BIM synapse: A framework for BIM interoperability in the cloud
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In the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry, collaboration within Building Information Modeling (BIM) process is mainly based on transferring files. BIM data is being exchanged in either vendor specific file formats or neutral format using Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) as open BIM standard. However, since the web enables cloud-based BIM services, it provides an opportunity to exchange non-file based data via the web and over the networks. Alternative BIM data sharing solutions have been developed based on the federation of BIM models with BIM server technologies or using an interchange hub for data exchange in real-time. These solutions face several challenges, are vendor locked, and integrate two or multiple applications to a third new system which is tightly coupled. In addition to scalability issues, these data sharing technologies make the collaborating applications dependent upon each other which end up with high complexity. In fact, current cloud-based interoperability solutions do not provide a loosely coupled system with the flexibility to reduce dependencies among collaborating applications. Therefore, the main objective of this research is to propose an interoperability framework that supports a network-based BIM data exchange for loosely coupled collaboration in the cloud. This research emphasizes that there is a need to reshape BIM collaboration in the cloud by using web technologies. This study indicates that Cloud-based Building Information Modeling needs to deploy major components of the cloud interoperability including the APIs, data transfer protocols, data formats, and standardization to redefine BIM dataflow in Cloud-BIM applications. BIM Synapse framework proposed in this research utilizes web technologies- as the enabler for a cloud-based collaborative process- to restructure current BIM dataflow. BIM Synapse deploys cloud interoperability features and IFC data model to address current challenges of BIM data exchange in the cloud and provides a loosely-coupled network-based data interoperability solution for Cloud-BIM. The study also applies the proposed framework on BIM collaboration in the conceptual design process of precast concrete buildings and evaluates the correctness, accuracy, completeness, and consistency of the BIM Synapse framework. BIM Synapse framework has a major contribution to standardization of Cloud-based BIM data exchange and can enable the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) - that requires network connectivity and provision of resources through the Web of Things (WoT)- with the BIM process. The study also recommends required revisions to the IFC specification so that the IFC schema can perform as the basis for Cloud-BIM interoperability.