Infrastructure sector intensifies use of BIM by adopting the IM3 data exchange format

Infrastructure sector intensifies use of BIM by adopting the IM3 data exchange format

The Finnish Transport Agency and the country´s large cities will require use of the open Inframodel 3 (IM3) data exchange format starting from May 2014. It will facilitate exploiting the data of an information model in different systems and will bring the infrastructure sector closer to a BIM breakthrough.

The potential for exploiting BIM in the infrastructure sector was assessed at an international seminar organized by buildingSMART Finland and the Infra FINBIM project of the PRE program of RYM Oy in Espoo on Nov. 19, 2013.

– The Transport Agency has set as its goal that in 2014 all major procurements will be BIM-based, reported Director Kari Ruohonen. According to him, BIM is already so widely used at the design and construction phase that we need to start thinking in a new way. Technology has also developed: nearly everyone has a smart phone or other device which has improved the preconditions for open data exchange considerably.

Operational modes are changing

Tiina Perttula, Infra Model Development Manager at the Finnish Transport Agency, told that the Transport Agency and all large Finnish cities have made a joint decision to require the use of the latest Inframodel 3 data exchange format in all projects launched after May 1, 2014.

The Inframodel format, which is based on the international LandXML format, is intended to facilitate open data exchange between different design systems and between design and production. The presently used IM2 format was introduced already in 2007, but development has been brisk since Infra FINBIM was launched.

For instance, it has been possible to transfer BIM-based information directly from a designer to site systems. Earlier it was necessary to process data on site in various ways, and at worst, for example, the models required by the machine control systems of excavators had to be completely remade.

In the future, the Transport Agency intends to improve BIM-based bid calculation. New technology requires new operational modes.

– A lot of information goes missing in infrastructure projects today, and the same work is done over and over by different people. For instance, the bid phase would be easier without several people surveying quantities in their own way and arriving at different results, Perttula continued.

She also called for social innovations and a discussion on data protection and dissemination practices: – Do we wish to introduce new technologies and act in the same old way, or take a leap forward by renewing modes of operation, he concluded.

Will the IFC format expand?

Future development of the Inframodel format will take place under the international nonprofit buildingSMART Alliance. According to Juha Hyvärinen, Senior Research Scientist at VTT, the goals will remain unchanged in the new operating environment: it must be possible to utilize data throughout the life cycle of a construction project from submitting a bid to maintenance.

– In 5-10 years development under buildingSMART is likely to lead to a situation where the IFC data exchange format widely used in building construction also meets the needs of the infrastructure sector, Hyvärinen anticipates.

The breakthrough of BIM in the infrastructure sector will occur in many phases. For example, the Transport Agency, as other large infrastructure managers, has a lot of data in its registers that will take years to model. In maintenance, data models are being introduced while maintenance solutions are only being formulated.

Education systems also need to be developed since it is not possible to train only young BIM experts for the sector. Apprenticeship-type BIM training for the infrastructure sector has been developed in cooperation with universities and enterprises. It will start at the beginning of 2014 – the application period ends at the end of November.


BIM-based production and quality assurance at a railroad construction site


Tiina Perttula, Finnish Transport Agency, tiina.perttula[at], Phone +358 40 517 6789

Juha Hyvärinen, VTT, juha.hyvarinen[at], Phone +358 9 456 4579