Revit Plug-in Allows BIG Data Sharing

October 28th, 2011

Owners of large projects and real property portfolios are successfully using BIMXML to load data from Revit models into a web-based “Cloud BIM” application for sharing facility information across their entire enterprise

While Big Data challenges confront all large BIM projects and large portfolio owners, some Autodesk® Revit® users have successfully employed an elegantly simple Revit plug-in that uses Building Information Model Extensible Markup Language (BIMXML) to assist data sharing.

This data sharing process has contributed to the success of numerous award-winning projects for entities including the Department of Homeland Security, the US Army, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, General Services Administration, California Community Colleges, and others.

BIMXML employs a plug-in that capitalizes on the data captured in the Revit model and allows further lifecycle data management. Data generated from the start of a project is made available throughout the design, estimating, construction, commissioning, operations, and maintenance phases. It uses accepted and proven Big Data management standards and processes.

The Revit ONUMA plug-in employs BIMSML to improve Revit data sharing.

In an August 17, 2011 presentation to the Los Angeles Revit Users Group, Kimon Onuma, FAIA, creator of the BIMXML plug-in, said you do not need to know BIMXML coding to gain significant business improvements.  “Just like with Expedia, you can access multiple databases using different hardware and software and you don't know what the code is that allows you to select a flight, rental car, and hotel room. You just go on the Internet and use Expedia to help you make real time decisions,” said Onuma, president of ONUMA, Inc. (See presentation video at: http://vimeo.com/27892826).

The BIMXML plug-in allows Revit models to be loaded with meaningful data and basic geometry from SketchUp, ArchiCAD, Bentley products, ArcGIS, Google Earth, and other software compatible with basic Extensible Markup Language (XML) standard code. The BIMXML plug-in to Revit and other programs comes with ONUMA System web-based software. Student versions are available for free.

Because the plug-in also assists Revit users in exporting Excel, COBIE (Construction Operation Building Information Exchange) and other standardized data management systems, building information is “future protected” and can be used in applications that do not yet exist.

Using about 200 lines of code, BIMXML defines a “parent” data model at five basic levels of detail: object, room, building, site, and portfolio. While all data sharing starts with five defined levels, a “child” data model can inherit an almost infinite amount of detail for objects, rooms, buildings, sites, and portfolios. The ability to add data fields in these five overall levels, almost forever, allows this coding format to share data with a wide variety of BIM, GIS, CMMS, and other programs from independent software vendors.

The Los Angeles Mission College East Campus project is one of 5,000 building information models that were created for the California Community College's 71 million square foot portfolio.

For example, California Community Colleges put its 71 million square feet of buildings into BIM, which are then accessible to Revit. In the Spring 2011, more than 5,000 blocking models were landed in their correct geospatial location by combining data from the CCC Fusion data system with GIS and BIM. The California Community College's existing facilities database is structured to allow sharing information on the web to improve business processes and save money. They structured their data for live linkage to ONUMA System software that can generate simple geometries and assist BIMXL data sharing with many programs, including Revit, SketchUp, and Google Earth in real time.

The General Services Administration is using the Revit ONUMA plug-in to help create a COBIE spreadsheet of equipment and other facilities products for use in commissioning, operations, and maintenance.

“Pankow Builders is using Revit and other tools for design/build. How are they going to deliver that to the Los Angeles Community College District?” asked Onuma, knowing that part of the answer is to use the BIMXML plug-in to allow data transfer among numerous programs.

“There is a lot of valuable data in that Revit model. If you don't capture it before the project is done, it is called data rot. Data starts to rot when you don't store it correctly,” said Onuma.

“So what we are doing for LACCD, GSA, and others is literally asking the facilities group 'What do you need for preventive maintenance?' Using BIMXML plug-in and other tools, the data is mapped from the Revit model and a data transfer specification is created to support the project mission.”

