Open BIM and Program Manager Rob Roef

I met with GRAPHISOFT’s Open BIM Program Manager, Rob Roef, for a very informative and interesting interview about Open BIM, its advantages and its future. In his words, “learning to work with Open BIM is just like learning to use a dictionary.

I think you have all heard about BIM, or Building Information Modeling, before, but are you also familiar with Open BIM? To find out more about Open BIM, its advantages and its future, I spoke with Rob Roef, the Open BIM Program Manager at GRAPHISOFT.

Rob Roef

Rob Roef calls himself an Open BIM enthusiast and has been working with BIM for over 15 years. Before he joined GRAPHISOFT in early 2018, he worked as an interim sales director and partner at Tekla, one of the frontrunners in the Open BIM world, for seven years.

Rob Roef has a technical background as a civil engineer and has been working in this industry since the 1990’s, when he started working with CAD. Over the years, 2D CAD became 3D, then 3D became more meaningful and became BIM. Rob liked the idea of exchanging information through collaboration. However, he recognized early on that collaboration is hindered when everybody is using different software. He knew that there needed to be a common denominator and he found that in Open BIM.

GRAPHISOFT’s Open BIM Program Manager Rob Roef

“GRAPHISOFT has always been a fighter for Open BIM, because in Archicad we don’t do the complete workflow of a building construction; we focus on design and engineering. With BIMx, we do construction as well, but we don’t have software for everything, so we need to work very closely with others,” Rob Roef explains.

According to Rob Roef, “there is a lot of confusion about what Open BIM is.” In his job as Open BIM Program Manager at GRAPHISOFT, he wants to bring Open BIM to the surface and make it a more common way of working for everybody.

The advantages of Open BIM

Open BIM has many advantages for the workflow. Thanks to Open BIM, it is possible to combine different software and work together with people who use different software. For example, a person who works with Archicad can work very well with people using, for example, Tekla, Solibri, dRofus or other Nemetschek brands, or use those brands in combination with Archicad itself. In addition, all those brands can easily be combined with other software like those from Autodesk.

Interactions between cooperation partners in the design process of the The Center of Rhythmic Gymnastics project. Picture: CPU Pride

“Thanks to Open BIM, working in different environments does not need to be scary. It’s not necessary to work with the same software to be able to collaborate and to work together. And using Open BIM to collaborate on projects does not need much preparation; to start using Open BIM is not that difficult – it’s just like learning how to use a dictionary,” Rob says.

Who should use Open BIM?

"In general, everybody who is collaborating with other parties that are using different kinds of software should use Open BIM. An architect collaborating with an engineer, an engineer working together with a constructor, a construction company with their suppliers and everyone else working in collaboration with others. When someone is delivering steel beams or concrete or windows there is always communication involved. In those moments of communication, Open BIM is a collaboration tool,” Rob says.

The Center for Rhythmic Gymnastics - compete BIM-model of the project. Picture: CPU Pride

The Center for Rhythmic Gymnastics. Rendered picture: CPU Pride

At the moment, the number of Open BIM users depends quite a bit on the region. In general, Benelux and Finland are frontrunners in the use of Open BIM. In Finland, it is quite common to work in Open BIM. One reason for this is the need for prefabricated elements due to short days and cold weather. Prefabricated concrete, steel beams or timber must be produced according to detailed information and must fit perfectly when brought to the construction site. Finland is known worldwide for its prefabrication work, which is only possible if you collaborate with others and specify exactly what you need.

The future of Open BIM

"What we see now is that Open BIM is restricted; not everything can be shared, but the Open BIM standards are rapidly evolving, and we see a lot of new functionality coming. Currently, there are some software applications that are not fully compliant with the Open BIM workflow and that can be tricky at times. When someone is using a non-compliant software, workarounds are necessary,” Rob explains.

buildingSMART, a non-profit organization that established and manages Open BIM standards, is involving more and more software. To get as many software as possible to be compatible with others, buildingSMART explains to software developers how they can be open as well and that Open BIM is beneficial for them in the long run.

Rob expects that “Open BIM will become a commodity at some point in the future. From that moment on, no one will speak about Open BIM anymore, because it will be the norm.”


“Open BIM is not different from BIM. We need openness in BIM collaboration and, therefore, we call that Open BIM,” Rob emphasizes.

There are five Open BIM standards that can be used in a multidisciplinary, multi-software environment. One of the five standards is IDM (Information Delivery Manual), which goes hand in hand with the second, very important standard, IFC (Industry Foundation Class). BIM should be recognized as a demand-driven process: people working together to deliver very specific information to each other. Specification is very important to the Open BIM process. Otherwise, there will be misunderstandings depending on too much or too little information and Open BIM will not work properly.

“So, there is no difference between BIM and Open BIM. In collaboration, we need openness and therefore it is called Open BIM,” Rob adds.

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About Nina Hedberg

Nina Hedberg is a Marketing Specialist at M.A.D. She is in charge of the layout of the ArchiMAD and ArchiMAG magazines and the publication of new articles on Nina has a M.Sc. in Business Administration and Economics from the Turku School of Economics.
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