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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Knowing What’s Underground with GIS and BIM

February 20th, 2017 by Susan Smith

“Disruptive technology changes the face of industries, but we are also in an age of disruptive data.” – Anne Kemp

Back in November 2015 at the Bentley Year in Infrastructure event held in London, Dr. Anne Kemp, Atkins, vice chair of BuildingSMART UK, Chair of ICE’s BIM Action Group, spoke on the utility topic, “Out of Sight and Out of Mind.”

Her focus was on knowing what’s underground in the way of utilities and using BIM and GIS tools to track outcomes.

“We need to be transforming our utilities through intelligent use of BIM, digital, long overdue collaboration, and common sense,” Kemp said.

Kemp said that the launch of the UK BIM Alliance was going to help their progress at the BuildingSMART UK for feeding data about their buried utilities.

She is looking forward to better information and management through BIM.

The UK government strategy is driving improvements across construction strategy, and by 2016, all public funded projects would be requiring BIM Level 2. This has been the evolution of the UK BIM Alliance. “Did all projects transfer to BIM Level 2?” Kemp asked. “Actually, we are a bit further from that in reality. Three million people must be reached. The guys who are being affected by utility strikes are those who we need to reach.”

In 2017, the GCS transition of Task Group to L3 (BIM Level) is predicted. There is a need for industry focus and stewardship of Level 2 and to achieve 2020 “Business as usual”. “We need the foundations of BIM Level 2 to be able to realize the ambitions of Level 3,” Kemp explained. “We are providing that industry focus of moving through analog into that digital transformation, through 3D modeling and integrated real time modeling. We are working at the structured controlled data in BIM Level 2. We’ve also got to control that uncontrolled dirty data, and how do we do that?”

There is a need to think about outcomes rather than just output, said Kemp, and not just discussing 2D drawings or data (or 3D). How does data need to be delivered in order for us to do our jobs?

“We have a convergence of what is needed with BIM, and that’s where the UK BIM Alliance comes in,” said Kemp. “BIM for rail, water, survey, hospitals, has a lot of interest around this area. The UK BIM Alliance grew out of government initiatives, and we are moving to BIM level 3. We need industry to step up and demonstrate BIM Level 2.”

The initiative really had to embrace the entire industry. By setting the mandate that they must achieve BIM Level 2 by 2020, they are challenging themselves. They are being innovative and inclusive and transparent.

“We target people who need to know about this stuff,” said Kemp. “BIM Level 2 has been defined. is available and we’re here to help industry implement.”

There is BIM for infrastructure and there needs to be BIM for utilities.

What can we do from a buried utilities point of view?

What is complementary for ISOs and smart cities is working on an evolving landscape. The UK BIM Alliance is developing a taskforce on convergence with smart cities.

“Disruptive technology changes the face of industries, but we are also in an age of disruptive data,” Kemp concluded. “You have to have your people work through, understand and tailor themselves to the new processes.”

  • COBie to IFC processes
  • The BuildingSMART chair UK chapter is supporting the BIM Level 2
  • BIM enabled through to operations and maintenance
  • Not just about design and construction
  • TOTEX and total expenditure instead of operational expenditure.

The government is looking at procurement methods. The background to BIM is asset management.

Key decisions have to be made through the life of a project. You also have projects running simultaneously at different stages, so you need to be sure you have the right information, and data fed into a system users can trust.

“If we talk about intelligent mobility, we must know what’s underground, and are currently doing roadworks in a not smart way,” said Kemp. “The BIM Common Data Environment is a convergence of BIM with geospatial. It is possible to deliver 1192 with mapping and geospatial data. We’ve been doing it for some years. BIM isn’t geospatial or is it? It doesn’t matter what the technology is, it needs to be treated the same way.”

Survey4BIM committee members, Simon Navin (Ordnance Survey) and Mark Lawton (Skanska) detail the Big 5 Challenges in achieving BIM Level 2 – Accuracy, Interoperability, Level of Detail, Meta-Data & Generalisation.

While it is a major contribution to the construction industry as a whole, Building Information Modelling (BIM) in undoubtedly the biggest change that will effect the geospatial industry over the next 5 years.  However, due to the numerous sectors and specialisms involved in the industry, the implementation is dependent on collaboration between all participants and interested parties.

Contributing to the overall challenge is the fact that not all data is recognizable to the geospatial community. BuildingSMART and OGC can’t do it all on their own and this is where the UK BIM Alliance can step in and help.

Digital engineering models from Bentley help bring all information together in a secured way.

“If we are heading toward modeling asset performance, some us have been already, we are discovering problems,” said Kemp. “Assetwise is working with us around what BIM Level 2 is on the UK stage. Not being able to trust the data isn’t good enough, but BIM does give us clues of how to move forward.”

Survey4BIM recounts several challenges:

  • Legacy on paper still
  • Provenance problems out of data or missing
  • Reluctance to share. Security is fine, is that the reason people aren’t sharing?
  • Historical behavioral problems
  • Historic initiatives apathy or bias

“We are at a critical tipping point now, we have the opportunity to do it,” said Kemp. “How can we improve our buried utilities survey, and bring it together with smart cities?”

BIM4Water is an owner-operator group, BIM4Rail is another group headed up by Barry Gleason of BuildingSMART UK, who asked that people engage with the BIM utilities management team to raise awareness. This group has now worked through a process of collaboration, and people are comfortable with different media.

There are over 8,000 kms of pipeline in the UK. Compliance is mandatory and teams must use technology and follow the process develop by the UK BIM Alliance and BuildingSMART UK. They have coordinated 3D CAD representation.

“Don’t let your project be like the Edinburgh Trams 4 years overrun,” cautioned Kemp. “We can lose our common sense – how can we deliver gaming technology that will come to sensible decisions?”

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Categories: analytics, asset management, Bentley Systems, Big Data, Building Information Modeling, cloud, data, developers, geospatial, GIS, government

2 Responses to “Knowing What’s Underground with GIS and BIM”

  1. George Percivall says:

    This is a nice article highlighting the need for underground mapping and modeling.

    Also relevant is this announcement: OGC invites expertise on underground maps and models

    13 February 2017: The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC®) is requesting information from interested parties to inform a Concept Development Study (CDS) that will assess the current state and future direction of information standards for modelling, mapping, and managing underground infrastructure.

  2. geomaticslandsurveying says:

    Good article. As a technician of surveying Equipment, I have my own opinion. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have great potentials in exploring spatial relationships, but their possible in 3D representation remains somehow limited.


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