As more industry sectors weigh in on the future of Building Information Modeling and other interoperability issues, the International Alliance for Interoperability and the National Institute of Building Sciences are trying to create neutral ground to bring unity to the growing trend.

The groups launched the buildingSMART Alliance, a public/private initiative that will operate within NIBS. It will promote open standards that link national and international stakeholders in development, construction, design and building management sectors.

Patrick MacLeamy, chair of IAI and CEO of design firm HOK, says he hopes to see the alliance link architects, contractors, building trades, owners, building managers and product manufacturers, software developers and insurers. “This transformation within NIBS has the potential to be forceful enough to get these separate groups to pay attention and join in a neutral place,” he says. By working within NIBS, buildingSMART can be impartial, he adds.

"We don't see this as a competing organization. It can bring together everyone in the interoperability world."
— Jim Broaddus, NIBS Chairman

The new group comes a year after the formation of 3xPT, an initiative led by owner organization Construction Users Round Table, American Institute of Architects and Associated General Contractors, to address practice integration, including BIM and interoperability.

But with more BIM groups forming, interoperability advocates wonder how the industry can best consolidate its efforts. “That’s the $64,000 question,” says Greg Sizemore, CURT executive vice president.  “I believe it’s in the industry’s best interest to provide a unified vision that we can work toward which is meaningful and deliverable.”

NIBS Chairman Jim Broaddus hopes the new alliance will complement interoperability efforts. “We don’t want to send the signal that we’re taking over,” he contends. “We don’t see this as a competing organization. It’s a whole new type of organization that can bring together everyone in the interoperability world.” The group is obtaining seed money from NIBS and AIA.

Brad Workman, vice president at Bentley Systems and an alliance board member, says software vendors recognize diverse interoperability needs. But he would like to see unified discussion. “For us to achieve what the marketplace needs, we’ll have to have standards,” Workman points out. “If not NIBS and buildingSMART Alliance, then who?”