Multilanguage data in BIM
“You say ‘potato’, I say ‘potato’, you say ‘tomate’ and I say ‘tomato’, oh let’s call the whole thing off” – you have probably all heard this popular song form ‘Shall We Dance’ starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. In the 1937 movie the language as well as culture differences cause an initial rift between the characters who most obviously fit together perfectly. That makes us wonder: is multilanguage data causing such problems for the construction industry and its perfect fit – BIM? Does it pose a threat of calling the whole BIM thing off? In the global world we live in today, there are, more often than not, several languages used within a construction project. There are multinational manufacturers who provide the products and there are different software products dealing with multilanguage data for the convenience of their users.
Language, communication and BIM
Ok. This is all very nice, but what does having multilanguage data mean in light of BIM – the process that promises to optimize and streamline all the activities connected to construction. We view BIM as a system of processes that has accurate construction data at its heart. It is not by chance that the “I” or “Information” is in the middle of BIM abbreviation. BIM is about distributing or let’s say communicating with digital data at any stage of the building’s life cycle, at any time and regardless of the receiver of the data. In a sense, BIM is a way of achieving perfect communication, when the message sent out by the sender is left undistorted and reaches the receiver perfectly intact. Therefore, any language distortions should be eliminated from the process in order to ensure seamless communication and accurate data delivery.
So what are skylights anyway?
So let us look at case that language could be seen as an impediment to BIM. If you go to the US you may hear the contractor on site talking about skylights. The architect of the building who is in the UK however will be talking about roof windows. It turns out that both of them are talking about the same things – the windows that you put on the roof so that more light can come in. You can see that even in two locations that use more or less the same language there can be some misunderstandings. And even when the word is known to both sides there is the problem with the definition. Similarly, some countries treat a “door” as the leaf and the framing while others – see it as only the leaf. So to equate the meanings one has to link the concept “a complete unit consisting of a door frame and a door leaf“ to the equivalent terms in two languages – “door” and a “door set”. You get the point.
So how do we solve this?
The solution comes in the form of the buildingSMART Data Dictionary that connects terms and concepts and the relations between them. These relationships are the same all over the world e.g. the roof window (skylight) is always on the ceiling. While this makes the model language-independent it doesn’t mean it cannot work with normal human language. On the contrary – it guarantees that people are talking about the same thing. So any system that can make a reference to the bSDD content can have its output in the language desired by the user, including IFC. And that’s exactly what a common technical language for openBIM means – enabling all parties to work with multilanguage data in the languages they know, not learning an entirely new common language that is foreign to everybody or anything like that.
On step closer to collaboration.
Differences in language and culture have long been the reason for the failure of many of the business ‘marriages’. With the perfect collaboration and communication that openBIM promises this must not be allowed. In order to link multilanguage data to the right terms and concepts, the bSDD is creating a common ‘world’ for AEC technical terms so that they can be all interconnected regardless of their language origin. With the help of the bSDD, when a designer in the US specifies a skylight, an FM in the UK will be able to query his systems for a roof window and find and replace the same instance.