What Is Open BIM?  And Why Is It Important?

BIM, or Building Information Management, is a design process that uses intelligent 3D models.  These 3D models are better able to simulate the finished project than a traditional 2D CAD.  With better simulation come improved visualization, communication and collaboration among the various project stakeholders.   Therefore BIM generally improves the ability to reach project and business goals.

With collaboration being an important aspect of most AEC projects,  even small-scale projects that use a traditional CAD approach can run into challenges when architects, engineers, the general contractor and various sub-contractors have different priorities based upon their trade or the organization that they represent.

These differing priorities can result in a lack of workflow coordination, lost information during data conversion between parties, lack of understanding of data between parties, duplication of building data as each party maintains his/her “turf,” missed follow-up of design changes between the trades,  and general miscommunication.

Using BIM, rather than traditional 2D CAD provides richer building information and enables model-based collaboration, with all parties able to view the same model and the same data as changes in one area flow through the entire model automatically.  However, even within the BIM community, two fundamentally different approaches to collaboration have emerged:    one known as the “platform” approach requires all parties to use the same software solution, albeit each trade may be using a different module of the software;  the other, known as the “open” approach, enables different software solutions to form the basis of the model-based collaboration.

The Platform Approach

Proponents of the platform approach argue that all coordination issues are eliminated because there is no need to convert data since all parties are using a module of the same software.  The problem with this approach is that apart from the basic compatibility of the data formats, each trade still has a different view of the various building structures, making the coordination of workflow difficult.

While theoretically, the software platform does enable a shared BIM model, in reality, because of the differing requirements within each trade, each stakeholder is looking at the BIM in isolation.  There isn’t an integrated approach.   In this sense, a platform solution is not much better than a traditional 2D CAD approach.  Further complicating the workflow coordination are compatibility issues.   While all may be working on the same software platform, differing software versions may make full synchronization cumbersome.

The Open Approach

The Open BIM approach promotes open collaboration workflows for better-coordinated projects.  The Open BIM approach has achieved global recognition and is increasingly becoming the global choice for using BIM.

How Open BIM Technology Benefits AEC Companies

With many software vendors supporting Open BIM, AEC companies can choose the software tools that best fit their differing applications.  They are not constrained by platform.  By using Open BIM technology, an AEC company can select tools depending upon individual requirements of a project, while still not having to sacrifice the benefits of model-based collaboration.

By using Open BIM technology the various members of an AEC project can control their software upgrades.  Because they can control different projects independently from their peers, there is no requirement to all be on the same “version”.

Open BIM enables project members to access BIM data throughout all the stages of the project, from design and construction through operation and building end of life.

The Open BIM strategy helps with better workflow integration and assists in the establishment of a common language for widely referenced processes. To a large extent, this helps to reduce project coordination errors.


Like it or not, building projects are “products” that are marketed.  As building materials and technology become more the “same” regardless of the brand, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate the product.   So, in addition to a building’s unique design, additional values such as “sustainability” can greatly increase the potential project value on the market.  The Open BIM approach and technology is one more positive value that can add value and help to attract future owners and tenants

CAD CAM Services, Inc. uses Open BIM technology and supports the Open BIM approach.


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This article was last Updated on June 13, 2020

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