On 27th October, 2016, Steve Crompton, our Chief Technology Officer, presented on GeoBIM and the benefits of linking geospatial data as layers to models for a richer and better understanding of built asset projects, enabling better decisions and efficiencies both now, and in the future.

Here is the full transcript from that presentation, with relevant slides:

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Right, good afternoon everyone.

Thank you for giving your time to come and hear all about GeoBIM. Hopefully the topic created the interest that means you’re here.

I’m going to give you just a slight bit about the company and who we are, and so on, and then get straight into the meat and potatoes if you will.

geobim-intro1If you’ve not heard of GroupBC, we have been around a long, long time. We were one of the first collaboration tools, and we have always been pioneers and indeed, we were the first collaboration tool to deliver the first CDE driving a Level 1 BIM project. That was the delivery of Westfield Stratford City, and that was back in 2006.

It was on the back of that that not only did we see what the future was, but we were asked by the BIM Task Group to get involved in taking what we learned from that project and use that to drive the Level 2 BIM mandate.

We continue to be members of the BIM Tech Alliance, a collection of vendors working together for the greater good, with the goal of just getting everyone to understand why digitising what we do is so important – understanding the benefits it’s going to give by transforming the industry.

geobim-intro2We have a lot of organisations using our software and when it comes to our own clients you can see this has been divided into two – those who are involved in delivering physical assets, be these railways, schools, hospitals, roads – and we also have those who are involved as owner operators, procuring assets.

Most recently, we have Sainsbury’s who are using us to manage their digital estate (their retail platform), and I’ll show you some really interesting stuff that isn’t going to involve a 3D model, but is absolutely about BIM.


So, let’s get to it. Our view of BIM is quite a straightforward one, which is that this is all about procuring digital assets. What exactly do we mean by that?

digital-assets-1Well, it’s quite simple. Here is a real example. On the left is something known as the e4 home from one of our customers Wienerberger (who are here today), and they’ve been innovating around the home for the future in terms of integrating with supplier information, sensors – all kinds of things.

In the past we would procure as a client, or deliver to someone involved in asset delivery, the physical asset. Then as far as the information that would go with that, it would be a mixture of drawings, spreadsheets, maybe some models and so on – but it would generally be unstructured to the point of requiring a lot of time to make any sense out of it to get it to operations.

The whole thing we’re trying to do here is that when we deliver the physical asset, it is in parallel to when we deliver a digital asset.

So, this is not just about what something looks like in terms of its geometry, this is about all of the associated data that’s going to allow the making of decisions throughout the lifecycle, down to something as simple as the customer being able to define and choose paint colour, know exactly where it’s going to come from and so on.

And, on the right-hand side, the delivery of the digital asset with all the associated documentation as well. So, the example I always give – and this is our future vision – someone who’s got a washing machine, and they have a problem with it in this house, they’ll be in a position whereby if it goes wrong, sometime in the future their phone will simply say there’s a problem with that, we know what the problem is and an engineer’s coming in two days’ time.

We can only deliver that kind of future if we start to automate and digitise, what we’re doing here.

And it’s not just buildings. We’ve also got linear assets. Here you can see a point cloud of a road, and then at the bottom there, we have a flood alleviation project, which is Counters Creek (Thames Water are one of our clients), and they have modelled that with about fourteen models, coming together.



It’s not just new builds either. We recently had a couple of school students come and spend the week with us, and we gave them the simple challenge – can you digitise our office.

office-1So, this is an office space, and this, produced in SketchUp and then taking the fit-out information as we had it at the time, and extruding it and so on, and attaching data points that connect to information about the assets in there – that was produced by two school students.

They absolutely saw how this was a ‘no-brainer’.

Hopefully we can all learn from that – we mustn’t think we’ve got to wait until we delivered these models to take benefit from it.


There’s a project I can talk about here for Sainsbury’s. Without a single model, we’ve managed to digitise their estate. What we had was all the existing information about their estate and drawings. It used to be that those drawings were on a fileshare, and now those drawings are in a database. Rather, the data within those drawings is in a database, and is queryable across the estate by any using this system.

