The Foundation’s study and testing confirmed their fears. Little-bim programs using file-based paradigms could not scale fast enough to meet their needs. They settled on the ONUMA System as the only option that offered the solution they needed.

What are the exciting aspects of this case study?

  • Scalable, open, agile system to rapidly “bimify” 5,200 buildings and support a student population of 2.4 million students in 112 campuses—the largest higher education system in the world.
  • All Community College facilities and GIS data now connects to Building Information Models.
  • Innovations created a foundation for other solutions to follow, worldwide.
  • Demonstrates the value of going big, keeping it simple, implementing in a short time, while iterating as the system grows.

Location—California, USA.

It is rare to find an owner who has created consistent data across their entire portfolio, large or small. Few have attained this goal. The Foundation for California Community Colleges (CCC) web-enabled their data to allow for real-time viewing, editing, and updating beginning in 2002, for all districts in the system. Making it an easy task to mash-up GIS with BIM.

The Foundation has long advocated and used an open-standard approach to technology. When they found all the pieces to make a BIG-BIM ecosystem possible, it was time to capitalize on the fact that the Foundation’s data was maintained to enable connections. They started by formally assessing and testing the major BIM tools available.

An initial pilot of one district started in late 2010 and became the proof-of-concept to show that it is possible to link FUSION, GIS, and BIM together. Originally the next step was planned to test the system in several more districts. Due the success of the initial trials, a decision was made to go straight into the linking the college’s districts at a low-level of detail. And, it worked!

There is a tremendous waste in the AECOO industry. Proprietary and expensive competing solutions create silos of disconnected information. The status-quo is software applications that do not connect.

AECOO is the biggest industry in the world, consuming more energy and resources than transportation. Even with the explosion of new technologies, the tools, and processes to support this industry remain locked into traditional paradigms. Technological, cultural, legal, and other barriers hamper innovation. Without rapid change to the industry, the world’s resources continue to be depleted at a much higher rate than necessary.

The interface for the College’s system presents each of the 72 Community Colleges as a placemark in Google Maps. By hovering over or clicking on a placemark the user is given links to more detailed data. The user can then ‘drill down’ from this level all the way to views of furniture and equipment.

The BIG-BIM ecosystem that CCC created enables them to manage and interconnect data for design, engineering, construction, owners, and operators (AECOO) of facilities. Using a real-time mash-up of tools that enable users at many levels to interact and make decisions.

Owner spatial information mashed-up live into BIM. The system demonstrates why no one software can solve everything in the AECOO industry. Cloud computing, the Internet, and open-standards underpin the solution. CCC’s answer to AECOO issues links Building Information Modeling (BIM), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Facilities Management information, making the innovation relevant beyond their organization. The opportunity for architects and architecture is enormous, but it will require a tectonic shift in how the AECOO industry operates. The revolution is happening now, and starting in California.


The California Community College’s System is the largest postsecondary system of education in the world. The framework they created enables information at any stage of the lifecycle of projects to link to the other parts of the process. Interoperability, open-standards, and scalability are the oxygen that drive the College’s ecosystem.

There is no official completion date or occupancy date for the overall system. It is a process that feeds into itself. The system manages existing facilities, plans new services and, supports funding. Planning defines new projects, construction happens, and delivers projects. The data is fed back into the system to support operations as the cycle repeats.

One can think of the system as a user interface to built environment related information to enable better decision-making and visualization in any aspect of the built world.

Implementation of this highly flexible system happened very quickly. Within nine months the connection of all districts as standards-compliant BIG-BIM, at a low level of detail, was complete. Of the 72 districts, fifteen had already added projects at higher levels of detail to represent the full planning to operations lifecycle. The remaining 57 districts are adding models and data of increasing detail, as the adoption cycle continues.

Too often, the user interfaces that are available default to mathematical/statistical equations, spreadsheets, and graphs/charts. For those that are highly trained in the field under discussion, these interfaces can work quite well. However, for the others that might benefit are often left ‘scratching their heads’ and wondering of what the experts talk. They have little or no context on the interface and, therefore, find themselves talked down to or left with misconceptions and holes in their understanding. This approach results in too many incorrect decisions, misallocated resources, and conflict between parties.

