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In a significant boost to open source standards, the US General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service signed an agreement with three international real estate organizations to “promote interoperability and the seamless and accurate exchange of digital data from different developers.”

The agreement between PBS, Finland’s Senate Properties, the Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority and Norway’s Directorate of Public Construction and Property supports open source standards for building information modeling. BIM is an emerging technology that generates finely detailed three- and four-dimensional virtual models and links it with data. To make sure BIM technologies from multiple vendors will work together, GSA wants vendors to work toward interoperability.

GSA and its three new partners are committed to making their construction projects accessible for piloting and will work together to issue corresponding BIM requirements, open standards mandates, and adoption schedules with the goal of using these on a regular basis within two to four years.

“This is a significant collaboration,” PBS Commissioner David Winstead says of the new agreement. “It gives public owners and users a leadership role in the development of this important tool, and promotes global cooperation and creativity.”

Andy Fuhrman, CEO of the Washington, DC-based Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate, agrees, explaining, “This is really great news for the global real estate supply chain.” Oscre wants to establish a common, industry wide business language that enables stakeholders throughout the supply chain to easily, quickly and cost effectively receive and send electronic business information, regardless of the technology, operating system or applications.

Fuhrman says the announcement is newsworthy because it involves the head of a government agency that is responsible for managing more than 340 million sf of building floor space directly affecting 1.1 million federal employees. “The fact that Commissioner Winstead recognizes the level of value that BIM and interoperable data exchanges create for the programming, design, build, operation phases for the GSA-PBS business model is significant. The agreement will not only change the way the supply chain conducts business, but will be a catalyst for the private sector to leverage these new tools and business processes,” he predicts.

The GSA believes validating architecture and engineering designs at concept design is an important step toward better space management. It began validating spatial programs using BIM in fiscal year 2007, when it mandated that new buildings designed through its Public Buildings Service use the technology at least in the design stage.

Although multi-dimensional design is the most visible and striking aspect of BIM, proponents of the technology say space planning is only the start of its uses. The real benefit, they say, comes from connecting the spatial representation to data.

Industry experts say BIM can produce a single-source repository of information about a building, integrating every aspect of its design, construction and operation. It can accelerate development, enable early detection of problems or mistakes and reduce project delivery times as well as risk, costs and lawsuits resulting from errors or construction delays.

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