The buildingSMART International Standards Summit, Dusseldorf, Germany 25-28th March 2019

Event Summary

The latest buildingSMART International Standards Summit held in Dusseldorf, Germany was successfully concluded. The Summit and German user day saw over 1,000 attendees, from over 30 countries with many interesting topics and presentations taking center stage, as well as high volumes of working output through the variety of rooms and projects. There were more than 70 individual working sessions throughout the week. The conference welcomed new attendees and benefitted from government officials, senior keynotes and technical experts. The event also included a first. There was a first viewing of an “IFC Rail” conceptual model. This fantastic occasion comes after many months of strategic delivery, collaboration and investment for this project.  Using the proverbial “IFC” brand and buildingSMART community engagement, this comes as a welcome result and was heralded by buildingSMART Chairman, Patrick MacLeamy as “the most spectacular project in buildingSMART today”.  Other highlights include a variety of keynote speakers, spanning a range of topics focusing on the central theme of “Digital Transformation”. There were new announcements including the intention to create new working rooms to deal with growing demand and acknowledgment that buildingSMART has delivered huge benefit to many countries and organizations by offering open standards and collaborative methods of working.

For the community, this marks welcome acknowledgement and recognition for the great work done over the last few years. The clear message was that this industry needs to continue to work together to deliver more. It is also obviously an exciting time to be involved with buildingSMART with a bright future ahead.

Opening Plenary: 25th March 2019

The theme of “digital transformation” ran throughout the opening day with presenters focusing on the challenges we all face today, and the potential benefits of adopting digital tools and solutions. The day was expertly moderated by the host, Antony Oliver, former Editor of New Civil Engineer with each session offering interesting insights with some robust questioning throughout. (Click images below for a larger view)

Following a welcome from buildingSMART Germany Managing Director, Gunther Wölfle and Chairman, Prof. Rasso Steinmann, the first presentation came from Richard Petrie, Chief Executive of buildingSMART International. The topic of “past, present and future” acknowledged the work done since its inception in 1995. Richard reiterated the need for more industry engagement to benefit outputs from standards and solutions. There was even a mention of the standards process now being called “Standards and Solutions” to deal with market need for tools to enable the standards produced. This fed into an important statement about the “buildingSMART ecosystem”. This ecosystem concept was an obvious motivator for the community to enable new service and tools with the core schema at the center. These services or tools included the buildingSMART Data Dictionary (bSDD), IFD and new potential web services.

Greg Schleusner, co-leader, Technical Room, delivered a keynote on the technology strategy for buildingSMART and the need for modernization. This includes a clear “IFC 5” release strategy, better software certification, data linking and overall modernization of the schema. Today, the fundamentals work, but in order to take advantage of web services, digital twins, or a connected data environment more needs to be done. There was also an announcement about a new proposed steering committee for the room to help manage the large volumes of work proposed through the roadmap.

Carsten Lotz from McKinsey & Company was up next to discuss how to boost productivity in construction by enabling digital workflows. McKinsey has reported poor levels of productivity in construction and this was the basis for much of the presentation. Mr Lotz focused on the data provided by McKinsey, highlighting the investment needed in the early phases of construction to better serve operations and maintenance. It doesn’t however help the immediate need for better project delivery. Some of the Q&A rebuked some of the discussion to suggest in some areas innovative and productivity is in “good shape”. However, Mr Lotz focused on the gap in skills needed to deliver a going digital strategy and today, there isn’t the resources or education to effectively systematize this.

The next session focused on the “clients view” with inputs from German speakers on the state of digitization in Germany. Professor Christian Glock from the University of Kaiserslautern, Martin Müller, Vice President of the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK) and René Hagemann-Miksits, Head of the Technology and Technology Policy Division at the Federation of German Construction Industries (Hauptverband der Deutschen Bauindustrie), moderated by Rasso Steinmann. This session reinforced the need for digital planning to deliver better outcomes and data packages to clients. The end customer in this example requires careful planning and strategic input to ensure a better overall outcome.