California Community Colleges was shown how to test for the best live web service opportunities using Revit models, BIMXML, and other web services. For example, Onuma has taken a Revit model imported into the web-based ONUMA System and linked with other web-based standards to allow remote control of lights. During the LARUG presentation, Onuma showed a real-time video of a room where he turned off a light from the presentation.

Other features of the Revit BIMXML plug-in are being used for other large portfolios. Onuma explained how the US Coast Guard has 33 million square feet of space in its portfolio. The portfolio is represented in a low-level-of-detail building information model that was placed on Google Earth with the help of BIMXML. Some of these low-level-of-detail models contributed to the creation of Revit models for the US Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut.

Big project planning and individual building projects have benefited from BIMXML data sharing processes occurring behind the scenes as facilities staff follow best practice, web-based building industry communication. “For the consensus approval of a specialized teaching facility, the proposed building was modeled in Revit and georeferenced in Google Earth at a variety of heights,” said Onuma. ONUMA, Inc. is providing access to the BIMXML code for others to use for free.

The light in the corner of the room was remotely turned off by LARUG presenter Kimon Onuma, FAIA, who used real-time data sharing assisted by BIMXML to toggle a dimmer switch from on to off. This part of the presentation occurs at the 1:14 mark in the video of the LARUG presentation at http://vimeo.com/27892826

Many people could clearly understand the height of the building related to different foundation costs for the foundation to be dug into the site. Such transparent 3D visuals related to specific sites and project planning tasks dramatically improves the ability to achieve mission success.

For the General Services Administration, organizing information in COBIE (Construction-Operations Building Information Exchange) is a critical mission for existing projects. COBIE compliance is a critical mission for projects in New Jersey and Puerto Rico.

COBIE is a simple spreadsheet input format with a “flat' data model tied to the complex and comprehensive Industry Foundation Classes data model to collect and extract BIM hand-over data for reuse. Because COBIE uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) to help with building industry data sharing on the web, it can also share data with the ONUMA System.

Once in the ONUMA System software, the COBIE data can be given simple geometries and be placed on Google Earth. Changes can be made based on this simple data and then exported to Revit with behind-the-scenes assistance from BIMXML plug-ins.

“So we identified how to format a schedule of equipment  to deliver data to GSA that would feed into the COBIE format and maps to the Revit model,” Onuma said. “The Revit model basically becomes infrastructure that we can use to point to things and say, 'Here is the idea of an object' or 'Here is data or the warranty information or the PDF that goes with that piece of equipment.'”

Data can also be visualized using simple geometries to represent objects, rooms, floors, buildings, campuses, and portfolios.

“For the GSA we were able give simple forms to COBIE data and get that data into Revit safely to jump start all the detailed design process,” said Onuma. “We can also make sure the data from design and construction phases gets back into COBIE for use in commissioning, operations and maintenance.”

With three GSA design/build projects already contracted as design/build, the ONUMA team was added to help adjust the BIM deliverable to support facilities management. With each project at about 500,000 square feet of space, there is a lot of facilities data to manage.

For owners with many facilities to manage, rethinking the Revit model as a data warehouse and BIM Cloud has been a benefit when properly structuring data transfer with assistance of BIMXML.

Gain more information from 100 videos by searching for “Onuma” at  www.vimeo.com

Robert (Bob) Smith, PhD, Professor Emeritus California State University, is currently a member of the Huntington Beach, California, USA Environmental Board as he pursues applications of advanced technology and business processes in the built environment and related industries. With a PhD in Information Systems and an interest in Marine Biology, Smith brings organic systems thought to practical business applications.

Michael Bordenaro has written about the building industry and technology for 25 years, after obtaining a degree in Architectural History. He has focused on the historic impact of BIM on the building industry for the last decade.

As BIM Education Co-op co-founders, Smith and Bordenaro write and make presentations about the complex implications of BIM and how to approach BIM implementation in a comprehensible and orderly manner. They have also written on BIMXML for the Journal of BIM Fall 2011 issue.

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