Structured data will allow us through technology to open this up to people who previously didn’t have access to this information – when the decision-making process took a long time.

So far we’ve said that digital assets, in some form, contain geometry, or spatial information (the Sainsbury’s example being spatial information, structured data and associated documentation).

So, if we look at an example, what can we do with it?

we-can-federateWell, we can federate, take an architectural model, an MEP model and we can put it in a browser and we can look around it, do ‘nice things’ with it, and we can also within that browser do things like clashing and look where there’s physical interaction within the model and enact upon them.

Importantly, these aren’t tools simply for viewing models and looking for clashes. Like I said at the start – this is all about making digital assets – how we can build up, from what looks like an outline design, into something that mimics what we’ve got ‘as built’.

This means that not only do we have the geometry and all the documentation. If we can take a model, find for example all the smoke detectors in this building and immediately associate that with the appropriate documentation and data, then we’re getting some way to that complete digital asset.

we-can-clashWe’re now in a position where, if we can attach documents and data, even take data straight from supplier data templates (I was talking about that earlier with Paul Surin and Nick Tune) this allows us to have a rich data model. I can export it, analyse it and make decisions more quickly based on that. Previously I would have had to look at various drawings and spreadsheets and so on.


right-locationThis talk is called GeoBIM for a reason – there are a number of questions with all of that information, that I’m still not able to answer.

So, with that information, it tells me what the asset looks like, what the properties are, what the documentation is – but how would I be able to answer:

Is it in the right place? So is the building actually and digitally going to be located in the right place.

splendid-isolationAnd, even if it is in the right spot – what about orientation? Because if it’s built at the wrong angle all kinds of things can go on there.

And, of course, what will it look like with other buildings?

A term that was coined by our colleagues at the OS, and which I rather like, is how we can talk about BIM and digital assets at the moment – the phrase is ‘splendid isolation’.

We have this fantastic model, but it lacks any kind of context that would then allow us to answer these questions.


GeoBIM, is about taking BIM and connecting it with other data, particularly with geospatial information and with other linked data sets.

mapping-dataIf we just then look at these examples, we have that same model, but now its overlaid with high quality mapping data from the Ordnance Survey. I don’t have to go out and say ‘we’re embarking on this project, let’s go out and re-survey’ – I can get highly current information and see exactly what it’s going to be like in that planning stage.

I can also see how it sits by bringing in the elevations of other buildings. In fact, the Counters Creek example that I mentioned earlier, there are a number of suppliers providing models for that particular project, but one of the models was of all the surrounding elevations of the buildings, and it was wrong. It was oriented incorrectly and it didn’t even have the correct information.

sit-in-contextThe correct information was immediately available in the OS data, and all we needed to do was find a way to bring in that information together. This is the power of being able to bring BIM and Geo information together.

Similarly, let’s say I’m inside the building and given that I can see these elevations, I can see what it’s actually going to look like. Are there going to be places where all the light is cut-out and so on and so forth?

So, I’m not just looking from inside out to a void – I’m looking from inside out to what already exists, or a close representation of it.

location-viableAnd, of course, is this location actually viable? I can look from on top and I can also look at it from a point of view of any site logistics – how am I going to be able to actually carry out the operation in terms of roads etc?


That is a good summary of what we’re trying to do with GeoBIM. Now, clearly not everyone yet has rich models of their entire estates. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an awful lot that can be done by connecting the information that we do have with geospatial information and other datasets now.

As I said, it’s a very, very clear proposition.

We’ve got customers who have lots and lots of assets, and their overall goal, like Sainsbury’s, is digitising their entire estate so that they can make quicker and better decisions.

What we found initially, even at the simplest level, is if we can geolocate those assets on a map, suddenly the level of engagement that we get from parties within the client, particularly those in operations who previously have found it difficult to get engagement, the moment they see something that’s tangible – it becomes a game changer.

thames-customer-complaintsNot only that – this isn’t just about visualisation and the equivalent of Google Maps, this is about taking that information and overlaying it with other datasets that might be in entirely different physical locations. I can think of a question, and so long as there are datasets to support it, then in theory I can answer it.

