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Software interoperability

by CW Guest Columnist on May 26, 2012


Geoff Zeiss
Geoff Zeiss

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 According to the Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz), GCC countries are on track to spend $137.4bn between 2011 and 2020 just on new road and railway projects. Productivity in the construction industry in many of the world’s advanced economies has stagnated.

AEC firms are turning to technology to improve productivity. In the construction and engineering sector, reality capture has progressed by leaps and bounds – with these firms using technologies such as high-resolution aerial photogrammetry, oblique imagery, radar-derived digital terrain models and laser scanning.

Motivated by business objectives, CAD is evolving into model-based design. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is driving different professional disciplines to communicate and collaborate far more closely. For example, construction companies are linking BIMs to project management software to enable 4D and 5D views of projects that help eliminate risk of budget overruns by making the scheduling of material deliveries and work crews more transparent.

This highlights the increasing necessity for interoperability of software as different project teams – for example, HVAC, structural, plumbing and electrical – bring together their designs in a single shared model. Consequently, designers are beginning to look beyond a single product approach and instead are investing in groups or suites of different products to facilitate easier sharing and an accelerated workflow and by working in parallel on different design aspects of a project to compress time schedules.

3D visualisation is an integral part of BIM, not only because it facilitates collaboration between design teams, but also because 3D modelling is a more natural, intuitive medium for communicating with non-technical stakeholders.

With infrastructure growing at such a rapid rate, planners and contractors need to communicate more closely and more effectively with governments, regulators and other stakeholders to demonstrate that they have satisfied regulatory, environmental and financial requirements in their designs and construction sequencing.

How we will address building this urban capacity at a much faster rate is through the convergence of BIM, geospatial and 3D technology.

The potential business benefit of the convergence of BIM, geospatial technology and 3D technology is improved productivity, which will help attract private-sector funding to enable the rehabilitation of the world’s aging infrastructure. But the key to unlocking the potential of convergence is interoperability, and interoperability requires standards.

Existing standards such as the Open Geospatial Consortium’s (OGC) Web Map Service (WMS) and Geography Markup Language (GML), buildingSMART’s Industry Foundation Class (IFC), the Open Green Building XML’s gbXML, the Distributed Management Task Force’s Common Information Model (CIM), the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Multispeak and LandXML.org's LandXML are being adopted not only by governments, but also by the private sector, and I expect we will see more initiatives like the smart grid activity (likely to be focused in a new Energy & Utilities Domain Working Group) just initiated by the OGC.

Convergence, enabled by standards-based interoperability, will open the doors to further take-up of model-based design for infrastructure, which will lead to better collaboration, streamlined workflows and greater productivity. This will result in lower project overheads, improved profitability and better returns on investments.

Geoff Zeiss is Director of Utility Industry Program, Autodesk, Inc.



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