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BIM & Design

Collaboration and Standardization Support Successful BIM for Infrastructure Adoption

February 15, 2024

In the first article in our BIM series, we looked at the history of BIM - both its philosophical underpinnings and the technological advancements that have made it an increasingly central part of the construction process. Much of that article focused on the ways in which BIM empowers collaboration across departments, from estimation and bidding through construction and all the way to maintenance and operations. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into that notion of collaboration as we examine the ways it’s essential to widespread BIM adoption - from competitors working as collaborators to the embrace of new data standards.

Industry demand leads to competitor collaboration

The call for increased adoption of BIM technologies and philosophies have led to strange bedfellows in the construction industry. In the past, companies may have pursued some loose form of vertical integration, where a hardware provider may develop their own software rather than working with a software developer to unite the best of their solutions. Typically, that means companies that specialize in hardware don’t always specialize in software and vice versa. In instances where the software built exclusively to work with a rover, drone, etc. is excellent, it’s can run into the challenge of a lack of OpenAPI to easily integrate with other systems. And if the data can’t be easily transferred to other systems and departments, there’s not a lot of value in having it in a digital format in the first place.

Now, companies often see the value of integrating their products and specializing in the areas for which they are known. For example, Esri, a leader in GIS intelligence, has an entire page dedicated to their partnership with Trimble, another leader in global positioning technology. You’ll find the same concerning Esri on Trimble’s website. Their partnership is not merely philosophical, but practical. At the end of the day, there are teams using Trimble hardware and Esri software, and it's far simpler and more beneficial to the end user to integrate those platforms than it is for Esri to say, acquire a rover company, or Trimble invest in developing an ArcGIS-esque software.

That’s just one example, but one backed up by numbers, per BIM Object;

  • 73% of AEC organizations say having a highly collaborative relationship is extremely or very important to the success of their projects

  • 48% of AEC firms won’t even work with other organizations or aren’t BIM proficient

As BIM Object notes, “BIM is not lone-wolf software. It’s a collaborative process.”

Organizations of all sizes can collaborate on BIM usage

If you’re reading this and thinking “okay, that’s great for companies like Trimble, Esri, Bentley, Autodesk, HDR, WSP, etc., but I’m a midsize design or tech firm, or a small local agency, so what about me?,” don’t worry - there are a number of opportunities for organizations large and small to get involved with BIM. First off, don’t sell yourself short. You may not have the revenue or project numbers of an industry leader, but there’s one thing you do have that’s valuable to the entire industry: your data. We are a ~300-person construction technology company that may be dwarfed by some of our competitors, but understanding the importance of making the data in our systems accessible has led to partnerships with organizations like Trimble, HDR, Esri, and Bentley. If you bring a collaborative mindset and construction project data, these organizations will want to work with you.

Even if you’re not in the partnership stage of your BIM journey just yet, there are organizations you can join to support the pursuit of open data standards like IFC and other technologies or processes that support BIM:

buildingSMART USA

buildingSMART is the international authority for the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standard, which is an open standard for interoperable file transfers through different software platforms for design, construction and fabrication. buildingSMART USA (bS-USA) is the United States chapter focused on proactively facilitating the active use and dissemination of open data standards for civil infrastructure. Interested industry professionals can join buildingSMART USA at a variety of different membership levels, whether you simply want to learn more about digital transformation or be directly involved in discussions with buildingSMART USA leadership.

Building Information Management (BIM) Council

The Building Information Management Council is an organization that exists under the leadership of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). Similar to buildingSMART USA, the organization’s mission is to promote the adoption of national information standards and best practices for built environments, with an equal focus on vertical and horizontal construction. The BIM Council is composed of members that range from government groups like the Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department to corporations like Bentley and Autodesk - another example of the kind of public/private collaboration that needs to happen for BIM to be successful.

If you’re interested in learning more about the BIM Council, you can become a member of NIBS. While this organization is primarily focused on vertical construction, roughly 25% of NIBS members belong to the architecture/engineering industry, while the rest are spread out across building, manufacturing, real estate, and more.

Exploring BIM collaboration at the federal and state level

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has also made the adoption of BIM processes a top priority through their Every Day Counts initiatives and pooled funds. You can find an entire page of BIM resources dedicated to exploring the benefits of BIM, current adoption levels, obstacles and challenges, use cases, and more on the FHWA website. Organizations like FHWA and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) are in lock step with groups like buildingSMART USA and the BIM Council, understanding that the first priority is data standardization so crucial information can flow between previously disparate systems.

At the state DOT level, the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa) recently created a pooled fund to “work collaboratively to advance BIM for Infrastructure.” Pooled fund participants include the DOTs from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, and Illinois, demonstrating that BIM collaboration is not something that happens in specific, adjacent regions or hotbeds of innovation, but through well-planned efforts happening nationwide. Goals of the BIM fund are not limited to, but include:

  • Developing BIM foundational use cases and workflows

  • Highlighting more effective digital exchange of information

  • Deploy standards-based data Management tools and techniques

Are you looking for a partner in your BIM journey?

As a leading provider of software solutions for everything from e-bidding to contract management, we’ve spent the last 40+ years building strong relationships with state and local agencies and understand the level of collaboration it takes to get data seamlessly moving between systems. Through our partnerships with organizations like Esri, Leica, and Trimble, we’ve made capturing precise as-built data for both current project management and future asset management a top priority. And as a member of buildingSMART USA, we’re committed to the adoption of open data standards like Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) in our e-Construction solutions.

If you’re interested in a discussion on how we could collaborate to further your BIM objectives, contact us today.


Nate Binder
Digital Marketing Manager
A proud graduate of Florida State University, Nate works with subject matter experts and sales professionals to produce targeted marketing collateral.