CAD/GIS/BIM Integration through Standards

CAD/GIS/BIM Integration through Standards


Sam Bacharach
Sam Bacharach
Executive Director
Outreach and Community Adoption
Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.

Geospatial technologies such as GIS and earth imaging allow us to visualize and analyze the gross external boundaries and characteristics of both natural and human features, such as buildings, roads, subways, bridges and ports. But many activities also require precise information about these structures — internal, external, underground and underwater – and those activities require different visualization and analytical tools, such as architectural and civil engineering computer-aided design (CAD) software.

A longstanding and ongoing issue in the geospatial community is the ability (or inability) to integrate CAD and GIS tools and data into a seamless workflow.

Figure: Integration of CAD drawings and geospatial data becomes increasingly possible through cooperation among consensus standards organizations whose members include both users and vendors of these diverse types of software. (Image from “CAD-GIS Interoperability WG Report to the Technical Committee,” 55th OGC Technical Committee, Bonn, Germany, Tim Case, November 10, 2005.)

We are beginning to get more satisfying answers to the two key questions: Can different software systems communicate to enable CAD/Geospatial integration? Can geospatial data models and their approximate CAD equivalent, “Building Information Models” (BIM), be harmonized so software can readily manage both?

The answer to these questions is “Yes”. And one need not stay within a single vendor’s product family to accomplish this integration. (Though integration is possible within some vendors’ product families, data sharing partners often use different vendors’ software, so interoperability is critical.) There are many technical and institutional obstacles to overcome, but government and private sector users of AEC/CAD and geospatial software are working together, and working with software vendors, in linked consensus processes to overcome these obstacles. Without standards, there can be only case-by-case integration.

Obstacles to Sharing Building Information
Public and private sector planners, real estate developers, engineers, architects, builders, suppliers, utility contractors, permitting agencies, project managers, building managers, maintenance contractors, owners, bankers, brokers, insurance agents, attorneys, accountants and security and emergency response organizations all need information about buildings, building sites, and physical infrastructure. Most of these professions create new content on top of information provided by others.

Unfortunately, much of the information that has already been collected by others is not available, so it needs to be collected again, redundantly. Data could often be reused, but architecture, building and real estate professionals typically develop data, deliver it to those who paid for it, and file their copy away out of sight. The data does not get registered in an online catalog and stored online, behind an access control system, where it could be efficiently discovered and accessed by anyone who has a need and a right to access it.