After lunch, the next keenly awaited session focus on “Digital Twins”. Firstly, Peter Löffler, Siemens, showed examples of digital twin usages. Mr Löffler provided a lot of context as to the state of the industry. For example, the digital transformation, according to Siemens, comes from the requirements of a company and clients. Such as the enablement of the workforce using digital tools, from the office or the job site. Examples were shown of digital twins in action particularly in manufacturing examples which provides opportunities for construction. The second speaker in this session was Mark Enzer, CTO, Mott MacDonald who focused on digital twins for infrastructure assets. This lively presentation also showcased the Gemini Principles document outlined by the Centre for Digital Built Britain in Cambridge. Mr Enzer showed how digital twins require a government-led strategy by utilizing existing ontologies to develop the framework for digital data. This would, in turn, help companies make better-informed decisions leading to better outcomes. Interestingly, Mr Enzer’s message resonated with buildingSMART: to have a bigger impact on society as a socially responsible reason for developing digital twins.

Following on from this session was a session titled “open standards – a perspective from the software vendors”. Speaking first was Uwe Wassermann from Autodesk. Uwe outlined the commitment Autodesk has shown over many years to the industry and the interoperability message not only across its own platforms but in fact working with others. In fact, their mission in support of openBIM is to deepen relationships with competitive solutions to ensure users can deliver better projects. Next up was Viktor Várkonyi, Executive Board Member, Nemetschek discussed how his company is fully committed to open standards. In a thought-provoking session, Mr Várkonyi suggested openBIM was more than technology – “a mindset” that needs companies to think about better ways of working. Their openBIM strategy is focused on end-user goals, and therefore technology must support a greater good. A nice connection with Mark Enzer’s societal benefit statements from the earlier session. Finally, Richard Fletcher, Trimble presented their commitment and focus on open standards. Trimble has been developing solutions that align with industry standards over a variety of projects. Many examples were cited, and it was clear in their strategic direction about where they see standards helping the industry digitize.

The final keynote of the day was delivered by Andy Verone, Oracle in the session titled “Future of Cloud Technology”. This interesting presentation showed the increasing need for cloud infrastructure and the opportunities it offers for delivering against the trends spoken about in earlier sessions. Mr Verone was keen to show their physical facility in the U.S. that allows construction workflows to be experienced first-hand by users. This connection for physical “building” of things and the technology that enables better decision-making will no doubt be a burgeoning requirement as companies meet productivity goals and enable digital transformation – first-hand.

Finally, Richard Kelly, buildingSMART International, wrapped up the day and gave an outline of what attendees can expect over the coming days. Mr Kelly reinforced the core mission; to provide full benefits through digital ways of working. This was nicely summed up in a closing statement that “now is the time the real work begins”.

Welcome Dinner

A maximum capacity enjoyed welcome drinks followed by dinner at the Rheinterrasse, in the city of Dusseldorf. The venue was excellent, and guests were warmly welcomed to this local landmark overlooking the Rhein. Following a welcome speech from the evening sponsor, Component Assembly Systems, diners were treated to an excellent speech from Ina Scharrenbach, Minister for Community, Local Government, Construction and Equal Opportunities in North Rhine-Westphalia. In her speech, she encouraged the ongoing cooperation between members of the community as a means to improve local and national infrastructure. This reinforced the message that government engagement was needed to ensure our industry remains productive. This was followed by the Fellows Awards program. The list of winners is:

  • Christophe Castaing
  • Susan Keenliside
  • Tomi Henttinen
  • Nick Nisbet
  • Øivind Rooth
  • Jøns Sjøgren
  • Roger Grant
  • Inhan Kim
  • Birgitta Foster

A huge congratulations go to the winners who have dedicated a lot of their time to help grow the community.

Day Two and Three

Day two and three saw a big program of working sessions, a side program and roundtables. “Rooms” as they are known were divided into focus areas, including; the technical room, the airport room, the infrastructure room, the regulatory room, the building room, the construction room, the railway room and the product room. There was also a bSI general room which including topics that might interest everybody, such as the use case management tool.