You can see here that this is the actual Thames Water system. We have little points within this system which reflect assets and projects that Thames Water Capital delivery have, which used to be available only in a folder structure. Which is fine, if it’s well structured. But it’s not as easy as ‘here’s a map, zoom into where I’m interested in, find the projects and go’.

Also, at the same time, get it to tell me all of the other context of projects, so that if I’m someone carrying out operations, not only can I get the relevant information before I go, I can optimise my work as well.

So, if we are zoomed in here, we can see this is the current information which is streamed directly from Ordnance Survey, overlaid with data that we’ve got within what we would call a Common Data Environment – be that that’s in drawings, be that that’s in models. So, this is about overlaying that rich information and then you can of course filter out things you’re interested in.


Instant access to other datasets – address information, routes, boundary lines, tree preservations. Currently, think about all the mini-exercises that go on in order to try and determine throughout all the stages whether or not you’re able to continue the work as is, or whether you need to make changes. Instead, if you could at your fingertips bring in that information and see it, then we can bring in real efficiencies.

A real example here as well, forgetting the externally available datasets of which there are hundreds (you just have to go to http://data.gov.uk where under Freedom of Information an enormous amount of information has been published) there is also the customer’s own datasets.

One of the things that Thames Water are looking at is linking their assets and the delivery of them to customer complaints that they’ve got. If they can do that, they can understand what’s driving those customer complaints and how to do things better.

Whilst those things are separate, how are they going to do that?

combine-dataSo, here you can see an example where we’ve simply taken that mapping I showed, and we’ve overlaid flood information – to show that this stuff is eminently doable now. You can also have datasets around ownership, around sites of scientific interest – the possibilities are, as I hope you can see in this short time, endless.

Coming back to Sainsbury’s, this isn’t about them having the ability to just look at assets in isolation. This is about being able to digitise an estate, and then being able to query that estate. If I, for example, want to find against what is the current specification of all the pizza counters I have across the estate, and find out which ones don’t meet current standards, without having to bury through a whole load of drawings – by digitising that estate it would mean we’re able to simply return that as tabular information – and then enact on it.


I’m just going to give you a glimpse into the future as well.

A number of years ago when I was telling people about BIM, I was asking ‘what are we trying to do here – why is it so important to codify everything?’

It’s because we’re not focussing on getting an improvement on one project. Ultimately, that’s not the lofty goal. If we can adhere to these standards, if we can all do things the same way, then we can have the same information about our public projects, nationally.

If we can have something which we might refer to more like ‘CityBIM’, as a result, if something goes wrong in our buildings, we can look across the entire estate. We can then identify any challenges and so on.

Certainly if we’re going to want to be able to browse and flow-through and see these rich models which, try as we might, are becoming more populated with more complex geometry, then technology is going to have to keep going.

The power of everything I’ve shown you – you might think ‘well, I can do some of these things with that, or with this’ – but remember this is all being streamed through a web browser, all connected to our information management systems and it’s all part of one flowing lifecycle.

GeoBIM is about doing that same thing but across an entire national estate, with connections to datasets and so on.


So, this is something we’ve been working on (forgive me for being a bit showy) and whilst you’ll have seen BIM viewers before – [see video] there’s about half a billion polygons being shown here, which is a massive, massive amount.

Each of these models is about fourteen federated models which you would struggle to run usually, in a single browser with a lot of the tools out there.

But, we’ve been working incredibly hard, on streaming it and getting more detail as you get closer, to be able to say ‘throw as many models as you like into this estate – ultimately, you’re going to be able to get to the areas of interest as and when you get to the building in question.’

These aren’t just block models, these are rich IFC models and this technology is constantly moving to achieve the goal that I talked about.

So, there was a lot to go through, and hopefully that has raised some ideas, and has been interesting for you.