Interoperability in Capital Projects

FT-09 Topic Summary
FT 09


Advancing interoperability is a recognized global opportunity. Business drivers are compelling; information technology (IT) is readily available; owners and operators recognize they are limiting their value benefits with individual point solutions that are costly to maintain; and software vendors recognize interoperable software helps to establish greater market penetration, which leads to competitive advantage. Improvement in efficiency and productivity is possible by advancing interoperable practices and tools. Compelling metrics and decision-support tools are needed for breakthrough improvements.

The building industry is developing an Information Delivery Manual (IDM, ISO 29481) to specify the types of information required during facility construction or operation and to identify information needed in activities such as cost estimating, volume of materials, and job scheduling. The components of the IDM that define the process map include business rules, functional parts, exchange requirements, and verification tests. The capital projects industry has made significant investments to develop and encourage deployment of two major industry data standards: ISO/PAS 16739 (BIM‐IFCs) and ISO 15926. Advancing interoperability requires four building blocks:

  1. Business Case (return on investment or ROI, metrics, business case) defines the cost and risks associated with moving forward with implementing standardized, structured information exchanges for sustainable, whole life cycle outcomes.
  2. Culture Changes (training, resources) support people as they implement the new processes and adopt the new tools and technologies to deliver the business case (ROI) to their organizations.
  3. Information Delivery Processes (processes, systems, and tools) enables all stakeholders (e.g., owners, consultants, clients, contractors, and suppliers) to execute capital project tasks (activities) and to manage and communicate all electronic product and project information across all stages of the capital project life cycle.
  4. Information Management (data specifications, standards, and testing) allows for the exchange, coordination, tracking, and synchronization of information without the issues of ambiguity, integrity, or security.

These four building blocks are needed to enable standardized, structured information exchanges and thus advance interoperability within the capital projects industry. Establishment of new work practices are needed to implement interoperability on a large scale. The call to action is to develop new work practices and implementation guides to help adopters of new interoperability technologies and tools understand the impact on their people. Use case studies are needed to develop the most effective for the successful uptake of new interoperability tools and technologies. Achieving interoperability will enable significant savings and opportunities for step change improvements in work efficiencies.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Data Standardization

In addition to formally proposed and created standards, many industry de facto standards are used (e.g., DGN, DWG, PDF, and gbXML.)

PDFs have become standard for printable documents.  ISO 24517 was established in 2008 to specify the use of PDFs for the creation of documents used in engineering workflows.

Standards are needed for industry to effectively specify, require, and use standardized information exchanges and advance interoperability (E0-1).

(E0-1, page 7)

2 : Business Case for Interoperability

Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions (IDDS) of the CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction) with their three key imperatives and business foundation tracking to the four building blocks. CIB recognizes the need for a foundation of business case definition:

  • Collaborating People (Cultural Changes) 
  • Interoperable Technologies (Information Management)  
  • Integrated Processes (Information Delivery Processes).

Involving domain experts would be advantageous in collaborative projects. Learning about the standards and implementation challenges from current participants would be a win-win situation

(E0-1, page 9)

3 : Industry Calls to Action for Advancing Interoperability

Information Delivery Processes: 
  • Common process maps, definitions, and views to align and communicate information exchanges and workflow management.
  • Identify data sources, purposes, and attributes to be organized into a comprehensive supply chain data set (Consolidating Logistics Control Attributes).
Information Management (IM):
  • Develop a robust, common methodology for conformance and interoperability testing including well-defined test models for standardized, structured information exchange specifications.
  • Move towards aligning and harmonizing industry data standards. 
Cultural Changes:
  • Develop new work practices and implementation guides to help adopters of new interoperability technologies and tools understand the impact on their people.
  • Use case studies and research to define key issues and develop the most effective “enablers” for the successful uptake of new tools and technologies.
(E0-1, p. 10)

4 : Information Management Processes

  • Systems are needed to meet the demands for collaboration, document management, change management, enterprise resource planning (ERP), scheduling, financial controls, cost estimating, 3D modeling, sustainable design, and operations and maintenance.
  • Dependency on IFC and model view definitions supports specific supply chain workflows and information exchanges including SPie (Specifier’s Properties Information Exchange) for product templates and QTie (Quantity Takeoff Information Exchange). There is also a precast BIM standard from the Precast Concrete Institute for precast concrete exchanges.
  • Work by CIFE and BIM case studies show that an integrated design and construction supply chain system can accelerate project schedule, eliminate unnecessary reorders, and improve coordination and crew allocation.
  • Harmonization of the two models (BIM ISO/PAS 16739 and ISO 15926 including Parts 7 & 8) could move toward a common set of standards for building products.
  • Using a BIM model synchronization feature helps to achieve rapid information exchanges. Synchronization requires a technology solution and a management protocol. BIM models with steel fabricators enabled increased accuracy of materials procurement, better organized logistics.
(E0-2, p. 8)