Austrian Standards presented the standard ÖNORM A 6241-2 "Digital structure documentation - Part 2: Building Information modelling (BIM) - Level 3 iBIM" developed in Austria to an audience from all over Europe on 3 July 2015.
The numerous experts came, for example, from Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Hungary and Ukraine.
The new ÖNORM describes how graphic data of complex digital data models are to be structured and how intelligent building data and information can be exchanged between all the partners involved in planning.
Mandatory for public builders from 2018
In addition to those who developed the standard, many architects, construction companies, property developers, software producers and employees of standardization bodies took part in the BIM Summit Austria 2015.
Since the European Commission recommended the use of building information modelling in calls for tenders and the award of public construction contracts, the topical issue has become even more dynamic.
"If BIM becomes mandatory for public calls for tenders after the next revision of the Directive on public works contracts planned for 2016, this has to be transposed into national law within two years," explained architect Peter Kompolschek who chairs the competent committee at Austrian Standards. He added: "This means that BIM will be a mandatory technology for orders placed by public authorities from 2018 on."
At the European level, CEN/TC 442 "BIM" was set up to develop the standards needed.
No international standard
Christoph Eichler of BEHF - Corporate Architects explained in his presentation that no document comparable to the Austrian BIM standard existed at the international level to date. "ÖNORM A 6241-2 sets a standard that takes much more into account than other specifications on this topic," he was convinced.
For example, the subject of building permits was not addressed by any other standard before. The expert believed that this was a mistake because it was precisely here that key arguments in favour of BIM became evident. "When you can tell architects that the time required for obtaining permits is halved if they use BIM for planning, then it will be absolutely clear for them that they can do so," stated Eichler who described how the standard was implemented at his employer.
Potential cost savings: EUR 100 billion
Strabag has already worked with BIM for seven years. "Although the markets do not clearly demand it, we use BIM because it makes sense for our group strategy," said Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Hrvoje Petrovic of the Central Technical Division of the construction group.
The present ÖNORM was absolutely great and gave Austria a technological edge in this sector according to Petrovic. However, the construction manager believed that this advantage was at risk if it could not be introduced as a European standard at CEN.
Moreover, he deplored the lack of a BIM strategy for Austria. Other countries - such as the United Kingdom - were already one step ahead, he warned. They expected potentials for considerable cost savings in public contracts that could be tapped by BIM - up to 15% of the contract volume were assumed.
The European Commission gave a more cautious estimate of 5%, but calculated an impressive EUR 100 billion of costs that could be saved by means of BIM throughout the Union annually.
That factor was also important for Austria's Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG). The company was active in the EU BIM Task Group at the European level and set up an internal working group examining possible applications of BIM.
For Ing. Gerald Adamec, deputy head of BIG's data management, several key issues were still open, e.g. how BIM could be integrated into public procurement law or whether BIM could be optimally used based on the technology available in the market.
Technological edge thanks to ÖNORM
The BIM Summit Austria was also held to demonstrate how far developments had already progressed in Austria. Jurek Rusin of the Association for Polish BIM Standards was impressed: "I already saw several standards on this topic but none of the approaches was as good as the Viennese one. The data structure developed can be abstracted and applied to the needs of parallel structures. As a result, the ÖNORM standard can be used anywhere and would be ideally suited as the basis of a European standard."
Igor Yurasov of the Ukrainian project group Archimatika also shared that view. The project developer and manager envied Austria this BIM standard and intended to promote the numerous advantages of ÖNORM A 6241-2 - also available in English - in Ukraine. He hoped that the contents would be included as much as possible in a future European standard.
Freely accessible property server
The basis of cooperation among all the parties involved in the life cycle of a building - from the idea to planning, construction and management to demolition and waste disposal - are data models. Austrian Standards offers all users free access to a file conforming with the standard for the development of a BIM Level 2 data model.
ÖNORM A 6241-2 (Level 3) laid the foundation for a comprehensive, harmonized, product-neutral, systematized exchange of object data and related graphic information on the basis of IFC (Industrial Foundation Classes) and bSDD (buildingSmartDataDictionary).
To this effect a set of regular properties was defined that have a structure and are optimally adjusted to the regulations that are in effect in Austria. The centrepiece of the new iBIM standard is the freely accessible properties server of Austrian Standards developed by Dipl.-Ing. Rainer Breuss of the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Innsbruck and his team. This database covers both suitable construction elements and building materials and makes them available as a standardized web service.
At the BIM Summit Austria, Rainer Breuss presented the next steps in the development of the properties server: additional language versions, a clear delimitation of country-specific content and automated import of data - in a nutshell, all the features needed for international users.
"An Austrian gem"
That was welcome news for the developers of the most important CAD programs. As Gerald Faustenhammer of Graphisoft (archiCAD) put it "We - and probably all the other vendors, too - would be happy if there was a uniform standard for Europe."
Ralf Mosler of Autodesk (AutoCAD Architecture, Revit) even went one step further: "What is going on in Austria with regard to standardization - and, in particular, the properties servers - is a great opportunity, we believe." Digitization was a critical issue according to Mosler. And the construction sector needed to catch up in that respect.
The Austrian standard on building information modelling was capable of driving development in this field in Europe. "We have a real gem here in Austria," the expert is convinced. "Unfortunately, too few know about it. To tap the synergies created and strengthen the economy and competitiveness adequate funds would have to be made available as Mosler explained.
What are the next steps?
Hence, the next steps are quite obvious for Peter Kompolschek: "For the CEN/TC established at the European level, the relevant work areas need to be defined. A key topic is the properties server developed in Austria because it is the basis of international applicability. The data structure created there allows for the consideration of special national features," says the BIM expert.
To push forward internationalization, parallel country-specific structures would have to be set up. "There is great interest at the European level. ÖNORM 6241-2 provides the first concrete description for BIM that is an optimal solution for most partners," explains Kompolschek. Now, the required funding had to be secured.
Conclusion: The new standard and the properties server give Austria a considerable technological and knowledge edge in the field of building information modelling. Stakeholders from all over Europe and beyond are highly interested in implementing the Austrian standard.
If Austria wants to showcase its technological lead and prove its expertise in BIM, the country now has the opportunity to do so. This requires action and the mobilization of funds so that Austria can play a leading role in developing the European standard so that the existing leadership is also strengthened at the European level.