USACE contract requirements expose BIM interoperability shortcomings

I’ve just been reading another great AECbytes guest article, by David Edwards. He writes about the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and how it is driving the adoption of IFC2x3 compliant building information modelling (BIM) in the US – something much discussed at recent IAI/BuildingSMART conferences (see my BuildingSMART conference, part 2 post, for example).

It appears that, while the USACE claims to be “BIM neutral”, in practice it usually means that firms must deliver designs in Bentley BIM format, as interoperability is “falling apart”. It is no longer a question of mapping parameters or variables from, say, Autodesk to Bentley, he says:

The USACE’s Bentley BIM Workspace contains thousands of directories and files. It specifies not only BIM object parameters, but CADD parameters, file directory locations, and a plethora of other “under-the-hood” system variables. The real question becomes: Can intelligent Bentley BIM objects be created with non-Bentley BIM applications and converted to match the USACE’s Workspace parameters? From all my research on this issue, the answer is “No.”

As a result, if AEC firms want to bid on USACE projects, they must do 100% of their work in Bentley BIM applications, and work with consultants who also produce 100% of their work in Bentley BIM. Such single application solutions may, David says, be detrimental to BIM’s future growth. He outlines vendor’s responsibilities but also stresses that clients should not require BIM deliverables from just one vendor. Otherwise, the industry’s adoption of BIM (already painfully slow) may come to an abrupt halt:

After spending enormous amounts of money on new software, new hardware, new personnel, and new training, firms are finding out that what they’ve been sold won’t work. We know BIM is where the industry is headed, but we’re finding out that it’s arriving there before all the pieces are in place for it to be workable and profitable enough to supplant current solutions.

Most of all, we must realize that this is a very radical change to one of the world’s largest and oldest industries. Small steps need to be taken before too much is set in stone that will constrain growth and advancement in the future. (my emphasis)

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1 comment

    • Brian Ward on 19 December 2009 at 7:07 am

    A couple of questions for the USACE:
    1. Will sub-contractors producing fabrication modele (Level 400 per AIA classification) be required to produce all of their models in Bentley? Typically these model truph the design MEP and structural models in the design-build workflow as there is much more information in these models (clash detction and costing). How is it the contactors are getting a pass in having to use Bentley, but the designers are forced to use it.
    2. Why is the USACE requiring Bentley deliverable at interum submission. Why should they care as the means and methods the designers used to explore the design and produce the CD’s as long as they get the end product in the format they requested?

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