Notes on "The Mechanics Behind Web3 Buildings"

Web3 BIM, Data, and how to define stuff

June 8, 2022
Durban, South Africa

Has it ever happened to you that you’re sitting on a panel discussion, and the moderator throws you under the bus with, “Murray, do you want to add something on the use-cases for blockchain in Web3 BIM?”

“Good question, that! Ummm…” 

The next morning, however, apparently my brain is slightly more awake.

Ok, let’s take a step back.

“The Mechanics of Web3 Buildings”?

What are Web3 buildings, and what mechanics do they need anyway?

Ready Player Me - loading your avatar.

Murray? Did you really change your AVATAR’S clothes out of that grungy military coat to something business-y, so that YOUR AVATAR could sit on a panel discussion?! Such is real 21st century life. The first step is acceptance. :)

Unity’s CEO recently said that, amongst other things, the Metaverse will be “Always realtime, Mostly 3D.” 

Not that we need to recreate everything in 3D,  a lot of data we create comes in all sorts of formats which aren’t spatial.

We should come back to that “always realtime” comment. How’s that going?

We should also come back to 3D. We’re talking a lot about data, there’s a lot of talk going on elsewhere about geometry. IFC to Unreal is not something I’ve seen people doing with Web BIM, but I don't know enough of the technicalities of Javascript for the normal method.

Can we coin a new term WebBIM? There’s a whole lot that needs to be unpacked here.

OMG! That’s a horrible name! Any suggestions?

Web3 BIM?

Just so we’re all on the same page here:

We’re creating virtual 3D building models, sometimes as a copy of the physical world, sometimes as something which exists only digitally, either while we’re planning to build that thing in the physical, or just as a virtual creation in its own right.

<enter Lebbeus Woods, stage left.>?

Technically, those 3D models exist as a container - called Building, which contains smaller containers - called Levels, which contain smaller containers - called Objects or Elements, and which represent walls, floors, furniture, and other geometry. These objects contain properties. Size, manufacturer, location, U-values, lots of different things. That’s BIM.

Web3 (or “the metaverse”, because there’s probably a bit of semantics which we’d do well to keep on unpacking). At least in its current form - we want to walk around in a digital space. Like Roblox or Minecraft, but with adult use-cases. BIM wants to create that virtual built-environment. A “Virtual built environment?”.  We’re already doing that. What’s new is that we’re adding users to it, and letting them interact, in real-time, both with each other, and their environment.

There’s WAY more to it than that, but we’re Web3 building designers and engineers, so let’s stick with the virtual built environment for the moment.

But, Data. 

1’s and 0’s that come as element properties in an IFC model. The meta-data.

1. Data’s not that esoteric. 

We have a whole lot of data already.

If I’m creating BIM, I can ALREADY tell you in detail about wall types, numbers of different sized doors and windows, areas on plan, equipment schedules.

If you operate a building and have people-counters at the entrance, or key card access to your gym, then you’ve ALREADY got data about how many people are in pilates today, or whether the western or the eastern entrance to the mall is busier and should therefore charge a higher rent to line-shops there.

2. But, there’s layers of data and data usage.

Have you noticed that everybody talks about Layers in WebBIM? Some projects are creating Layer 0 platforms / worlds / “Common Earth”. And we want other “layers” to overlay (or attach? :) on Layer 0.

Which means, third-parties adding new data to the platforms existing WebBIM?

Simple use-case: An environmental engineer gets your architectural IFC, but now needs to add thermal conductivity values to the walls and roof. That data is most likely generic in the BIM, and NOT VERIFIED (by who?), and therefore probably wrong. So, the engineer wants to search the BIM for all external walls, check through them, and overlay their environmental data. 

Actually, it would be great for everyone (see Common Data Environment talk), if said engineer can WRITE his enviro data back to the BIM.

3. So, back to the Blockchain question.



Who owns the enviro data? Who owns the BIM of the physical (or future-physical, or never-physical) wall? Physical buildings change ownership all the time, as do portions of them. Or, if not ownership, then “exclusive use”, for a determined period.

Surely, the BIM (if we’re aiming for a digital twin of some sort), should change ownership along with the physical building.

And it’s not necessarily all about ownership.

Our enviro eng.: He’s a registered professional. He wants (and is required) to put his own stamp of verification on data he creates. We need to be able to track that data.

We need to be able to verify the data if someone else wants to use it, or wants to change it in the future.

Individual BIM meta-data properties can be anything. It could be an NFT token of verification or ownership; it could be the Smart Contract that transfers that token based on certain conditions; it could be a URL link back to some (persistent) server where the original enviro report is archived; or a URL link to a product manufacturer’s warranty.

Our BIM data - we need to verify it. If we give users downstream the ability to modify the BIM and write data back to it, then someone better be tracking who changed what; whether they’ve got permission to modify that data in the first place; who needs to know that the data has been revised?

And thus, the blockchain.

Let’s keep talking 


AEC has building science data; Real estate has data; heck - there’s even a guy from agriculture here. And we haven’t even begun to talk about IoT. IoT - agriculture must be beautifully set up to give us real-time data, but anyone operating a building probably has similar data.

Sardor spoke of 3 categories of use-cases for NFTs:

  1. Asset owners
  2. Operators
  3. Users / tenants / guests

That might help us define what “data” we’re looking for.


On the question - is this going to stay in our browsers?

User-interface is undoubtedly going to evolve. VR/ AR hardware? Sure, eventually.

The thing is that with the browser, we’ve finally managed to democratise BIM. 

Only now, can we finally let other actors use the damn 3D model with layers and layers of data which AEC professionals have been creating and sharing with each other for years.

Finally, we can get those virtual built-environments into the hands of ANYONE with a browser. That’s key.

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Watch the Recording, The Mechanics Behind Web3 Buildings

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