The need for clear, easy to use interfaces is one of the issues that the system seeks to resolve. By enabling information to be connected to the environment, the system makes it easier to understand what is happening, what the big constraints might be, what works, and what doesn’t work. The value that comes from connecting information is one of the ‘aha!’ issues that many have gotten during the BIM workshops. When one sees the world in a simplified graphic context; one that pops-up pertinent data custom to the level one is viewing; the decision points become clearer.

Planning can now happen connected into the full lifecycle. Data from existing facilities can be used to generate scenarios in real-time. The resulting decisions are then passed to project teams as BIM and GIS for implementation. The results are then pushed back into the College’s system to start the cycle all over again.

Data captured in the process is COBie-compliant and can be used to support procurement and management of building products.

Along with actual projects and ongoing operations, there is a need to innovate continually, test, implement, research and develop. The College’s platform was opened to the entire industry where 129 participants from around the world worked with real project data to mash-up full lifecycle scenarios in a rapid two-day BIMStorm event.

BIMStorms have become ongoing industry events to allow for collaboration without the constraints of contracts, thus allowing for rapid innovation, exploration, and testing. The connection is an example of how BIG-BIM approaches can provide significant benefits that enable you to leapfrog over the limitations of a little-bim focus on a single software tool.

The Foundation’s leaders determined that BIM was the logical way to go to overcome FUSION’s limits. However, they could not see how a little-bim file-based system could scale to the level required. Nor could they solve the problem of how to get all 5,400 existing buildings into a single little-bim software program in an economical way.


The Foundation for California Community Colleges has provided facilities and building data services to the 113-campus system. Although the Foundation for California Community Colleges manages the data for all 74 Million Square feet of facility data statewide, each district is autonomous in their decision on how to use the information and tools. Services to the Community Colleges include the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Collaborative and a facility management system named FUSION.

Before the FUSION System came online in 2003, the problem was that there was no way to consistently aggregate information at a statewide level. Each district operated as they saw fit using systems ranging from spreadsheets to proprietary databases, to DOS based systems. With FUSION, the colleges manage data in real-time in a consistent way across the entire portfolio.

FUSION is a facilities database that tracks condition assessments and develops cost modeling for capital construction projects. The system enabled member colleges to plan budgets and facilitate bond measures. While benefits came from FUSION, many factors limited implementation and sub-optimized the system’s value. For instance, it was not possible with just FUSION to link to a graphical format to visualize errors in the data.

Add to this the fact that the districts needed tools to operate appropriately in a highly-constrained environment. They had no time to wait for the entire portfolio of buildings to be created incrementally inserted into a single little-bim software program. Budget constraints, demographic shifts, energy issues, and the dynamic nature of such factors were becoming a huge risk and liability to the systems operations. New strategies and solutions were needed.

Through the application of open-standards, the CCC BIG-BIM ecosystem natively supports buildingSMART alliance standards and makes the California Community Colleges’ data available as IFC, COBie, KML, BIMxml, and RESTful web services at varying levels of detail. The end results are substantial savings of time, an inherent accuracy of information and a growing value in support of the CCC districts.

The connection enables data to be used by a broad spectrum of people, in many formats, at many levels of detail. One presents the information in the format that best supports decision-making whether that be tabular, charts, graphical, live or three-dimensional. Here, the data is consolidated in Navisworks to support construction.

In 2010, the college’s system began to add significant functionality to the services once offered. Information that was previously available only in a tabular data format became two or three-dimensional building models. The system allows for fast pattern recognition, better decision-making, and improved accounting for facilities and assets.

In what seemed an instant, the colleges moved from broken systems to BIG-BIM. Ease of access and the power to capitalize on enterprise data were but two of the benefits. The College’s system expands the capabilities of the colleges to manage and plan their physical space more efficiently. The system combines Facilities Utilization, Space Inventory Options Net (FUSION)—an entire inventory of facilities and areas, with the College’s GIS Collaborative data about campus buildings and geography, interconnected with open-standard, web-enabled data sharing capabilities to create a highly viable BIG-BIM ecosystem.

The online platform makes real-time data available to all without users having to install or update software in the centralized system. BIM data exports in most standard formats for contractors and builders. Cross-platform compatibility allows for easy updates once construction is complete. Users produce project proposals and preliminary design plans locally and more cost effectively than before. One can view FUSION, GIS, and BIM data at several levels of detail. Maps become more than static representations, at a statewide, campus-wide, building, or room level. Reports enable users to aggregate data at any of these levels. The system lets users view and edit furniture, equipment, plus much more.

