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BIMstorm™ #2 - BIM Caseweek Rotterdam LIVE 19-23 NOV 2007
In California and Hawaii, Onuma, Inc. participated in this live BIMStorm and collaboration with the CAD Visual team in Netherlands.

The virtual project was initiated by “Rijksgebouwendienst” Department of Ministry, VROM, (Netherlands' GSA). The Rotterdam city council was interested in

  • Cost
  • Environmentally neutral bridge to connect between Rotterdam Center and South
  • Integrating an existing train station with the project


  • 400 million Euros for the bridge
  • 800 million Euros for a mixed-use housing, office and leisure project

This fast-paced design charrette involved 60 teams working on projects and presenting results throughout a four-day BIM conference. VROM required BIM and open standards to share and collaborate among the various teams. Onuma demonstrated how webservice and open standards based BIM exchanges could support rapid and massive real-time collaboration with teams around the world.

A BIM Journal by Joost Wijnen, Cadvisual

Edited by Michael Bordenaro, NF Publishing Co.

Rotterdam BIMStorm Refreshes the Netherlands

The Netherlands held its first comprehensive Building Information Model exhibition November 19 – 23, 2007.

The country's eight largest contractors sponsored the national event, which invited building industry members to participate in a large-scale, virtual design and construction project to demonstrate how to benefit from new processes and technologies.

Other industries have experienced phenomenal productivity improvements when using advanced software tools that exchange data through open standards.

Building Information Models tie data to images in very powerful ways. The capabilities of this relatively new software tool set is just starting to be understood.

The ultimate success of the exhibition indicates than the tool set can be easier to learn and more effective than most participants expected.

Based on the virtual building projects designed and modeled on Google Earth during the first BIM Case Week, there is great potential for productivity improvement and profitability opportunities in the building industry.

A day-by-day glimpse of the developments are below and images are available at www.bimcaseweek.nl - a Dutch langauge site.

The Project
The first assignment was to build a 3rd major bridge in Rotterdam, home of the largest port in Europe.

The budget - 400 Million Euro ($500 million) - was similar to the budget of another recently built bridge.

But the program was expanded to include housing, offices, entertainment and other amenities help attract 500,000 visitors/tourists per year.

The budget was increased to 1.2 Billion Euro ($1.5 billion), but all additional funds had to be financed from anticipated project revenues.

The City of Rotterdam is the official initiator of the project, but the exhibition was administered by the Rijksgebouwendienst (RGD), which oversees national building projects. RGD is comparable to U.S.A.'s General Services Administration (GSA).

Since the renovation and expansion of a railroad station could be integrated, a potential funding source for part of the project was ProRail, owner of almost all railroad tracks and stations in the Netherlands.

Monday, 19 NOV 2007
Participants gathered in the top floor the largest national contractors’ association headquarters.

More than 90 people brought laptops and computers to actively work on the project. More than 200 observers watched the proceedings and spoke with the designers throughout the event.

The project was divided into three main sub-sections:

  1. The Bridge
  2. An island of buildings
  3. The land on each side of the river where the bridge landed

Each section was lead by architects, who are trained to lead complex, consensus-based, problem solving exercises. Trained first to express ideas with paper and pencils, the architects began working with these traditional tools.

One group, Michel Post Architects (MPA) from Amsterdam, supported by technology consultant Cadvisual, started creating 3D models from the beginning of the day.

At the end of the day, MPA and Cadvisual were able to present a preliminary design solution as a Building Information Model (BIM).

The basic model was able to provide interactive visuals and meaningful details such as names for every space in the project. Also, a combined steel bridge structure and building structures were made available through software from Tekla and EliteCAD linked through software open standards provided by buildingSmart Alliance.

It was possible to "fly over" the project to see it from many angles and obtain data in the form of meaningful reports generated based on client questions.

At a 5 pm review, officials from the City of Rotterdam were impressed by the designs, but were also disappointed that some presentations only included digital images of paper sketches that could not allow client interaction.

So the client clearly expressed an interest to see all presentations as 3D models within 24 hours.

Tuesday, 20 NOV 2007
All teams anxiously started 3D modeling. The tension was noticeable between those with design abilities and those with modeling abilities.

Most of the participants started creating individual models of their section without much thought about how they would all link.

Most information was being shared as .DWG files, which are oriented for 2D representation.

Because MPA's group was building a model from the start, Cadvisual was creating files that can be shared with the .IFC data exchange file format. In order to test the exchanges, the group had two professionals making a basic model of the other sections of the project.

At the end of Tuesday presentations were given using the 3D models created that day. The 3D quality was poor and the models where not aligned at all. It was also obvious no valuable reports, quantity take offs, or real-time cost estimating, was possible. Since the client had required this level of performance from the launch of the project, there were complaints.

