BIM and GIS Integration - Building Information Modeling in Geographic Information Systems

January 17, 2024

A better understanding and smart management of many sets of data is fundamental for modern urban planning and construction. In order to create energy-efficient buildings and sustainable cities, planners, architects, developers, and facility managers need to understand how buildings work in a very detailed way. 

One of the critical steps to achieve that goal is a seamless integration of BIM data in Geographic Information Systems. 

BIM and GIS basics

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of creating and managing digital representations of buildings, or even entire areas. BIM models can include 3D spatial data as well as characteristics of materials and surfaces, plumbing, air conditioning, electrical grids, and even energy consumption. BIM systems are widely used by enterprises, public sector agencies, and individuals. They allow planners and designers to better understand projects as a whole and make smarter decisions to lower costs both in the construction process and during ongoing maintenance. 

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a multi-functional smart map that allows the user to gather, analyze and present any type of geographically referenced data, such as:

  • Infrastructure
  • Surface type
  • Traffic density
  • Satellite imagery
  • Electric lines
  • Demographics
  • Plans of future developments
  • and much more

In terms of compatibility with BIM data, there’s a significant issue for a large number of existing GIS platforms that possess 3D capabilities, but weren’t natively built to work in 3D; instead as a later upgrade to prior 2D GIS. That, unfortunately, comes with many legacy code issues and makes BIM integrations cumbersome or even impossible. 

Truly seamless integration is possible only with new-generation solutions, like our cloud-native GIS platform, which was natively built as a 3D environment from the start. In this case, the tool was specifically designed for easy 3D BIM implementations. Thanks to an extensive number of compatible file formats, we’re able to quickly integrate various types of BIM data into the system. You can read more about our 3D GIS tool here

Benefits of BIM+GIS integration

There are numerous reasons why BIM and GIS technologies are utilized in the modern world, but why is it so important to integrate the two technologies? 

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1. Highly detailed environmental context for designers, planners, and investors

Having a comprehensive set of information about the surrounding environment is incredibly valuable for planning, construction, and maintenance. Being able to see and factor in aspects such as existing infrastructure and geographical data makes the planning process far more informed and cost-effective. 

A combination of BIM data and GIS environment allows designers, investors, and citizens to see any project in a large spatial perspective and understand the potential impact on its surroundings. Additionally, Geographic Information Systems give stakeholders much more data to analyze commercial aspects of investments, such as population, traffic, and market competition etc. 

2. Advanced Facility Management 

Design and construction is not the only phase, where BIM software can be utilized. There’s enormous potential in Facility Management, where multiple aspects are heavily supported by BIM data. 

That may include:

  • costs optimization in terms of repairs, maintenance, and improvements
  • safety/emergency control
  • energy management
  • equipment maintenance
  • environmental/waste management
  • making better predictions in all mentioned aspects
  • better means of communication with contractors and stakeholders

BIM allows facility managers to track all relevant data about facilities and precisely analyze it on a visual model and in the form of an easy-to-read dashboard as opposed to an overflow of spreadsheets. A modern BIM model can contain data about building structure, plumbing, mechanical and electrical components, air conditioning, energy consumption, and more. Facility managers can use those sets of data to track warranties, inspection schedules, arrange repairs, replacements, or renovations. BIM helps them track historical data, understand how facilities work, and provide insights on how to improve them in the future. 

On a broader level, integration of such systems with GIS makes it easier to put all those data pieces in a geographical context and analyze the impact and environmental influence of entire areas. This broader perspective lets users improve their operations, find better process arrangements and optimize energy consumption and costs. Of course, this refers mainly to implementations and operations spread across large areas, where use of Geographic Information Systems (in addition to BIM tools) makes operational sense. 

3. Automated emergency response

Fully integrated BIM data in GIS can vastly facilitate rescue missions thanks to the automated alerts which precisely identify the location and even the cause of the incident. GIS can obtain data from surveillance cameras or smoke and heat detectors through BIM software, giving rescue teams invaluable information that can save lives. 

4. Citizen-friendly smart cities

The incredible analytic potential of BIM+GIS integrations can be fundamental for a number of significant changes in entire urban areas. They vastly improve the flow of information, productivity, reduce costs and delivery time and minimize risk of data loss and human error. All of these aspects are essential for the development of modern, energy-efficient cities. 

There’s also a significant citizen participation aspect in some countries. In Finland, for instance, investment supported with public funds has to go through a process of public consultation. GIS with BIM data gives cities and investors ready-to-go tools for user-friendly visualizations. 

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How is BIM data integrated with Geographic Information Systems?

Due to the large number of BIM tools and solutions available, the integration within GIS is rarely straightforward. More often than not, two sets of BIM data from separate systems will be quite different. There can be very little disparity in what kind of information they contain, but they have to be integrated with GIS individually due to differences in data formats. The methods of integration can be very different depending on the system and the type of data. 

Of course, once a specific type of BIM data is adapted into GIS, the process can be automated for that particular type. 

The legal aspect of BIM data

Besides the significant role of BIM data in planning and development, there’s also a crucial legal aspect. BIM data is usually treated as formal documentation for business and legal procedures. It may be analyzed and used as evidence in the court of law to identify potential violations of building codes. Additionally, in many countries, every new public investment must be planned and developed using BIM methodology. And with GIS integrations, every city official or citizen can access information about publicly-funded projects. 

Building sustainable smart cities with a data-oriented approach

The use of Building Information Modeling data is only going to increase in the future, and so will the necessity to integrate BIM in Geographic Information Systems. A fast and efficient integration, however, requires a trailblazing approach. And that’s what we, and our tool have. 

We developed our 3D GIS platform from scratch, and a seamless integration with new generation tools and technologies was our top priority. Our GIS is equipped with ready-to-go solutions for BIM integration, 5G network planning, and IoT-based Smart City implementations. 

In the past, our 2D GIS tools were implemented within the City of Helsinki and Vantaa in Finland. Currently, our advanced 3D, BIM-ready SmartMap is utilized for our newest projects, such as 3D GIS for our hometown - the City of Gdynia, Poland. 

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