What you must know about BIM and Blockchain
Fernando Valero is a Business Consulting and Innovation Director and BIM expert at Grant Thornton. He is an expert in transformation and digitalization of corporate processes in construction. In an article for buildingSMART Spanish Chapter, he reflected on the interaction between two concepts that have been gaining a lot of traction: Blockchain and BIM.
Valero, who is also professor at Zigurat Global Institute of Technology, stresses in his article the need to work in safe and controlled collaborative environments when working with BIM, which Blockchain technology can guarantee.
Fernando Valero’s article:
A BIM model really works as a large container of parameterized, interconnected, modifiable and graphically representable information. All of which is reusable during the entire life cycle of the asset. In this sense, the work of BuildingSmart is commendable since the standardization of the information structure associated with the model to achieve real interoperability between the systems of the different stakeholders of the project is a difficult challenge to assume and even more to solve. Hence the interesting work of the different “Rooms” and working groups of BuildingSmart.
However, it is precisely this need to interact between stakeholders that poses some of the most important challenges of using BIM at an advanced and mature level of collaboration. How to trace the evolution of the different documents and models in the most transparent manner? How to define the evolving responsibility of each party in an information model of the project? How to determine if the changes that occur comply with the informational requirements of the project or company? Including LOD, applicable legislation, internal and external quality criteria, with the minimum investment of time and resources possible?
¿What is Blockchain and why is it useful in BIM?
Blockchain is a technology that allows the exchange of information and transactions between two or more participants through completely secure and irreversible coding. This transfer does not require a centralized intermediary to identify and certify the information, but it is distributed among multiple independent blockchain network participants (nodes) that register and validate without any need for trust between them. Each participant has an exact copy of the information, allowing to carry out trazables and unforgeable transactions.
This traceability can be extended to any change that is made to the project model. Therefore, Blockchain guarantees a secure and controlled collaborative environment around BIM.
Considering that the Blockchain architecture is designed as a distributed database, none of the parties involved would be in an advantageous position over another because Blockchain guarantees the principle of neutrality on any change made in the model. Blockchain acts as a source of trust in which system participants are safe when exchanging information.
With a Blockchain we can leave an immutable record of all the changes made to each BIM object. Therefore, these changes will be automatically linked to its author. Therefore, the information would be reflected and replicated in all systems and servers with access, avoiding problems when identifying editors. Thus, authorship and rights over each part of the model itself are immediately demarcated.
Another group of interesting Blockchain applications in the BIM world comes from the use of Smart Contracts, or smart contracts. With the use of these small programs can be given certain business logic to the operation of Blockchain.
The applications of Blockchain beyond the so-called cryptocurrencies, which the reader probably has at least heard, began to be demonstrated for the first time with the development of the Blockchain Ethereum platform in 2013. The Ethereum ecosystem incorporates its own digital currency, numerical records and small programs with business logic.
These small programs are called smart contracts or Smart Contracts.
There are several cases of use in which BIM and Blockchain interact successfully, but it is perhaps the use of these Smart Contracts the most promising field since it exploits the main advantage of BIM: the transparency of information between the parties. If this information, in addition and thanks to Blockchain, is distributed among all the parties in a way that guarantees the principle of neutrality, we could build on it an authentic ecosystem of certification and execution of business rules – and even contracts – linked to information shared through the BIM model.