Thesis

36. BIM Ontology

  BIM-OntologyFigure 1.  The BIM ontology v3.1 (Neuron Model v0.4, Updated July 28, 2016)

The BIM ontology is an informal, semi-structured, conceptual domain ontology used for knowledge acquisition and communication between people. It is intended to represent knowledge interactions (push/pull) between BIM players, their deliverables and requirements (Figure 2) as described within Papers A1 and A2 (Succar, Sher, & Aranda-Mena, 2007) (Succar, 2009) and facilitate the validation of conceptual models (Shanks, Tansley, & Weber, 2003).

The BIM ontology includes BIM-specific concepts, their relations and attributes which facilitate analysis of domain knowledge (Noy & McGuinness, 2001), enable the construction of a domain framework (Studer, Benjamins, & Fensel, 1998), and support knowledge acquisition and communication (Milton, 2007a, 2007b) (Cottam, 1999) (Studer et al., 1998). Figure 2 below illustrates how ontological objects underlie the BIM Framework. The concept map (Figure 2 - right) is a visual representation of the ontological relationship between the three concepts (BIM Fields, BIM Stages and BIM Lenses); while the visual knowledge model (Figure 2 - left) abstracts these relations into the Tri-axial Model, a simplified graphical representation to facilitate communication. As discussed in Papers A1 and A2, this combination of visual modelling, driven by explicit ontological relations, renders the BIM Framework and its many conceptual constructs more accessible for analysis, modification and extension.

Also, as depicted in the Conceptual Hierarchy post, ontological relations enable a ‘conceptual mesh’ linking different types of conceptual constructs: frameworks, models, taxonomies, classifications and specialized dictionary terms. 

BIM-Ontology---2-Images
Figure 2. Visual Knowledge Model (left) + Concept Map (right)

 

Generating the BIM ontology

The BIM ontology has been generated by amending and reusing existing ontologies; a process recommended by Noy and McGuiness (2001). The reuse of an existing ontology followed Gruber’s criteria for shared ontologies: clarity, coherence, extensibility, minimal encoding bias and minimum ontological commitment (Gruber, 1995). Based on these criteria, the BIM ontology was first derived from the General Technological Ontology (Milton, 2007a) (Milton, 2007b) and the General Process Ontology (Cottam, 1999). While earlier iterations of the BIM ontology followed source definitions, newer iterations are more closely matched with the conceptual and practical requirements of the BIM domain.

Knowledge Objects

The BIM ontology comprises of four high-level knowledge objects: concepts, attributes, relations and knowledge Sets (Table 1):

 

Knowledge Objects

Description

Examples

I

Concepts (Table 2)

A mental construct

Component; Document; Role

II

Attributes (Table 3)

Values and qualifiers associated with Concepts

Cost; Count; Description

III

Relations (Table 4)

Connections between Concepts; the effect of one Concept on another

Approves; Detects; Supplies

IV

Knowledge Sets (Table 5)

A purposeful compilation of Concepts, their Attributes and Relations

Knowledge Foundations; Knowledge Blocks; Knowledge Views

Table 1. BIM Ontology Knowledge Objects (v3.0, last updated August 16, 2015)

 I. Concepts

Ability

Activity

Certificate

Component

Conception

Conceptual Construct

Constraint

Data Source

Data Use

Deliverable

Designation

Document

Document Use

Effect

Equipment

Event

Example

Facility

Format

Function

Hardware

Incentive

Information Use

Knowledge Domain

Lesson

Machine

Measurement

Medium

Message

Method

Milestone

Model

Model Use

Place

Player

Product

Proof

Recommendation

Representation

Requirement

Responsibility

Result

Role

Rule

Scenario

Software Application

Space

Standard

System

System Unit

Target  Test Tool  Trigger    

Table 2. Concepts (51 Concepts in v3.10, last updated July 28, 2016)

II. Attributes

Name

Description

Name

Description

Availability

An integer or string indicating the basic existence or availability of a concept

Location

The coordinates of an object within a physical space

Cost

A monetary value expressed in whole numbers, fractions or decimals

Market

A defined economical boundary

Count

An expression of elemental numbers using integers

Order

An arrangement whether chronological or spatial – not preferential or developmental (refer to Grade)

