PROFILE: Solibri — A journey to BIM model validation

Rob Jackson at Bond Bryan explains the journey to BIM model validation


Early steps towards validation

In early 2013 Bond Bryan Architects invested in a single network license of Solibri Model Checker. We had recognised that validation of information was going to be critical to the future of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in both our own business and the industry.

We began by testing a few of our models and quickly realised that we needed to do more work implementing standards within our models before we could develop a viable model checking approach.

So during the summer of 2013 we spent a lot of time focussed on the integration of emerging industry standards in our authoring tool. At the same time the BIM overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work became available (which was subsequently published as the RIBA Plan of Work 2013).

So in September 2013 we introduced new authoring tool templates to our staff for use on live projects. These templates focussed on greater data integration and moved away from creating and exporting native data fields to using Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) data, which is covered by ISO 16739:2013. Moving to IFC also allowed us to align our data deliverables with COBie-UK-2012. COBie is a subset of IFC and is the non-graphical data deliverable for all UK Government projects from April 6th 2016 and is at the core of Solibri Model Checker (and its free accompanying viewer). So we knew that aligning with open international standards would provide us with the best methodology for validating our data and subsequently using it for other workflows.

Building validation workflows

So six months after introducing our new workflows we were starting to get better models. With this improvement in our authored models, it allowed us to return to Solibri and work on developing a matching set of rules to the authored model standards. Having spent a long time understanding the data we were creating building a set of rules was more straightforward. Our whole approach has been built around the RIBA Plan of Work 2013, BS1192:2007 (and subsequently PAS1192-2:2013) and COBie-UK-2012. As a practice we are keen to integrate as much of COBie as possible, irrespective of whether we are asked for it. We have always believed that standard BIM deliverables should become the ‘new norm’ over time rather than something that is additional to our services.

Whilst we were building our model validation rules for Solibri, a new version of our authoring tool, Graphisoft ArchiCAD was released. This version allowed us to automate much of our data creation through mapping. Changes were also made to make the workflows simpler for staff. This immediately offered the opportunity to integrate more information as standard. This meant that the validation process could be more specific and therefore more robust.

So in September 2014 we finally rolled out our company rulesets for Solibri Model Checker to be used in anger on our new live projects.

The rulesets

Built to align with industry standards but coupled with a clear understanding of what data we should produce at each stage, the rulesets are split for each RIBA workstage. This means the user can focus solely on the set of rules they are required to pass at each stage. As much is automated, many of these rules will be passed with very little effort. We actually split out a lot of the out-of-the-box rules to create a longer list. This meant that users would see that they had passed an awful lot and not be daunted by the fact that a rule had failed because one aspect had failed within a single rule. Splitting the rules also allowed us to make the descriptions simpler and clearer and add information about where to fix the rules if they do fail. The advantage of this approach also means that a clear report can be provided to others about what has and hasn’t passed. We now have a number of projects that have implemented our rules. Instantly users are surprised at the power of the issues Solibri picks up. Things they thought were thoroughly checked manually throw up issues. It becomes a positive challenge to resolve these issues rather than a chore. As we have used the rules more we have realised that further rules need to be added or existing ones tweaked.

The benefits

Clearly model checking has obvious benefits to the quality of traditional outputs. Ensuring that spaces don’t have duplicate numbers means there is no chance of duplicated Room Data Sheets and it’s a similar story for duplicated window and door numbers. The benefit of this becomes more pronounced on bigger or more complex projects. So our outputs are more reliable compared to manual processes.

We are also using Solibri to check our 3-dimensional models against others models such as Structure and Building Services. These models are being used in coordination meetings to discuss the resolution of issues. This is allowing issues to be resolved faster and removing the need to resolve these issues on site. This reduction in risk has an obvious cost benefit to contractors and ultimately to clients.

However the benefits of integrating data and being able to validate it is that our information is more reliable for others to use. It can be used for COBie but it can also be used to produce Information Take-off. Our project models have become business development tools in their own right to some sceptical contractors. Many are amazed about the quality of the information we are now starting to output and they are realising what our approach can bring to make their lives easier.

Next steps

So now in 2015 we have 3 licenses (with more planned) and are now only a year away from ‘BIM Level 2’ becoming required on all publicly procured projects. As a practice we are already seeing projects requiring COBie and we started our first projects, which formally required COBie in January 2015. Our model rulesets and Solibri’s COBie functionality are making this process relatively straightforward. Live projects are providing more valuable learning experiences and our processes will continue to evolve.

2015 will also see the publication of the Digital Plan of Work and updated Uniclass classification system. Both these will need us to develop our approach further and we also plan to introduce more checking for the extended requirements of BS1192-4:2014, NRM1 and the NBS BIM Object Standard. So over the summer we plan to further develop both our authoring approach and our matching validation process. September 2015 will be another step forward and the opportunity to further improve our offering.


Solibri UK Ltd


+44 (0) 844 854 9250

[email protected]