Participants indicated they though the requirements impossible to achieve and they blamed bad ‘intranet’ connections for not having adequately met the requirements.

That is when Cadvisual proposed to that all teams use the .IFC data exchange format. Since there had been serious exchange problems, everyone agreed on trying to use IFC’s on Wednesday. The client vigorously agreed.

The MPA/Cadvisual team decided to help the other sub-sections better understand .IFC data exchange and help them when possible.

Wednesday, 21 NOV 2007
Many participants thought that Tuesday was a very inefficient day, because the teams had not collaborated well.

On Tuesday people were exchanging .DWG date on memory sticks. There was no common 0-point for the project

There was still tension between designers and modelers. It was obvious that many designers were not familiar with the 3D model design process.

It was assumed every one knows about 3D modeling and that since the country's top 90 3D modelers were participating, everyone would have the same perspective and the same level of understanding about this new tool set. These assumptions lead to the low productivity experienced Tuesday.

But Wednesday the hierarchy of people, tools and knowledge started to fit together for the start of a productive day.

Almost everyone tried to use the .IFC exchange format. Some even took arduous steps to convert .DWG files to .IFC files.

Since Cadvisual was responsible for a tower on the island, this was the only IFC-based model (made in EliteCAD) to use it within Riuska do an energy analysis.

At 5 pm all 90 architects and modelers were pretty content with the results. There were no network problems anymore and the models actually did fit together, although lot’s of parts were missing and not aligned…

After the presentation by the team-leaders, the client gave their own presentation - of a new conceptual design! The client demanded that the existing models would be changed … just like its happens in the real world. And they demanded budget calculations which were directly linked to the main BIM model, although there was no ‘main model’, let alone an descent IFC-based model which could provide the needed data…

A deep discussion occurred among the architects, modelers and client. One camp felt it unfair that just when major strides had been made to created a unified BIM model, changes were expected. Although the client stated that when using a proper BIM model, changing it, should not be a problem.

After the discussion the client management team had a meeting while most of the designers went to a dinner.

Joost Wijnen from Cadvisual joined in the client management meeting, because he was convinced that Onuma was a unique solution to this very common problem.

In this meeting the architects of RGD stated they wanted changes in the design and the City of Rotterdam wanted more automated financial information related to the model to inform strategic design decisions. Since no model server was used, almost everyone was disappointed no real-time 3D central model was available to everyone.

There hardly was any information available from the client side, not even MS Excel sheets with highly detailed line item breakdowns.

Wijnen argued that an advanced, low-cost, online model server would accept many types of data, use it all to integrate complex models that can automatically output key building project reports, including detailed financial reports.

Although the client was impressed about the proposed international collaboration (‘using time zones is very powerful’ they stated), there were also concerns that after the project was over, the integration process would no longer be possible without international collaboration.

At 9 pm, Wijnen was given 12 hours to coordinate a presentation using Onuma.

Wijnen had only one problem, he had never used the software before.

Wijnen explained the project to Onuma, Inc., headquartered in Pasadena, California, USA.

From 9:45 pm until 11 pm (1.15 hours) Wijnen's team was given a live web-demo by Kimon Onuma, AIA and his team.

Determined to show the client the local team was able to meet requirements without any further international assistance, Wijnen coordinated an all night process of entering existing project data into the software program to create meaningful, interactive 3D models.

Digital scans of hand drawings, Excel Spreed Sheets, data from structural steel software programs, geographic data from existing sources, such as Google Earth, maps and other data was entered into the the Onuma software.

Before 1 am (4 hours), the Rotterdam team was creating Excel spread sheets of program requirements to create 3D massing models to provide very conceptual relationships of size, cost and aesthetic visualizations.

It took until 4:30 am (7.5 hours) to create the desired Excel spread sheet description of the project.

Onuma could accept the Excel spread sheets and create a 3D model. Also, it can help create a model based on the digital scan of a hand drawing.

Ease of importing data is matched by ease of exporting data in .IFC compatible format and other formats such as the .XLS format used by Excel spread sheets.

Because of this import-export capability, Onuma can help two models created in different programs be accurately linked. They can then be imported into a third program with drag-and-drop ease.

To see if the models meet the requirements of the client, it is only necessary to read the Excel files, which can be color coded to indicate a lack of compliance.

The 3D models landed on Google Earth were described as ‘abstract visualizations’ of the Excel spread sheets describing the project length, width, height, and other factors.

At 5 am (8 hours), support was needed from Onuma, Inc., which provided assistance through Onuma, Google Earth and Skype.

The remaining hours were spent finalizing the presentation.

Thursday, 22 NOV 2007
At 9 am (12 hours) there where approximately 100 people waiting for a presentation.