Description

An explanation expressed using words, phrases and sentences

Proposition

A mutually exclusive distinction between clear choices

Grade

A variables denoting preference or developmental achievement expressed in integers, percentages or text

State

A description of condition whether temporary or permanent

Link

A hypertext connection

Time

An expression of chronology expressed in minutes, second, days, etc…

Language

The language used to define a concept or a relation

Type

A differentiation of genus

Table 3. Attributes (14 Attributes in v3.0, last updated August 16, 2015)

III. Relations

Below is a list of all standard relationship labels (158 as of Aug, 2015) connecting different Concepts:

  

Abort

Adopt

Aggregate

Affect

Allow

Allow for

Analyse

Append

Approve

Arrange

Assemble

Assess

Analyse

Audit

Authorise

Build

Buy

Capture

Cause

Certify

Check

Choose

Classify

Complete

Collaborate with

Collate

Collect

Commission

Communicate with

Compare

Conduct

Confirm

Construct

Consult

Contact

Contain

Continue

Control

Coordinate

Decrease

Delimit

Deliver

Demolish

Demonstrate

Deselect

Design

Detect

Determine

Describe

Develop

Discover

Divide

Discuss with

Document

Draw

Educate

Empower

Encourage

Enforce

Engage with

Establish

Estimate

Exchange

Explode

Extract

Evaluate

Fabricate

Facilitate

Federate

Follow

Forecast

Function as

Gather

Generate

Guide

Has part

Has resource

Identify

Ignore

Implement

Improve

Incentivise

Increase

Inform

Initiate

Innovate

Integrate

Interchange

Interview

Invent

Involve

Join

Know

Lead

Link to

Locate

Maintain

Make aware

Make

Maintain

Manage

Maximise

Measure

Merge

Minimise

Model

Monitor

Notify

Observe

Operate

Own

Participate in

Perform

Plan

Populate

Prepare

Prescribe

Prioritise

Procure

Produce

Prove

Provide

Provide for

Pull

Push

Qualify

Quantify

Question

Receive

Recommend

Regulate

Reject

Replace

Require

Review

Revise

Run

Sample

Select

Share

Simulate

Size

Start

Stop

Supply

Survey

Test

Track

Train

Transfer

Transform

Transmit

Understand

Update

Use

Validate

Verify

Visualise

Warn

Write

 

Table 4. Relations (158 Relations in v3.0, last updated August 16, 2015)

IV. Knowledge Sets

Knowledge Sets are higher order Knowledge Objects composed of the other three lower order concepts, relations and attributes.

 

Name

Description

Example

1

Knowledge Foundations

A structured view of concepts and their relations. Knowledge Foundations include dictionaries, classifications, taxonomies, models, frameworks and theories

The BIM Ontology, The BIM Framework, Granularity Levels, Organizational Scales…

2

Knowledge Blocks

A self-contained knowledge item used to build larger knowledge structures  

A competency item, dictionary item, model use…

3

Knowledge Tools

An interactive view of concepts and their relations intended to assess, assist and educate its users. A tool has modifiable variables leading to varied outputs based on inputs

A calculator, an online tool, a cad software…

4

Knowledge Workflows

A repeatable set of activities conducted as part of a larger process to deliver a measurable outcome

An assessment methodology, a knowledge capture technique, a construction method, a verification routine….

5

Knowledge Views

A delimited self-contained view of multiple concepts and their relations - irrespective of knowledge content format (text, images or graphs) or knowledge content medium (hardcopy or softcopy)

A training manual, journal article, CAD drawing, poster, web page, video, concept map, repertory grid, process map, concept map, flowchart, Gantt chart…

Table 5. Knowledge Sets (4 sets in v3.1, last updated July 28, 2016)

 

 

Publication Log - Summary 

V.