Working Rooms

As ever, the working rooms saw an unprecedented level of topics and working sessions. One of the reasons the International Standards Summit is run twice yearly is so that teams can connect and collaborate physically. Supplemented with virtual meetings, teams can share experiences, learnings and best practices as well as further develop ongoing work. Topics over the two days included; design transfer use case definition, quantity take off, policy and work for IFC and bSDD, IoT/BIM connection and much more. A more detailed view of the sessions can be found here

Another first this year was the introduction of the side program, “BIM at Its Best”. The program was designed to showcase best practice in the use of BIM methodologies. From user projects to examples of new digital workflows that are reflective of buildingSMART standards or solutions. Organisations that presented included GS1, Component Assembly Systems, GRAPHISOFT, Nova Ava and Bricsys amongst others. It was most pleasing to see three category winners from the awards program from Tokyo in October return to present their winning projects. Oslo Airport – T2 Project was presented by Aas-Jakobsen which represented a truly openBIM solution that mandated all BIM deliverables be in IFC format as well as native formats. Bouwcombinatie Ponsteiger presented their winning “Ponsteiger Project” and demonstrated over 350 uses of IFC through this housing developing project. Finally, Minnucci Associati s.r.l. presented their winning operations and maintenance category award with their “Naples Station” project. This openBIM project mapped and modelled existing assets within the terminal and provided new designs for the expansion and development of the station. This data was connected to the asset management system to be used for future use. We would like to thank our sponsors for their support in this program

Roundtables and Workshops

Another feature of the conference was the introduction of roundtables and other workshops that extended the topics that needed further debate or discussion. The three roundtables were designed to tackle major industry trends and themes. The topics were “Digital Twins”, “BIM + GIS Integration” and “Open CDE”. All three involved a moderator from the community with differing focuses within the sessions but were all equally designed to allow for open discussion and debate. The “digital twins” topic was a lively discussion that included suggestions that we should develop a proof of concept as an enabler. The digital twins created should also cover the entire lifecycle of an asset. The BIM + GIS integration roundtable focused on the work done by bSI and OGC, IDBE and the efforts on JWG of ISO TC 211 and TC 59. The focus was to broaden out he engagement so that we keep hit milestones and deliverables to show the value of integration and interoperability. Finally, the open CDE roundtable saw a large group debate the need for a standard approach to a common data environment (CDE). The net result was an agreement for the industry to work together on managing the complexities of the environment and enablement for rapidly changing technologies. It was agreed that the core mission should be to define what the users really need today. Lastly, there was an extended session called “Building Digital Marketplaces” with GS1 and various interested parties. This session focused on the need for product data templates, the value of commercial workflows with barcoding and electronic declaration of performance. The result of this workshop saw the announcement buildingSMART intends to create a “Manufacturing” room.

Final Day

The final day began with the closing plenary. Each room presented their conclusions and strategy moving forward. Jeffrey Ouellette presented the Implementation Support Group (ISG) status report. This includes findings from recent meetings in the US and a core mission statement to be more agile, engaged and prepared for growth. Examples cited ways in which our community have been working together. Jeffrey also announced the launch of the new technical website: Greg Schleusner presented the vision and roadmap for the Technical Room. This included the need for modernization to the IFC schema by enabling new technologies and the web. There was also a statement for the need for a clear and robust IFC5 strategy and the community can expect news on this soon. Greg also discussed the need for more linked data and a growing need for the IFCDoc tool. Tiina Perttula presented updates for the Infrastructure Room. This included a clear program review from 2017-2019, such as IFC Alignment 1.1 and the Common Schema project. It was noted that IFC Bridge is now almost at completion and there’s now some urgency to start software certification and deployment. Other areas of focus include collaboration with other groups and projects such as geotechnics and utilities. Next up, newly awarded fellow, Roger Grant presented the outlook for the Product Room. This included a review of the meetings that have recently taken places and an update on the new steering committee. Roger talked about work done with quantity take-off and further progress with GS1 on the product data templates. Further collaboration with ISO and CEN was helping to develop data templates and object libraries like the bSDD. Another newly awarded fellow, Tomi Henttinen gave the outlook from the Regulatory Room. This included some structural changes to the steering committee under the leadership of another recently awarded fellow, Nick Nisbet. Tomi mentioned the good work done on automated compliance, e-submissions and application form reports. Ken Endo delivered an exciting update for the Construction Room. This included a new name relaunch and a strong focus on the need for API’s. Mr Endo mentioned the need to connect to various sources of data and API’s would act as the connecting mechanism to do so. The message was that API’s can connect with partners and end users as a better digital workflow practice. Alex Worp presented a status report for the Airport Room. This included the detailed roadmap that focuses on the entire lifecycle of an airport and the many connected assets. BIM/GIS integration is another major topic as well as the need for linked data. By linking ontologies together, Alex suggested differing business units could connect their data to improve processes such as lifts or wayfinding. There was also some exciting news that the airport program intends to run a hackathon in the Autumn. Finally, David Ivey presented the outlook for the Building Room. This included a notification about the new steering committee and a summary of the communications tools used for the room. There was a detailed report on the status of a 3-year roadmap which is currently in progress and a review of ongoing projects like IFC precast.

