openBIM workflow flowchart explaining connections between steps

Five Good Reasons to Use Open BIM


Using an openBIM strategy will improve interoperability and collaboration in your project workflows and throughout the life cycle of your assets. This will lead to a much more sustainable business. Here are five reasons why.

It is clear that using BIM (Building Information Modeling) workflows in design collaboration improves the overall performance of the project and the quality of the deliverables, compared to traditional 2D-based coordination. An openBIM-based approach, as opposed to a closed BIM-based approach, allows the data to flow more efficiently between stakeholders, reduce misunderstandings, and improve the speed of collaboration.


First: Open vs Closed

A “closed BIM” approach, typically trusts one supplier with all the software tools needed to coordinate the design and ensure efficient communication between the collaborators. In such a closed ecosystem of software, there is no need to think about open standardized formats to share data, everything is sorted out by the supplier.

With an openBIM approach, any good software tool can be used, as data is shared seamlessly between the different vendor systems using open international standards. There is no need to worry about software versions. There is no need to limit the choice of tools to one vendor. The project destiny is not dependent on a single vendor.


Reason 1: Guaranteed Access to Data

With openBIM, your data lives on open standards, like, IFC (Industry Foundation Classes), BIM Collaboration Format (BCF), and others, guaranteeing access to your data, anytime. The format in which your data is stored is not a secret format known only to one vendor or a select few. openBIM formats have been made public so that you may read and understand the information you own.

See article: IFC, the main ingredient of openBIM.

Many organizations have learned this the hard way. For example, an entire oil platform in the North Sea was designed entirely with proprietary tools, and data was stored safely in the owner’s controlled data center. However, after only 5 years, when the platform needed some updates, there were no tools on the market that could read the 5-year-old files. The vendor had decided that it was not in their business interest to support those old files. An entire model of the oil platform was lost and had to be built again, from scratch. The story does not say if they used an open international standard to store the model this time.

With openBIM, the worst-case scenario is that no existing tool can read your data, but since the format is published, you can pay someone to write a tool to read the valuable data for you. In other words, you are guaranteed access to your data. Anytime.


Reason 2: More Innovative Tools

When data is moved on open standards, formats that anyone can read, innovation starts to happen, in particular, if the industry is large enough. And that is true in spades for the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Operations (AECO) Industry. Just look at what happened with the Internet. All data is moved through open standard-based protocols and every single web page is stored in an open standard format called HTML. Google would not exist without open standards and data in open formats. Because all data was written in open standards-based formats, they could just read everything accessible and organize it for us. And Google is only a small representation of all the innovation that was allowed to blossom because the Internet was built on open standards.

Imagine having all the interesting data related to the lifecycle of any built asset, flow freely on open formats! It will unleash an unimaginable flow of innovative tools that could accelerate our industry’s push to become sustainable.

When choosing tools that commit to the openBIM approach, the tools will tend to be more innovative and have smarter support for your workflows.


Reason 3: High Degree of Resiliency

If your project is dependent on one vendor to complete, you are increasing the overall risk of the project. Comparing that to a project that can use several different tools from different vendors and still complete in good time, it becomes clear which project has the lowest risk factor.

Allowing each step in your design collaboration process to be supported by several software tools, will increase your choice in designers and vendors to choose from. It will give you flexibility in terms of what to use when, and improve the overall resilience of the project.

Any major incidents involving one of the designers or one of the software vendors would not derail an openBIM project.


Reason 4: Much Better Security

When openBIM workflows are used, data lives on open standards-based formats. As we learned above, this guarantees access to your data. There is another benefit that comes with this approach: Much better security.

A vendor that builds a design tool, but chooses to store your data in their own proprietary format, has no transparency on the data stored. For example, at least one older version of Word stored the entire editing history of the file in their proprietary Doc format. This was unknown to most users until someone discovered a social security number they should not have access to, in their document. The writer had used another document, copied it, deleted the old social security number and replaced it with the correct one, saved the file, thinking that the old social security number was gone forever. This caused massive information leakage and forced Microsoft to change their format.

This will not happen with an open standards-based format, as everything is transparent. You know exactly what goes into that file. So if you have several iterations of your building, and some of those edits contain data you do not want anyone else to see, make sure you use IFC, for example, to store that model data.

An openBIM-based strategy, choosing to use open international standards as much as you can during the life cycle of your built asset, ensures better security and control of your data, reducing the overall risk of your project.

Reason 5: Flexible Future Proofing

With openBIM you actually have a choice of vendors and software tools. And the likelihood of getting more innovative software is higher. This is also a good way of future-proofing your business and workflows. Closed systems will lag behind and take away any flexibility you have to innovate on your own workflows to the extent that the workflows and processes are improved and developed. 

Usually, when a new technology is introduced, the tech-savvy people, those who love to explore new stuff, take advantage of the new tools in their day-to-day workflows. The early adopters see an interesting advantage for their own or their team’s tasks. However, once a technology has matured, like BIM, the CIO’s, CEO’s and COO’s start to understand the benefit for the entire business. They view the technology as an enabler for their entire business, not just a few workflows for a few teams. This is also where the gains start to build up. At this level, trusting a closed system becomes a larger risk, as the organization as a whole, would like to keep its flexibility and access to new and innovative technology. openBIM is thus the natural next step for these companies in the Real Estate Industry, as BIM is no more about tools for technicians, but essential data for the entire enterprise and their stakeholders.

openBIM makes absolute sustainable business sense. Anything else is actually a bigger risk.



Let’s talk together about your project and Catenda Hub (previously Bimsync)!

Håvard Bell, CSO at Catenda