Open BIM standards in the Netherlands – a public client’s perspective.

Every year Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch General Directorate for Public Works and Water Management) places orders for construction projects and services worth around € 3 billion. As one of the biggest public clients in Europe and leader in BIM implementation today, Rijkswaterstaat is responsible for design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands.

Having defined BIM as ‘Better Information Management’, the government agency has taken a path towards becoming an examplary ‘Asset and Information Manager’ and paving the road for using openBIM standards on all infrastructure projects in Europe. That is why, with great pleasure we present you with an interview with Benno Koehorst, a prominent Rijkswaterstaat’s representative and member of the steering committee of the European BIM Task Group. We talk openBIM standards and beyond…

Let’s clear out the biggest problem in communication about digitalisation in the construction industry… what is BIM for you?

BIM is not only about modelling it is about information management. Therefore, the digital processes and the ways of working with each other and the quality of this work are quite important aspects of BIM.

‘I believe that BIM can change the industry considerably when open BIM standards* (IFC, CB-NL, ETIM etc.) are in place and in practice.’

In the Netherlands, we already have some experience with open standards. For instance, we have developed the Dutch Information Exchange Standards in the Netherlands (VISI**), which are already in practice.

The way we do it within Rijkswaterstaat is that we provide well-documented requirements of the data structure that needs to be exchanged and we have distinct requirements about the data exchange itself. It is a common approach to what is happening in the UK.

* Within the construction industry, National standardisation and alignment is ensured by the BIR (Building Information Counsel).
** VISI is now used internationally due to its inclusion as part 2 – ‘Interaction Framework’, of the ISO-standard ‘Building information Models – Information Delivery Manual’

What are the required data structures?

So, the requirements for the data structures are set in the so-called object type libraries (CB-NL standard in complience with the international standard IFD). They are more or less similar to the bSDD – the buildingSMART Data Dictionary (The implementation of the IFD standard). So, that is one thing we developed ourselves and the construction industry, represented by the contractors is quite happy about that because it is quite clear what they are required to provide.

Of course, it is difficult because the contractors have to get accustomed to it, but once they are – the structure they should deliver their information to us is clear to them. The more clarity we provide to the contractors the better their response to us.

What about the exchange of information?

It is one thing that the structure of the data is set and then the information exchange itself becomes important. The process of approving it is the second part. For both things, we have standards in the Netherlands, which are open, and we are building up our experience only through those standards.

What are the next steps in experiencing the full benefits of BIM as a public client?

What we would like to see is that those open standards are adopted by the IT industry so that the IT products are capable of working with those open standards. Once we have achieved that, then we are fully interoperable with all the stakeholders within the sector and we can manage the total process of construction over the whole lifecycle. The players in the sector need to be free to choose the software they would like to use and that is what we would like to achieve from a public perspective. To create a level playing field for everybody.