Crossing the chasm between BIM level 2 and level 3 collaboration in digital AEC

17/02/2021
The Bew and Richards BIM Maturity Levels Model (Bew and Richards, 2008)

Digital, online collaboration tools really made it into the headlines in 2020. As always, the low hanging fruits get the most attention and among them are tools like Zoom and Teams, allowing people to interact with voice and video in very convenient ways.

But there are other needs to collaborate to manage intellectual property for buildings and assets. This could be around design, project execution and construction data.

Over the years the AEC industry has been collaborating in the same way business has been conducted. There has also been a lot of work put into the ideas of BIM. For more than 5 years the industry has been evolving around the understanding and adoption of BIM levels in digital AEC. While BIM level 0 and level 1 are low and partial collaboration, BIM level 2 means full collaboration and BIM level 3 will be about full integration. BIM level 3 has been identified as the final goal for the construction sector.

The Bew and Richards BIM Maturity Levels Model (Bew and Richards, 2008)
Source: “BIM Level 3: Sorting fact from fantasy” by David Shepherd, Lend Lease (17 Sept 2015) on www.bimplus.co.uk

The bad news is that moving from level 2 to level 3 is not a small step. Why is this? We can see many reasons including:

  • The integrated data set should be able to manage fine-grained information, not just documents but to some extent, it will have to deal with documents.
  • The scope of the data should be extended beyond classic BIM extending to data in earlier phases as well as data relevant to late stages like asset/facility management, IoT data, feedback etc.
  • The integrated data set requires consolidation of different data sets, as many software tools from many processes provide and use data.
  • Configuration management is important as the shared data will provide the system of records.
  • The shared data will include data with different levels of sensitivity, commercial or possibly even on a national or defence level. Access will have to be restricted but in a way that does not mean the system with the shared data becomes too cumbersome to work with resulting in less secure alternatives being adopted.
  • The shared data environment should be standards-based as the data has a long life and should be used by many different software applications. Avoiding software vendor lock-in is important as data openness will enable innovation in processes and value networks.

The really good thing is that there is a way to get there and it’s not by inventing a lot of new things but by adopting leading-edge technology including standards. The ISO 10303-239 standards, also known as PLCS (Product Life Cycle Support) were designed to meet the tough specifications of shared data environments.

PLCS is already used in other industries like manufacturing, aerospace and defence, and it will provide the AEC/BIM domain with a jumpstart. It is battle proved, a standard, covering the complete life cycle, and integrates with other standards like IFC but also ISO 19650, CFIHOS, ISO 81346 and ISO 15926.

For several years research work has been proving the value of using PLCS in AEC and with Collaboration and IP protection climbing the corporate ladder of importance to CXOs, 2021 was the year several commercial projects kicked off establishing the use of PLCS in AEC and BIM, such as the now launched light, modular and resilient digital twin for connected maintenance by Egis. As well as ShareAspace iAIM (integrated Asset Information Management) for Digital Twins and the Digital Thread.

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