At Catenda, we spend time developing open standards in buildingSMART, so you can grow your business.
It is important for Catenda to make sure our products support the relevant international open standards (Industry Foundation Classes IFC and BIM Collaboration Format BCF). This is what is best for our users. The long term value of open standards is obvious. Data does not get lost. The short term value depends on the benefits of using our solutions, , of course, but one clear immediate value is neutrality.
The BCF – BIM Collaboration Format
The BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) is a very interesting standard from buildingSMART International. It solves the communication challenge in our industry in an ingenious way and is incredibly simple. The complex problem of trying to address a design challenge between two or more trades, involving complicated geometry, is solved by simply sending a camera position and a list of objects involved.
For example: There is an issue with a ventilation duct around a load carrying column above the ceiling in a tight space. The ventilation experts can simply position themselves in the 3D model so the challenge is clearly visible. Then, they click on the objects in conflict, say the structural column, the relevant section of the ventilation duct and some electrical cable trays and capture this information, by clicking on a button. They can now annotate the image representing the view from the camera position and suggest potential solutions through arrows, doodles and red lines. All of this can be transmitted to the other designers via BCF, the open international standard. The recipient gets an image clearly identifying the challenge, some text further elaborating the issue, a list of objects in the conflict and a camera position so they can further study the problem in their own software of choice.
Catenda Hub, the open CDE
In Catenda’s open Common Data Environment (CDE), Catenda Hub (previously Bimsync), the users can navigate the 3D model to the challenging spot, then fine tune their camera position to better visualize the conflict. They can turn objects on or off to improve the clarity of the message, mark the relevant objects, even in models from different trades, and capture the whole setup. In addition, the project team members can now annotate the image representing the view of the camera position, highlighting key areas and further explaining with arrows and redlines. Finally, there is room to add some text to further explain what the issue is all about. All of this can be classified as a certain type of issue, (e.g. “Urgent”) and marked with the current status, (e.g. “Open”). It is also possible to assign this to the project member who should be responsible for moving this issue to the next step. In Catenda’s open CDE, all of this is very easy to do, and supercharges the communication needed in any project, with clarity, transparency, and efficiency.
All this data, the list of objects, the camera position, the image, the type of issue, its status and who owns it, can now be transmitted to any other software on the planet that supports this open international standard, BCF. Catenda has also developed several plugins, as the BCF functionality is surprisingly still not standard with all the relevant tools in our industry, such as authoring tools like ArchiCAD or Revit. However, with the Catenda plugins, an architect working in ArchiCAD can seamlessly open the issue and with one click have the model view in her favorite software change to the same camera position as was created in Catenda’s platform. The open standard allows all the data we set up to be seamlessly transported into another software environment, without the user even thinking about it. This improves efficiencies of workflows, and massively improves on the necessary communication.
Catenda Hub (previously Bimsync), the open CDE made by Catenda, can then act as a neutral conduit for data, in particular, communication data that improves clarity and provides traceability of design collaboration decisions.
As a user who stands to benefit from this type of frictionless communication enhancement, push your favorite software vendor to support the standard. It is incredible that big software vendors behind products like ArchiCAD and Revit have not yet put effort into providing native support for BCF in their authoring tools. It is as if they do not understand the complex communication environment their users are experiencing.
Another example with a huge potential is all the different types of apps used on site. Imagine a world where the General Contractor brings his favorite platform to the project and allows all the Sub Contractors to bring their favorite app to the site, and it still would be traceable, clear and seamless communication between all parties! BCF from buildingSMART can do that. But it will require all the apps and platforms to seriously support the open international standard. And, for all these vendors to do that, it will need pressure, hard pressure, from users like you.
There is even more to come from this standard. As buildingSMART International is moving along with the rest of the world to more API based data exchanges, the BCF API has already seen some changes being made. For example, the new additions are called open CDE API, allowing different kinds of open Common Data Environments to communicate freely with each other.
Catenda spends a significant amount of time contributing to this open API development to further improve the international buildingSMART standards. Why? Because we believe it is best to lead by example, and for the benefit of the entire industry.
As we help grow the standards, you can enjoy your own growth together with ours.
Håvard Brekke Bell, CSO at Catenda.