User projects and use-cases of BIMserver and spin-offs.

5 (maybe) surprising things you -might- not know about BIM

Today a presentation came online on slideshare about ‘BIM misconceptions’. Since it seems to be popular, and touches the concept of BIMserver a bit, we are sharing it on our blog.

Update sept. 2014: updated link to newer version of the presentation (april 2014)

Statsbygg validation service: A use case example for BIMSie

It is publicly known that our team is leading the BIMSie standardisation concept for BIM in the cloud. In the beginning of this project we created an example of a floor supplier service that delivers a detailed IFC model with floors (obviously separated from the original model, but with the ability to merge this into one model on request).  More recently we created an example for Statsbygg to online check IFC models against the Statsbygg validation rules. The presentation is online at slideshare. The sourcecode of this demo is available on github. More to follow….

Update: Also created a similar service for the Dutch Rijksgebouwendienst (RGD BIM Norm).

License issues

Lately we get a lot of questions regarding the license of BIMserver. In this post we hope to clarify some of the questions. The BIMserver software is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License version 3. The GNU Affero GPL is a modified version of the ordinary GNU GPL version 3. It has one added requirement: if you run the program on a server and let other users communicate with it there, your server must also allow them to download the source code corresponding to the program that it’s running. If what’s running there is your modified version of the program, the server’s users must get the source code as you modified it. We have to note that the BIMserver package you download is a combination of many different open source projects. The database that we ship with BIMserver by default is the BerkeleyDB from Oracle. But we also use Jetty, EMF, jQuery, ANTLR, log4j, and many, many more. Most of them have several different licenses.

A common discussion surrounding open source software, is the word ‘free’. In our case we refer to the GNU text: “free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. There are examples of open source software that you have to pay for to get it. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. When talking about free software, it is best to avoid using terms like “give away” or “for free,” because those terms imply that the issue is about price, not freedom. There are several commercial software developers building plugins for BIMserver that are ‘free’ but not ‘for free’. This gives developers an option to make some money on selling plugins. In the WordPress ecosystem this is a common practice that many developers use to make a living.

GUIs, ObjectIDMs, modelcheckers, (de)Serializers and other plugins:
BIMserver is an open framework that uses several types of plugins. Derivatives of BIMserver code inherit the Affero GPL license. There is some legal grey area regarding what is considered a derivative work, but we feel strongly that all plugins (GUI’s, ObjectIDMs, modelcheckers, (de)Serializers, etc) are derivative work and thus inherit the Affero license. If you disagree, you might want to consider a different (open or closed source) project. We suggest some at

Commercial development
In our philosophy and mission we stated that we want to be an open, reliable and stable platform for other developers to build on. That means we want to stimulate all developers to use BIMserver for their benefit. All developers… so not only open source developers. To help developers to interact and connect with a BIMserver we created several client libraries. We believe that lowering the threshold to use BIMserver included publishing libraries in as many different languages as possible. At this moment we publish a Java client, a PHP client and a Javascript client.

bimserver 1.2  project overview

BIMserver 1.2 project overview


All these clients are licensed under a different open source license: GNU Lesser General Public License. This license allows developers to use the library in proprietary software without the need to open source any of their own software. We feel it is a fundamental part of our mission to publish the libraries under this license to allow innovation in the industry.
Another way we lower the threshold is to give developers lots of possible ways to connect to BIMserver. There are multiple API interfaces to connect to BIMserver. At this moment SOAP (several versions), ProtocolBuffers and JSON are all stable options. WSDL files and other schema files are included in every BIMserver. Furthermore the interface of BIMserver is very well documented and the documentation is built into every BIMserver your download. Just type /admin/console.html at the end of the BIMserver URL you are running and you will have an extensive dashboard of the interface, including examples and debug options.

BIMserver API console

BIMserver API documentation console

We think the possibilities to use the open source BIMserver platform as a commercial developer are very broad. When your software tools interacts with BIMserver software through that API the license does not affect your work in any way. A good way to check if you are interacting or integrating with BIMserver software is to run a BIMserver and your own tool in a separate process (maybe even on a separate server). When you are in doubt, it’s always smart to contact us (via Our experience learns that some people that are scared about the license issues, don’t have to be because of our open API interface solution.

Results of a Dutch BIM Server pilot

(C) Berlo, TNO 2012

A while ago, several companies and institutions launched a “BIM Server pilot” in the Netherlands. Although after all there was not ‘one’ pilot, the results of this initiative are quiet interesting. Main reserach subjects were focussed on the use of IFC in contrast to everybody using the same software.

The paper describes the workflow concept of so called ‘reference models’ (or ‘aspect models’). The conclusion is that the combination of this concept with IFC fits the needs from the AEC industry.

Researchers from TNO (initiators of the pilot) and main players in the pilot projects wrote a scientific paper about the results. The paper is published and presented at the ECPPM Conference in Reykjavik 2012. The paper can be found in the scientific section of our website. The presentation called ‘there is no central BIM’ is available on slideshare.

