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Open-Source BIM: The Future of AEC Design

Open source BIM is open to all project stakeholders, enabling everyone to visualize, modify, and take part in the development.

Published: 25/04/2024

Country: United States
Technology plays a significant role in AEC industry, facilitating efficiency and innovation through planning. The development of Building Information Modeling has gradually changed the way we conceptualize, plan, and construct buildings.  

Open-source BIM, however, is a new competitor. This collaborative and transparent approach promises to disrupt the established order, where legacy software companies struggle to offer the flexibility modern AEC craves. 

Traditional AEC Design Workflow Poses Challenges 

Traditional, "closed" BIM software can feel like a gilded cage. The proprietary solutions limit users' creativity and lock them into inflexible workflows with their high price tags and rigid frameworks. Customization feels like a forgotten step, hindering adaptation to unique project needs and personal preferences.  

The code, veiled in mystery, speaks of control rather than cooperation. The outcome? A sense of stagnation, where innovation tiptoes nervously around the constraints imposed by the virtual barriers. 

Why is Open-Source BIM the way ahead? 

Open source is open to all project stakeholders, enabling everyone to visualize, modify, and take part in the development.   

Building Information Modeling approach is all about a transparent workflow ensuring every step is understood and appreciated, building trust and confidence in a well-executed manner. Open-source BIM gives the power of design into the hands of the creators. 

It enhances real-time collaboration amongst the architects, engineers, and other stakeholders involved in the process. This stands in contrast to traditional proprietary BIM software application, where ‘closed’ ecosystems limit interoperability, hindering collaboration.   

10 Best Available Free and Open-source BIM Software Applications: 

• Graphisoft BIMx: A feature of BIMx software is the Hyper-model. It is a free 2D and 3D navigation tool for construction projects. There is a premium edition of it as well. BIMX allows users to view building designs virtually through support for Google Cardboard VR. The design studio and the construction site are separated by BIMx. It is free of charge for mobile devices running iOS and Android.
Image Source: Graphisoft

• xBIM Software Toolkit: You can obtain this BIM program, called xBIM Software Toolkit, from GitHub. With the help of the free, open-source xBIM toolkit, developers can design custom BIM middleware for IFC-based applications. xBIM is also known as eXtensible Building Information Modelling. It provides several useful sample examples that can be found on GitHub that are applicable to actual building scenarios. You can construct different BIM tools with it because it's an open-source platform.

Image Source: xBIM Toolkit

• Digital Project: Another type of free BIM software that can be downloaded is this one, which enables the creation of CAD and BIM models of any geometric complexity. The user must obtain the license key before downloading the software. The suite of digital projects consists of three packages. DP Manager, DP Extensions, and DP Designer.
Image Source: Digital Project

• Dynamo BIM: It is open-source, community-driven graphical programming for designers. Building information modeling (BIM) and computational design can both benefit from its utilization. Dynamo adds the data and logic environment of a graphical algorithm editor to building information modeling. It creates logic routines and offers an easy-to-use visual interface with built-in visualization. The open-source Dynamo and Autodesk Dynamo Studio versions both function with Autodesk Revit and can be used independently or in combination with other applications as a portable computational design sketching platform.

Image Source: Dynamo BIM

• Autodesk BIM 360: Throughout the entire construction lifecycle, project data may be accessed almost anytime, anywhere with the help of BIM 360 construction management software.

Image Source: Autodesk BIM 360:

• Edificius Free BIM software: The free BIM program Edificius has built-in real-time rendering features for your designs. It enables the creation of sophisticated BIM design solutions that integrate structural analysis, cost estimation, and architectural design, including 3D videos for architectural visualizations. For a precise mapping of the terrain, it can extract information from Google Maps satellite images.
Image Source: Acca Software

• Tekla BIMsight: Another free BIM software program that the project team can use to find problems early in the building process is Tekla BIMsight.  Using the same user-friendly BIM environment, the engineers or students can use this application to merge all of the construction process models, verify that there are no conflicts, and exchange information.

Image Source: Trimble Connect

• B-processor: Rather than being an upgrade or further development of pre-existing CAD software, B-processor is BIM software that was created entirely from the ground up. The front, side, and top perspectives are not used in this software. As all modeling is done in a perspective 3D view, the workflow is incredibly natural and easy to use. This design tool is incredibly user-friendly and easy to pick up, much like Google's Sketch-Up software.

Image Source: Sourceforge

• BIM Surfer: A web-based viewer toolkit for BIM data visualization using IFC and glTF from the latest open-source BIMserver version is called BIM Surfer, and it is available as an open-source (WebGL) application.

Image Source: BIM Surfer

• CYPE: Cype is a complete suite of free software for engineering, construction, and architecture. It comes with two software packages: Cypetherm Suite, which includes Cypetherm loads, Hvac, Cypetherm Hygro, Bridges, Eplus, and Cypelux, as well as the IFC builder. The building services, management, and structures are covered by the second software package.

Image Source: CYPE

Challenges in Adopting Open-source BIM

Drawing comparisons with the larger open-source community, there are concerns. Open-source initiative sometimes begin as one-person endeavors. However, without adequate finance or assistance, they either fail, continue to operate with inadequate finance, or are taken up by large tech companies, which dilutes their original purpose. If this trend continues, the industry's adoption of open source in AEC— particularly BIM may face difficulties.

Final Thought

Let's get over the idea that open source in AEC is a volunteer project that some developers would work on the weekends. Rather, consider open source as a positive force and a fantastic means of promoting technology adoption. 
Although funding is a barrier for the open-source movement, governments, non-governmental organizations, and stakeholders may invest in open-source BIM projects to prevent the worst effects of climate change. 
This adoption can support the project's ideal objective, which is to enhance the AEC sector and atmosphere, as well as lay the foundation for the development of a workable business model. 


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