Date

Description

1.0

18 Oct ‘07

Initial version submitted as part as a research proposal at the University of Newcastle, NSW

1.2

6 Dec ‘08

Published as Table 6 within Paper A2

2.0

13 Dec ‘13

Published as Appendix A of the PhD Thesis

3.0

16 Aug  ’15

First published on BIMframework.com

3.01

29 Apr  '16

2 new Concepts added, 1 Concept modified

 3.02

28 Jun '16

5 new Concepts added

3.03

2 Jul '16

1 Concept modified

3.10

28 Jul' 16

1 Concept added, 1 Knowledge Set renamed

3.11

21 Aug' 16

2 Concepts added

3.12

23 Jan' 2017

Removed the ‘active’ tone from all Relations. Added 1 Concept + 2 Relations. Modified 1 Concept

 

References

Cottam, H. (1999). Ontologies to Assist Process Oriented Knowledge Acquisition (Draft). Retrieved from http://www.inovexadvancedsolutions.ltd.uk/spede/default.htm

Gruber, T. R. (1995). Toward principles for the design of ontologies used for knowledge sharing? International journal of human-computer studies, 43(5-6), 907-928.  Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6WGR-45NJJDF-K/2/b47f5cb67315c76b60ac39f44e0a2cec

Milton, N. R. (2007a). Knowledge Acquisition in Practice: A Step-by-step Guide: Springer, London.

Milton, N. R. (2007b). Specification for the General Technological Ontology (GTO). http://www.pcpack.co.uk/gto/notes/files/GTO%20Spec%20v4.doc Retrieved from http://www.pcpack.co.uk/gto/notes/files/GTO%20Spec%20v4.doc

Noy, N. F., & McGuinness, D. L. (2001). Ontology Development 101: A Guide to Creating Your First Ontology. http://www.lsi.upc.edu/~bejar/aia/aia-web/ontology101.pdf Retrieved from http://www.lsi.upc.edu/~bejar/aia/aia-web/ontology101.pdf

Shanks, G., Tansley, E., & Weber, R. (2003). Using ontology to validate conceptual models. Communications of the ACM, 46(10), 85-89. doi:10.1145/944217.944244

Studer, R., Benjamins, V. R., & Fensel, D. (1998). Knowledge engineering: Principles and methods. Data & Knowledge Engineering, 25(1-2), 161-197.  Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6TYX-3SYXJ6S-G/2/67ea511f5600d90a74999a9fef47ac98

Succar, B. (2009). Building information modelling framework: A research and delivery foundation for industry stakeholders. Automation in Construction, 18(3), 357-375.  Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.autcon.2008.10.003

Succar, B., Sher, W., & Aranda-Mena, G. (2007). A Proposed Framework to Investigate Building Information Modelling Through Knowledge Elicitation and Visual Models. Paper presented at the Australasian Universities Building Education (AUBEA2007), Melbourne, Australia. http://aubea.org.au/ocs/viewpaper.php?id=15&cf=1

  


31. Research Continuum

Research-Continuum-v1.1-Small

Research Continuum v1.1 (partial, showing sample relations | Full Size - 1.1Mb)

The Research Continuum v1.1 represents a network of conceptual and practical deliverables across a number of papers till December 2013 (model to be updated in 2016). The continuum highlights how each paper delivers a number of conceptual constructs which either extend earlier constructs/tools or support the development of new ones. Constructs are hierarchical  - frameworks, models, taxonomies, classifications and dictionary terms - yet interconnect through explicit ontological relations. At the bottom of the image are sample Knowledge Tools TL1-TL5 (e.g. TL4 is the online BIM Dictionary) which are dependent on these conceptual constructs. 

Updated 19 July 2016: The continuum clarifies how the BIM Maturity Matrix (TL2 - a practical tool introduced in Paper A3 and later released in a number of  languages) is dependent on several models (e.g. MD7-MD9), which are in-turn ontologically-connected to a number of taxonomies, classifications and dictionary terms.


29. Research Path

  

 

Research-Path-v1.3-Large

Full Size Image (Research Path v1.3 - 378 kb) 

The Research Path identifies the major milestones along four research sub-paths: literature review, research methodology, conceptual development and data collection. This visual knowledge model (VKM) also identifies a number of ongoing research activities pursuant to each research sub-path. 

