openBIM vs. closedBIM: key differences and why openBIM is the better choice 

The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) has changed how construction projects are planned, carried out, and managed. BIM acts as the digital foundation that allows project members to work together smoothly and make smart decisions from start to finish. But there are two main ways to do this—openBIM and closedBIM. Each approach has its own way of working, file types, and effects on traditional versus new BIM methods. 

In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between openBIM and closedBIM, explaining their main concepts and important qualities, and why you should choose openBIM as your preferred way of working.  

Join our upcoming webinar about open standard:

Navigating Data Exchange with BIM Collaboration. 

Date: May 30th, 11AM CEST

What is openBIM? 

openBIM takes the advantages of BIM to the next level. It is based on open standards that focus on making digital data in construction easy to use, manage, and sustain with any BIM software. Its well-known open standards include buildingSMART’s IFC, BCF and IDS.

openBIM facilitates collaboration by creating project information that can be exported and shared in different formats and can be used in different tools. It can be used by anyone and supports projects from start to finish by ensuring different tools and systems can cooperate effectively. You are not tied to a specific BIM software, but you have the freedom to choose the software that works best for your project.  

The key principles of openBIM: 

  1. Interoperability: openBIM ensures that different software and systems work together smoothly. It is based upon the belief that successful digital transformation in construction relies on the easy sharing of information. 
  1. Open and neutral standards: openBIM promotes using open standards such as IFC and BCF to facilitate easy cooperation. You are no longer tied to specific software, making it easier for everyone to work together. 
  1. Reliable data exchange: openBIM makes sure data sharing is trustworthy by using quality benchmarks. It builds trust among the people involved. 
  1. Collaboration workflows: By using flexible data formats, openBIM improves how people collaborate. It means data can move more freely, helping everyone work together effectively. 
  1. Flexibility of technology: openBIM enables you to use the BIM tools that suit you and your project best.  

What is closedBIM? 

While openBIM promotes collaboration, interoperability, and a forward-thinking approach, its more traditional counterpart closedBIM relies on proprietary formats. It means that data is stored in a native format that is only accessible with the application in which the data was created. That way, you are limited to using a BIM solution from a specific software provider. If you want to export your data to another software, you cannot guarantee that the data will be transferred correctly. Hence, closedBIM is often called ‘lonely’ BIM. This way of working can lead to various disadvantages, such as:  

  1. Proprietary Constraints: closedBIM relies on specific vendor data formats, limiting collaboration and data sharing among different stakeholders. 
  1. Data Isolation: closedBIM tends to store data in isolated silos. This fragmentation inhibits effective collaboration and communication. 
  1. Inefficiencies: The interoperability challenges of closedBIM hinder the seamless flow of data, creating inefficiencies when sharing project information.  
  1. Lack of Standardization: closedBIM may lack standardized processes, resulting in inconsistencies and interoperability problems. 

Why choose openBIM? 

Now that we have explored both openBIM and closedBIM, the main question is: why should you choose openBIM? Let us dive into the reasons that make openBIM the better choice for efficient and successful BIM projects: 

1. Enhanced Collaboration 

As you know, the construction process is complex. It involves a lot of people from a great variety of disciplines. Luckily, openBIM promotes collaboration on a level that closedBIM struggles to achieve. By working with open standards, openBIM breaks down data silos, enabling stakeholders to work together seamlessly. Whether you’re an architect, engineer, or project manager, openBIM fosters an environment where you can collaborate with your peers in real time, leading to more effective project delivery. 

2. Interoperability 

A key strength of openBIM is its commitment to interoperability. Unlike closedBIM, where data is often locked into proprietary formats, openBIM emphasizes the use of open and neutral standards, such as the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), BIM Collaboration Formats (BCF), and Information Delivery Specification (IDS). These neutral standards ensure that data can flow freely between different software platforms. You are always guaranteed access to your project data. openBIM eliminates compatibility issues and bottlenecks and gives project members involved the freedom to choose the BIM software that suits them best.  

3. Futureproofing 

In a rapidly evolving industry, the ability to futureproof your projects is invaluable. openBIM’s focus on flexible technology choices ensures that you’re not tied down to specific software or systems. This flexibility allows you to adapt to new technologies and workflows as they emerge, keeping your projects up to date and competitive. Besides, the non-proprietary file formats remain accessible and usable in the long term, minimizing the risk of data loss. You will always have access to critical project information throughout the entire lifecycle of a built asset.  

4. Saving time and costs 

The improved collaboration and interoperability of openBIM help reduce rework, duplication and errors that are commonly associated with exchanging data among different software tools. With its smoother information flow and better cooperation, openBIM can help you save time and costs during each phase of a project.  

Embracing openBIM for the Future 

Whether you are a seasoned professional or a newcomer to the world of BIM, understanding the differences between openBIM and closedBIM is essential for making informed decisions in your projects. 

openBIM promotes collaborative, forward-thinking innovation. It facilitates improved teamwork, creates new approaches to project management, and ensures better project outcomes. By promoting interoperability, open standards, and transparent workflows, openBIM creates a more efficient, sustainable, and connected future for the built asset industry.  

As the industry continues to evolve, embracing openBIM could be the key to unlocking the full potential of BIM technology. Stay tuned for further insights into the world of BIM! 

Learn how openBIM can transform your project  

If you’re eager to dive deeper into the world of openBIM, we have 2 other contents for you:

We have 8 tips to help you to accelerate your BIM projects. Fill out the form to get immediate access to the download material. Enjoy the read!
Access the material → 

Ready to revolutionize your BIM projects? In this article, you will discover 5 innovative approaches to transform your BIM coordination process.
Read article →