Shareholders of large software companies (and probably this gentleman that started a Twitterstorm last month) would love it if every project used only one vendor’s tools. However, that simply is unrealistic and with good reason; no single software solution is the master of all construction processes. Software vendors themselves are increasingly supportive of the notion of open BIM data exchange standards.
While IFC is Industry Fairly Common in the world of open BIM (and with good reasons), the BCF is relatively less known. It’s a pretty nifty format too, especially if you are looking to collaborate on issues between software types.
So…what is it….
The BCF, or BIM Collaboration Format, is a vendor-neutral file format to communicate coordination information that can live completely separately from the 3D model. It contains issue descriptions, snapshots, comments, authors, creation date, linked objects, view section planes, a unique GUID and more around an issue without containing any model element geometry itself.
Figure 1.0 What a BCF contains
There’s a great video explaining what a BCF is from the team over at BIMConnect too.
Cute! Why should I care?
The BCF was sorely needed. While the IFC schema structures object geometries and information from software to software, BCF is where the communications surrounding your models live.
The BCF also helps to resolve coordination interoperability issues, even with different versions of the same software.
Say you find an issue in Solibri Model Checker, and need to communicate it to someone working in Revit. Normally you would send a PDF report by email or drop it on an FTP site. The person working in Revit needs to manually find the location of the issue based on the information in the PDF. The BCF makes this tedious process unnecessary.
Figure 2.0 Interoperability between some major software players with the BCF.
No, the BCF isn’t perfect
One of the challenges with the BCF is that it is file-based, meaning that there can be older versions circulating. This is where cloud-based BCF exchange comes into play, such as BIM Track. What this platform does is centralize the BCF data so there is only one version.
So why haven’t I seen the BCF before?
You’ve probably already used BCF-style variations in your existing software tools, which are perfect for internal use (within the authoring software itself). A BCF makes this information external.
Figure 3.0 Software vendors’ proprietary BCF-style variations
How can I start using the BCF on my projects?
If you’d like to learn more about the use of BCF in a BIM collaboration environment, you can see how Aeroports de Quebec Inc. used it on their extension of the Jean-Lesage airport terminal. You can also get started today with BIM Track, to harness the power of the BCF in an intuitive, easy-to-use way.
Bonus round: the history
If you are wondering how the BCF came about, its actually a pretty cool story of software vendors (namely Tekla and Solibri) coming together to help open BIM around communications. Thank you to buildingSMART for sharing the history: