Seven Years Later, the Argument Becomes an Alliance >

The city of Paris modeled in InfraWorks. Large-scale urban planning has typically been reserved for GIS rather than BIM, but the recent connection between InfraWorks and ArcGIS has made it far more feasible. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Autodesk’s latest InfraWorks update includes a connection with Esri’s ArcGIS Online software, which allows InfraWorks users to import geographic information system (GIS) data into a BIM model. The update, which is the result of a 2017 alliance between the two companies, has brought the question of BIM vs. GIS back into the spotlight.

For those who haven’t been following the topic that closely, the question is: what is the difference between BIM and GIS, what are they both good at, and why are industry professionals so keen on bringing them together?

A Model by Any Other Name

Building information modeling, or BIM, is a process involving the creation of digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of built spaces. GIS is any program designed to store, analyze and present spatial or geographic information in relation to Earth’s surface. While the two technologies may sound similar, they’re different both in the things they model and in their intent.

While GIS models spaces and objects in relation to Earth’s surface, BIM models specific, manmade structures, like buildings or infrastructure projects. BIM also offers more structured 3D visualization of spaces, whereas GIS relies more on 2D…

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