Features and Opportunities

  • Technology isn’t the largest roadblock to the implementation of BIG-BIM. Getting over the culture shock associated with change is the opportunity. Keeping things simple, implementing fast, and talking the language of the audience is critical, and exactly what is happening in the College’s system.
  • Complex solutions need to be broken down into bite-sized pieces that don’t evoke the cultural hurdle. The solution is an infinitely scalable strategy that allows connection across multiple disconnected processes. In a discussion of classroom scheduling, why mention GIS, BIM, or standards? Even if those tools are the engines that are driving our ability to visualize class schedule on a plan?
  • The state of California is a resource-constrained environment. In a resource-constrained environment, it is critical to be efficient in the use of one’s information. This need for efficiency drove the California Community College’s interest in open-standards for BIM, GIS, and Facility Management.

The FUSION System was designed to scale to meet the needs of the colleges for facility information. FUSION laid the groundwork to connect through web services to other systems, to maximize the value of Foundation data. The College’s new system is the result.

The system’s framework is forcing open discussions on how other solutions can support open-standards-based connections. Discussions are underway with other facility management systems, scheduling systems, and energy management systems to include the functionality needed by all districts.

The state of California offers unique physical and political problems for any system. By connecting BIM, GIS, and FM, the California Community Colleges have made data available in much the same way that Google, Expedia, and other well known websites have pioneered.

BIG-BIM is about tools, processes, and attitudes that impact on everything in the built environment. Achieving the optimum mix of people and technology is difficult. Most, recent implementations of BIM and data focus narrowly on the project and the data about the project. This emphasis is one of the clearest examples of a failure to optimize both sides of the BIG-BIM equation. While project data is relevant in the short term, enterprise data is critical for the long run.

Little-Red-Dot-Model from the CCC system. Each placemark allows the user to drill down into greater detail about the asset. The following metrics and discussion af California Community College’s system further details the steps taken and progress toward a fully implemented BIG-BIM system.

The California Community College (CCC) System enrolls 2.6 million students each year, in 72 districts, encompassing 112 campuses, 72 approved off-campus centers, and 23 separately reported district offices. The System’s assets include 24,398 acres of land, 5,192 buildings, and 72.4 million gross square feet of space.

Using the ONUMA System as both a planning and mash-up engine the FUSION+GIS+ONUMA platform allows data from many sources to be combined to tell new and compelling stories about the environment. Before this system, information was often in disconnected data structures that required manual manipulation to understand and use.

Within the CCC system, one can now see such things as detailed building information models, overlaid streaming live in an adjacent window.

California Community Colleges empowers community colleges through leadership, advocacy, and support. CCC’s Finance and Facilities Planning Division oversees distribution of local assistance, capital outlay funds and construction and remodeling of new facilities. The Division uses web-based tools to assess, coordinate, plan, evaluate and manage projects efficiently.

The Foundation for California Community Colleges develops programs and services to save millions of dollars, promote excellence in education, and provide learning opportunities for students throughout the state. The Foundation also supports the system through individual initiatives, statewide awards, and direct donation. Within the first nine months, many benefits were realized from the FUSION+GIS+ONUMA platform.

User Interface Benefits

  • The system is simple for both managers and users to learn and use.
  • Enter data once and control changes to that data. Users view data in many ways for greater insight and effectiveness.
  • Orient new employees to facilities management more efficiently.
  • Lightweight real-time data is accessible on multiple devices, including iPhones & iPads. Provides a light weight version of BIM for the planning stage that can easily be ported to more feature-rich little-bim systems when doing design and construction of a building.
  • The entire California inventory is accessible in seconds.

Management Benefits

  • It is inexpensive compared to the purchase of a full-featured enterprise scale BIM System. GIS layers from the Foundation’s GIS server are visible now for all districts and linked to BIM. Fifty-six GIS layers connect to BIM for planning purposes on the Mira Costa College campus.
  • Define criteria and address more objectively any equity issues between the district, school campus, or individual buildings.
  • Develop procurement strategies and bulk purchase plans.
  • Streamline project management, tracking and reporting functions for submission of bond funding and loan requests, grants, change requests, and development and phase documentation.
  • Package projects to support facility renovation and renewal to protect mission-critical teaching, research, and support functions.
  • New solutions are emerging from vendors who now see an easy way to connect with web services to the system.

