BIM Building Design software: open source versus closed ?

BIM and IFC: an opportunity for new innovative players (open source type) to enter the Building design software environment market OR a strengthening of the major players position? (closed source type?)
, Building Information Modeling: the concept
, Industry Foundation Classes: the standard

High Performance Buildings

High Performance Buildings

above picture from US National Institute of Building Science

The question is: In order to improve building performance, the building market is today requesting more collaboration between the different building disciplines and especially at the design phase.

The proposed answer at software level is a concept BIM + a standard IFC:

BIM (Building Information Modelling): the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle at the software level.

IFC(Industry Foundation Classes) the associated  standardization led by BuildingSMART (International Alliance for Interoperability) aims at insuring software inter operability.

the design software impacted are: (see picture below)

  • dealing with architecture, civil engineering, structure engineering, mechanical, electrical, plumbing
  • from a 3D design, schedule, pricing, analysis& simulation point of view
BIM Building design software concept

BIM Building design software concept

Who are the players today on the market?

  • The major players:  Autodesk, Bentley, Netmetsheck propose a comprehensive BIM software offer covering all the building disciplines (sometime with partnership with other software providers such as Dialux for lighting design). There is a high inter operability between the software products of their own range. This communication capability goes beyond what is today supported by IFC, and especially in areas where IFC standardization is today weak such as Electrical. This allows them to bring to their users all the benefits of BIM.
  • On the opposite, other players propose software which are focused on one discipline(Example: CLIMAWIN in France focused on thermal calculation). They offer IFC import/export to communicate with other software . So their communication capability with other software is at the level of IFC definition and so poor in some domain

My conclusion so far,  is that these 2 scenarios are equally probable for the coming years:

  • IFC standardization can’t reach a satisfying level and the building market request of more collaboration between the software players is going to strengthen the major players position (because they are the only one to be able to propose a comprehensive offer).
  • IFC standardization succeed and anyone can propose added value software on a limited perimeter but able to interface efficiently with any other IFC software. This will be an opportunity for new innovative players to enter the market.

any other opinions are welcome..

Martine Pauletto


  • I would like to complete my article:

    Building Information Modeling(BIM) is changing all the building industry in the US, impact all its players : owner, architects, structure engineering, MEP engineering, construction manager, facility manager. All these people have to implement new processes and use new software (mainly coming from major companies such as Autodesk and Bentley who propose a complete BIM offer). It implies a big investment to do this change and we can fear that the weakest are going to disappear because not able to change.
    Europe even if behind in this change is moving : architects are the first to move mainly because of the need for building modeling for energy efficiency aspect. In France 4 years ago 1% of the building design with modeling now it is 15%. Now the question are :
    – how fast the other building industry players are going to be impacted and specially electrical engineering,
    – what will happen to building players which are not able to move,
    – how is the building software industry going to change? Beside the 2 majors, there are a lot of smallest companies not able to propose a complete BIM offer. They rely on a BIM standardization initiative: IFC to insure interoperability between software coming from different providers. But is the interopability level going to be sufficient compared to what Autodesk and Bentley offer?

  • Interesting post…found your post on yahoo and i’ll come back for sure…Shelba Colborn

  • […] and building work in general. But does that mean you have to know what goes on under the hood? Commercial BIM applications often take pains to shield users from this and charge you for it accordingly. The business logic is […]

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