Interoperability refers to the ability of two separate systems or software programs to communicate and exchange data with each other. Open Standards such as IFC and CIS/2 facilitate interoperability, but proprietary exchanges can also support interoperability between two specific programs.
Exchanging models and other data between different software platforms remains one of the industry's biggest challenges on the way to fully integrated and collaborative project teams. There are many efforts under way to establish standards, protocols and best practices across the entire construction industry and AISC is closely involved in most of them.
To assess potential cost savings by using interoperability, a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2004 took the value of capital facilities set in place using (then) current business practices and compared those costs with a "hypothetical and counterfactual scenario in which electronic data exchange, management, and access are fluid and seamless":
|We're a long way from the implication illustrated in the report that "information need only be entered into electronic systems once, and then it is available to all stakeholders instantaneously through information technology networks on an as-needed basis". Even so, the report suggests that even an incremental improvement has potential for massive savings, albeit primarily for owners and operators.|
|Interoperability in Isolation?|
Interoperability is a fundamental requirement as we progress to more projects being built using a BIM. However, it cannot be taken in isolation. Even if seamless interoperability was possible between the many software platforms our industry uses, there are many other issues that also need to be tackled before it could be taken advantage of, not the least of which are legal and contractual issues.
|buildingSMARTalliance™ and the National BIM Standard
The buildingSMARTalliance™ operates within the independent nonprofit National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). This public/private initiative expands on goals of the North American Chapter of the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI-NA), whose Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs) have initiated open standards for national and international links among industry players. It provides developers and users of Building Information Models (BIMs), the digital tools that are increasingly helping to share highly accurate information throughout a facility's life cycle. The principle product of the buildingSMARTalliance is the National BIM Standard (NBIMS).
Data Exchange Protocols and Methods
IFC - Industry Foundation Classes
The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) specification is a neutral data format that is used to describe, exchange and share information typically used within the building and facility management industry sector. The IFC specification is copyrighted, and continuously developed and maintained by buildingSMART international, (formally known as International Alliance for Interoperability, IAI).
IFC is an open, neutral file format with a broad focus that aspires to (but does not yet) cover every aspect of design, procurement, manufacture and assembly and, operations and maintenance. AISC is actively engaged with assisting development of IFC to support structural steel project information.
CIS/2 - CIMSteel Integation Standards
The CIMSteel Integration Standard (CIS/2) is an electronic data exchange file format for structural steel project information. CIS/2 facilitates data exchange through seemingly stand-alone programs, such as structural analysis, CAD and detailing systems by allowing them to communicate with each other. By providing a neutral data format, CIS/2 allows data exchange between a variety of program types—as long as these programs have translators written to interpret the CIS/2 neutral data into the programs’ native format.
CIS/2 is focused entirely on exchanging data related to the structural steel model and remains the most comprehensive and capable translator available. AISC adopted and endorsed CIS/2 more than ten years ago securing the steel industry's place as a leader in this area and driving the issues of interoperability, BIM, Design-Build and other collaborative processes aggressivley forward.
|Proprietary links are data exchanges created for a specific reason between two software packages. They are a direct link from one software to one other software and will not work with any other systems or for any other purpose. Often they are created for a particular project, or for a particular client. The data exchanged is generally of high quality since no outside consideration or scenario needs to be taken into account. In many cases, direct links are based on Open Standards such as CIS/2 or IFC, and expanded to suit the data set required for the client/project/exchange.|
AISC Technology Integration Committee mission:
"Integrate Technology to Revolutionize the Structural Steel Supply Chain"
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