To have a proper understanding of BIM, one requires an understanding of object libraries.

Object libraries contain graphical representations of things (a pump, distribution board, light, door, and so on) plus information about those things. Having an object library allows the user to ‘drag and drop’ content from the library to the virtual asset. Just like Minecraft, it’s simple.

Yes there are many complexities involved such as definition, types of data, schemas and so on, but this is how BIM professionals often describe an object library to the uninitiated.

So, what’s the big deal? If this is a cornerstone of doing BIM, just go build object libraries. Well, herein lies the challenge. Who should build what content and to what level of definition using what types of information?

This is part of the national discussions being had in both Australia and New Zealand at present. Both countries have launched initiatives to create a national object library to ensure consistency across the industry. Discussions include a selection of the regions’ BIM glitterati across the industry from the public, private, commercial and infrastructure sectors, including architects, engineers, contractors and consultants.

A recent discussion was facilitated by NATSPEC (AUS) and CIL (NZ), the potential custodians of this National Object Library (NOL) at the behest of The Australian Procurement Construction Council/Australian Construction Industry Forum (APCC/ACIF.) This workshop, or debate, ranged from the technical to the ethical and the philosophical challenges both real and potential.

Essentially the information held in an object library comes down to who uses that object. This in turn leads to questions surrounding who creates the content and to what level of definition the author should go. After much debate on the analysis of other efforts across the globe, and in particular the UK, it was felt that the ANZ initiatives should aim for having objects which had a lowest common denominator level of information with just a basic graphical shape. This will allow all those using the content the ability to reach a minimum standard of consistency and also allow others – such as manufacturers – to create their own content, which would also meet this base level.

The other, and I believe very important, agreement was that Australia and New Zealand should endeavour to develop these initiatives in tandem, generally because it is agreed that practice and expectations of deliverables in both countries were more similar than different. I look forward to seeing how these NOLs progress, but the broader queries I have are which types of content get developed first and who will support the investment into creating the object library content?

As I come from a ‘BIM 4 Infrastructure’ perspective, I would favour the creation of content biased in this area considering the projected spend on infrastructure in the region. Supporting the effort must be the manufacturers supplying their catalogues in this format using an industry wide, supply chain endorsed, object template for information.

Industry practitioners in Australia and New Zealand have taken a leading role regionally in promoting and developing BIM thus far, yet there are several groups all trying to resolve the same issues. It is time for groups such as BuildingSMART and collaborate-anz as well as the myriad BIM groups to get together and define whom is trying to do what. Otherwise this will be just another year where BIM flounders in ANZ.

Do I feel a summit coming on?