A National BIM Library. It’s Coming.

Imagine a firefighter rushing into a burning building wearing a virtual reality screen that shows a 3D model of the structure, so he can find doorways and windows in the thickest smoke.


Imagine that a remodeler is about to cut a large rough opening for a bay window.  But he’s able to log in, download the BIM model for the house, and know where the gas line, electrical line, and load-bearing king studs are located.


Does this sound like something out of science fiction?  Well, the future is already here… and it’s in the form of national BIM libraries that house BIM models of existing buildings.


But the U.S. is not leading the way.  As with soccer and ox tail soup, the Brits are out in front on this one.  Architecture magazine reported that “British government building contracts will require fully collaborative 3D BIM… The NBS National BIM library—yes, such a thing exists—already contains thousands of both generic and proprietary BIM objects… Singapore, Finland, and Norway also have national BIM standards, and China has one in the works.


For similar efforts to succeed in the US, the first step is establishing a BIM standard.  Jeffrey Ouellette is a leader of an effort to update the National BIM Standard–United States, “a consensus-based set of technical and practice specifications that could be adopted, in whole or in part, by everyone in the industry, from owners to architects to contractors.”


“Sadly, many…BIM standards don’t look any further than the design process, or are not open, requiring a single vendor-specific file format,” Ouellette observed.


The NBIMS-US hopes to correct that.


But even when standards are worked out for universally sharing of BIM models, issues of copyright and ownership remain before we see broad adoption. Who wants to design a building, or solve a tricky structural problem, only to post a proprietary solution that others might end up using for no compensation?


That said, if ownership can be resolved, imagine the supreme utility of a national BIM library.  For use by fire and rescue crews, as well as rehab, remodeling, retrofit, and utility work, a BIM image offers a behind-the-walls view of structures that could make work on them enormously more productive… and safer.

Best of all, when you visit a BIM library, there’s no one to say shhhhhhh. (bad joke.)