Integrated geospatial and BIM (GEOBIM) solutions are becoming an emerging reality and an ‘accepted’ definition across the construction lifecycle. As digital construction becomes the new normal, there is beginning to exist a consensus on the use of GEOBIM solutions to improve productivity across construction processes. In such times, AEC firms, technology providers and policymakers need to unlock the potential of GEOBIM solutions enabled by wireless sensors, automated and robotic equipment, reality capture, immersive solutions, additive construction, Cobotics, among other technology advancements. Understanding the value-proposition of GEOBIM solutions, there has been an increasing need to have a strategic tool for critically assessing and evaluating the ability of an AEC firm to operate in a collaborative and connected data environment and employ advanced technologies in their workflows.
In a first-ever study, Geospatial Media, in its recently released GEOBIM Market in AEC Industry report, establishes the GEOBIM Maturity Model – a coherent approach to map GEOBIM integration and use across the construction lifecycle. The maturity model which ranges from Level 0 to Level 3 and beyond, takes into account continued ingenious innovation which takes place in the construction technology ecosystem and translates into being mainstream at both technical and organizational level.
GEOBIM Maturity Model
The progressive milestones of the first iteration of the GEOBIM Maturity Model is defined for across the construction lifecycle, i.e., for a survey, plan and design, construction and operations and maintenance phases, based on technology collaboration and integration at three levels as defined below:
Level 0 and 1: Conventional Model
At Level 0 and 1 of the GEOBIM Maturity Model, the traditional technologies– such as theodolites and chains, and total stations are used to generate spatial data and paper maps. In addition, at this level, CAD/CAM software is utilized for producing map output via paper or electronic prints in the plan and design phase. Traditional construction machinery and construction drawings are used in the construction phase; while paper spreadsheets are used for facilities management.
In the conventional model, BIM does not exist, and there is no collaboration and integration of geospatial data and information and BIM solutions in the workflow processes. Of course, with advancements in geospatial technology and BIM maturity, today, the majority of the construction companies all over the world deploy intelligent technology solutions beyond the conventional level. In most cases, AEC firms use of GEOBIM solutions for construction project delivery is positioned between Level 1 and Level 2 or are strategically positioned at Level 2 of the GEOBIM Maturity Model.
Level 2: Collaborative Model
Significant integration of geospatial data and information and BIM takes place at Level 2 of the GEOBIM Maturity Model wherein, the use of GEOBIM solutions is distinguished by collaborative working. At Level 2, information (spatial and non-spatial) is exchanged between stakeholders and a suitable information hierarchy is created such as Common Data Environment (CDE) for project coordination among various systems and project participants.
To be specific, at Level 2, in surveying, – advanced 3D scanning tools, remote sensing (satellite imageries), RTK and EML tools for underground mapping are utilized which is not the case in Level 1. In fact in Level 1, mapping of underground infrastructure in construction projects is not a consideration. From the BIM perspective, in the plan and design phase and the operations and maintenance phase – 2D/3D CAD/BIM models are used collaboratively with geospatial data and GIS; a step up from drawings/sketches, CAD, and spreadsheet as in Level 0/Level 1. Lastly, construction companies show an advancement from the traditional construction machinery (heavy-equipment) to GNSS-enabled Machine Control Systems (spatial data-driven) at construction job sites. Today, most construction companies operate at Level 2 – utilizing CAD or BIM solutions in collaboration with geospatial information curated from different geospatial technologies.
Level 3: Connected Environment
In its first iteration, Level 3 is the most sophisticated model of the GEOBIM Maturity Model wherein the adoption of 4IR technologies (AI, IoT, big data analytics, and cloud collaboration), immersive solutions (AR/VR) across the construction lifecycle is dominant. At this level, evolving BIM solutions, also known as iBIM (integrated BIM) is used along with data collated from highly advanced data capturing technologies such as LiDAR, Drones, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), etc.
Today, majority of the large engineering and construction firms in the developed countries – especially United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Nordics, among others, have evolved their construction technology processes to bring a collaborative and connected approach to the use of geospatial and BIM technology solutions for both above and underground infrastructure via reality capture and bi-directional mixed reality designs. The boom in construction technologies especially in 3D Printing, modular construction, GNSS-enabled smart sensors, etc., are used to augment the capabilities of the GEOBIM technology ecosystem to build a connected ecosystem of job sites, machines and workers to enhance project delivery, drive down costs, optimize asset utilization and efficiency, and trigger automation across the construction lifecycle. AEC firms utilizing these advanced technologies operate at Level 3 of the GEOBIM Maturity Model.
Why is the GEOBIM Maturity Model important?
The proliferation and understanding of GEOBIM solutions enhance the critical factors of the AEC industry, i.e. people, processes, data and technology. In today’s unprecedented time of Covid-19, it is crucial for AEC firms and policymakers to recognize the value proposition of deploying GEOBIM solutions in the construction lifecycle and the need to transition from Level 2 to Level 3 i.e. from being a mature user of GEOBIM solutions to a more sophisticated user. Policymakers too can play a strategic role in mandating the use of GEOBIM solutions across infrastructure projects and position their countries strategically to gain a competitive edge in the infrastructure market.
Using the GEOBIM Maturity Model, technology providers also have an opportunity to understand how their technology solution offerings are developed and identify the scope in innovation to be a game-changer in the ConTech domain to disrupt business models, bridge the physical-digital divide and enable AEC stakeholders to interact in the digital age. Many of the large technology providers, such as Esri, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, Trimble, etc., have already transitioned to providing integrated geospatial and BIM solutions via strategic mergers and acquisitions and partnerships. Thus, time is crucial for the AEC industry to imbibe GEOBIM Maturity Model as part of their digital transformation strategy.