Bentley Systems on BIM

Anyone who follows the AEC design/documentation software industry well enough to know about layers-versus-levels and blocks-versus-cells also knows that getting archrivals Autodesk and Bentley Systems to agree on any terminology is no easy task. That's why the LaiserinLetter takes special pride in getting these two leading players to agree on the term "building information modeling" as the successor to "CAD" for AEC design/documentation software. Herewith, Keith Bentley, Co-CTO and Founder, and Brad Workman, Vice President, Building Vertical at Bentley offer a first cut at Bentley's view.


We read with interest your article [IssueFifteenJL] on building information modeling (BIM). In fact, Bentley does agree with your suggestion to us that we use BIM to express our “beyond CAD” modeling vision for users in the building lifecycle. We do this in an attempt to consolidate this important discussion and eliminate the alphabet soup of vision acronyms. We encourage all providers and industry pundits to standardize on this term as well.

By agreeing on the name BIM, we can stop debating names, establish a common starting point, and begin discussing the key points of the vision. The goal is to provide clarity for users so they can make informed decisions about their software strategy. We’ll put forward two key points of our BIM vision in this letter.

Our first principle is that BIM should be a superset of CAD. In other words, “starting over” with a new, incompatible platform in order to achieve BIM is wrong. Starting from scratch has never been an option for our users—there is simply too much investment and value in today’s tools, data and workflows to throw it all away. Users with large investments and lots to lose from technology discontinuities demand and deserve a predictable and evolutionary path. Bentley has been and remains committed to providing an evolutionary path to our users.

Technologically, the aspect most critical to the success of BIM implementations is the overall data architecture. There are fundamentally two approaches to data structuring: first, a distributed or “federated” database, and, second, a centralized database. After years of experience and testing with both, we are championing and expanding a federated database approach, which meets BIM needs and is inherently highly scalable.

So BIM it is for Bentley in building. Much more will be coming from us on BIM in the near future.

Keith and Brad

> Wow! Thanks, Keith, Brad—you've propelled my "BIM debate" idea to a flying start. Re an agreement to "stop debating names, establish a common starting point, and begin discussing the key point of the vision," you virtually took the words out of my mouth. It also makes sense that BIM "should be a superset of CAD"; the role that CAD tools have played in the design and documentation of buildings won't disappear overnight because newer and richer tools enable us to create greater value in the building lifecycle.

Re your second point, I'm not going to pretend I'm qualified to debate the relative merits of different "approaches to data structuring" on the same page or in the same room with Keith Bentley (contrary to popular belief, my ego does have some limits ). However, as the provocateur/moderator of this debate I do hope to see/hear more point/counterpoint from all parties on this issue and such other differences that may arise.

If the AEC and FOM (facility operations and maintenance) industries are to move forward into BIM technology, then we all need and deserve a rigorous and open airing of all the issues. I applaud Bentley—as I applaud Autodesk and any other software outfits that choose to join this debate—for helping move the discussion forward.

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