Interoperability is the capacity to allow data exchange from one information technology system to be received by another
Following this definition we could say that between all Construction software there is almost always interoperability, but if we start analyzing in detail the way in we can share elements between different platforms, certainly this will not be entirely true.
We are used to hear all the time that any exchange of information (either be data or 3D models) between platforms is called Interoperability, so we will start analyzing which actions are truly included in this definition and which aren’t.
We can appreciate clearly how compatibility and standard differ from interoperability. An example of the first one is the following:
Revit is a software of 3D modelling that belongs to a company called Autodesk, that allow us the modeling of a wide spectrum of specialties like Structural, Architectural, HVAC, Drainage, Electrical, etc. and in the other end we have Tekla, a software of the company Trimble, which is oriented specifically to the modelling of Structures.
In the Presented case above, Revit and Tekla belong to different companies, but despite of that both programs allow us to create links between one model to the other. That is why we can say both programs are compatibles to realize a task like it is the coordination of clashes, but this doesn’t mean that we can modify a Tekla model in Revit or the other way around, that is why we can only use the models as a reference and not like a collaborative effort in his maximum potential.
One example of the standards is the case of BuildingSmart, an entity who promotes a format called IFC(Industry Foundation Class), which give us the possibility to create a new digital language that allows the technology of information to freely and openly exchange data through the lifecycle to improve the construction, operation and management.
This way, even using different programs we can reach to the same results, and despite the fact that IFC is presented officially as the solution to the interoperability, it doesn’t solve the problem of the model to be compatible across multiple platforms.
That major achievement of Interoperability will be real when we are able not only to exchange information between programs, but also to be capable of making modifications to that model in a different platforms and finally return that model to our initial software and continue working as it nothing have happened.
It is true that currently there have been great progresses on the collaborative way of working between different platforms and there have even been made agreements of collaboration between companies like Trimble and Autodesk, however the possibility of being able to work with models across platforms simultaneously is something that today is really far of being a reality in the BIM industry.
In the sequence above we can appreciate the different levels of compatibility before reaching the point where there is a fully Interoperability.
So we think of the ideal way of working as an Unicorn, as it is something that we desire but we don’t think is going to be real, at least not in a short term.
The truth behind this is that the absence of this ideal situation results not only on an excess of time in the projects but it is also a barrier for collaboration, which is one of the main pillars of BIM Methodologies and also a critical necessity in the Construction industry nowadays.
Good news are, without taking into account the fact that we have not reached the “Unicorn” yet, in the current market there are more solutions every day that allow us to create dynamic links between different programs, among others we can name some of them like:
This developments like Dynamo, Generative Components, Google Flux, Grasshopper or BIM 360, allow us not only to make a dynamic exchange between all platforms, but also to add more value to the information that we exchange through actions like analysis, monitoring, modification, data visualization, process improvement, etc. We can say tahat all this workflows are currently leading us into a shift of paradigm.
At the time our industry is still trying to get used to work with BIM, but at the same time this tools are allowing us to generate workflows that would not have been possible with standard software, giving us the possibility to maximize the potential of our project to a point the we would not have imagined just a couple of years ago.
It is important to highlight that this new world of possibilities, that is currently rising, is not only allowing us to improve our workflows but also to innovate and generate solutions that can be adapted to our specific requirements.
So in the end we can be the resposibles for the innovation and development of the technology that we are using for our design/construction processes.