BIM and Geospatial Data: Ordnance Survey

Ordnance Survey

How is ordnance survey approaching BIM?

Ordnance Survey provides the most accurate up-to-date picture of the nation, but how does locational data add value to Building Information Modelling and UK Construction?

BIM is all about creating accurate and useful information about our built assets so that we can manage them more effectively and efficiently, geospatial information has a critical part to play in this. As humans, we gain a considerable amount of comfort from knowing our place and position in the world. As our industry moves online and becomes more virtual, accurate geospatial information remains essential in aligning our 3D models with its ‘real world’ location, this provides us with a sense of place in a computerised platform.

The BIM Level 2 process enables the industry to create more information rich built assets, it would be crazy for us not to merge this wealth of digital information with the accurate digital geospatial data made available by Ordnance Survey. Imagine placing your 3D model in its correct geospatial location and getting real-time information around flood risks for that area, allowing the designer to get instant feedback in terms design requirements or BREEAM ratings? Or even discovering a red flag when choosing a location which is above and old water network or coal tunnel?

Gary Mcdonald, the strategic relationships manager from Ordnance Survey is in charge of engagement with the AEC sector, Here is what he had to say,

‘’BIM is a game changing event that is transforming the way that AEC professionals will access and consume data.

BIM is underpinned by intelligent geospatial referencing and Ordnance Survey’s Ordnance Survey Gary Mcdonaldtopologically structured, object oriented data can feed into a BIM workflow to better understand the real world contextual view and enable more detailed analysis.

In the near future it’s going to be all about smart infrastructure, bringing the rigour common to the automotive and aerospace industries to the built environment. With, for the first time, feedback loops from BIM models feeding into operational activity, performance management and connecting to a digital national referencing framework. It’s been recognised that OS can provide a lot of the underpinning connecting infrastructure to make this a reality.‘’

Potential BIM opportunities for OS?

Locational data holds many benefits for the construction industry, although these benefits may become more significant as the industry moves from BIM Level 2 to BIM Level 3 (Digital Built Britain).

Digital Built Britain requires a deep understanding of our digital data, and how we create intelligence from that data to make better decisions. Locational intelligence and geospatial data will become imperative to these decisions, especially in the management of entire estates and portfolios of assets. The emergence of more intelligent buildings, big data and smart cities will rely upon locational data to gain a true context.

Smart Cities

The term ‘Smart City’ is thrown around a lot more often these days, but what is a Smart City and why does it require accurate geospatial data?

A smart city is based around an information network which relates directly to the people of the city, allowing the user to go about their lives in a sound and sustainable environment. Connected streets which make best use of real-time information can make automated smart decisions which benefit the cities users. Incorporating a wealth of geospatial information into an interactive connected smart city could create superior functionality.

There are dreams of smart cities preventing traffic jams, turning on lamposts as we walk by, or even locating free car parking spaces as we arrived at a location. These functions require the use of sensors to provide real-time information which when combined with a wealth of existing geospatial information can create intelligent decisions. Other impressive uses could include real-time information display on air pollution levels; noise levels in specific areas; and river levels in areas which are likely to flood.

Gary Mcdonald agrees that there is a real potential for Ordnance Survey, he stated:

”Over the next decade, the way we live, work and use energy, transportation, city resources and services will change significantly thanks to a range of innovative ‘Smart City’ solutions. OS is collaborating with the Open Geospatial Consortium, and working closely with key European bodies to develop a strategic growth map for Smart Cities.”

Ordnance Survey have certainly realised the opportunities available and are getting involved in the development of many Smart Cities programmes. Some of the involvements include:

  • Winning a £10m consortium that’s helping Manchester to become the UK’s Internet of Things (IoT) Demonstrator, through the CityVerve project.
  • Taking part in the ‘Atlas’ initiative, along with other pioneers who’ll be providing data that’s critical to getting autonomous vehicles up and running efficiently.
  • Championing the movement for secure, standardised, and approved uses of data in Smart solutions of all kinds – helping to develop new standards and advising on how to implement them.
  • Providing a full range of services and support to the many Smart City projects emerging here at home – such as Glasgow, Peterborough, Greenwich – and overseas.
  • Creating a Smart City standards-based technologies business framework for the European Union’s ESPRESSO project.

Location is the common platform which can bring all smart features and functionality together. Effective interoperability can only be achieved with accurate mapping and precise, accessible locational data. The prospect is certainly enticing and is something we will be keeping our eye on!

OS Model Builder, a CAD-ready 3D mapping tool!

Ordnance Survey has recently teamed up with Cadline to develop the OS Model Builder, a new visualisation tool that can be used to support a building project, including Level 2 BIM Activities. The tool sets out to save the construction industry and its clients’ time and money when planning future projects.

The web-based application allows users to build a 3D Autodesk Infraworks model which is complete with terrain, imagery and building information.

The information is taken from OS Terrain 5, OS MasterMap Imagery, OS Mastermap Topographical data, OS Open Roads and OS Open Map Rivers to provide detailed representations of surrounding buildings and environment, similar to that in the image below:

Cropped - os-model-builder-london

Photo: OS and Cadline

Combining this tool with Infraworks 360 can allow users to create more detailed preliminary designs and visuals to communicate design intentions with any member of the team.

Designs can also be shared in the cloud, using the Autodesk 360 cloud service for enhanced collaboration.

Watch this video for more information >>>

What do ordnance survey say?

OS outline that the Model Builder can help you:

  • Evaluate the risks and costs of projects from your desk, eliminating time consuming and costly travel to numerous sites.
  • Improve the speed of informed decision making.
  • Provide clients with stunning visual representations, helping them easily understand the various aspects of a project while at the same time increasing their customer care.
  • Keep the project delivery team and the supply chain focused throughout the lifespan of a project by using the same visuals and data as the goal to work towards.

Gary McDonald, says:

“OS listened to feedback from the building industry and the result is OS Model Builder, a leap forward in bringing our world-class data under one roof and removing previous licensing hassles. We are also aware that when you’re dealing with multi-million pound projects and making important decisions, you don’t want the risk of relying on inferior and inaccurate geographic data. You want the best and most current picture to work from. Cadline has taken this concept and in OS Model Builder they have created an application that is easy to use and delivers quick, effective results that are in line with government BIM targets.”

The Application can be trialed for free here:

For more information visit the Ordnance Survey Website.

Author: Martin Watson

Lead Editor at Construct Digital – As lead editor Martin reports on topics specifically relating to BIM, digital software and physical technologies which are revolutionising the Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industry.

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