I’m just back from two days of mind stretching in Redlands at the 2nd ever GeoDesign Summit. I wasn’t at the first summit, and consequently didn’t know quite what to expect from this interesting gathering of GIS and “Design” academics and practitioners. So, allow me to share what I learned at GeoDesign, not least of which is that BIM / GIS data exchange is a major concern for many of the people who came to this show. BIM<->GIS data exchange at GeoDesign 2011

First off, what exactly is “geodesign”. I thought Michael Goodchild’s definition on the first day of the summit worked well for me: “GIS is about what is. Geodesign is about what could be (or what will be).” I agree with James that a big chunk of this seems to me to have been going on for quite some time. The idea of using GIS technology to play what-if scenarios to help make better decisions is certainly not new, but perhaps the instant availability of basemaps (be they OSM, Google, Bing, or ESRI Community) and, as Autodesk refers to it, the infinite computing of the cloud (or even the substantial computing of today’s desktop or even palmtop) are combining with ever more sophisticated software to host models that make it reasonable to explore the impacts of potential designs in seconds.

Matthew Palavido’s talk on “What Makes a Plan Inherently More Sustainable than Another” illustrated this by showing how a set of models could ultimately assign a single “goodness” value to a design based on waiting characteristics like accessibility, distance to parks, etc, etc. If one can numerically evaluate a design, then the next step seems to me to harness that infinite computing and have computers generate a massive number of alternatives and pick the best ones from that…but that might just be crazy talk.

BIM / GIS Data Exchange
But from a practical point of view, I was there to see where and how our products could play a role in facilitating the kinds of work under the #geodesign umbrella. Whatever definition you choose, GeoDesign needs data. Of course, we’ve been working for years to remove format and data model barriers within the GIS and CAD spheres of influence, but at least some GeoDesign scenarios require a form of dialog between the GIS and BIM worlds. The main takeaway for me from the BIM and GIS Integration IdeaLab session (thanks Matt for the great summary) was that the problem is huge and open ended, but yet there are concrete problems begging for solutions that we might already have most, if not all of the pieces in order to solve.

I came home from the conference convinced that our intention to refocus our efforts on the BIM to/from GIS data exchange problem over the next year is on target. We’ve been working to facilitate this for several years now, and the GeoDesign Summit provided a few more concrete scenarios for us to attack (complete with some pleas from some of the attendees).

Would exchanging data between GIS and BIM help your work go more smoothly? If it would, what is holding you back now? Leave me a comment, give me a kick, and I promise to see what I can do.

About Data BIM GeoDesign GIS

Dale Lutz

Dale is the co-founder and VP of Development at Safe Software. After starting his career working spatial data (ranging from icebergs to forest stands) for many years, he and other co-founder, Don Murray, realized the need for a data integration platform like FME. His favourite TV show is Star Trek, which inspired the names for most of the meeting rooms and common areas in the Safe Software office. Dale is always looking to learn more about the data industry and FME users. Find him on Twitter to learn more about what his recent discoveries are!


7 Responses to “GeoDesign 2011: A Good Kick in the BIM”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matt Ball. Matt Ball said: RT @daleatsafe Thoughts on #geodesign http://bit.ly/fNKLQz — we've got interesting work ahead! Got any BIM <-> GIS scenarios? Add… […]

  2. Theresa Thompson says:

    I understand how to import out of BIM (Specifically Revit .rvt) to IFC and then use ArcGIS Interoperability extension to import IFC into ArcGIS/SDE. I don’t see how I can then export this back out to IFC or ideally Revit .rvt. How can one plan to get a complete workflow from BIM to GIS round-tripped? We would like to explore using the GIS for campus-wide 3D building models based on Revit models that at a minimum have floors and rooms and use this for campus-wide planning. BIM is generally building-centric and therefore we would tend to turn to GIS for campus-wide planning/analysis and the ease of doing this. I can’t figure out how to get these two environments to talk to each other except through IFC export which is fairly static. Does Safe Software have plans to help in this area in FME or the interoperability extension?

  3. Dale Lutz says:

    Hi Theresa,

    Just this past week at the FedUC the roundtripping idea for “slim BIMs” was discussed as well, and I’m in discussions with some other customers around this too. Currently, the only potential way for doing this is via IFC, which does have shortcomings, and even there FME doesn’t currently write to IFC. Out of curiosity, what would you want to be sending back from the GIS to the Revit models that wasn’t in those models to begin with?

    We are noticing a definite increase of interest in this area and would definitely like to further the discussion with you. Please drop me an email at dale.lutz AT safe.com and we can look more closely at your potential use cases and how they fit with some others we’re in discussions with currently.


  4. Pat Wallis says:


    for one, if you manage multiple facilities at multiple sites, you’ll find that after the FM handover and that with FMs at different management echelons, the need to change/update non-geometric attributes becomes key. Changes in space assignment, changes in use, changes to occupancy, changes in the assessed functionality of the space and applicable maintenance due lists. Many changes like this roll from the top down. Regardless, it does seem baffling that nearly 7 years on looking at this problem that this has not been tackled. Really, if I have a pool of COBIE data with GUIDs and established relationships b/n the database objects, I can conceivably push/pull data from my enterprise data stores back to my GIS and BIM simultaneously. Vendors need to keep in mind the data needs for the different echelons of FMs out there. At an FEs level, maybe the first thing I refer to is my BIM, as a regional FM perhaps you first open up an ArcGIS mxd file to view the sites you’re responsible for, and if you’re at HQ you probably query a Database that aggregates information from those other levels. Regardless, at each level data is created–and that data needs to be shared. At my level, looking at tens of thousands of facilities, opening hundreds and thousands of BIM files individually to change a units name is a non-starter. Reducing duplication of data entry is key.



    Patrick Wallis, GISP, AICP

  5. Dale Lutz says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Your use cases are very interesting and do highlight the fact that the real value (and cost!) of a complete model is for the time after the original build. Creating systems that provide for easy maintenance of such models, as well as a variety of different views on those models, does seem like the challenge of our time. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the next few years.

    Thanks for the comment.


  6. […] D. (2011) GeoDesign 2011: A Good Kick in the BIM. It’s All About Data blog, 11 January […]

  7. […] BIM versus GIS Debate”. We’ve been thinking about how these two universes can co-exist for some time at Safe, and so I was very interested to see what the mix of Spatial Sustain’s Matt Ball (as […]

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