Note: the importance of a clearly defined research path cannot be understated. However, allowing oneself to diverge into inter-connected sub-paths (a network of tunnels dug underneath the main topic) is an excellent mechanism for knowledge exploration and discovery.


27. Conceptual Hierarchy

image from www.bimframework.infoConceptual Hierarchy Current Version, full-size image (older version v1.0)

The BIM framework is composed of several interrelated conceptual constructs: models, taxonomies, classifications and dictionaries. A common conceptual ontology connects all conceptual constructs and makes explicit the relationship between them. Below is a generic description of the depicted conceptual parts:

Frameworks show “the gestalt, the structure, the anatomy or the morphology of a field of knowledge or the links between seemingly disparate fields or sub-disciplines” (Reisman, 1994, p. 92).

Models (conceptual models) are simplified representations and abstractions of the “enormous richness of this world” (Ritter, 2010, p. 360) (Lave & March, 1993).

Taxonomies are an efficient and effective way to organize and consolidate knowledge (Reisman, 2005) (Hedden, 2010). A well-structured taxonomy allows “the meaningful clustering of experience” (Kwasnik, 1999, p. 24).

Classifications are the “meaningful clustering of experience” (Kwasnik, 1999, p. 24) and “lies at the heart of every scientific field” (Lohse, Biolsi, Walker, & Rueter, 1994, p. 36). Classification is also a heuristic tool useful during the formative stages of discovery, analysis and theorizing (Davies, 1989).

Dictionaries constitute a a web of meaning (Cristea, 2004) connecting terms to each other and to other knowledge bases.


25. Knowledge Content Taxonomy

  BIM Knowledge Content Clusters v1.2

Updated April 11, 2016: The Knowledge Content Taxonomy (KCT) - previously referred to as the BIM Knowledge Content (BKC) taxonomy - includes several classifications. The main one identifies three knowledge content clusters (guides, protocols and mandates) which are subdivided into eighteen knowledge content labels (e.g. report, manual, and contract). As described in the Noteworthy BIM Publications image, the KCT and its classifications are derived from the explicit ontological structures of the BIM Framework (Succar, 2009 - Paper A2) (Succar, 2013 - Thesis). KCT labels and clusters classify NBPs according to their actual knowledge content rather than according to each publication’s title or its specific – and sometime conflicting - use of terminology. A succinct definition of the three KCT clusters is provided below:

  • Guides: documents which are descriptive and optional. Guides clarify goals, report on       surveys/accomplishments or simplify complex topics. Guides do not provide detailed steps to follow to attain a goal or complete an activity;
  • Protocols: documents which are prescriptive and optional. Protocols provide detailed steps or conditions to reach a goal or deliver a measureable outcome. While documents within this cluster are prescriptive, they are optional to follow unless dictated within a Mandate (see next cluster); and
  • Mandates: documents which are prescriptive and dictated by an authority. Mandates identify what should be delivered and – in some cases – how, when and by whom it should be delivered.

When used to assess NBPs, the three KCT clusters would inform country-scale BIM maturity assessment. For example, a country, with all its NBPs pertaining to a single cluster (e.g. guides – descriptive and optional), would arguably face different implementation challenges to those faced by a country with its NBPs distributed across guides, protocols and mandates.

Updated Sep 20, 2015: below is the BIM Knowledge Content taxonomy (v1.3): 18 content labels in three content clusters as republished in Paper B1:

Content
CLUSTER

Label
CODE

Content
LABEL

Label
DEFINITION - BIM specific

Guides

G1

Best Practice

Operational methods arising from experience; promoted as advantageous; and replicable by other individuals, organizations and teams. This label applies to publications which list unambiguous and detailed recommendations, and which if applied as recommended, generate similar advantageous outcomes

 

G2

Case Study

Summary and analysis (descriptive or explanatory) of projects and organizational efforts. This label applies to both research and industry publications which share lessons learned by others, and cover BIM deliverables, workflows, requirements, challenges and opportunities

 

G3

Framework or Model

Theoretical structures explaining or simplifying complex aspects of a domain by identifying meaningful concepts and their relationships

