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October 30, 2019 by AGACAD

Structuring data – classifying it – is key to unlocking the full value of BIM. It’s about clearly communicating design intent in order to more accurately budget, plan and build an asset (and then more efficiently manage it over its lifetime). Without classification, data is easily misunderstood and sometimes just not usable. Well-classified data has increasing value.


In the past the classification of building information was both less important and more difficult. It cost a lot of time and effort but often yielded little value. That has changed. Classification is becoming ever more important. More valuable. And easier.

Projects today generate more data. And AEC increasingly relies on that data to automate processes, make better decisions and operate devices. Look at all the add-ons for Revit and other platforms, the CNC machines, robots and VR/AR devices. The Internet of Things.

Moreover, the teams that undertake building projects are becoming more complex. Architects and engineers are creating models for use by cost estimators, consultants, contractors, fabricators and so on in multiple other organizations and countries.

In each case, all the actors – people, software, equipment – need a common language, an agreed-upon data structure. It could be international standards. Or national classification systems. Or custom ones. That depends on the project. But if BIM managers don’t decide on classifications and model creators don’t implement them, everyone suffers. In fact today many projects do suffer from mistakes and delays due to a lack of classification. Instead of a valuable “common data environment” they have a costly “chaotic data environment”.

We’re talking about effective data exchange. Harmonization. Interoperability.

So what’s the value created by classifying BIM data?

  • Clarity: Project participants can quickly find and understand the data they need
  • Integration: Systems, machines, devices can automatically access and process data
  • Efficiency: Owners can aggregate costs, other data in multi-asset management tools
  • Competition: Public and private procurement become more open and transparent

In terms of the falling costs of classifying data, classification management tools are now emerging that really do simplify life.

For example, there's Smart Browser, BIM software that puts batch Revit parameter management and quick family browsing at the fingertips of offices of any size, from a single user to teams of hundreds.

Practically speaking, Smart Browser helps BIM actors find content quickly, ensures consistency across projects and teams, and makes sure the same and latest versions of content are being used, all of which boost reliability and quality assurance. As Space Zero, one of our clients, says of Smart Browser, "The time and money this saves is immense. Not only could we now change the entire library quickly, we could also eradicate errors in it with ease. Any incorrectly named families can easily be seen, as can the state of parameters." Read more about Space Zero's experience using Smart Browser.

AGACAD's Eve Leliuge has worked with Smart Browser quite a lot over the past three years, from training clients and helping them implement it in their workflow to determining with our development team how the software could be further improved. In her words:

"With software as powerful as Smart Browser, time-saving and error prevention go without saying. Where Smart Browser has an even deeper impact is its potential to free you up to be creative and figure out the best ways to accomplish tedious yet crucial tasks. It taps into human creativity and our need for variety in order to stay productive. Because when you know that you’re working efficiently, when you know you’re accomplishing monotonous technical work in a few minutes that used to take weeks, you're freed up to be more productive in other work that requires actual creativity. Smart Browser doesn’t end with saving time and preventing errors – that’s where it begins. It’s kind of a launch pad aimed at reaching the best BIM quality possible."

Smart Browser deals not only with content management but can be used to classify a library of Revit families. For a comparison of existing, popular classification systems and the logic behind them, check out AGACAD CEO Donatas Aksomitas' 4-part series comparing classification systems over at his blog BIMAXON.

In his extensive writings about building information technologies, Donatas has developed a compelling vision about how BIM can be better applied in the AEC industry. His over-arching line of thought boils down to this:

“It’s often said the ‘I’ in BIM is ‘big’ since information is the key to everything in this field. Fair enough. But in today’s big-data world there’s a risk of overload – too much information, much of it with no use or value, clogging our heads and IT systems and slowing our work. That’s why I'm a fan of 'BIM with a little i' – ways to eliminate unneeded information and to make data exchange more efficient, more precise and more timely. Reducing information to what we really need. Getting straight to the point in BIM models and processes.“

What AGACAD brings to the table for BIM Classification is BIMAXON, a new-generation BIM platform that is essentially a common data environment for a building. It's purpose? Effective communication and collaboration among all BIM actors.

We'd be thrilled to show you Smart Browser and BIMAXON at our booth (AE452) at Autodesk University.

Top photo courtesy of Philipp Birmes from Pexels.

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