I’m just back from two days of mind stretching in Redlands at the 2nd ever GeoDesign Summit. I wasn’t at the first summit, and consequently didn’t know quite what to expect from this interesting gathering of GIS and “Design” academics and practitioners. So, allow me to share what I learned at GeoDesign, not least of which is that BIM / GIS data exchange is a major concern for many of the people who came to this show. BIM<->GIS data exchange at GeoDesign 2011

First off, what exactly is “geodesign”. I thought Michael Goodchild’s definition on the first day of the summit worked well for me: “GIS is about what is. Geodesign is about what could be (or what will be).” I agree with James that a big chunk of this seems to me to have been going on for quite some time. The idea of using GIS technology to play what-if scenarios to help make better decisions is certainly not new, but perhaps the instant availability of basemaps (be they OSM, Google, Bing, or ESRI Community) and, as Autodesk refers to it, the infinite computing of the cloud (or even the substantial computing of today’s desktop or even palmtop) are combining with ever more sophisticated software to host models that make it reasonable to explore the impacts of potential designs in seconds.

Matthew Palavido’s talk on “What Makes a Plan Inherently More Sustainable than Another” illustrated this by showing how a set of models could ultimately assign a single “goodness” value to a design based on waiting characteristics like accessibility, distance to parks, etc, etc. If one can numerically evaluate a design, then the next step seems to me to harness that infinite computing and have computers generate a massive number of alternatives and pick the best ones from that…but that might just be crazy talk.

BIM / GIS Data Exchange
But from a practical point of view, I was there to see where and how our products could play a role in facilitating the kinds of work under the #geodesign umbrella. Whatever definition you choose, GeoDesign needs data. Of course, we’ve been working for years to remove format and data model barriers within the GIS and CAD spheres of influence, but at least some GeoDesign scenarios require a form of dialog between the GIS and BIM worlds. The main takeaway for me from the BIM and GIS Integration IdeaLab session (thanks Matt for the great summary) was that the problem is huge and open ended, but yet there are concrete problems begging for solutions that we might already have most, if not all of the pieces in order to solve.

I came home from the conference convinced that our intention to refocus our efforts on the BIM to/from GIS data exchange problem over the next year is on target. We’ve been working to facilitate this for several years now, and the GeoDesign Summit provided a few more concrete scenarios for us to attack (complete with some pleas from some of the attendees).

Would exchanging data between GIS and BIM help your work go more smoothly? If it would, what is holding you back now? Leave me a comment, give me a kick, and I promise to see what I can do.

About Data BIM GeoDesign GIS

Dale Lutz

Dale is the co-founder and VP of Development at Safe Software. After starting his career working spatial data (ranging from icebergs to forest stands) for many years, he and other co-founder, Don Murray, realized the need for a data integration platform like FME. His favourite TV show is Star Trek, which inspired the names for most of the meeting rooms and common areas in the Safe Software office. Dale is always looking to learn more about the data industry and FME users. Find him on Twitter to learn more about what his recent discoveries are!

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