Augmented Reality (AR): BIM on the construction site

Numerous initiatives regarding Augmented Reality (AR) on the construction site can be found online. Perhaps the most famous one is the D4AR from M Golparvar-Fard. VTT is also very active on AR in the construction industry. Most projects using AR technology on a building site, focus on the technology of markers and image recognition. However, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, in 2008 (!!) created a prototype using very accurate, markerless localization of the user. This creates new possibilities to enable different kind of uses cases on which we will not elaborate in this blogpost (read the paper to get details about this). The reason why this post is on our blog is because there is a link between the AR prototype and the BIMserver software.

Since a few months the AR prototype (which uses a localizer with an accuracy of 0,2mm in 3D) is able to receive streaming data from a remote BIMserver. A link is created between the receiving AR unit on the construction site, and a sending BIMserver in a datacenter. The means that changes from the engineering team can be evaluated live and in real time on the construction site. This gives the  contractor the security that he always gets the latest version of the data.

There are also future plans to create a two-directional link between the AR unit and a BIMserver. This will give the contractor (or any other user on a construction site) the ability to propose alternative solutions, but also feed the administration (procurement system) and use Systems Engineering on site.

The project team developing the AR unit is looking for investors to create a market ready product of the AR technology. For more information, contact

An impression of the 2008 (!) prototype of the AR unit. The unit is able to recieve streaming data from a BIMserver:

The official page of the project:

BIMserver testimonials movie

We’ve already announced it a couple of weeks ago, but now it is there: the final version of the BIMserver Breakfast 2011 movie. It has become a nice movie with lots of users giving their opinion about the BIMserver initiative. It is online on youtube.

Call for projects that use BIMserver

(c) ZEEP architects

For those of you who wonder when the next release will be available: this post is not about that. This blogpost is a call for projects that use BIMserver. Lots of projects use BIMserver in some way. Sometimes as a transformation tool, sometimes as backup/revision tools, but more and more in its full potential as a tool for dynamic collaboration. In an industry where open source is scary most of these projects don’t go public on their use. And of course our organization is not a software vendor with account managers. That is why we post this call for projects. We intent to create a ‘project’ page on our website with appealing projects. If you have a project that uses BIMserver software in any way (even if it is just to give your clients the Google Earth link), and you want the world to know it, please contact us on After all, with 5000 visitor per month it is also free advertising for your company.

Quick note on the ‘common BIM files’

Just a short and quick note about the ‘common BIM files‘. Some websites are mentioning that they are on, but this is not the case. Read the original, full story about the common BIM files on

As you will notice, the BuildingSMART alliance has used the software to create a special (unsupported) version of to support COBie data exchange. This feature will probably be in the next official BIMserver release as well. More on this in our next blogpost (in a few days).

For those of you who visit this site for the first time and want to know more about the initiative, feel free to see what our users think of the project:

Changing the license: moving in opposite directions

It was an open secret in the BIMserver developing community, but now we are going public with this announcement: there are some license changes in the source code. The core and some serializers of are now Affero GPL licensed. Most projects stay in the GPLv3 license. There will be some binary builds that are dual licensed LGPL and Affero.

These changes are inherent to the changes in the structure of BIMserver. As most of you know our vision to is to create a stable, reliable but also open kernel to use in the AEC industry. By publishing the core under Affero license, the improvements are more likely to flow back into the project. On the other hand, the LGPL binaries lower the threshold to use the kernel in commercial software (beware, this only goes for the binaries).
For those of you who want details: the exact licenses are available in the source of the projects. And of course, all source code released prior to the change will always be available under the ‘old’ GPLv3 license. In case of doubt, feel free to ask your question on our support forum or e-mail to

Since the 1.0 release, most of our efforts have been on loosening the different modules. The core, GUI, IFCEngine and (de)serializers are now individual projects in the code repository. This makes way for extending by creating your own GUI or plugin.
Lots of programmers all over the world are developing serializers and new user interfaces for BIMserver at this moment. This also has an effect on the projects in the code repository. For example, bot the Cobie2Serializer and the O3D project have been removed from our project list. We focus on the BIMserver core and want to create the best BIMserver software with open interfaces to integrate and connect. Other projects and their programmers are working on much cooler COBie serializers and WebGL viewers than we could ever create. More on this later, but a sneak preview can be found on

The integration between software and other (open source) software initiatives is coordinated by the open source BIM network. This network now has 6 projects under its umbrella and has a strong focus on integrating (and accelerating) the open source BIM software efforts. Members of the team are also involved in the network.

Support forum is very active support forum is very active that last couple of weeks. People from the BIMserver community are helping our each other on the public getsatisfaction forum.

When you have a question, found a bug, of just want to reach out to us, feel free to do so at
We love the feedback!

Update: The forum has moved to