Geotech IE

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When a new tunnel is to be built, it poses major challenges for planners and engineers. Rock samples are taken, the course of the groundwater is investigated and differences in elevation in the terrain are recorded. All this is technically very complex and expensive. 

Basically, there are two different approaches to collecting and evaluating data for construction projects of this kind: One is Building Information Modeling – BIM.  This method for planning, executing and managing construction projects uses digital models that contain a detailed three-dimensional representation of buildings and their components. It brings together all relevant information about a building project. Buildings can be planned and executed efficiently because all project participants can access a common database. This avoids errors and saves time and money. 

On the other hand, there is the geological service, which also has access to numerous geological data that are of great importance when constructing a tunnel or other buildings. It uses a geographic information system (GIS) to collect, store, manage, analyze and display geographic and geological data. This may be maps, images, or other visual formats.

However, data from the geographic information system (GIS) cannot simply be transferred to the BIM software. Both systems speak a different technical language and have different semantics. 

So how can these different sources of information be linked? To that end, the OGC has launched the OGC Geotech Interoperability Experiment ” Geotech IE.” The project is evaluating the integration of geotechnical engineering data, encoded in different specifications, in geographic information systems and Building Information Modeling (BIM) environments. This involves standards in geologic structure, geotechnical data, and parameters in risk assessment, to name a few examples.

The Interoperability Experiment is designed to ensure that geotechnical engineering data can be seamlessly exchanged between GIS and BIM environments. This will support engineering and infrastructure projects that rely on these technologies. The Interoperability Experiment will leverage OGC and buildingSMART International (bSI) standards.

Interoperability Experiment participants are working on an OGC Engineering Report.  It will summarize all activities and describe the suitability of the experiments for broader application as well as gaps that require further experimentation. The Call For Participation for this Interoperability Experiment describes the efforts in detail.

Anyone can participate in this interoperability experiment. Participants must provide resources and include technical experts from non-OGC organizations. Others from non-OGC organizations may participate in the Interoperability Experiment as observers. Any OGC member may register as an observer. Join the project mailing list and/or follow the project GitHub repository!


Participants and observers join the founding organizations of the Interoperability Experiment. The founding organizations are:

The objectives of the Interoperability Experiment include:

Application Area

The extension of the Industry Foundation Classes to include geotechnical engineering has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization and the European Committee for Standardization as ISO 16739-1:2020. This enables the description of semantic objects commonly used to observe and describe the environment of an infrastructure. Thanks to this advance, it is possible to draw and describe these geotechnical objects with a BIM tool and then share the information.

However, in geotechnical engineering, much of the data is typically already available and described in other formats, particularly in a geographic information system format or coded based on an OGC standard such as GML. Re-entering the same data “for BIM” is tedious and carries the risk of errors. Therefore, the ability to use and read data provided as OGC encoding would be a great benefit to the user and would make the processing chain more fluid. The project enables the reuse of data from different systems and thus supports important goals of the EU Green Deal

Geotech IE shall propose a solution in this area and thus contribute to improve the continuity between GIS and BIM. The standardization resources already available from the OGC and other organizations will be used as input for OpenBIM resources. This work will be illustrated using geotechnical data.

A proof of concept of this approach has been completed and presented at the buildingSmart International Summit in Beijing in November 2019. The goal of the project is to build on this work and standardize this practice more widely.


BIM, buildingSMART, Smart Cities

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