But first a meeting was held to help educate people about the new processes and advanced technology they were about to observe.

During this meeting, Wijnen received the message that the project was online. A small KML-link was sent via e-mail, and Wijnen opened Google Earth, then loaded the models on the 3D map of Rotterdam.

Wijnen says, "We are convinced the team of Onuma could have had the models up and running in less than half the time we used. But we were determined to learn the tool and use it ourselves. And we were successful at learning it overnight."

Because the client was able to see cost estimate data related to preliminary design images, strategic decisions were made. For example, understanding foundation costs led to the decision of housing all program requirements in 3 tall towers instead of 5 short ones.

The other 90 modelers were able to follow the changes through Google Earth, as this model was updated automatically.

By Thursday evening the models had a bit more detail, some design issues were solved and a preliminary cost analysis calculation was made.

It was a very intensive week for everyone; it was amazing to see how serious everyone was and how freely they gave their time to the project.

Also it was very satisfying to see how people grew to these conclusions:

  • We need a good network
  • We need a common 0-point in the project
  • Designers and modelers have to learn to collaborate with new tools
  • .IFC is an excellent format for data sharing

The demand for .IFC open standards was a surprise. Everyone was positive. There were no real complaints because everyone was realistic that not everything is possible with IFC (yet). But we are sure the expectations are high now!

So the demand for better IFC’s are serious now. Also because the main conclusion of the BIMcaseweek is that the market is ready for BIM.

Which is a big step forward to IFC based buildingSMART!

Wijnen says, "Most spectacular, I think, was the introduction of Onuma; some people said it should have been used right at the start on Monday! Of course they are right, but the reality is, no one was interested before the communication problems showed up. As usual, it takes a crisis to start a revolution."

How BIMStorm Rotterdam Happened

11/20/07 Start Using Onuma

  • 3:01PM Pacific Time. Cad Visual contacts Onuma about the ongoing live charrette for the BIMcaseweek in the Netherlands.


  • 3:20PM Pacific Time. Start Go To Meeting, Cad Visual identifies site in Rotterdam on Google Earth. Onuma imports site outline into Onuma from Google Earth.


  • 3:40PM Review of concept completed. Rough idea of program explained verbally on Skype. Bridge spanning the river, housing on top of bridge, other buildings on either side, metro line through the bridge. No concrete program discussed at this point. Excel program files not available on BIMcaseweek site yet.


  • 4:15PM First rough scheme created in Onuma, moving buildings from Boston BIMStorm to Rotterdam. The idea was to get a starting point and not have anything "sacred" in the rough scheme. The intent of this early part of the BIMStorm is to get all the "known" and "unknown" information of the project into the system.


  • 4:18PM 1.3 Million Square Feet of buildings programmed. Excel file exported with all square footage. Google Earth exported. IFC exported to Revit, and ArchiCAD. ArchiCAD used to rapidly arrange various options and then import those back into Onuma.


  • 4:21 PM Up to this point the above process was completed with one team member in Onuma. One more person is added to expand the study, add other programming elements and a metro line.
  • 4:22 PM rough program description in the form of a one page MS Word Document Received from CAD Visual.
  • 4:22 PM Pacific, 1:30 AM in Rotterdam. CAD Visual Team calls it a day. More to follow tomorrow morning.
  • 7:00 PM Onuma team loads a new scheme based on CAD Visual program description into Onuma.

11/21/07 BIMstorm Lands

  • 1:22 AM Pacific, (10:20 AM in Rotterdam.) CAD Visual Team demonstrates Onuma to client in Rotterdam. Onuma team observes other schemes being shown.
  • 2:10 AM Onuma team creates new scheme version 3
  • 9:30 AM Onuma and CAD Visual team has online brainstorming session to:
    • Review schemes
    • Train CAD Visual Team in the use of Onuma
    • Test for the first time IFC in and out from Onuma to Elite CAD ( successful )
  • 1:00 PM - 11:00 PM, (10 PM - 8 AM in Rotterdam ) CAD Visual and Onuma team collaborate on creating schemes in Onuma.

11/22/07 Review of Schemes
  • 9:00 AM PM - 6:00 PM, in Rotterdam. Cad Visual continues to develop and refine schemes with input from Rijksgebouwendienst, Department of Ministry, VROM, (the GSA of The Netherlands). VROM requirements created to compare with various architects solutions.
  • 6:00 PM, Onuma solutions presented in Rotterdam by CAD Visual team.

11/23/07 Continued Design Studies
  • The Onuma team used the IFC files generated by CAD Visual using Onuma to export to Revit and study various alternatives and import the results back to Onuma.
  • The Onuma team used the IFC files to also study a more detailed curtain wall option in Revit.

Info on BIMStorm

Info on BIMcaseweek:

2015-10-28 09:39:41