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A view of all the schemes developed at BIMStorm LAX totaling more than 50 million sf.

Some industry experts describe it as a challenge. A few even describe it as crazy. But that didn’t stop a cross-section of building industry professionals around the world from taking on what was arguably a daunting task.

Their assignment: to develop 30 million sf of space across a 30-block site just north of downtown Los Angeles, virtually and collaboratively. They had 24 hours to complete the task.

In the end, participants in BIMStorm LAX on Jan. 31 didn’t build 30 million sf of virtual space on 30 city blocks. They built 50 million sf across 50 city blocks.

Welcome to the world of BIMStorm, which highlights the use of Building Information Modeling–digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. Proponents say BIM serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility and forms a reliable basis for decisions throughout the life cycle of a property.

BIM encourages collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the property’s life cycle. The premise is that they will insert, extract, update or modify information in the BIM to support and reflect their various roles–developers, owners, architects, tenants and more.

BIMStom is the brainchild of Kimon Onuma, principal of Onuma Inc. in Pasadena, CA. “Yes, I conceived of and built the BIMStorm concept, but I also have a great team…a small team that can do a lot, very fast,” he says.The exercise is designed to demonstrate how efficient development can be through the use of web-enabled tools, massive real time collaboration and open standards based information exchange. It uses online collaboration to engage architects, engineers, contractors, developers, building owners, urban planners, code officials, lawyers, insurers and other building industry professionals anywhere in the world in accelerated design and analysis.

Think of it as BIM Extreme, or a technology pushed to its limits.

“The BIMStorm demonstrates the high level of meaningful, large-scale design that can be created in a short period of time when professionals are organized using new process enabled by advanced technologies,” Onuma says. BIMStorm LAX built on the success of earlier BIMStorms that focused on development in Boston and Rotterdam. “We were targeting 30 million sf, but kept on going. In the end, 50 million sf was submitted, but there was actually more like 150 million sf of variations of designs.”

Onuma is an active proponent of BIM and has been active in the Open Geospatial Consortium’s effort to better align BIM, computer-aided design (CAD) and geographic information systems (GIS). BIMStorm combines those components with the online Onuma Planning System (OPS), which simplifies the BIM toolset and integrates with Google Earth to display broader geography. The hosted service enables online collaboration and visualization among a broadly dispersed group, Onuma explains.

Onuma designed BIMStorms to demonstrate that building design professionals can significantly speed the design-build process via interoperable data exchange standards. Participants confirmed:

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