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November 23rd, 2008
GIS Data Modeling for Buildings

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thumb_3D_BuildingA great amount of spatial information has been gathered about buildings when they are designed. But very little digital information is available for existing buildings – and other information relating to inside structures. Using geographic information systems (GIS), robotics and bridging computer-aided design (CAD) techniques, Penobscot Bay Media, LLC has developed mobile robotics for data gathering inside buildings, as well as developing one of  the first GIS enabled data models for this work. V1 Magazine editor Jeff Thurston met with Stuart Rich of PenBay in London, UK recently to discuss these initiatives and to learn more.

V1 Magazine: What does information visualisation mean to you and what is the relationship to GIS?

Rich: Information Visualization is the art and science of presenting complex information and relationships in a creative and intuitive way using a combination of color, pattern, motion, and thoughtful design. Edwin Tufte has done some of the most interesting work in defining what Information Visualization is all about. We put a geographic spin on this concept.

V1 Magazine: How did the development of your product come about? What does it do?

{sidebar id=268 align=right} Rich: We got started on the path of bringing GIS inside the building about five years ago when we were doing some facilities GIS work for a customer at Langley Air Force Base. Langley is one of the bases absorbing operastions from bases being closed by the BRAC process.

They needed to better understand their space utilization so that they could consolidate their existing footprint before building a bunch of new facilities. We had significant challenges with their existing CAD and a lack of a GIS data model for buildings. If I have ever had an epiphany in my professional career, it was the realization that there is tremendous opportunity to leverage the power of GIS for business processes that occur inside buildings. We have been working hard on these challenges ever since.

V1 Magazine: Can you explain how you see the relationship of GIS and CAD to BIM?

Rich: This is a great question, and one that the entire industry seems to be struggling with presently. My personal view is that BIM represents a tremendous advance in the capability to design and manage the construction of buildings. GIS, on the other hand, represents a latent capacity to inform the design of buildings and manage the operational aspects of buildings during the O&M phase of their life.

V1 Magazine: Sustainability and efficiency involve everyone. How can your technology be used so everyone can understand sustianability and building efficiency better?

Rich: There are many ways that our technology can be used to support sustainability and efficiency. Chief among them we provide visualize and analysis capabilities that extend traditional CAFM tools to enable better space utilization (thus reducing overall space requirements). Our data collection capabilities can also be leveraged to document and verify building monitoring systems.

V1 Magazine: What is Envirometrics and how can your technology be used for this purpose?

Rich: Envirometrics is the set of environmental monitoring capabilities that we integrate into our data collection platform. This technology can be used to document baseline environmental conditions.

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V1 Magazine: There must be different applications that depend on accurate building measurement. Can you explain some of these?

Rich: There are dozens of applications that depend on accurate building measurement. Among them:

  • Move management and scenario planning

  • Space management and utilization

  • Emergency response planning

  • In-building inspections (Fire inspections, permitting workflows, restaurant inspections, health care inspections, etc.)

  • Lease management

  • Maintenance contract management

  • Work order management

  • Asset management

  • Space overhead chargeback allocation

  • Environmental condition monitoring

  • Wayfinding and routing

  • Security planning and management


V1 Magazine: Recently you expanded to Europe. What brought this expansion about and how do you see the European marketplace?

Rich: We recently expended to London because we see the European market as particularly ripe for our products and services. There is a substantial inventory of buildings in Europe for which there are unlikely to be any existing CAD floor plans because of the age of the structures. Europe is also very focused on environmental sustainability and the efficient use of space, both of which should encourage adoption of our capabilities. We also were very fortunate to attract one of the former heads of security at Heathrow to run our London office which will strengthen our products and services in the security market.

V1 Magazine: Are there any inherit benefits of CAD over GIS or vice-versa that you encounter? What are they?

Rich: There are a number of inherent benefits of a GIS platform over CAD. The most important of these is that GIS offers a spatial analysis and visualization platform that scales from the world to the widget. Most of our customers have real estate holdings that are much larger than just a single floor (the typical geographic extent of CAD floor plans). Additionally, GIS is much more of a database centric platform vice a file-based platform and this has significant performance and scalability implications.

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V1 Magazine: How important is legislation in driving the adoption of your technology? Can you point to any examples of this happening?

Rich: In many jurisdictions we are seeing regulatory requirements driving the need to submit floor plans to permitting agencies, environmental regulatory agencies, and emergency response planning agencies. Often critical infrastructure is an early requirement. In the states, we are also seeing regulatory drivers from the Government Accounting Office forcing federal agencies to account for the floor space they own or lease.

V1 Magazine: Does Web GIS or GIS Server offer any particular benefits in the design and use of the information your technology creates?

Rich: Web GIS and thin client GIS (ArcGIS Explorer) are critical to our strategy. In my view, the only way that GIS will move inside the building is if we deliver light weight, easy to use clients that make it easy to consume this kind of analysis. Additionally, it is critical for us to deliver a Services Oriented Architecture so that we can integrate with other enterprise systems like CAFM, Asset Management, Work Order Management, CRM, etc.

V1 Magazine: Recently PenBay became involved in publishing a data model – Building Interior Space Data Model (BISDM). Can you describe what this is all about?

Rich: Penobscot Bay Media published the first GIS data model for buildings under an open source licens in the spring of 2007. In the summer of 2007, we joined ESRI and a number of other important industry partners in the development of a community GIS data model for buildings now known as the Building Interior Spatial Data Model or BISDM. BISDM is now an ESRI data model committee and published their first iteration of the data model in the summer of 2008. It was announced at the ESRI User Conference in San Diego this past summer.

It follows a similar approach to other ESRI data models from ESRI such as ArcMarine and the ArcHydro data models. As a result it can be considered as a collection of Best Practices for integrating building information into GIS. The advantage to this data model is that it provides a methodology for the collection of information relating to building spaces, but also includes a structure that enables effective analysis using GIS techniques from the collected information. There were no previously existing models for collecting data inside buildings before this.



Stuart Rich is Principal, GIS Practice Manager at Penobscot Bay Media, LLC

More information:

Building Interior Space Data Model

Watch Robotic Video

Penobscot Bay Media, LLC

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