Building authorities around the world are looking for ways to transform the permitting process, to use building information models (BIMs) instead of 2D drawings. I sat down with Wafa Alsakini to discuss how Solibri is making that possible, and what new opportunities Solibri is offering to its customers across the globe.
Building information modeling is essential for process automation in the construction industry. The quality of the models varies, however. That’s a massive challenge to automation, which depends on the standardized representation of data.
Solibri has been a trailblazer in the quality inspection of BIMs for many years. Architects and engineers rely on its model-checking tools for clash detection and information quality audits. Cities and municipalities have also discovered Solibri’s tools for viewing models in the building permit process.
Solibri goes further than simple geometrical assessments of models. It lets the user check the models with rules that comprise both geometric and parametric elements. This makes it unique among the tools available to building authorities.
Developing e-Permitting for Governments
Wafa Alsakini, the Business Owner of Building Code Checking Automation, works at Solibri’s headquarters in Helsinki. She’s a construction manager who specializes in BIM project management. Before joining Solibri in 2012, Alsakini worked as a researcher at Aalto University, where she completed her Ph.D. that same year.
After carrying out face-to-face consulting work with customers for two years, Alsakini started to develop Solibri extensions; software modules for local code-checking purposes. Her team developed extensions for Swedish area calculation and Norwegian government agency Statsbygg’s BIM requirements.
“Because of my background as a construction manager, I’m well into validating building requirements and translating them into rules and specifications for automated code checking,” says Alsakini. “Based on my work, our R&D team can start coding and create new rule templates. I then do parameterization for those rules, create rule sets, and pack the results into extensions.”
Alsakini’s experience on e-permitting, as Solibri calls the BIM permitting process, extends beyond the Nordic countries. She was the project manager of BIM quality inspection and code checking system development for Dubai and other Middle Eastern clients. In 2016 she became the project manager of e-permitting system development for Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority. After project completion in spring 2019, the local government started the development of the extensive Corenet X system.
A Growing Demand
Governments around the globe are starting to demand BIM-based processes from the construction industry in public projects. They want to improve the performance and the results of construction projects through efficient information management with BIM. With the growing complexity of construction, authorities are under pressure to find automated solutions for the permitting process.
“When we started in Singapore in 2016 the project encompassed only 110 building requirements. When Corenet X finishes in 2023, it is going to include almost 3,000 requirements from seven authorities,” says Alsakini. “So, you can see the huge demand, and that’s only one country.”
Consequently, the demand for Solibri’s automated model quality and code checking has gained momentum. This has created a situation where it does not make sense for the company to try to develop everything by itself.
Opening Borders to the Developer Community
“Solibri, in essence, is an engine that uses rules to check models,” Alsakini explains. “Solibri was originally the sole creator of these rules. In mid-2018, the Solibri model checker opened its borders to other developers who can now use the API to create new rules.”
Solibri has become a platform that provides templates, education, and support to its user community. Customers have, in a sense, become co-developers of the product.
The company continues to create APIs for all its functionalities. Among the latest are the Views API, which allows users to create custom views, and soon, the Information Takeoff API. This makes it possible for the user to extract whatever information is wanted from the models.
Sticking to Standards Makes Automation Feasible
Trying to automate the processing of native models from several design disciplines can be a nightmare for building authorities. That’s why many countries have chosen to require vendor-neutral models in the open Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) format, which Solibri also uses. Most BIM tools can export IFC files, which makes it a sensible choice as a standard.
But it’s not enough to submit just any IFC models for automated code checking; the representation of information in the models must follow the authorities’ guidelines.
Alsakini admits that making designers change their habits is not easy, but it is necessary if the machine-readability of models is to be achieved. She sees the educating of designers and experts as a necessity, in order to have them create models than can be automatically checked.
An Offering for All Construction Stakeholders
Solibri offers four core products for various types of uses and users. Solibri Anywhere is a popular free tool for viewing IFC models. It also includes the exporting of BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) files for issue tracking. Anywhere is useful for all the stakeholders of a construction project.
Solibri Office allows the integration of models from various disciplines, and checking them with rules against each other. It’s a perfect tool for BIM coordinators to communicate potential issues with the design team. It can also be used for classifications and information takeoffs.
Solibri Enterprise is the Office version for large construction companies and other organizations. It provides flexible licensing and Autorun, a feature that helps to automate model-related tasks.
Solibri Site is meant for non-designers in the field. It produces information takeoffs for construction site managers, for them to compare as-designed with as-built data.
The Code Checking Global Task Force
In addition to those four products, Solibri now has a new unit called Automated Code Compliance Checking, which Alsakini heads worldwide. Its purpose is to provide a host of services for e-permitting projects by a network of partner companies.
When building authorities want to establish a new, BIM-based e-permitting process, they need external help. The new unit can help with many tasks, including project management, integration with legacy systems, and deployment of cloud services.
Solibri can now offer building authorities options that vary from ‘Automated code compliance checking systems’ as extensions running on the current Solibri desktop version to the ‘ePermitting System’. The latter is a hybrid model of the current product running in the cloud as a checking system integrated within authorities’ e-Service or permitting platforms.
The Transformation is a Joint Venture
BIM-savvy building designers and contractors worldwide are already using Solibri. The company’s extended offering will undoubtedly increase its appeal to building authorities as well. With its services, Solibri helps advance the adoption of BIM in countries and cities that want to move to a model-based design, permitting, and construction process.
“If the government and the industry work together and do their homework, a successful transition to BIM is possible. It does not work if only one is pushing for the change,” Alsakini advises.
For more information about Solibri, visit Solibri.com. Right now, the company is offering a full version of its Office product for a 30-day free trial. If you want to talk to Wafa Alsakini about automated code compliance checking, email her at .
This blog post is in collaboration with Solibri.