Our built environment needs better spatial communication

Our built environment needs better spatial communication


Around the world, few institutions have a greater unmet need for crosscommunity communication than those involved with the built environment. The communities include not only architecture, engineering and construction, who are struggling to improve construction efficiencies, but also facilities management, appraisal, finance, urban planning, insurance, and emergency response. Other key stakeholders include government departments responsible for things such as ownership certification, land use regulation, coastal zones, airports, archaeological surveys, transportation, and electricity and water and sewer connections.

Further, with the advent of smart buildings and smart cities, built environment information systems support the work of those who provide energy, broadband, and new types of spatial information such as 3D urban models, points of information (PoIs), mobile navigation services and location marketing services.

Cultural diversity and the large number of different institutions and stakeholder groups involved in the built environment make agreeing on common spatial communication standards a difficult task, yet we are beginning to see progress, because so much is at stake.

OGC’s alliance partners
Over the years, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) has been building a network of “alliance partner” organisations, many of whom are standards development organizations (SDOs) in market domains related to the built environment.

Cross-domain discussions among alliance partners yield many creative possibilities for the integration of computer aided design (CAD) and geospatial capabilities through open standards. SDO member organisations which provide technical representation in the technical committees and working groups of both the OGC and these other SDOs drive progress toward standards and standards-related best practices that solve the built environment’s cross-community communication requirements.

Cross-community communication about the built environment requires technical interoperability between geospatial applications and CAD/BIM applications

The following SDOs are OGC’s some of the other alliance partners:

  • IEEE Technical Committee 9 (Sensor Web)
  • ISO IEC JTC 1/SC 24/WG 8 — Computer graphics, image processing and environmental presentation
  • ISO Technical Committee 204 — Intelligent transport systems
  • ISO Technical Committee 211 (ISO TC/211) — Geographic information/ Geomatics
  • Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE)
  • Mortgage Information Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO)
  • US National Institute for Building Standards (NIBS) — BuildingSMART Alliance

Governments work with SDOs to drive progress
Ultimately, everyone benefits from standards work. A recent German DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V.) Study showed that interoperability has a greater positive impact on national economy than patents or licences. Governments recognise that smart cities attract smart people and smart investment, and they are turning to SDOs for advice.

Well-informed government organisations can spur progress by setting an example. The Netherlands, for example, a low-lying coastal country threatened by climate change, has provided an open platform for inputting and outputting high-resolution elevation data, and also 3D building information encoded in the OGC City Geography Markup Language (CityGML) Encoding Standard. Germany, too, has made major progress in adopting OGC’s CityGML and building- SMART International’s BIM standard (Industry Foundation Class (IFC) — the key standard for managing the detail and lifecycle of a building. The OGC, BuildingSMART International (bSI), ISO TC 211 and ISO TC 59/SC 13 (Organisation of information about construction works) are discussing various harmonisation approaches. A ‘Civil Summit’ held in Waltham, Massachusetts (USA) and Abu Dhabi earlier this year was organised cooperatively by bSi and OGC.

Multiple SDOs must work together to create the built environment information technology standards framework

Relevant activities in the OGC
The OGC 3DIM Domain Working Group (DWG) works with the OGC CityGML Standards Working Group (SWG) and other groups to facilitate the definition and development of interface and encoding standards that enable software solutions that allow infrastructure owners, builders, emergency responders, community planners, and the traveling public to better manage and navigate complex built environments.

The OGC IndoorGML SWG is developing an application schema of OGC GML and progressing the document to the state of an adopted OGC standard. The goal is to establish a common schema framework for indoor navigation applications.

The OGC Energy and Utilities DWG addresses spatial information integration requirements of organisations engaged in planning, delivery, operations, reliability and ongoing management of electric, gas, oil and water services throughout the world.

OGC members have recently created a Land Development SWG to first look into harmonising LandXML with OGC standards, but it will also look into other Civil, Survey or Land Development topics. The Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) DWG and the Sensor Web for the Internet of Things (IoT) SWG have an important role to play in smart buildings and smart cities.

OGC members have proposed an OGC POI SWG to produce a draft encoding standard for POI data. Places of Interest (POIs) can be defined as those places that serve a public function.

The OGC Augmented Reality Markup Language (ARML) 2.0 SWG works to provide an extensible standards framework for augmented reality applications.

LiDAR is an increasingly important source of information in the built environment. Some OGC members are investigating how they can serve point cloud information through services that implement OGC Web service standards

The boundaries between communities of the built environment are dissolving as their communication requirements are addressed in technical standards. If your organisation is active in any of these communities, we invite you to get involved in the OGC and in our partner organisations. You can help shape the standards that are shaping the information-rich built environment of tomorrow.