check out the Glue-Field model integration details for the latest in this area .

Ever wondered about how companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn, etc. are driving web search, automated catalogue alignment, social network graphs, etc? Semantic Web Technologies help the need to leverage the potential of combining information in a meaningful way in order to be able to benefit from the data. By using the same web technologies we can slice and dice the BIM data to create different Views of the info tailored to personas and at the same time maintain an integrated project information. (Read about Semantics and Model Exchanges in this research paper). Autodesk BIM 360 Platform brings this semantic approach to BIM and helps to bridge this gap by providing a scalable architecture in the cloud for project data and web service APIs that allows semantically enriching data by linking many layers of information to the project data.

Integrated project info

The above graphic shows how BIM 360 is allowing users to aggregate data from different sources and formats and at the same enriching through out the construction life cycle to finally hand over to a facility management systesm.

Keep reading for a detailed look how this is possible today...

Accessing Object Data during Construction 

Let us look at a typical scenario going from Planning and Design to Construction and Operate. The Construction Data Model is completely different to that of a Design Model. When it comes to Operate & Maintain stages, the data requirements are once again hugely different. To summarize, in an attempt to support many of these downstream requirements, Owners are requiring designers to make the design model as detailed as possible. But it so happens that a lot of information is available or created at a later stage and there needs to be a mechanism to link this additional information to the project data. Think cloud, web service APIs, and semantics!

For example, a detailer has created the 3D models for Mechanical Pumps in AutoCAD or Revit and followed the BIM implementation plan by the Owner by adding system classifications or Omniclass codes.

A 3D model with object level information available through BIM 360 Glue.


Once loaded into BIM 360, we can extract the object information and make it available for different workflows. Here is an example of how to get such sets of information and also granular data that is contained in such groups of objects. Equipment_Sets

1. Get Object Sets: api/model/v1/sets  


        "update_time":"2014-03-24 18:49:34",


2. Get Set of Objects and Properties: 


These methods will return list of obejcts and properties available for objects in specified model. A lot of metadata at your fingertips and you can also visualize the geometry (Read more about how to use the BIM 360 Viewer). Everything looks good in pre-construction stage. 

Fast-forward to Construction, and the project team is in the process of ordering, installing, verifying and commissioning these pumps. That is a totally different set of data requirements (status, location details, serial numbers, warranty info, barcode, etc.) rendering the 3D model useless and forcing people to go back to paper. Vela Systems (now BIM 360 Field) revolutionized the construction scene by introducing and digitizing the paper based processes. The structured approach to QA/QC introduced by BIM 360 Field has really reduced impact and cost of rework. 

The image shows how an equipment details are collected in the site directly using mobile devices.

Equipment mapping in field

Here we see the equipment view on the iPad. We have all the fields your project team can configure for the equipment. Across the top of the view, we have the categories of items that can be managed with each piece of equipment; check lists, attachments, such as operating manuals, specifications and any other documents or information you need attached to the equipment to reference in the field.  For developers the same is accessible and configurable through APIs

Enriching Design Model with Commissioning Data

Now with Field and Glue being an integral part of BIM 360 and sharing the data, you can take your efficiencies to the next level by having the ability to semantically link the construction level details to the 3D model. 

By sharing the federated models used during coordination stages in Glue with the Construction stages in Field for QA/QC, we hava a single source of connected project information. Any model updates in Glue flows seamlessly to Field and any data collected in the site flows seamlessly and instantaneously back to the 3D model. It is too good to be true, unless you see it.

The equipment data is accessible through the Field interface as well as through the APIs. POST/api/equipment allows to manipulate the equipment record in Field. 

With the connected ecosystem, check out the same pump object we say earlier in this post. Now it is enriched with the commissioning data from Field.

Model with commissioning data

Imagine the ability to now visualize QA/QC issues identified during commissioning being tagged to the same 3D models? As well as the commissioning agents having the ability to visualize data in 3D. With BIM 360 you can deliver that and much more. For example, The issues API is available for developers to integrate with other project controls or management system, truly opening the power of the platform. 

GET/fieldapi/issues/v1  (The Autodesk BIM 360 Field Issues API offers access to create, search, retrieve and update Issues)

Having this information inside our Building Information Model extends the intelligent data that is coming from the field into our other construction activities, and helps to integrate the workflows between office and field from preconstruction planning, through coordination, construction, commissioning and eventually handover. We can also use this information to enrich the model back in Revit or Navisworks for extended workflows.

Essentially this bridges a gap that has been causing so much loss of information and impacting cost in the construction industry. Now with an integrated project information available at disposal, users and confidently and consistently connect this data into an enterprise asset management system for Operations and Maintenance. 

For more details check out these two great videos:

BIM 360 Glue/Field Integration: Part 1 - Creating Equipment Sets

BIM 360 Glue/Field Integration: Part 2 - Mapping Properties