I work for an engineering company where we use a large range of software's and file types, including but not limited to, GIS and CAD based software.

We are aware of the broad trend to BIM and are looking to orientate ourselves for this.

A first step we thought was to utilise a single source of data, preferably with the ability to link directly to it. We thought GIS would be a good possibility.

Can GIS platforms store non GIS data, for example model files? If so, what platform would this be?

Secondly if this possible, is there a way to seamlessly convert the files between systems? I think this is called middleware? For example if there is a model result file with flood data in a native format, can the middleware convert this to GIS automatically for display to show progress for example?

  • What GIS platform which you used? You might want to check whether your desired file format can be handled by your GIS platform. – Bagas Sanjaya Dec 2 '17 at 13:10
  • We use ESRI for our GIS platform at the moment. I am looking for a platform that can mange any type of data. – boberdorf Dec 2 '17 at 18:21
  • Perhaps better asked on gis.stackexchange.com – CJM May 16 '18 at 9:36

There's a pretty significant disconnect between BIM and GIS in terms of actual parametric data - there is a BIM interchange format which retains most common BIM parameters but allows transfer between various BIM platform, called IFC (Industry Foundation Classes - see link for details), but I don't know of any plug-ins allowing that format to be read or imported into GIS at this time.

Because GIS and BIM are looking at the "additional non-geometric data" of given geometric entities from a radically different requirements set, I think it may be quite challenging to create a containerized file format which allows all native parametry to be maintained for both BIM & GIS: at the moment, my experience is that the GIS data gets exported into 3D only data (3DS, OBJ, DXF) and that is imported into the BIM model to be used by both the overall design team and later by the General Contractor and in some cases finally by the client's Facilities folks after project Commissioning and Turnover.

I think you have a good thought here though: perhaps IFC could be expanded in the next iteration to include proper GIS oriented classes, and that would be interesting indeed - might make for a far more integrated design approach and for far more effective Integrated Project Delivery.

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Can a GIS 'store' non-spatial data. Well, yes, attribute data can be stored in a GIS, at the end of the day, its just a relational database..... Can a GIS store a model file? Again in theory, GIS is just a relational database, and if you want to use the GIS database to store content, in theory this would be possible.

Thirdly " is there a way to seamlessly convert the files between systems? "

So this is a big jump in capability when compared to your other questions. The short answer to this is probably no, not in the way you think it would. Simple scenarios like DGN/DWG/DXF files, would need to be drawn in very standard ways (line style, colour, level/layer names etc etc) and then - Most GIS systems would be able to be configured to open these and display within their own system, either desktop or web. I would include your flood model scenario into this statement (again, you would need standardised CAD/engineering layers. eg: Your flood model is saved as a raster based grid file format. GIS should natively open this.

Once you head outside of that though, complex engineering models (BIM), or mining models for example, there are too many variables and unknowns and in general, file formats which are not supported 'natively'. 'Middleware' as you state it may provide more of an ETL solution (ie: Translate out of BIM model into GIS data) but that moves away completely from your original 'single source of truth' concept.

My additional comment would be that - engineer's tend to want to work in a BIM/CAD space more than a GIS space, and CAD software has come a long way from providing visualisation tools that now rival GIS visualisations, so at the moment, it may be easier to go from GIS - BIM both from technical and end-user perspective.

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