Working for a consulting firm has introduced me to many hot topic technologies, and key words/lingo. One of which is BIM, or building information modelling. It is definitely a popular topic among architects, structural and civil engineers that praise its utility, as well as software developers and architects that are data-savvy. There is definite talk about developing GIS workflows to support BIM project deliverables.

What it the case for BIM in GIS and where do we currently stand? How is BIM slated to improve GIS workflow, quality of deliverables, etc. Since when did GIS analysis become concerned with the "inside of buildings". Traditionally speaking, autocad/microstation technicians were left to design the interiors, and GIS was used for those exterior applications (zoning, land use managements), macro in retrospect.

  • 4
    Isn't BIM in this context Building Information Modeling, and not Business?
    – user3461
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 0:47
  • fixed! lol. sorry guys Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 1:02
  • 1
    some discussion about it here: spatiallyadjusted.com/2012/07/09/…
    – user3461
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 10:26
  • Google has created some interior models for several Museums and says that there are more to come.
    – Roy
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 14:05
  • Amazing that something that looks so sophisticated is actually so simple to make! :)BIM Whanganui
    – user36638
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 8:16

5 Answers 5


I personally think that BIM is a convergence of multiple technologies, and I am yet to be convinced that it will take off.

I presume you know what it is, but my understainding is that it is a fusion of architectural drawings, CAD, GIS and asset management systems. They talk about 5D models, i.e., 3 spatial, 1 temporal and 1 cost.

GIS has 2.5 dimensions, usually. But could have 3. (I.e., we could have points, lines and polygons that have 3D coordinates and that overlap each other.) BIM brings along the fine detail that CAD building plans have, and joins in with GIS attributes.

To answer your questions:

  1. How can GIS be leveraged to represent the physical and functional characteristics of a facility?
    • it can represent the 3D physical characteristics of a building with 3D CAD/Architectural models. The functional is represented with pipes, wiring, equipment etc. being incorporated. (Think Sketchup, but with numbers.)
  2. How can GIS be used to control building project and data life-cycle information?
    • By knowing what the building looks like now (in the form of a BIM model), and ensuring that all proposed and actual changes are supplied in BIM format, an up-to-date, and actually proposed or future, model of a building can be visualised and costed etc.
  3. How can a GIS-based approach to BIM offer better decision-making value?
    • I guess that BIM must be GIS, in that the model should have proper schema and domains, so that attributes are handled in a standard manner between all people working on the project.

I'm not a BIM proponent, so I can't really comment on how it will/is/should be used, but, while it sounds like a great thing, getting people to actually use it (i.e., contractors, and even architects) is apparently a hard thing to do. A friend worked on making a bespoke model, then the architects wanted flat plans to work with! So information was destroyed, in practice!


I wonder whether I can help here? I wrote a paper on this a year ago - and currently writing the update for this to present at the AGI Conference in September.

The UK Gov BIM Strategy is geared towards infrastructure - not just buildings - and whole life cycle - not just design. We are definitely looking at the role of GIS in helping solve the challenges of most effectively managing relevant information through the whole life cycle of an infrastructure asset - and within the context of the whole estate/portfolio of the owner - whether that be an airport, or highway, or the wider transport network, a waste water treatment works - or its context within the wider supply/demand network.

So - in the UK - I think its more a matter of how BIM is employed - and how much geospatial approaches will contribute to that - rather than if.


It is Esri centric, but the ArcGIS BIM Industries forum & portal is active:


Some good detail and conceptual trends.

  • The link doesn't work anymore
    – saQuist
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 18:45

I suggest you take a look at the following video demonstrating CAD/GIS/BIM technology integration targeting city centre's overall design, modeling and simulation. Software packages used for demonstration: Autodesk Building and Infrastructure Design Suites (AutoCAD, Map 3D, Revit, ...), INOVA AreaCAD-GIS (Client/Server), Unity engine, Autodesk Vasari.


Since when did GIS analysis become concerned with the "inside of buildingsTraditionally speaking, autocad/microstation technicians were left to design the interiors, and GIS was used for those exterior applications (zoning, land use managements), macro in retrospect.

This may be related to technical evolutions. High quality building interiors, overlaid in a GIS, only really matter if high-enough quality base-map/reference data is available to accurately position those models, and that data has been getting cheaper and easier to acquire. Additionally, it is only worth the investment if you have a use-case for it. So, it has become a more justifiable investment now that there is growing work on in-door positioning technologies (ex: wi-fi or bluetooth beacon triangulation, barometric pressure sensors for z-axis, etc.) to accurately enough locate sensors (ex: phones, body-worn devices, asset tracking devices, etc...) in interior spaces where the accuracy or even availability of GPS has always been problematic.

Incorporation of BIM and/or GIS data derived from BIM sources opens up many possibilities that largely equate to, doing on a smaller scale, what GIS has traditionally done at the more macro scale (ex: location analytics, routing, visual display of location information, etc.).

One good example use case, if you are interested, is the Public Safety space. For example, if someone calls the police saying they are hiding from an active shooter in a large office or school setting, having a detailed representation of the building interior, from a BIM, could allow rapid identification of not only the X/Y coordinates of the caller, but a potentially more usable identification that they are in the southwest corner of Room 203, next to the large conference room, on the 2nd floor of the building, or something like that. And, incorporation of the BIM data along with exterior and surrounding features from other more traditional GIS sources, could allow for a more immersive and complete 3-D representation for first responders to use to plan and execute their response to the incident. The National Emergency Number Association's recently released "3D GIS for E9-1-1 and NG9-1-1" requirements document even spends a number of pages specifically speaking to the current and future need for incorporation of BIM into the existing geospatial technologies and data used (See Section 3.6.3 https://www.nena.org/page/3D-GIS).

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