ArcGIS Pro

GIS & BIM: The Benefits of Integration

Today’s cities are facing a variety of issues related to sustainability and resiliency of their critical infrastructure – from roads and bridges to facilities. Aging infrastructure assets still in operation often do not have reliable digital design or construction data. In the months and years ahead, critical infrastructure assets will need to be rebuilt or improved while still being an active part of an ongoing system.  

To effectively manage the enormous number of these assets, an efficient process is needed to continuously update, operate and maintain them. Helping to address these problems, all built structures need a better way to be managed throughout their entire lifecycle. Smarter planning, design, construction, and operation and maintenance (O&M) of infrastructure assets require governments and architecture, engineering & construction (AEC) firms to invest in streamlining the flow of information between the construction and operational data. The good news is that this can be achieved through the integration of BIM (building information modeling) and GIS (geographic information systems) data.  

An important requirement for linking GIS and BIM is the optimizing data exchange between BIM, CAD, and geospatial data. The integration of design and geospatial data is becoming an expectation within the AEC industry globally. Common BIM and CAD formats are increasingly being used in ArcGIS to support workflows for planning, construction, operations, inspections, and maintenance. 

The power of using BIM data within ArcGIS expands beyond incorporating BIM content from multiple disciplines, sources, and applications into various asset lifecycle workflows. With the convergence of GIS and BIM, the ArcGIS platform is an attractive solution for AEC firms to better manage projects and infrastructure in a spatial (real-world) context. 

Engineering and construction plans, GIS and BIM data, and 3D context data can now be stored and shared in the same place. This collaborative environment can provide valuable insights while bringing staff in the office and in the field closer together. The bottom line is that all project teams can streamline their workflows to save time, waste, and costs. These workflows can range from leveraging BIM data via direct import or via the cloud to sharing data for viewing, editing, or maintenance in GIS. To define “how” and “where” a facility is built, BIM data adds real value in analytical scenarios. The attributes and details of the BIM dataset enable the implementation of asset management in ArcGIS. 

Ultimately, GIS and BIM integration leads to better opportunities and outcomes for communities and more efficient projects for AEC service providers.


 Let’s take a closer look at the key workflows to bring a BIM model into GIS: 


Distribute 3D BIM models to your stakeholders in the right way (Consume & Share). 

By pulling the BIM model into ArcGIS, it can become part of the planning and design phase, the construction and project delivery strategy, and the operations and maintenance phase. As part of the partnership between Esri and Autodesk, a direct link to the cloud repositories (Autodesk Construction Cloud® and BIM 360®) has been set up, connecting the two different environments. The model can be viewed directly in context with all other project data, including geospatial data, construction and safety data, reality capture data and more. This is the basis for building a digital twin that can be used to manage the success of the project or the assets themselves. 

Once you’ve used ArcGIS Pro to consume your BIM content and publish the models, you can create powerful new web applications. Publishing BIM content as web layers to ArcGIS Online (or ArcGIS Enterprise) and embedding them into web scenes helps to put the data in the hands of all stakeholders and teams. Creating out-of-the-box web mapping applications for end users with Experience Builder or Web AppBuilder transforms workflows within the asset lifecycle and enables this highly technical content to be used by non-technical users to improve insight and collaboration among stakeholders.

The creation of web layers such as building scene layers (I3S streaming files) can be an essential data source for many Esri professional applications:


Change information about assets as part of the life cycle process (Edit & Manipulate). 

An important aspect of using and delivering information is keeping the entire data cycle up to date. With ArcGIS, you can easily update scene layers with the latest information from design and construction tools. This allows users of connected web applications and tools to work with the most up to date information. 

Once in ArcGIS Pro, editing tools help manipulate the data by stylizing it, adding metadata, and optimizing the dataset by removing data that is not needed for publication, such as artifacts. Advanced geoprocessing tools can validate spatial location and georeferenced models, create view filters that serve as bookmarks to show only pertinent part of the model, and more. 

The advantage of ArcGIS Online is that field personnel such as civil engineers, designers, maintenance personnel, safety and environmental officers can view the detailed BIM information and instantly edit the associated GIS data and attributes in tables, checklists and reports. Making the information available to the entire team via dedicated web applications ensures an effective way of delivering and receiving information both on and off site.  


View in context to enable deeper analysis and planning (Analysis and Planning). 

The benefit of using BIM within GIS is that any structure can be put into a larger, real-world context allowing for deeper analysis by using GIS tools. The highly detailed information in a BIM model contributes to analysis and planning, improving decision-making processes. Combined with GIS data and its location intelligence, deeper analysis can be performed at any stage of the lifecycle, whether it is an early or fully detailed version of the given BIM model.

Placing a BIM model into real-world context ensures that stakeholders understand any issues or hazards that may arise during a project because the information is easily accessible and understandable. This may reveal risk and security management problems early or help with cost reductions and scheduling. 

The combination of GIS and BIM is helpful throughout project execution and leads to a better understanding of the circumstances under which a facility will operate. Bringing together all relevant GIS information, such as environmental, demographic, political, and social data, is a great benefit to the overall planning process.  

Workflows in BIM and GIS integration include:


Aggregated asset and space management in GIS (Operation & Maintenance).  

With ArcGIS, operators can integrate BIM information into their GIS environment and turn design and construction data into GIS assets. Users can leverage all the given information as part of their operational digital twin. Managing a facility and operating an asset in the context of a digital twin means:


GIS and BIM learn path 

GIS and BIM complement each other throughout the lifecycle of assets and facilities. In both directions, this convergence brings benefits that enable faster and more efficient workflows. Using BIM information in a comprehensive GIS system like ArcGIS helps improve decision making, and creates true digital twins for facility design, project delivery and operations.  

These concepts are the first steps in building connected 3D scenarios that can evolve into intelligent systems as more live data is added and real-world systems are connected. Continued investment of resources will help drive the development of digital twins that enable stakeholders to perform predictive analytics, run simulations and make sustainable decisions in real time.  

It all starts with bringing GIS and BIM together. You can link data, connect data, or even incorporate BIM data into your GIS or vice versa. For those of you who want to know how BIM data can be used practically in our ArcGIS environment, we have set up our GIS and BIM learn path. 

About the author

As a product manager at Esri Inc, Andreas Lippold focuses on customer requirements in the area of Esri's 3D/AEC/Smart Cities products. He has extensive experience in product management and design thinking based customer support, especially in the AEC area. Over the last 12 years, he has worked in product management in AEC, 3D and AR/VR and has 15 years of experience in the geospatial industry. As a thought leader at Esri, Andreas helps shape the vision and direction of Esri's 3D/ Digital Twin initiatives, data models and solution development by interacting with customers and translating their requirements into useful technology.

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