 

G4

Guideline

Compilation of several BIM content types with the aim of providing guidance to individuals, teams or organizations. Guides typically provide insight into a complex topic (e.g. BIM Implementation Guide or Facility Handover Guide). Guides typically focus on knowledge-intensive topics, while Manuals (a complementary label) focus on skill-intensive ones. Due to the generic nature of this label, it should not be applied in isolation but in conjunction with other labels

 

G5

Learning Module or Material

All types of analogue and digital media (e.g. printed manual or online videos) which deliver conceptual or practical insight intended/suitable for education, training or professional development within industry or academia

 

G6

Report

Compilation or summary of results arising from an assessment, calculation or review process (e.g. BIM capability report or profitability statement)

 

G7

Strategy or Vision

Articulation of vision, mission and long-term goals. This label applies to publications which identify a long-term strategy (and possibly middle-term goals/milestones) but without identifying the resources required and detailed steps needed to fulfill the strategy

 

G8

Taxonomy or Classification

Classification covering roles, types, levels, elements and other structured concepts. This label applies to publications which introduce classifications of five or more items within a structured list; and which have a clear use in assessment, learning or implementation (e.g. construction elements, BIM roles, data exchange types or levels of detail)

Protocols

P1

Metric or Benchmark

Tools and criteria suitable for establishing levels of performance of systems, projects, individuals, teams, organizations and other organizational units[1]. This label applies to publications which include tools or explicit metrics/indicators for establishing usability, profitability, productivity, competency, capability or similar

 

P2

Manual

A structured document which is intended to clarify the steps needed to perform a measureable activity or deliver a measureable outcome (e.g. BIM Training Manual). Manuals typically focus on skill-intensive topics, while Guides (a complementary label) typically focus on skill-intensive ones. Due to the generic nature of this label, it should not be applied in isolation but in conjunction with other labels

 

P3

Plan

A document describing activities to be performed, resources to be used and milestones to be reached within a defined timeframe. This label applies to publications describing – in adequate detail - how a specific strategy can be fulfilled or a pre-defined goal can be reached (e.g. a BIM Implementation Plan detailing how to fulfill a BIM Capability Strategy)

 

P4

Procedure or workflow

Structured information covering successive steps needed to fulfill an operational, rather than strategic, requirement. A documented Procedure includes the small steps needed to deliver, if executed by a competent individual, a pre-defined and desired outcome. A Workflow identifies major successive activities to be performed and decision gates to pass-through towards reaching a delivery milestone or fulfilling a project/organizational objective

 

P5

Protocol or Convention

Agreed or customary method of product/service development or delivery which are not by themselves contractually binding (e.g. keeping minutes of meetings, how to name files and frequency of exchanging models)

 

P6

Specification or Prescription

A set of criteria used to define or judge the quality of products (e.g. object dimensions or data richness) and services (e.g. timeliness). Specifications may or may not be a Standard (a separate label). COBie is an example of BIM-related specifications which may become a service/delivery standard over time

 

P7

Standard or Code

Detailed set of product/service descriptions (prescriptive or performance-based) acting as a reference to be measured against. This label typically denotes a set of specifications (a separate label) which are authoritative and test-proven (e.g. barrier-free or accessibility standards)

Mandates

M1

Contract or Agreement

Legally-binding document and its subparts – including contractual additions, amendments and disclaimers. This label applies to contracts and clauses, not to publications describing or promoting them (e.g. the label applies to AIA Documents E203, G201 and G202 but not to the AIA IPD guide)

 

M2

Program or Schedule

A document associating one or more classification to time and/or location. For example, a BIM competency improvement program is a document linking BIM competencies, BIM roles (and possibly other classifications) to a timeline or target dates

 

M3

Requirement, Rule or Policy

Expectation or qualification mandated by clients, regulatory authorities or similar parties. This label applies to publications with explicit identification of requirements to be met (e.g. organizational capability or previous experience) or products/services to be delivered (e.g. a tender/bid document)



[1] There are 12 organizational units, each with their own unique metrics (refer to Building Information Modelling Maturity Matrix (Succar, 2010).