Next up was a status update from Sarah Merz and Mark Baldwin for the Professional Certification Program. Since its launch in May 2018, this program has been steadily gaining global adoption and engagement. This included launch dates for chapter adoption for the next year;

  • buildingSMART Switzerland (May 2019)
  • buildingSMART Spain (June 2019)
  • buildingSMART Italy (September 2019)
  • buildingSMART Austria (Autumn 2019)
  • buildingSMART Russia (December 2019)
  • buildingSMART Poland (March 2020)
  • buildingSMART Canada (2020)

The team was able to deliver a status report showing that almost 300 individuals have now been certified with 22 approved providers now on-board with a steadily growing list of willing organisations and people wanting to get involved. For more information, visit:

Thomas Glättli was next up to present updates on the status of the “Use Case Management” tool. This cross-chapter activity aims to develop a system for managing the growing demand for use cases in the standards and solutions provided through buildingSMART. This new “digital service”, developed by the Swiss Chapter follows bSI documentation and CEN standards and comes in multi-lingual forms. The core goals of this tool were highlighted as:

  • Ensure common language and common understanding of core BIM/VDC applications within the construction and real estate industry
  • Use cases help clients and contractors to define the relevant BIM goals
  • Use Cases specify specific information requirements for an application

This web service is now available online at

The next session includes three presentations followed by a Q&A session moderated by Siggi Wernik. Barbara-Maria Loth, Chief Digital Officer of the Knauf Group, Dirk Schaper, Managing Director of ProMaterial and Konrad Werning, Managing Director of ARGE Neue Medien of the HVAC-industry discussed the significance of product data in the construction value chain paying particularly close attending the use of open standards. "Data is also abundant in the construction sector. However, the industry does not yet use them as comprehensively as they could. The end customer, on the other hand, is aware that he lives in a data-driven world and expects that architects, planners and contractors will also bring him real added value with the help of digitalisation," said Barbara-Maria Loth from Knauf. Konrad Werning concluded his presentation by acknowledging the growing need for structuring product data. “Requirements need standardization and become an essential prerequisite of BIM”, said Mr Werning. The audience asked some interesting questions to the presenters, including how new business models can be presented to buildingSMART, like in the case of ProMaterial, and Dirk Schaper carefully answered with his strong commitment to the growth of buildingSMART as a reason for companies to look to support the ongoing progress.

After the lunch break, Winfried Stix and the team for the “IFC Rail” project presented a progress report for the rail project. With many team members on stage and the end in sight, it was clear that huge progress has been made, spanning differing teams from different countries with solid funding to support the work. It was the first time a conceptual model has been publicly presented for this project and the audience applauded when the model was shown. This exciting moment is a culmination of many years of work and a vision to deliver an open standard for the rail industry. buildingSMART Chairman, Patrick MacLeamy commented by saying “this is the most spectacular project we have in buildingSMART today”.

Lother Fehn Krestas, Head of subdivision BW I - building and construction industry of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Construction and Community, delivered a final keynote on the closing plenary to urge the community to deliver more digital tools and open standards to help deliver against aggressive global goals. "Digitization in the construction industry is unnecessary. Unless it brings added value," explained Mr Krestas. But in order to be able to create real benefits, all those involved in a construction project must " work together cooperatively ". He went on to add that "we can only achieve this with open and manufacturer-neutral standards," says the professional. This is the only way to replace software tools and use the latest and best programs. It is only with this openness that the necessary interdisciplinary cooperation in construction is possible. "Digitalization must not under any circumstances lead to market access being restricted."This is the unanimous position of the Federal Government and the Länder.

Richard Kelly, Aidan Mercer and Richard Petrie provided final closing words and summaries for the event. Next stop, Beijing 29 October – 1 November 2019.