Bentley ups the ante on BIM CDEs, acquires UK’s GroupBC

Mar 12, 2020 | Hot Topics

Bentley Systems just announced that it has acquired GroupBC, the UK-based maker of the BC Projects and BC Enterprise SaaS solutions. You may know that the UK leads the world in BIM focus and implementations, which has spawned a lot of tools to help projects reach increasing levels of BIM compliance. BC Projects is a set of tools for BIM Level 2 compliance for single projects; BC Enterprise+ is a templated data environment for cross-project or organizational compliance.

To simplify when and how project participants and owners talk about BIM, the UK industry came up with levels of implementation. Level 0 is the most basic — 2D drawings, paper, everything flows downhill with no collaboration. Things start to get more sophisticated with Level 1, where 3D CAD models are used for design and collaboration, but 2D drawings are created for documentation and approvals. Level 2 starts to add work processes to technology, placing emphasis on collaborative work and the common data environment (CDE) that makes that possible. The CAD software used in a Level 2 project must, for example, be able to export to IFC (Industry Foundation Class) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange). Level 2 is currently the minimum at which UK public sector projects can be carried out. (Level 3 isn’t fully defined yet, as I understand it, but is likely to be a mix of tech + work practices, standards to facilitate sharing of information, contractual language to make clearer what’s expected and by whom, and so on.)

Bentley says that BC Projects and BC Enterprise+ are widely used in the UK “for information management respectively across construction and asset estates”. And they added this, which is especially interesting (emphasis mine):

GroupBC’s and Bentley’s software solutions have been deployed for complementary purposes to improve project and asset information management. The transaction results from GroupBC’s expansion agenda, and Bentley’s investment appetite, for international growth opportunities stemming from the UK’s national initiatives for major infrastructure investment and towards infrastructure digital twins. 

I’ve always thought of Bentley as an international player but I guess there’s always room for further expansion. That potential will only increase as more projects outside the UK adopt UK standards. They’re proven to work; why reinvent the wheel? Or, from another angle, why invent a competing approach, when many of the same players carry out projects in many regions?

It appears that Bentley plans to leverage GroupBC’s CDE with Bentley’s iTwin Services and ProjectWise “to securely federate – fully enabling 4D mixed reality and analytics visibility – previously separate CDEs for construction and engineering”. 

Keith Bentley, CTO of Bentley Systems, said, “[w]ith the help of our new GroupBC colleagues, we will now be able to better serve engineers, contractors, and owners by bringing together their collective IT (information management), OT (operational technologies including reality modeling), and ET (engineering models). I am confident that the resulting improvements in project and asset performance will be consistent with the UK’s demanding but welcome expectations for new ROI breakthroughs from digital twins.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and it appears to have been concluded already.