Building information modeling (BIM) has been around as a concept since the late 1970s and as a reality since Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD in 1987. But ubiquity remains elusive for an idea that promises to take streamlining the construction planning process to the nth degree.

“The major advantage of BIM—the use of intelligent information throughout the building process—is exactly what’s holding [its widespread adoption] back,” says Brad Finck, vice president of business development at Cadsoft, referring to the need for all parties to be working from the same platform in order for BIM to succeed. In a world where proprietary software architecture remains a widespread strategy, that’s not easy to achieve. “Everyone wants to set their own standard.”

Cadsoft bridged its Envisioneer BIM software with iLevel’s Javelin software earlier this year. Simpad, which makes the Blackpoint software modeling solution, and CG Visions, which has integrated BIM software into services including residential planning and framing and panelization, entered into a similar collaborative effort last year. Both Cadsoft and Simpad continue to seek other partners.

Simpad CEO Rich Kashian believes that the growing number of options that large production builders have felt compelled to offer is self-defeating without a BIM solution. “They reach a point where they have to stop offering options, and that then limits their ability to sell,” he says.

Finck says that smaller residential builders are adopting the BIM approach more quickly than large production builders. “Smaller companies will typically have fewer subs to coordinate between, making adoption of a new software system easier,” he explains.

BIM goes far beyond just adopting new software—it changes the definition of traditional architectural phases by requiring more integrated data sharing than most architects and builders are used to. The payoff is a vastly streamlined planning process.