Decision-Making Benefits

  • Conduct scenario planning, thereby making planning more efficient and robust.
  • Sensors and building automation systems at Glendale College, are connected to the platform. Giving the college the ability to monitor real-time data and control devices directly from the BIM.
  • Traditionally, classroom scheduling is managed in tabular formats. Now one can visualize classroom schedule in a variety of ways in the model. Several solution providers of classroom programming are evaluating how to link to the system.
  • Many districts are requesting increased access and functionality. The initial roll-out of the system in March of 2011 was intentionally kept simple to minimize the risk for overwhelming users with new functionality. Individual districts such as Chabot / Las Positas, have found features that support their current needs.

Capital Planning Benefits

  • Prepare Project Plans and five-year Capital Improvement Plans online. Project program requirements now generate BIMs automatically. These models can be used to check program requirements against designs.
  • Update, certify, and track space inventory status, project status, and forecasts (work status, full-time equivalents per college, etc.) online while permitting enterprise view-only access.
  • Monitor, view, interpret and understand the overall performance of projects with a variety of funding streams that span multiple fiscal years to manage risks proactively. Generate mandated reports from data that exists within the system.
  • Access the latest procedures, such as enterprise Facilities Business Processes and Best Practices from the AEC industry that have the potential to add value to the portfolio of facility management tools.
  • Consultants use the system as a tool for dynamic masterplanning. Districts have recognized the value of having planning data that is dynamic. Where assumptions can be edited to create new results rather than locking them into static document-centric deliverables. Ability to maintain living Masterplans that update as a change occurs in the enterprise.
  • The California Investor Owned Utilities are evaluating how to use the system to manage and reduce energy consumption to create scenarios based on their goals.

Data Benefits

  • Reduces data rot by minimizing the use of documents and files.
  • Uses the best of current Internet and Cloud computing technology.
  • Errors in the FUSION database become obvious and editable.
  • Efficiencies enable the management of complex data in simple formats, allowing teams to focus on value-added tasks. BIG-BIM expands the value of information in the management and GIS systems already in place.
  • A by-product of this activity is that all project data passes through the system in BIM IFC format. Data is COBie-compliant, included in GIS, and accessible by other tools as file exchanges or as real-time data, through web services.

First districts to implement

  • San Joaquin Delta Community College District
  • Long Beach Community College District
  • Citrus Community College District
  • Los Rios Community College District
  • Rancho-Santiago Community College District
  • Foothill-De Anza Community College District
  • Sequoias Community College District
  • South Orange County Community College District

Districts added between March and December 2011:

  • Chabot / Las Positas
  • Los Angeles Community College Mission East
  • Glendale College
  • Peralta Community College District
  • College of Marin
  • Riverside City College
  • Mira Costa College

Participating Design & Construction Organizations

  • Architecture / vbn—Laney College, Marin College
  • Balfour Beatty Construction—Riverside City College
  • HMC Architects—Mira Costa Masterplan
  • Pankow Construction—COBie for LACCD
  • Broaddus & Associates—COBie for LACCD
  • Nolte Associates, Inc.—GIS Layers for MiraCosta

Technologies Applied

Participating Support Organizations

Standards Applied to the system

  • BIM—Building Information Modeling
  • IFC—Industry Foundation Classes (ISO/PAS 16739)
  • GIS—Geographic Information Systems
  • OGC—Open Geospatial Consortium
  • COBie—Construction Information Building 
  • Information Exchanges Used or Enabled
  • W3C—Worldwide Web Consortium
  • SOA—Service-Oriented-Architecture
  • Web services—REST, SOAP
  • SQL -Structured Query Language
  • SVG—Scalable Vector Graphics
  • oBIX—Open Building Information Exchange
  • BACNET—Building Automation and Control Networks
  • OSCRE—Open-standards Consortium for Real Estate
Open-standards, and web services allow a scalable platform that encourages other web-enabled solutions to link. Within the open-standard FUSION and CCC GIS database, users can access and use a variety of planning, management and administration resources moving from a worldview, through the site, building and space views. The data visible is a mash-up of data from a variety of sources, filtered to the needs of each view.