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The Missing Link between BIM & GIS in Construction

Published Nov 11, 2020 – By Mohammad Hammoud

The last decade has seen BIM (Building Information Modelling) and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) become widely adopted tools across the engineering and construction industry. Both enable people, technology, and processes to deliver improvements in project delivery.

While BIM is known as the digital representation of a facility’s physical and functional models, by including information in three dimensions (3D) and integrating information required for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) projects, GIS looks at the positioning of structures in relation to their surroundings. It is used to manage and analyze spatial data, focusing more on real world modeling.

While the roles of BIM and GIS can be complementary, the AEC industry hasn’t yet widely adopted a method for truly consolidating the power of both technologies.

Why BIM in construction?

Briefly, BIM improves collaboration while reducing errors. For instance, construction documentation can be produced automatically, workflows can be accelerated immensely, and 3D building models can be created and shared, which widens the accessibility of the data and enables non-specialists to engage and edit building designs.

Construction BIM

Image courtesy of STW Architects

This 3D modelling has brought tremendous improvements to design and construction. It provides freedom to experiment ideas digitally before committing project money. Architects are able to experiment with new materials and push the pragmatic limits of design without risking the physical construction.

Why GIS in Construction?

GIS can link project activities on sites with 3D drawings to provide better visualization of actual construction progress. It is designed to integrate, manage, and analyze spatial and non-spatial information, related to real-world assets, such as buildings and infrastructure. Most, if not all, of new constructions, renovations, real estate management, infrastructure maintenance and environmental plans are based on GIS.

While BIM is best suited to managing data related to the buildings themselves, GIS is more applicable for everything outside and around the buildings. BIM and GIS are therefore very different.

But is there an efficient way to overlap both technologies? And what would the connection look like between the two?

The missing link

Imagine how much simpler it would be if site workers could simply draw a red mark on the spot where a pipe should go; or if they could quickly locate existing underground infrastructure assets (water/electrical pipes, fiber cables) to avoid damaging or obstructing them.

Augmented Reality (AR) has the potential to transform the way people work on construction sites, and could be the “next big thing” in the AEC industry. AR provides a user-friendly means of zooming in and out while looking at BIM and GIS models, making it really easy to observe any mismatches between model and reality. This could provide “the missing link” between BIM models and GIS reality.

vGIS Construction AR

Image courtesy of vGIS

AR applications can be used to visualize BIM data, enabling users to introduce any missing objects, correct errors in the model or address the mismatches for further investigation. This will result in many benefits:

vGIS AR

Image courtesy of vGIS

In summary, construction sites can’t be managed without information – the more readily available that information is, the better it is for all involved with the project. AR is set to bridge the gap between BIM and GIS by bringing together the physical and virtual space onsite.

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Mohammad Hammoud

Product and Account Manager

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